Monday 11 March 2013


80’s icon meets tray packing puzzle. 

The result is Pack-Man, a puzzle from Chris Enright. 

The first time I saw this puzzle in the Design Competition room at IPP32 I had a really good chuckle at Chris’ humour in using the Pac-Man characters in a tray-packing puzzle he’d dubbed Pack-Man. 

After I’d spent a while idly fiddling with the pieces in the tray, I began to realise that Chris not only has a good sense of humour and an eye for a good name, he also designs a pretty mean puzzle! I got absolutely nowhere in my time playing with the copy in Washington... 

Flash forward a few months and my mate Nigel gets in touch to say he’s bought a couple of copies, would I be interested in one – silly question – and the next time we meet up a little cash changes hands and I now have my own copy...

That afternoon, in between building another matchstick cube and starting my intersecting tetrahedron origami project, I keep coming back to Pack-Man for a quick few minutes experimenting... I try out a couple of basic ideas, and then fiddle around with the ghosts in various configurations (there are some subtle differences and then some less subtle variations between the pieces ... but helpfully they’re coloured differently) for each of the main ideas ... I find quite a few promising “almost solutions” – and then can’t find a way of tweaking the positions in order to turn into an actual solution... 

..until I blunder across the one really promising looking combination ... and a little tweak lets the final piece drop neatly into place – success! Shake the tray from side to side and the pieces rattle gently in place – the sign of a good tray-packing puzzle in my books: it seems impossible to get the last piece in until you find THE solution – and then there’s actually a little space spare! 

After I’d solved it I sent a pic to Nigel and he immediately challenged me to find the second solution ... so after another 5 or 10 minutes puzzling I sent him another pic with an alternative solution – albeit a slightly tighter one ... then he was happy I’d finished the puzzle.

Next morning I emailed Chris to let him know how much I’d enjoyed the puzzle and sent him pics of the two solutions... and for some reason most people seem to find the second (tighter) solution rather than the first one... so if you have one of these and the pieces don’t rattle when you shake the tray – try harder, there’s a better solution! :-) 

In case you’re interested, the tray is printed on a 3D printer and has Chris’ initials and the puzzle’s name embossed on the back and the pieces are laser-cut acrylic ... so it’ll stand up to some enthusiastic puzzling! And if you want a copy – contact Chris, his contact details are on John Rausch’s site over here...


  1. I'm sooo terrible at packing puzzles that I don't think I even dare get a copy of this one! :-(


    1. So am I Kevin, but I think I might get this one. Does looks pretty fun. Looking for cheap puzzles at the moment as I'm running out of money :S

    2. I'm not surprised you're running out of cash! You've been accumulating new puzzles at a faster pace than anyone I know!

    3. Erm yeah, so I just bagged myself one of these and I should be getting Jacques Haubrich's last Four in Square (had a browse through the John's IPP entrants pages) ...... oops!!

  2. Cute idea! I don't quite see why he needed to 3D print the tray. Why not just glue two pieces of acrylic together?

  3. I love this puzzle! I'll admit that it took me nearly 3 hours to find the solution but had a lot of fun along the way. Packing puzzles with five pieces or less are my favourites.

  4. HI I have been trying to get a hold of Chris's email address for some time now to purchase one of the pack-man puzzles. if anyone has his email that would be awesome.
    thanks so much!

    1. Hi Brogan - you'll find it over here: - allard

  5. Chris said there are at least 5 solutions to the puzzle..