Sunday 23 October 2016

Little Kenny & Little Bruce

I have a new go-to puzzle to give to unsuspecting puzzlers when I’m around and they don’t seem to already be working on something else: Little Bruce. 

Little Bruce joins Little Kenny in that category of puzzles that I know I can give to virtually any puzzler and they’ll enjoy solving it. Both have been designed and made by Ken Irvine. They both consist of just four pieces, they share a common size and shape (4*4*3) and even share an unusual little half-block somewhere that really confuses things. And they’re both named after his grandsons.

Little Kenny was a gift at IPP in Ottawa and Little Bruce was thrust into my puzzling paws in Kyoto earlier this year. Now I know that I’ve written a little about them in my various IPP blog posts, but I’ve been feeling for a while that they really need their own blog posts to give them their rightful place… so here goes!

Now, the first thing you need to know about these is that Ken is a big fan of using rotations in his puzzles – I’ve written about a couple of his designs in the past and the one thing they share, is a rotation somewhere along the way… now ordinarily, that might seem like a bit of a spoiler… trust me, it isn’t!

With both of these puzzles, the eventual shape is pretty clear from the start… as is the positioning of the various pieces – your only challenge is to work out how to get there from having a pile of pieces in your hands. 

Now when I first got my hands on Little Kenny back in Ottawa last year it took a couple of days of fiddling on and off before I finally managed to assemble it for the first time… I went through my usual stages of solving puzzles:
1.    Thinking “this should be easy”
2.    “I must be missing something obvious”
3.    Thorough bafflement
4.    Believing it isn’t possible, until finally
5.    Solving it!  

I spent quite a while on steps 3 & 4, at one time wondering if Ken was having me on and was substituting an assembled copy just to convince me that 4 incompatible pieces would actually go together… 

The final “A-Ha!” moment was worth it though!

… and a year later I was delighted to see that he’d entered it in this year’s design competition – exposing it to a whole new audience and hopefully getting a few new fans in the process!

While they were all playing with Little Kenny, Ken had given me a copy of Little Bruce which had me confuzzled all over again. 

Four pieces, a couple of spare voxels inside somewhere – lots of ways to assemble some of the pieces – and no way in heck of getting the final piece into the right place… it definitely requires some Think©ing and it rewards experimentation and rigour… and everyone I’ve given it to so far has not only solved it, but enjoyed solving it… you can’t really ask for more than that! 

[…before you ask, my copies were made by Ken and I don’t think he makes puzzles for sale… the copy of Little Kenny in the Design Competition was made by Tom (who does, and might be open to a polite request or two)… that's Tom's version on the left in Lacewood... and recently a chap called Eric has posted a picture of a Little Bruce prototype... so watch that space. You're welcome.]


  1. You've definitely intrigued me! I'm not known for being very good at interlocking assemblies, but because these are only 4 pieces I'm much more interested! I see another long night in my future where I'm waiting for an update from that Eric chap...

  2. Hi
    I made one to complete my Turning Collection and have to say it is a real hard design; I think the edges must be bevelled otherwise some of the turns wouldn´t work ??

    1. Hi Bernhard - I don't think they really need bevels, in fact the TL copy of Little Kenny has almost no bevel on it at all - you do need to be more exact in your placement of the pieces though... :-) - allard

    2. Is there anyone making this puzzle right now? I would love to have a copy of it.

    3. ...not that I know of, sorry - your best bet is to keep an eye on the puzzle auction sites...