Saturday, 12 September 2020

Juno’s Coin Case

Junichi Yananose has designed many fearsomely tough puzzles over the past decade. He’s mastered orthogonal board burrs and taken them to extremes. He’s produced some wonderfully non-orthogonal structures that can reduce grown men to tears. And he’s designed and produced some of the very best sequential discovery puzzles out there… so when he announced the release of his Coin Case and described it as the simplest puzzle box he’s ever designed, I was intrigued.

I joined the slightly disorderly queue when it was released and managed to get my order in after things calmed down a little (there was quite a lot of anticipation so the web-store got somewhat hammered and couldn’t handle it elegantly) and waited patiently for the little box to wend its way over to Blighty.

Juno’s done a lovely job of making it look smashing, with a nice selection of woods giving you lots of visual clues to examine. At first glance it looks a little like an oversized version of the Psycho Matchboxes of old, and that may well point you in a particular direction – which might not be useful!

There aren’t a lot of “steps” to opening this box, but it has an interesting twist on an old idea that will make it interesting for puzzlers, while at the same time not making it too hard for muggles to crack without getting frustrated and losing interest. The mechanism is pretty robust and it’s definitely one that you’ll feel very comfortable handing around to folks who don’t necessarily appreciate the finer things about carefully crafted mechanical puzzles – and that’s not to say this one isn’t very well-crafted – just that its also been designed with enthusiastic and potentially inexperienced solvers in mind. 
Definitely one to have handy for sharing with people who haven’t yet been hooked by the lure of solving mechanical puzzles… and there’s still a bunch of them available over at Pluredro.

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Yin Yang

My personal favourite from the latest release of puzzles from the lads at the Pelikan Workshop was Yin Yang from the mind of Volker Latussek.

You have a handsome cherry and maple box and a set of six dark wenge pieces, each of which consists of a flat 3*2 part with an extra 1*2 bit attached to it somewhere. Now, even without any instructions, it’s pretty clear on this puzzle that you need to inveigle the pieces inside the box without breaking anything along the way.  Doing that will make it clear where the name comes from – the top of the box will look like a slightly blocky Yin Yang symbol…

I quite like this design because it straddles the difficulty level rather neatly – not too many pieces, and not many different ways to build the required 4*4*3 shape that needs to be inside the box… in fact there are very few ways of assembling such a block – which to my mind makes this a little simpler as a puzzle because it means bashing through far fewer potential assemblies to see which ones won’t fit inside the box. (That bit usually takes me the absolute longest!)

Think(c)ing about things will also tell you how some of the pieces must be orientated and that really helps cut down the assemblies to start with… combine those two things, and some deductions about how the last piece(s) need to go
into the box and you’ll find you don’t need to bash through an awful lot of potential assemblies at all.

Finding the exact way to handle said inveigling will cause a little bit of head-scratching, but again, some Think(c)ing is well rewarded.

I reckon this one provides a nice challenge and a pretty decent reward of an “A-Ha!” moment without having to wade through too much slogging – as long as you’re prepared to Think(c) a little.