Sunday 24 April 2011

Oli’s DIY Soma cubes

At our get-together last weekend, Oli gave me a set of his soma dice, and I was quite touched by the gift. They’re his first go at producing his own puzzles and you can read about his adventures in making his first puzzles on his blog over here.  
This set uses the standard soma pieces and incorporates the dice rather nicely – so each side has a symmetrical colouring from the dice themselves and shows a single number on all dice making up the face – making a dice of die, or a die of dice? I know, a big dice made up of smaller ones!

Right, so when Oli gave them to me, he gave me a question at the same time: did I think the dice element (i.e. needing to get the faces lined up) made the puzzle easier or harder? And this is where I could use your opinions, dear readers ... because I’m conflicted: I find that the way I naturally set about solving this puzzle is to work out likely outside edges for each piece, narrow that down a bit (there are one or two that won’t really work), then build one side, then add a layer and then top it off, paying attention to the numbers as you progress ... which is totally different to how you’d solve any other (blank) soma cube – but I find it quite straight-forward and simple this way (please remember my earlier comments about being a second-rate puzzler!!). 

So the conflicting bit for me is this – I think I find it easier to build it up from the numbers (and I don’t ever end up with a wrong-shaped piece at the end, but my brain tells me that by adding constraints to the faces, through colouring and numbers, reduces the degrees of freedom you have significantly (i.e. the total number of potential solutions reduces, a lot) so it must be harder... or is it just that the brain compensates for the constraints and uses them accordingly?

I dunno ... do you? Thoughts on a postcard to the usual address, or you can add a comment down below...

Thanks Oli – for a very thoughtful gift.


  1. I'm glad you liked it! And your photos make it look awesome!

    I've been puzzling over the difficulty of it and I'm still not too sure. As I'm sure you noticed not all of the dice are in the same orientation once in the solved position. All 6 dice that are in the centre of each face don't face the same way, and nor does the one right in the middle. Next time we meet I'll bring you a plain black one, as I reckon once the pattern element is removed the puzzle becomes harder.

    For my next adventure I will be attempting a 5x5x5 interlocking cube. So you can expect one of those in your future. ;)

  2. 8-) Thanks Oli, look forward to that....

  3. Wow, Oli, a puzzle made from 125 dice? Why not make a 4x4x4 interlocking first? :-)

    I think that there is no (good) reason you *have to* make the pips symmetrical in the final cube. You already have the color symmetry in there.

  4. Why crawl when you can run eh George? :D

    I think you have a point there about the number symmetry. I may just focus on colour. Or I could make one of each and see how they compare...

  5. Hello

    Interresting, i'm not alone to make puzzle with dices

    I make 3 same puzzlse with dices for the meeting we had made in april 2009 :
    The basis is from one of Slocum's book.
    I had make them for a contest. Result : it's not so easy for normal people (not puzzle enthousiast). The quickest has made it in 8 minute ... the other give up after 15 minutes.