Sunday 15 May 2011

Trigo cube [Chain-Loop Edition]

I first came across Michael Toulouzas’ puzzles when I spotted a beautiful puzzle called Cross Windows on Cubic Dissection earlier this year. It was billed as Mike’s signature puzzle and didn’t take long to sell out all 17 copies. 

Roll forward a couple of months and I was loitering around Puzzle Paradise during one of their auctions (always dangerous according to Gill!) when I noticed a new addition to the listings, showing 5 Chain-Loop Edition Trigo cubes from the self-same Mike Toulouzas available on a Buy-Out basis for a rather reasonable price. A couple of quick emails between a few of my puzzling buddies established that these were indeed quite a find, when someone asked if Mike intended making any more of them in the future, the response was along the lines of “No way!, They’re far too difficult to make!”  (... my words - not his ...) “ there will only ever be 17 of them” – that was about all the encouragement I needed, so I ordered one straight-away. 

This puzzle is based on Mike’s 2004 entry in the IPP 24 puzzle competition where the sides of the cube had 8 arrows picked out in different types of wood – hence 8 Arrows Trigo Cube. He’d been working on the idea of having a set of interlocking loops running around the faces of the cube and had worked out a scheme for doing this, and then turned his paper model into this puzzle. That on its own would make quite a nice puzzle ... but Mike decided that to do things properly, the loop patterns would actually be made up by laminating each of the pieces out of solid pieces of wood ... so when you see a Maple strip on one piece – it actually goes all the way through that piece ... which means that each of the bits of the cube is made up of a huge array of cubes, pyramids, prisms and the like, all perfectly cut and joined to make up the final cube with a pair of linked loops running around the faces. Oh, and if you’re thinking to yourself that the wood looks a bit weathered (or well-loved), that’s intentional – Mike specifically wanted that look and spent ages applying a beautifully ‘aged’ patina. 

Being  a bit of a perfectionist, Mike wasn’t entirely happy with the final results, saying: “I am not so satisfied of the result due to technical difficulties, but overall as a lover for how attractive a puzzle looks, I think it’s OK.” – personally, I reckon that’s a huge understatement!

OK, so you can tell from the pictures that this is an 8-piece cube assembly puzzle with a bit of a difference – not least of which, because of the whacky shapes of each of the unique pieces. Effectively the cube is roughly divided into 8 smaller cubes, each of which is further divided into a 3*3*3 cube – except that all the internal joins are on diagonals, and not necessarily within the 8 major cubes (some pieces straddle major cubes and others project into multiple neighbours). Getting three layers of diagonals to join up is one thing, but as you progress through the puzzle, you’ll invariably find that some of your careful work has blocked subsequent pieces from being added ... back up a few steps, lay the pieces down carefully ... add the offending bit and resume ...

It’s a nice, satisfying puzzle to play with – the interlinking of the cubes has been nicely thought through and the shapes of the pieces as they come out are often surprising. The chain loop pattern definitely helps in assembling the puzzle as you can eliminate some assemblies based on matching the colours of the loops in the outside faces... 

It’s in the details... 
When I first received the puzzle, there was a little yellow note, sealed with red sealing wax stuck to the top of the box the puzzle arrived in. Thinking it was the solution (sealed to prevent someone stumbling across it), I dispatched it to the solutions file in the desk and left it there. A couple of weeks later I was scanning solutions onto my PC when I opened the ‘solution’ only to realise that it was Mike’s handwritten certificate for the puzzle, listing all the puzzle’s details ... a personal touch from a craftsman who’s clearly proud of his work –nice one Mike!


  1. After trying your one out and seeing how good it is I'm sad that I missed out on it. Hopefully Mike will make some more at some point.

  2. An attractive looking puzzle cube and an interesting concept!

  3. Are there solutions where you can form a cube but the woods aren't linked into a nice pattern, or is there only one solution? It looks like a very beautiful puzzle!

  4. Hi Allard

    I agree completely with your opinions about Mike TRIGO Cube; I was there as it was built and I know his exactness since many many years;
    I think you have one now but Mike will bring the left over pieces may be before IPP Berlin to me and then will be a few ( but real only a few) available)

    BTW: do you have any contact to Oli, he ordered some pieces from me (Coffin puzzles) and since many weeks no answer for my emails ??

    happy puzzling

  5. @George - not sure, haven't tried to build it the 'wrong way' yet... I'll get back to you...

    @Bernhard - I'm sure you'll find takers for any extra Trigo cubes you can conjure up! (...and Oli should be in touch shortly!)