Saturday 15 October 2016


I should warn you before we start, this blog post is going to be a little different! 

Trust me, there are no spoilers in here - I know that some people will still be thinking about buying one, and MANY will still be playing with this puzzle...

I spent months on this box (on and off, as you do) and I failed to solve it… I needed help… TWICE! It is a BEAST of a puzzle … and I’m a big fan!

The SMS Box, or to give it its full pedigree name: SMS Box sequential discovery Limited Edition puzzle is Brian Young’s latest special project. While the design is credited to Brian, he makes no bones about the fact that its very existence owes a lot to Junichi Yananose’s skills at both CAD-ing and crafting. 

Getting the design properly ironed out and making 130(!) of these beauties has taken up a lot of their time over the past year… 

I resolved some time ago that I wouldn’t ever miss out on any of Brian’s limited editions again – since I started collecting puzzles more or less seriously, I have passed on one round of them and immediately regretted it, and I’ve been trying to pick up copies of those puzzles in auctions ever since – no luck yet! When Brian first offered the SMS Box, I piled in and ordered one, along with a couple of other goodies that I’d been meaning to get from him for a while, you know, to make the postage from down under worthwhile?

That package duly arrived in early July and the SMS Box really is a statement piece – it looks brilliant! Brian has literally crafted an old-fashioned telephone out of wood and hidden some puzzly-bits in the gubbins. The goal of the puzzle is to use the phone to receive an SMS… which sounds quite hi-tech for a wooden phone, but hey, I reckon Brian can do just about anything with wood… 

There’s obviously a handset on the top – which when lifted shows a couple of sprung buttons – one of which appears temporarily disabled – hopefully that wasn’t shipping damage! The cord attached to the handset tugs out of its hole in the side of the phone without showing much interesting… and there’s a huge dial on the front – beautifully made, looking rather realistic (albeit wooden!) and it turns quite freely, with the occasional interesting sounding noise…

You’ll find all of that in the first 15 seconds of playing with one of them, and that’s about as much as I progressed for several days! 

I couldn’t find anything interesting on the handset and for all I knew, the dial was purely decorative and I’d bought a solid block of wood with some strange noise-makers inside it… surely Brian wouldn’t be THAT evil, would he?

After a chat with a mate, and a little more inspiration I managed to get the dial to play a different tune, and then actually managed to make something interesting happen… PROGRESS! I had finally managed to get something to actually happen, and not only that, I could undo and re-do it at will… 

That tiny little step (a positive step, but as I now know, an infinitesimally small part of the total solution) was all I managed in my first month with this puzzle…

At about this stage I found myself in Japan where I bumped into Brian and Sue in the back streets of Japan’s second city… and as you’d expect at some point the conversation turned to the SMS Box – and I admitted to my virtually non-existent progress on said puzzle. Brian was quite sympathetic, and said that not many people had made much more progress, and then the conversation moved onto something else more interesting – probably “I’m hungry. Let’s find some dinner.”

Not much the wiser on my return from Japan, I’d pick it up every now and then and try something different… in fairness I also kept trying the same old things expecting something different to happen (yes I know! I’ve used that quote myself in the past in this very blog!). Once or twice I’d even had some brilliant flashes of inspiration in my sleep and then tried them out in the morning, only to be disappointed, again. 

One or two of my similarly confused mates would send the odd email now and then sharing their tribulations, but none of us was getting anywhere at all…

... and then an angel sent out a partial solution, suitably spoiler-warned with zero chance of anyone unwittingly seeing anything they didn’t want to… but by that time, I wanted to – so I worked my way through the document – pausing at several critical junctures to think to myself “Good grief! I would never try that…” 

Now to put things in perspective, this document talked you through the first main lock – and then stopped – that mechanism alone is thoroughly evil, brutal even… and I feel no shame in not solving it myself… if I hadn’t been given the solution to that bit, I’d probably still be where I was before I toddled off to Japan. 

Solution in hand I walked through opening the first main lock and it’s perfect… now that I understand it I can open it repeatedly – but there is NO WAY IN HECK that I’d have worked that out myself… Respect, Mr Puzzle. Deep. Respect.

From there on I was back on my own again… I had more to play with, I’d even found a use for a rather esoteric tool that I suspect many will have overlooked… found something important and I was pretty sure what needed to happen next – but I couldn’t find the right secret sauce to make it happen… 

Of course one of my mates did and duly sent me a photo proving he’d finished the puzzle – without any spoilers… he taunted me for a little while before giving me a hint – just enough of a hint to allow me to discover all manner of magic myself and experience the final reveal – which is a magical little piece of revelation all on its own – complete with Brian’s great Aussie wit. 

A lovely end to the journey…

So what do I think – of the puzzle where I needed a step-by-step solution for the first part and a hint for the second part? 

It’s terrific! 

Cheap, it ain’t. 

Brutal as a puzzle, it is. 

Buy one, you should. 


  1. I got an idea when I was making Big Ben for a puzzle box. It was intended to be called the Luney Box based on a lunar theme. Other events drove the initials SMS and it became a telephone.
    Introducing the dial and also being a long (some would says drawn out) project other ideas come along as your working and they seem too good to leave out. Somehow the puzzle just ended up really hard!
    Thanks for sticking with it Allard!

    1. ...had to Brian - the ending was brilliant, and I knew it would be!

  2. I'm still looking for the final step - I've found the important thingy but not worked out how to use it! Certainly one hell of a challenge - it's been months!!!

  3. Interested in selling this??

    1. Don't be silly. I don't sell puzzles. Why on earth would I want to part with a mind-bogglingly hard puzzle made by a friend? I collect puzzles. I don't flip them. In short: No.