Sunday 17 December 2017

Free Me 5

My first encounter with Free Me 5 was in the Design Competition room in Paris earlier this year… there was a loud twang from the table next to where I was playing, an “Uh-oh” from said table shortly followed by the sight of a puzzler scrabbling around on the floor in search of an errant puzzle-bit… a few minutes later came the confirmation that nothing was missing and Brian had put another proverbial notch on his IPP37 stick.

I had a go at it over the next few days and managed to find my way through most of it… but needed a bit of encouraging right at the end… which if you know this puzzle well, might well surprise you a little! :-)

Turns out I wasn’t the only one who liked it – it won an Honourable Mention from the Jury in the Design Competition. Well Done, Joe!

Right, let’s go back to the beginning: Joseph Turner likes making puzzles to torment his family – in fact he’s been making them puzzles for Christmas for a few years now… and every now and then he enters them in the Design Competition – Free Me 5 was in this year’s Design Competition – and I was rather surprised and somewhat delighted when the Coolen-clan gave me a copy of this little beauty for my birthday. 

Free Me 5 is Joe’s 2016 Christmas Puzzle and comes with the usual risk warning you might expect: No external tools allowed. No excessive force is needed. Beware of little rolly-around thingies. No banging, bending or burning required… and I’m starting to wonder what made Joe need to add that last little bit…

Right – you get a couple of slabs of maple joined by a dovetail along the centre – and there’s a nice big window in the top piece that shows you a trapped coin waiting to be freed… a careful gander around the edges shows a couple more interesting looking holes of differing sizes… but nothing to poke in there.

Fiddle around a bit and you’ll be rewarded with some movement, and possibly even a tool or too… and after you do the (not quite entirely) obvious, you’ll find some thing rather interesting… and signs that this is going to be a nice challenge!

Along the way you’re going to find those little rolly-around thingies – try not to do what Brian did…

There is a thoroughly fantastic bit in the middle here that I’m not going to tell you about, but trust me, it’s brilliant, and then there’s a wonderful little bit of one-part deduction, one-part pure magic… and you’ll have the bits slide almost all the way apart… and that was where I thought I’d finished in the Design Comp room and began reassembling, until Louis pointed out to me that the coin wouldn’t actually come out yet… and he was right – there’s another little step or two to finish things off totally – freeing the coin properly, and in fact taking everything properly apart so you can admire Joe’s handiwork… and it’s good!

If you’re a puzzler, Joe’s Christmas Puzzles are definitely worth trying to get a  hold of!


  1. Hello Allard,

    Do you think there might be any opportunity to get a copy from Joe? Reading your blog and reviews is a terrible thing for one's wallet!


    1. Definitely! Joe's email address is noted on John Rausch's Design Competition website.