Back in January, before the whole world went a little weird, I acquired a copy of Tom Lensch’s Nested Cubes from Ethel. Tom had entered it in the 2012 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition and I played with a copy back in DC, but got pretty much nowhere in solving it, so I was delighted to find a copy looking for a new home.
The puzzle looks pretty innocuous at first glance in its disassembled form – come to think of it, it looks pretty innocuous in its solved form as well – it’s the little bit in between those two that might lead you to a little bit of madness though!
You’re give four cubic boxes with lids, and a little cubie to sit inside the smallest of the boxes… each of which have a series of holes drilled through them… and then the largest box has a brass rod sticking up in the centre of the base… or rather it should be in the centre of the base, only it isn’t – Tom’s drilled most of the holes in the “wrong” place too… so instead of merely piling them inside one another and closing the lids, you need to find just which orientation each one needs to go inside the next one so that the brass rod can pass sufficiently far inside the stack to allow the final lid to be closed.
Thankfully the boxes are all cubes – thus making every possible orientation possible -he said, somewhat tautologically – I mean, you wouldn’t want the number of possible assemblies reduced in any way, now would you!? Although having said that, I have found myself solving this one on a few occasions swearing blindly that I have now literally tried every single combination and they will not work!
In spite of that, some clear thought and sightlines can help you plot a path through the morass and lead you ultimately to a single closed box with the others all neatly stacked inside.
Fiendish, Mister Lensch, fiendish!