Wednesday 27 May 2020

5 times 5 times 5

Another gem from my latest Karakuri haul – this time from Hiroshi Iwahara – master of higher move interacting and n-ary move puzzle boxes. 

This one was also made for the “GO” exhibition and uses the double-meaning to focus on the number five – in this case 5*5*5 – which, coincidentally gives the number of moves to open the box.

Crafted in stunning silky oak, this puzzle provides therapy and meditation as you run through the 125-move sequence to open and close it. At point there is always only a single route and you’re either going forwards or backwards – Belgian Maze anyone? As long as you remember which way you came from  - there’s never a chance of doubling back on yourself… which sounds perfectly sensisble but I’m afraid I often find my addled brain forgetting that very thing, especially when I’m really in-the-zone and motoring through the solution path, although in fairness it might also have something to do with my fingers getting slightly ahead of my brain and moving things without the brain necessarily registering the fact. 

Either way, it’s a lovely puzzle to fiddle with and wander up and down the path to openness. (See what I did there?!) 

As is customary, the puzzle comes with a handy solution sheet – and this one’s got some interesting little extra drawings and information on it, not just the sequence of moves required to open the box.

There are some neat little drawings that help you to visualise the internals – picture an inverted Rune Cube with all the mazes hidden inside – and some analysis of the number of times that each pin traverses parts of the mazes… nice touch! 

Great for intermediate levels of therapy – you know, when you aren’t quite up to tackling the 324-move chaps!

Thursday 21 May 2020

Asymmetric cube -5-

For me, this was the pick of the bunch from my latest Karakuri club order: it looks gorgeous, it’s a handy size and as a puzzle, it rocks!

Kawashima-san designed and crafted this for an exhibition entitled “GO”. Now, in Japanese, the word “go” can also mean “5” – and if you look at most of the faces of the cube, there’s a coloured five against a white background… and he’s used 5 different woods to make this box – but you’ll only get a glimpse of the fifth one (gorgeous!) when you finally solve the puzzle… and this is his fifth incarnation in his Bars Box series – so go, go, go!

At first blush this looks like a simple puzzle box – you have three panels that will each individually slide in one direction… upon sliding any of those panels, nothing else will move… and the other three panels won’t budge at all… take the trouble to read the craftsman’s notes in the website and he warns you that “there are mechanisms that betray your expectations”. 

And he’s not kidding!

I spent a long time performing exactly the same moves over and over again fully expecting a different outcome. (Yes, I know that quotation…) I tried turning gravity on and off, and moving it around – nothing. I tried to move things in different ways – don’t be stupid – those pieces are blocked and two pieces of matter cannot occupy the same space no matter how much you wish they would. 

There is a wonderful “A-Ha!” moment, but even then, there’s still a bit of puzzling to work through to finally open the lid and peek inside to spy Kawashima-san’s hanko hiding inside. 

I love the details in this box – there are some wonderful little details on the inside – just there to make it look drop-dead gorgeous and totally invisible until you’ve solved the puzzle – a stunning reward for solving this little beauty.

Sunday 17 May 2020

(re-)Discovering a gem

A while back I managed to find a copy of Markus Gรถtz’s Edge Corner Cube. Crafted by Eric Fuller in Canarywood, this 3*3*3 cube assembly is pretty unusual in that virtually all of the joints between cubies are either edge-to-edge or corner-to-corner – so they need to use some neatly engineered steel joiners. (Eric’s probably one of the only craftsmen out there crazy enough to even take on such a thing…) 

Anyhow, back when I got it, I remember playing with it a bit and thinking to myself “It’s cute, but not brilliant” and filing it away in the Fuller section after taking the obligatory pictures for the catalogue-that-I’ll-get-around-to-one-of-these-days. 

That day has now arrived and I decided to start my cataloguing with the stuff that Eric has made… and when I got to entering the Edge Corner Cube, I noticed something a little off with my pieces compared to the ones in Eric’s pics… I consulted some other references thinking that maybe this wasn’t that puzzle after all, it must be something else… and then I looked a little more carefully: most of the pieces matched up nicely but a couple didn’t… and Eric’s pics had only one piece where I had two… and slowly it dawned on me that one of the pieces has been broken in two… since I got it…

After scraping off the barely visible remains of the previous glue, out comes the glue pot and the errant piece is duly affixed, and placed under a kilo or two of brass courtesy of Mister Popp. 

Next morning things look like they’re supposed to on Eric’s pics and I have a new challenge – and far from being a bit m’eh – this one is a decent challenge! AND those whacky connections make all sorts of weird moves that shouldn’t be possible, happen effortlessly – this requires a new way of thinking about things.

Assembly is really interesting: starting with a couple of the larger pieces you can construct a bit of a frame and then try and introduce the other pieces – but working out the order to introduce them, and then getting your head around the new types of moves that are possible with the connectors sliding neatly between the bevelled cubies provides a whole new world of fun… get it all back together again and unless you’re cursed with a photographic memory, disassembly is going to be just as much of a challenge – literally. 

On disassembly, there’s a spare cubie that just drops out – but from there you have nine interesting moves before the next piece is freed… this thing is a wonderful little puzzle – all hiding in an apparently benign 3*3*3 cube. 

In retrospect I should have been ashamed of thinking that Markus had designed an ordinary puzzle, or that Eric had selected a straight-forward puzzle and gone to all that bother of engineering the connectors without good cause… either way, I’m really glad I stumbled across the problem and fixed it while I was cataloguing my puzzles.