Saturday 30 January 2021


Yuu Asaka burst into my puzzling consciousness (is that a thing?!) at the IPP38 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition with his Jigsaw 29… think of it as a jigsaw and it simply won’t compute… think of it as a packing puzzle, and you’re on your way… it was a lovely playful design that used your inbuilt urges to confound you totally.

Since then I’ve been a big fan of Jigsaw 19, Wave 5 and Wave 7 – although I thought Ice 9 was an absolute SOD!

A couple of new puzzles recently appeared in the UTTO-PUZZLE shop so I acquired a few copies in the name of research… and I think OLEO 10 is brilliant!

Four large black pieces just fit inside a neat white frame and your task is to (clearly) arrange the black pieces in the frame so that you can add six little red circles into the frame as well… simples!



            it isn’t.

Try as you might, you will not find a way of ordering those black pieces so that you can engineer six gaps for those pesky little round red pieces – I mean there are plenty of cut-outs on the black bits to fiddle around and experiment with – and there are clearly “enough” of those cut-outs – they’re just never where you actually want the last one or two of them to be…

I spent ages trying the same thing over and over again, fully expecting a different outcome (yes, I know, I’ve used that same quotation in this very blog, about myself, several times!) – before I spent some time think(c)ing about this puzzle, and the designer, and then a whole new world opened up to me… along with several(!) solutions.

It’s a brilliant puzzle – definitely another classic and right up there with the Waves and Jigsaws from this fine designer!

Thursday 21 January 2021


A good friend recently offered me a number of puzzles made by Tom Lensch and I had a really hard time turning any of them down… in the end, the only reason I could find for not taking any of them was that I already had a copy, made by Tom, in the hoard… I did not have a copy of Oskar’s Pentasticks made by Tom, so that one headed my way.

This was a new puzzle for me – I literally hadn’t ever even seen a pic of one of these before so I was delighted to sit down and play with it when it arrived.

At first you have what seems to be a pile of sticks in the shape of a Pentagon, with the outline of a pentagon drawn rather badly on both sides of the assembly… and this struck me as odd, because Tom’s work is only ever absolutely spot-on!

Start taking it apart and it’s clear that the four layers of sticks are somewhat chaotically joined, so you can’t just slide one piece out… there is a whole lotta co-ordinate motion going on here… which scared me – so the first few times I tried to summon up the courage to disassemble this guy, I wimped out.

Eventually I threw caution to the wind and another log on the fire and pulled it all apart… mixed up the pieces and then began trying for a reassembly… and then it hit me: the state it arrived in isn’t the solved state – just an almost solved state – those lines on the pentagon that didn’t quite join up weren’t some sort of misalignment they were the subtle goading’s of a great puzzle designer and a superb craftsman telling you to try again.

So I did, once or three times more until I finally manged to land on an assembly that should(!) end up with all of the lines properly aligned… of course getting everything physically assembled remains as the final, rather interesting, challenge – and a deft touch definitely helps on that front.

When it’s properly assembled everything lines up perfectly – as you’d expect from that man Lensch!

My humblest apologies for even entertaining the mere thought that it might not possibly be intended.  


Wednesday 13 January 2021

One Hand Puzzlebox

Towards the end of last year my fellow Fellow Asher got in touch with me and asked if I’d be interested in a copy of something he’d been developing with Robert Yarger – a quick check on whether Hades had actually frozen over yet confirmed that, abso-flipping-lutely I was interested… and then a couple of weeks later a well-protected package duly arrived in Barnt Green.

Now unfortunately in the Walker-household there is an established tradition that packages addressed to me arriving in the couple of weeks before Christmas are hijacked by management and placed under the Christmas tree – where they will wait until Christmas to be opened… and Asher’s parcel arrived solidly in the middle of said hijack-period - and so it was left under the tree for several weeks… until Christmas.

I was finally allowed to open it on Christmas morning and it’s gorgeous… a handsome box about the size of a box for storing a set of standard chess pieces in – with some lovely inlay work around the side – and an obvious sliding lid… which didn’t want to slide and I wasn’t going to force it!

I fiddled a little with it on and off over the course of the next few days, deliberately not really diving into it as I wanted to save the best for last… so I ended up working my way through the Karakuri Christmas gifts I’d received, some things from Radek, something new from Endo-san, a couple of Osanori’s and a pile of things from Wil – before eventually allowing myself to get to grips with the One Hand Puzzlebox… only I couldn’t get it to do anything – the lid would slide a tiny bit and then jam, I tried all sorts of tapping and gravity inversions before admitting to Asher that I hadn’t even been able to open the lid yet – at which point he told me that I was clearly being far too careful and I should just open the lid – and indeed a little more pressure had the lid sliding open and revealing the pieces inside – with one of them bobbing up and standing head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pieces – obviously the culprit that had me thinking the box had a lock on it.

At this point the lid will slide about halfway open and then it will stop dead – but there’s a (half) box-full of little pieces – at least one of which is begging to be pulled out… and if you do give it a tug, it will drag all of the other pieces out of the box with it… so far things seem calm and controlled…

However, as the pieces clear the edge of the box they start misbehaving rather badly – in fact, it turns out there are a large number of magnets on the pieces, most of them apparently opposing when they’re in the box, so when you tug them out, they spontaneously rearrange themselves into a shape that most definitely doesn’t fit back into the box again…

The game is afoot…

OK – so we can take the pieces apart and work out how many pieces there actually are in there – more than you might initially think, and then we need to set about working out what the goal is and how the heck we’re going to get there.

The goal is to insert the pieces, one at a time, into the box in such a way that the second compartment (remember that the lid slid halfway open and won’t slide any further) is properly unlocked.

Now the real fun starts – identifying all of the pieces and working out what their eventual positions need to be to get them back into that first compartment… then trying to work out how to put the pieces in in a manner that doesn’t involve the dexterity of a sleight of hand artist – bonus hint: if you find yourself trying to pin one piece in place with a finger while inserting another piece with the remainder of your fingers, you haven’t found the most elegant solution yet!

Playing around with those pieces is good fun – sometimes they have a mind of their own and won’t stay where you want them, but when you find just the right set of pieces, in the right order, there’s a delightful clackety-clack as you manoeuvre them into place – Asher reckons it’s quite Zen putting the pieces into place and I have to agree… certainly when you compare it to the relative chaos of the extraction process!

At this stage I found myself thinking somewhat prematurely that I’d solved the puzzle – I’d managed to bodge my way into the second compartment and thought I was done… until Asher referred me back to the original goal – specifically the bit about inserting the pieces so that the second compartment remained permanently unlocked… except that in my “solution” that definitely wasn’t the case…

There’s a wonderful further bit of puzzling that provides another great “A-Ha!” moment, or three… and then indeed, you can insert each piece and see the second compartment neatly unlock as expected… revealing a little ancient Greek coin inside the second compartment – a nod to the fact that an earlier working title for the project had been Pandora’s Box.

Thanks Asher for this incredibly generous, and delightfully puzzling, gift!



Wednesday 6 January 2021

Blah Box

by Eric Fuller,

is anything but!

It is excellent!

And yes, I know that the name came from his disappointment that he couldn’t use it the way he’d first intended, but boy am I glad he decided to release it in its own right – it’s an excellent puzzle…

Once again, Eric uses all he knows about how we solve puzzles, against us…

This one had me bashing my head against a literal brick wall for several weeks trying to find some way in. 

When you first get hold of this modest sized box, you’ll spot the obvious sliding lid and clock that it’s locked almost as quickly – it’ll move a little, but it’s very clearly currently locked. There are a couple of holes on the one end of the (obvious) lid, but you can’t really see much through them…

There’s something rolling around inside, and perhaps that's interesting…. Both of the short ends appear to be floating and one has a hole in the centre of it with something shiny peeking through – could be a magnet…

And that’s it. That’s literally all I had for several weeks. 

I’d pick it up, try a few things – try some more unusual things. I tried tapping and rapping it a few times, and sometimes I almost convinced myself that something somewhere had changed…

After a couple of weeks of polite exploration I finally managed to find some real progress – it was obvious I’d made some progress, only problem was that I’d come up against another virtually impervious brick wall… sometime later I spotted something interesting that I’d managed to overlook and that gave me something rather interesting to play with – MORE PROGRESS!

And with that progress, an even bigger brick wall – this one took quite a lot more thinking, and experimenting – and I ended up spending several more days caught here – before I finally tried something different, and found myself marvelling at that Fuller bloke’s serious skillz and subterfuge. He really does use your own mind against you on this one – you know certain things, only you don’t…

I’m a huge fan of this one – it has a few very distinct phases, each of which would be pretty good on its own – lump them together in a confusing little package and it’s a great puzzle box.

[There is a potential short-cut that Eric’s designed out with an after-sales modification that any muggle can fit for you if you want the full experience… alternatively, just treat this little beauty with some respect and you probably won’t be bothered by the short-cut at all!]

Friday 1 January 2021

Allard’s 2020 Christmas Puzzle Puzzle Solution

So it turns out this is the tenth time I’ve done a Christmas competition – I hadn’t realised that I started doing them on the first Christmas Eve of this blog – and they’ve run all the way through to today… which is kind of cool.

Thanks to the folks who played along this year – a record number for me – twenty-four people had a bash at getting the answer and fifteen of them actually managed to get all the way through to solving it…  so well done to Asher, Goetz, Mike (Q), Nick, Amy, Steven, Matt, Augustin, Brendan, Brett, William (H), Peter, William (J), Jordan and Big-Steve for working out what was beneath my Christmas tree this year.

Big-Steve was the first correct entry in just under half an hour after I put the blog post up, and Jordan came in about 5 minutes later… it was a pretty close-run thing! Pretty much all of the rest of the correct entries came in over the course of Christmas Eve and Christmas day. 

Special shout out to Nick for sending the answer in the form of a pair of appropriately positioned pics!

Nine more folks either gave me a token entry or got almost all of the way to the answer before chucking in their towels – James, Klaus, Brent, Josh, Michel, Mike (T), Rob, Ali and Brian – thanks for playing along!!

There were a couple of layers to this year’s puzzle:

  • Identifying the puzzles from the little pics in the (vaguely) tree shaped collage was the obvious first step.
  • Noticing that they were all from Stickman puzzles was important, but precisely which Stickman puzzles, in order, was key.
  • If you take the numbers of the Stickman puzzles, and then use simple letter encoding, reading top down and left to right, you find STEWARTCOFFIN.
  • [Some people stopped here and thought I had put Stewart under my Christmas tree… No cigar – and that would be cruel!]
  • You’ve used all of the pictures, but the trunk of the tree looks interesting – and close inspection shows it’s made up of “11” – so the full clue is really “STEWART COFFIN 11” – which your handy copy of Ap-Art, or the interweb, will tell you is Hexagonal Prism – the final answer.

... and nobody (not even Nick!) has mentioned the message I'd hidden (clearly too well!) in the blog post for Nick. :-( 

The most popular wrong answer came from folks spotting all the Stickman Puzzles, seeing the number 11, and telling me the answer was Stickman 11 – Fulcrum Box…. Totally ignoring the fact that I’d very carefully selected those Stickman pictures, including a couple of places where the same puzzle appeared twice, using different pictures… :-)  

I’m going to chalk this year’s record participation up to COVID19 and people running out of things to do during their holidays – that or I’ve finally managed to find a sweet-spot where the puzzles aren’t too horrible… hey it’s only taken me ten years!

Right – the undisputed winner was Big-Steve – a copy of iDventure Cluebox is on its way to you, sir! My random draw went to the (un?)lucky thirteenth correct entry – Mike (Q) – some stuff from my drawer of swaps will be en route to you shortly.

Thanks for playing along folks – and may your 2021 be infinitely better than your 2020!


Nick's super-succint answer: