Sunday 27 June 2021

Whimsical fun!

That’s the only way to describe the first one: Sword from Hiroshi Iwahara!

It’s clear the Karakuri craftsmen were allowed to give absolute free rein to their designing muses when coming up with their entries for an exhibition entitled “Karakuri Experiments” – Iwahara-san has imagined something that wouldn’t go amiss in a Zelda adventure – right down to the subtly pixelated look of the sword.

The (wooden) sword arrives safely secured inside it’s decorated wooden scabbard – it wiggles around a fair bit and teases you quite a lot. Your goal is to safely remove the sword and not give yourself a nasty nick in the process… OK the latter might be simpler than the former.

It’s not super-hard as a puzzle, but it is a delightfully whimsical creation that will put a smile on every single solver’s face, guaranteed… and it really stands out in the puzzle cabinet!

Flaskolation was Yasuaki Kikuchi’s contribution to the exhibition – his reaction to the pandemic that’s gripped the world for the past year and a half… and a contribution to puzzlers around the world to help raise a smile in these difficult times.

He gives us a box with an outline of a flask on the top and an apparent drawer on one side. The flask has a bunch of strange markings on it that don’t make an awful lot of sense at first… and then there’s the wooden syringe – well, why not?!

Some closer inspection shows a shiny little ball trapped inside the outline of the flask – that must be interesting, surely? Some medical experimentation will probably help and soon enough you’ll have the little drawer hanging open… once you’ve worked out what all those little markings really mean of course – you definitely aren’t going to fluke this one!

Last up in this post, from the same exhibition, is Conditioned Reflex – a little Pavlovian plaything from Yoh Kakuda.

I’m a dog person, so getting a puzzle that looks like a cute little puppy was always a no-brainer for me…  and then discovering along the way that it even behaves like a dog was the cherry on the top for me. Sitting still it looks cute, but during the solve it gets even cuter.

…definitely a whimsical bunch of boxes from the superb craftsmen at the Karakuri Creation Group.

Sunday 20 June 2021


I’ve been quietly buying copies of Phil Wigfield’s puzzles for a little while now – with the arrival of Bolted, I feel the need to share my thoughts and encourage others to support this man – because he makes damn good puzzles!

Phil has a shop on Etsy called MetalPuzzlesUK where he sells the metal puzzles that he designs and makes by hand. I bought a Sticky Barrel on Ali’s recommendation (the Monkeys are never wrong!) and thought it was quite cute… I enjoyed Spinning Tumblers and I was impressed by Phil’s work in Nuts – he clearly has skillz!

With the arrival of Bolted, Phil has seriously upped the ante and properly shown his puzzle-chops!

I’ll happily admit that I’ve been spoilt by being able to play with (and sometimes even solve!) some pretty awesome metal puzzles from the likes of said-Monkeys and folks like Marcel Gillen and Rocky Chiaro over the past few years – so I’ve probably seen more than my fair-share of puzzle mechanisms and I might even be a little jaded sometimes. (I know, hard to believe, eh?!) 

…but I think Bolted stands out rather nicely in the crowd – this is a damn fine piece of puzzling engineering. There were some lovely new puzzling elements to this one that made me put on my proper puzzling hat to solve it, and when I did I had some serious respect for Mister Wigfield’s craftsmanship – the design is clever and the implementation is superb.

OK -enough of the fan-boy-ing…tell us about the puzzle!

Bolted looks just like a pair of bolts that intersect at ninety degrees with a few nuts on the smaller one which seems to go through not just the larger bolt, but also through the nut that is threaded onto it. Which is interesting… and clearly impossible… :-)

The two little nuts on the outside of the smaller bolt do indeed just spin off… but that’s the only gimme on this puzzle. Now the puzzling starts – and everything seems annoyingly legit at this point – those bolts do behave like they should, as do the remaining nuts … except that the one clearly goes right through the other one, and it won’t come out…

Find the secret and I defy you not to marvel at the bloke’s strong engineering skills, and his sense of humour at catching you a second time.

This is definitely going to be a puzzle I encourage visiting puzzlers to have a bash at because I think they’ll really get a kick out of it… it’s definitely worth picking up a copy of this one!

Sunday 13 June 2021

Gob Stopper

…or to give it it’s proper Sunday name: “Never Mind the Ball Locks, Here’s the Gob Stopper*” is the latest creation from the Two Brass Monkeys - a couple of slightly irreverent nutters who’ve been bringing their own brand of humour to the puzzle designs they’ve been producing over the last few years for an increasing band of loyal followers. Anyone thinking there’s the slightest hint of hyperbole in there should immediately refer to The Joy of Hex.

A few weeks ago one of my regular care packages from Big-Steve was somewhat heavier than I’d been expecting it to be and the cause of said heaviness turned out to be rather handsome brass ball, of sorts. I mean it’s clearly a ball, but it’s also clearly one of their hex thingies. (It’s a technical term, très scientifique!)

Fiddling around with it you’ll find a few bits that you can encourage out and if you’ve been doing your homework properly, you should have a strong sense of déjà vu at this point… proceed with the disassembly and head on over to piece identification and you’ll be able to convince yourself that at its heart, this is the Missionary Position from The Joy of Hex – albeit a Missionary of a somewhat different shape… this one positively rolls with goodness.

Assembly provides a slightly different challenge to the full Missionary given its curves – the full Missionary sits nicely in the stand that the lads thoughtfully provide, but the curves on this little beast make those stands utterly useless – so you are very much on your own with this one. As long as you’re at least a little handy (and some practice does help! As if you needed encouragement…) you should find that you can keep things in more or less the right places until they start to hold together themselves…

When the lads were describing the manufacturing process it sounded like there was a heck of a lot more work involved in making these little guys than their traditional hex puzzles – so much so that there was a time when they were seriously wondering whether it would be worthwhile making these suckers! All of the steps required for the traditional hex puzzles are there, but then they need to be assembled, turned into a ball on a lathe – without the pieces flying apart and killing anyone in the process (that part is important!) – then the pieces each need to be tumbled to knock off the sharp edges that result from the ball-turning-part-of-the-process before they’re finally ready for puzzlers to play with – without shredding their hands to bits.

All of the extra steps add significantly to the production time and effort so they do cost a bit more than their more traditional cousins, but they look excellent and play really nicely – and I’m a big fan of the antique-y pre-patinated finish that results from all of the extra work involved - I reckon it looks great!

Thank chaps!!


* If you’re wondering where the name comes from: the lads clearly had learnt absolutely nothing from the whole “Boaty McBoatface” debacle and decided to crowdsource a name for their latest creation using a Facebook group known to be frequented by absolute reprobates (and some puzzlers). The resulting poll, which even allowed for user-additions to the poll (what the heck are these lads thinking?!) duly settled on Ball Locks… one of said user-additions, with Ali's own “Never mind the ball hex” coming in at a respectable third place. The sheer genius was to combine those two and come up with the iconic punk reference that is “Never Mind the Ball Locks, Here’s the Gob Stopper”! There were a number of other excellent suggestions and personally I can’t wait to see what they come up with for “Jane Fondler”.