Sunday 25 July 2021


I suspect that the first time I saw this puzzle was among the 2020 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition entries – but sadly due to the pandemic we didn’t get to play with it at an IPP – I suspect that if I had I’d had bought myself a copy a while ago!

It popped up on my Facebook feed and then one or two folks mentioned it was worthwhile, so I duly ordered myself a copy and a few days later one of the reputable delivery companies dropped off a copy at a nearby convenience store for me…

I’m a big fan of clever packaging that shows off a puzzle and this one definitely fits the bill – the cut-out on the lid shows a nice view of the bits inside while also alluding to the overall shapes of the pieces.

Inside you’ll find four identical wooden pieces with some sides painted black and some left natural wood, there’s a little white felt backdrop for positioning pieces on and a booklet of challenges…

Try and resist the urge to examine the way they pieces are shipped and just tip them out – if you don’t, you’ll spoil your first challenge – each challenge takes the name of an element and they get progressively more and more “interesting”, as you’d expect.

I found I could work my way through quite a few of them and then I’d need to stop and Think (c) a bit every now and then as the solutions seemed to almost change gear and use different sorts of solutions – which is great for keeping puzzlers on their toes!

There are definitely a bunch of them that required quite a bit of a Think (c)… and if you do want to check your answers (although it should be pretty clear form the relative sizes and shapes of the black and natural wood in the challenges that your answers are correct) the Blockistry website has a set of solutions available behind a password.

An excellent set of puzzling challenges in a handy format… with a bunch more challenges via the Blockistry Mastermind Facebook group.

Sunday 18 July 2021

Abraham’s Well

Short version: Classic puzzle from the master of sequential discovery, Brian Young.

Slightly longer version: When I saw the warning email from Sue about the upcoming release I made sure I’d left a note for myself to check the website on the right day – sure,  there would be 150 copies available on the first day (with another 350 along behind that at some point) but there are lots of puzzlers out there that know just how good Brian’s puzzles are. Add to that those two magical words: “sequential discovery” and you can be sure that there’s going to be a huge amount of interest…

In the end, the ordering process was pretty straight-forward and I even managed to add a couple of other things to the order that I’d been meaning to pick up for a while, as well as some of their discounted own-brand disentanglements (mainly because I’m rubbish at those and desperately need the practice!).[That first batch only lasted 12 hours...!]

EMS then teased me for over a week with my care package apparently sitting on the tarmac in Brisbane being “Processed by air carrier” daily, but seemingly making no headway whatsoever. Once or twice Nigel and I swapped messages as both of our packages seemed to be stuck in the same limbo… and then all of a sardine, that changed and AusPost let me know my parcel had landed in the UK… and a day or two later it duly arrived in Barnt Green… this past Friday…

Yesterday I took it out for a bit of a play and found myself getting somewhat hooked on it – it makes for a nice little hand-full. There’s some lovely silky wood for the base and some very neat brass and steel work on the upper half. It thoroughly looks the part – right down the etched brickwork on the sides of the well. There’s a little bit of rope hanging down into the brass-lined(!) well, but no apparent pail. As you’d expect, there’s the usual Mr Puzzle branded logo on the base… and ostensibly, that’s all!

A closer examination yields a hole in the brass well-lining, and the cross-bar at the head of the well seems to turn forever… those two little screws at the head of the well may well have knurled edges, but there’s no way that you’re going to undo those without a more appropriate tool than your hands.

And that dear reader, is it… nothing seems to move, nothing seems untoward – there is nowhere to go… so you might as well start puzzling a little more seriously now. Or decide that you’ve bought a well-made ornament for your puzzle cave.

Over the course of Saturday I found myself puzzling in spurts – using my normal attack of puzzle until I get frustrated with a lack of progress – put the puzzle aside and then spending some time Think(c)ing – and return to said puzzle with a new line of attack…

That approach served me quite well over the course of Saturday and by the early evening I had a growing pile of pieces, some of which had been pretty handy as tools and I was more or less running out of places to go on this little puzzle – which concerned me a little as I knew I wasn’t finished yet: Brian is clear that when you’re finished, you’ll know it and you'll have a pewter object that links the well and Australia (which is all rather intriguing).

I knew I wasn’t finished as I hadn’t found anything made of pewter yet…

So I left it on the desk in bits and returned to it again this morning… and managed to spot something I’d overlooked the night before and a couple of minutes later I had my little pewter prize in my sweaty little paws… with a huge grin on my face.

Abraham’s Well shows that Brian’s not only a great designer of puzzlers’ puzzles, but he also has a wicked sense of humour… early on I thought I really wanted something, and Brian delivered – exactly the wrong thing! I’m pretty certain that he knew exactly what he was doing – I can see him sitting there saying to himself “Let’s get their hopes up and then crush them – it’ll be fun!”.

Brian’s description of the puzzle talks about having twenty odd bits and pieces by the time you’ve taken it all apart, with quite a few of them being quite useful little tools – only, working out which of them are tools and which aren’t is at least half the fun. [I imagined some wonderfully complicated tools during the course of my solve!]

Having got to the end of the solve, and then reassembling it for the requisite photographs, I knew which puzzle I was going to be writing about this week – in fact I’m probably not going to shut up about how good this one is for a while!

If you missed out on the first batch, there’s another 350 of them along in due course… Brian’s hoping to have them in his shop for a while… I’m not sure how successful he’s going to be at that – it is an excellent puzzle – you (and all of your puzzling friends) will want one.

Sunday 11 July 2021

More Karakuri Experiments

A couple more boxes from the designs for the Karakuri Experiments exhibition, this time from Kamei and Kawashima-san. These two are probably a bit more mainstream and traditional than the ones in the previous Karakuri post, but most definitely worth playing with.

Twin 5 is Kawashima-san’s fifth Twin box and takes inspiration from Kamei’s 1983 Top Box. The family resemblance to the other Twins is clear to see and the reference to one of Kamei’s classics might help the intrepid solver… I guess.

Start fiddling around with this one and it shouldn’t take you long to find one or two interesting things to do… but then, if you’re anything like me, you hit an absolute brick wall and can’t find any way to proceed.

I spent quite a while here, going back over the few moves I’d discovered and trying to find anything at all interesting to do along the way… and failing miserably.

I began exploring some seriously whacky theories, all to no avail. I tried some of the older tricks from this terrific craftsman’s previous puzzles – nada!

This one literally had me thinking for days until a chance discovery opened up the final move and had me gently cursing and smiling broadly at the same time…

Kawashima-san says this box “requires very few steps, so even beginners can enjoy it” – and he ain’t kidding… and part of me wonders if beginners might even solve this one quicker that well-seasoned puzzlers.

Kamei’s contribution to the exhibition was Maze Box – almost certainly a clue to the mechanism, right? (Sort of - it turns out it's a refence to another of his 1983 creations...)

The top of the box has a distinctive inlaid daisy, or Margaret / Marguerite flower that really sets this box apart – someone’s gone to a lot of trouble on this one.

Strangely the box come with three little dowels, which seem to match up with the six holes in the bottom of the box… although exactly how useful either of those two discoveries is, remains to be seen.

Once again, I spent a while exploring several fruitless avenues before thinking something along the lines of “It couldn’t really be that elegant, could it?”

This one will definitely leave you scratching your head over the mechanism that locks this puzzle up. I’m sure that there’s a relatively straight-forward approach that I just haven’t thought of yet, but I’m probably going to carry on believing that there are little fairies inside the box that release the locks when they sense that you’ve done all of the things you’re supposed to do – it really seems magical.

Sunday 4 July 2021

L Burr

I recently managed to pick up a copy of Juno’s L Burr. For some stupid reason I’d missed out on getting Brian’s Limited Edition puzzles in 2012 and I’ve been keeping an eye out for them recently… two down, three to go, I think.

This is another rather whacky puzzle from Juno where the numbers really don’t tell you anything about this puzzle! It’s “just” a 6-piece level 4 burr – but that doesn’t tell you anything about the real puzzle here.

Juno began playing around with board burr designs around 1990 and soon enough he began to explore variations on the theme, where the boards were perhaps a little morphed. L Burr resulted from that rather fruitful search. Each “board” has an L-shaped profile when viewed from the ends and that enforces some interesting restrictions when things begin to go together. Now remember that back in 1990 we didn’t have the wonder that is BurrTools handily installed on each PC in the house, so Juno designed this one in his head… over the course of a week, and it’s really unusual.

Usually once you’ve extracted the first piece from a six-piece burr, things get a whole lot simpler – after all, you’ve removed a source of several of the limitations, so the bits that are left must be easier to manipulate… right?


L Burr lets you proceed in a fairly traditional manner to remove the first piece after four moves… and indeed from there there are a number of routes open to the intrepid puzzler, but apparently none of them are any use whatsoever… time to Think(c).

Of course, there is a way forward, but it’s fair to describe it as pretty non-traditional and if you aren’t exactly a burrista (and I sure as heck aint!) this will invariably put the fear of all things holey into you.

Reassembly is best described as an “interesting” challenge… one I’m rather proud of being able to achieve – it took a bit of out-of-the-box thinking and was rather satisfying.

If you like board burrs, this is definitely one worth playing with – it will mess with quite a lot of your preconceptions of how these puzzles should work… definitely a puzzler’s puzzle!