Friday 28 January 2022


Volker Latussek’s TUTU was the pick of the bunch for me from the Pelikan Workshop’s latest release.

It’s one of those beguiling little puzzles with four simple pieces – 2 pairs of a ‘T’ and a ‘U’ and a 3*3*2 box with a restricted entry in the shape of a T. It’s immediately clear from the pieces and the box that you need to put the pieces (fully) inside the box… and if you count the voxels, it’s clear that there can’t be any empty space in the box – which is great because that cuts down the possible arrangements you might need to test significantly.

So you start out thinking this one’s going to be simple – for once… only this designer doesn’t really have a reputation for releasing puzzles that anyone has ever described as simple…

It won’t take long to convince yourself that there isn’t a simple sequence that will allow you to simply drop the four pieces into the box, no matter what order you try.

As there’s no spare place inside the box, so you can deduce what the final move needs to be… or at least reduce it to two possibilities! From there you can begin experimenting with possible arrangements to figure out what forms of manipulation are feasible – for manipulations there must be!

What I really loved about this puzzle is the sheer number of times I convinced myself that it was impossible – I knew that I’d worked through every possible set of manipulations and orders and proved to myself that none of them worked… not just once, but several times… proved!

…and then as I’m oft wont to say, having decided it was impossible (once more!), I was finally free to explore something else – something else that indeed allowed me to find the impossible and cram all four bits neatly into the elegant little box… with a huge sense of satisfaction and more than a little “A-Ha!”.

It’s great – and as you’d expect, wonderfully precisely made by the chaps at Pelikan.


Saturday 22 January 2022

Bruns Metal Barrel Puzzle

Andriy, aka ‘Engineer Bruns’ has been making and selling machined metal puzzles from his web shop for a few years now. He’s been producing some curiosities (cube-in-cube-in-cube-in-cube anyone?) and ornaments (I couldn’t resist a copy of the Bender-like figurine) and then recently he began selling a puzzle of his own design in the form of a mini oil barrel – so I signed up for one because I was keen to encourage him to explore his own designs.[When you order something it goes on the list to be made, by hand, so expect to have to wait a bit for your personally made puzzles.] 

What’s clear from the extensive library of YouTube videos is that Bruns knows his stuff – there’s a fair amount of teaching and techie stuff about metal lathe work that I’m not going to profess to understand the half of, but it’s clear he’s doing something he loves – and he’s doing it really well! [Fair warning: if you watch any of the videos of Bruns making his puzzles you'll also see their solutions.]

The Metal Barrel Puzzle is just that – designed to resemble a scaled down 44-gallon drum, it’s a little aluminium barrel – complete with a BRUNS logo and a cap engraved on the lid… it looks great, but what’s it like as a puzzle I hear you ask…

Well first of all, let me point out the obvious: I’m writing about it – so I like it. (I don’t write about puzzles I don’t like, remember?) Secondly, having solved it, I immediately wanted to tell my mates about it because I thought it was a great puzzle… so there you go – you needn’t bother reading the rest, really.

Starting out, this little guy gives away just the slightest clue to where you start making some progress… and if you don’t explore enough, you won’t get any further…

Once you find how to make some progress you might think you’re onto a winner and this puzzle is going to yield its secrets in no time at all… only it’s going to kick you in the teeth and stop you dead in your tracks… time to THINK(c).

Having thunk you may indeed make some further progress, only to...(you guessed it!) be stuck dead in your tracks all over again… and this time you’re going to have to really THINK(c)!

When you do manage to get this little guy opened you’re rewarded with a full view of all of the innards (which I suspect will be simpler than you’ve imagined them to be!) and a Bruns original Skynet coin – from the future! :-)

What I really like about this puzzle is the number of times it forces you to stop and think – you think you understand things only to realise that you don’t and you’re forced to start THINKing all over again… that's what I really like in my puzzles, and Bruns delivers in this one, beautifully.

Here’s hoping that he’s suitably encouraged to continue experimenting with his own new puzzle designs!

Saturday 15 January 2022

Mind the Gap

Back in December Andrew Coles announced that he had a new design that he was almost ready to inflict on the public. He offered a few of us the chance to purchase an early copy and given just how different Lock Out was, I immediately sent him some PayPal to secure a copy… and not long after I had a big old hunk of brass in my paws.

Mind the Gap is another Abus lock that Andrew has modified into being a trick lock. This one has a hefty straight shackle that passes between two extended bits of the main body of the lock (apparently this is a shutter-style lock) – it looks like it means business – and if it doesn’t intimidate you at least a bit, you’re clearly a locksmith. For the most part it doesn’t look like it’s been heavily modified, although there is a screwhead that looks a little incongruous, suggesting that all is perhaps not quite what it may seem.

The lock and a pair of keys on the customary AC key fob come inside one of Andrew’s gold embossed velvet bags. The little card that accompanies the lock asks you to fully open the shackle… which is interesting, normally you wouldn’t need any form of qualification in an instruction like that… but there must be a reason… surely.

…and indeed there is – it becomes apparent as soon as you insert one of the keys into the lock and turn it – the shackle spits out, just a little, and stops right there… which sort of feels like progress, only now you have a bit of a puzzle to solve. The locky bit has done its thing, yet nobody in their right mind would describe this shackle as being fully open…

And it turns out that’s the start of a lovely little journey into Andrew’s wonderfully creative world. Lock out used something wonderfully unique in trick locks, and dare I say it, Mind the Gap continues that tradition.

There’s fun and games with lots of things to discover along the way and before you ultimately get the shackle all the way open (albeit still trapped – and that’s right). The good news is that resetting this little puppy isn’t entirely trivial and does need you to keep some of your wits about you…

Once again Andrew has produced something totally new in a puzzle lock – something that will amuse even the most jaded of trick lock afficionados.

Saturday 8 January 2022

EPP 2021

You should all already know all about Peter’s Annual End of year Puzzle Party (EPP) – he’s been running them for years and I’ve blogged about them more than a few times in the past… the last Thursday in 2021 saw 30-odd folks (yup, some of us are pretty odd! – I might as well get in there before you do…) gathering from literally around the world via Zoom to present our top three puzzling acquisitions of 2021 and enjoy some gentle banter and light entertainment.

We started off with some general catching up given that most of us haven’t seen one another in real life for about two years now. There was some housekeeping (generally begging everyone to put themselves on mute when they weren’t actually talking -wanna take bets on how well that went?!) and a rough run through of the agenda before we launched into each presenting our top three picks.

I abused my chair’s privilege to go first and introduced my three top acquisitions of the year as:

Brass Monkey 5: This was easily the puzzle that has given me the most joy this year – firstly in solving it (I literally cried with laughter) and then chatting with friends around the world as they solved it. If you don’t already know what all of the fuss is about, you need to get one!

Sequential Discovery Cubed Box:  Juno manages to cram a wonderfully whimsical journey of discovery into an innocent-looking wooden cube. The first move is a delightfully insistent invitation to play – it just gets better and better. Some wonderfully innovative tools and locks lead to the final compartment with plenty of puzzling pleasure along the way.

Jack’s Tippenary Mystery Tour: A veritable Tardis of a puzzle box – Jack has literally broken the laws of nature cramming all that puzzling into a box this small. A series of challenges results in the appearance of a badly-behaved old friend you may have been expecting – work out why and you’ll discover even more.

This year Peter had once again allowed us a fourth nomination for a commercially available puzzle and I used that ticket to nominate Abraham’s Well: Brian Young’s latest sequential discovery tour de force. Peeling back the layers of this onion will give any puzzler a massive sense of achievement – finding a way to do it with virtually no force whatsoever is the crowning achievement. Brilliant engineering meets superb craftsmanship in this elaborate, yet compact, challenge.

From there I did my best to step between all of the puzzlers from Japan in the east to the US west coast… with everyone presenting their top three or four picks, and then giving the occasional shout out to any other puzzles deserving of special mention for others to look into. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one frantically scribbling notes as we went through the pics noting down the puzzles that others thought were awesome that I hadn’t played with yet…

As usual the nominations ran the gamut from simple plastic keychain puzzles right up to some glorious creations costing literally several thousand… yet the one thing they all shared was that they’d made a puzzler’s year – I always like listening to puzzlers talking about why specific puzzles are special to them – whether that be how it makes them feel when they solve them, or how they managed to get hold of something that they’d been after for ages…

In between the nominations we had a couple of breaks for libations and other important matters. James gave us a bit of a tour of his merely jaw-dropping (remaining) collection of Berrocal’s, 500 selected puzzles and the swaps and spares that didn’t end up in George and Rox’s Museum. At the end of the tour James asked anyone who might have spare copies of any old Pentangle puzzles, particularly the dexterity puzzles, so that he could put together a complete collection of them for his son… if anyone has any, please do get in touch.

After the second break Clive entertained us with an excellent magic effect, and then Angelo Carbone gave us a short talk showcasing one of his newer inventions and explained one of his older ones that uses a rather puzzling box as it’s centrepiece… it’s clear why Peter’s so keen to encourage him to turn his hand to designing puzzle boxes after seeing that explanation.

At the end of the nominations, Peter took over proceedings and announced the winners:

Juno’s Sequential Discovery Cubed Box came in first place, with Jack’s Tippenary Mystery Tour coming second and Brian’s’ Abraham’s Well coming third.

Juno also took the title for Best Designer and for Most Prominent Craftsman – giving him an elegant hat-trick, for the first time in the history of Peter’s EPPs – an awesome achievement!

After the formal proceedings wound down, a bunch of folks hung around to chat a bit more – it definitely had the feel of the final night at an IPP where nobody wanted to admit that it was over for another year… it was super to catch up with everyone for a bit…

Thanks to Peter for organising another grand EPP!

Saturday 1 January 2022

2021 Christmas Puzzle Puzzle Solution

[Yup - SPOILERS!] 

I guess it’s traditional for me to explain my Christmas puzzle round about now, so here goes…

This year’s puzzle was a bit different – for one thing, you actually had to do some work before you even got hold of the real puzzle, but in my defence, I did try and leave some breadcrumbs!

First of all there was the colourful text – that was quite unusual for my blog… and then there were some stray bits of capitalisation – collect all the unexpected capitals and you were told to “LOOK CLOSER”… which considered with the colours was leading you to look at the blog text – where each para had some stray text after it in white on white – which is either visible when highlighted or if you’re looking at the page source code… that resolves to “” and if you pop that into a browser you’ll find yourself looking at a vaguely familiar format for my Christmas Puzzles..


That gives you instructions ("I want a three digit number") and some clues in the form of text and pictures… the flavourtext gives some helpful clues referring to “times”, “competitive” and “initially” … and if you look VERY closely at the bottom right of the frame around the pics you’ll see some text saying “Thanks Nick & John”. Hopefully you’ll recognise a couple of the puzzles among the sixteen and realise they’ve all been entries in the annual Puzzle Design Competition (latterly the Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition) which is run by Nick Baxter and hosted on John Rausch’s website… which makes sense of the “competitive” reference and the “Thanks Nick & John” note.

Now you’re in the familiar territory of having to find data points on all of the puzzles in the grid, which you can do by using the search functionality on John’s website – if you put in blank search parameters it will list all of the entries by year…

If you start doing this and work your way through the grid you’ll notice that they’re almost perfectly in alphabetical order, perhaps except for the first entry if you didn’t use it’s full name… which is “(Now they know how many holes it takes to fill) The L-Bert Hall”. If you list all the puzzle names and the years they entered (“times” :-) ), you’ll notice that the entry years are unique, which is handy and provides a natural order, which can’t be a coincidence. [Orientation of the pics was just me being a b@stard!]

Ordering the puzzle names by entry year and focusing just on the first letters (“initially”) provides the following text: “WELLDONEBURRMUDA”, or if you add a few spaces “WELL DONE BURRMUDA”. Hopefully the “WELL DONE” bit gave you some confidence that you were on the right track… then you just needed to work out how to get a three-digit number out of that… and hopefully it wasn’t too much of a stretch to realise that Burrmuda was a Stewart Coffin design (and not a country) and he always gives his designs a number – Burrmuda happened to be 112, which in turn happens to be a three-digit number, the final confirmer.

Massive congratulations to Brendan Perez who was the first person to crack my puzzle in just under 12 hours from publication, while navigating Christmas duties! Around four hours later he was joined on the podium by Steve Canfield (who went to a lot more trouble than I’ve ever gone to for his first Christmas puzzle – check it out!). The final spot on the podium was taken by Mike Quigley later on Boxing Day morning, with Steve Nicholls hot on his heels (possibly due to some collaborative work there). Amy and Josh were the final two solvers later on boxing Day and then we’ve had no more people solve it since then… so you should all consider yourselves a rarefied bunch of puzzlers – well done! And thanks for playing along!!

Some goodies from my drawer of swaps will be heading out to the first three places shortly.

[Thanks to Nick & John for providing the fodder for the hunt and to Nick for checking my work.]

The list of puzzles for anyone who’s interested, in order of entry year:

  • Walk of Ladybird
  • Edge Corner Cube
  • Loris
  • Little Maze N’ Cubes
  • Dipole Dilemma
  • Othogenesis
  • (Now they know how many holes it takes to fill) The L-Bert Hall
  • Easy Eight, Hard Eight
  • Barb’s Cube
  • UFO
  • Road Blocks
  • Rising Sun
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Unicum
  • Double Cube
  • Axes and Hammer
Fun fact: I hadn't intended or even realised that the puzzles were pretty much in alphabetical order in the grid - and only when someone pointed it out did I realise that it was the result of InDesign's 'Place' function - when you place a bunch of selected files in one go, they go in alphabetically by filename - and I had the puzzle names at the start of the filenames.