Sunday 21 April 2024

More Minima!

Just after I wrote about the set of Minima Puzzles I’d acquired, both Tye and Frederic got in touch. Frederic happily engaged in a bit of back and forth on the thinking behind the Minima series, how he approaches the design process and told me about a couple of Minima designs that will hopefully be produced in the future – some of which sound absolutely awesome! Tye was chuffed that I’d enjoyed them so much and had appreciated the effort that went into producing them.

Frederic and Tye both pointed out that there was another already in the Nothing Yet Designs shop (Minima Domino), with a further one due along shortly… so I duly bought a copy of Domino and asked Tye to hang onto it as I was about to head out on holiday… somewhere along the way Minima Twig was released and I added that to the order and when I got back home, Tye shipped them over… along with a pile of other puzzles he just threw in, “so that the box wouldn’t be empty”! (Thanks Tye - I’m still working my way through a few of those!)

Minima Domino consists of the usual form-factor box with a single 2*1 opening on one side. Two of the other sides have a small slit and there are a number of thoughtful holes to facilitate a little manoeuvring of the pieces inside the box… there are a couple of captive blocks already helpfully placed in opposite corners and your task is to simply insert the 5 dominoes into the box…

See when I said those two blocks had been helpfully placed in the opposite corners, I lied… it turns out they really make things a lot more complicated. Once again the elegance of the design shines through on this puzzle – the 5 dominoes are identical so you don’t need to keep track of different pieces – it’s all “just” about getting them inside the box.

I ended up spending some time working through the potential ways of arranging the pieces in the box in a bid to reduce the number of assemblies to try… it’s not hard to deduce what’s possible for the final move or two, but the “interesting” bit is then trying to get the preceding pieces into place without needing to move pieces through one another or indeed through the side wall of the box.(The latter is discouraged.)

As you’d expect, every little element of the design is both necessary and (just) sufficient – the Minima-family-resemblance is clear.

Minima Twig looks totally different – while the box-shape is the same as the rest of the series, the pieces (once again all dominoes) have steel twigs sprouting out from either an end or a side and there are a number of slots and holes in the box that seem to be far more about the twigs than about facilitating rotations… this one’s different!

This time you’ve clearly got two types of pieces and it looks as though you’re going to need to get a twig protruding from every hole or slot in the box… he wouldn’t give you an extra hole or two, would he?

Experimenting to try an find which piece can use which holes is quite fun… don’t be tempted to assume you’ve found all the different ways of using those holes and slots until you’ve actually solved the puzzle – keep an open mind!

Start putting pieces in and you quickly find yourself back in familiar Minima-territory - the order of assembly is critical, even with just two types of pieces. The solution path might not be as complex as some of the earlier Minima, but the A-Ha’s along the way are just as pleasant.  

Definitely a worthy addition to the canon – and clearly the funkiest looking one so far… lovely work by Tye on a super design from Frederic.

I’m definitely keeping an eye out for any new designs in this series.

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