May 6, 2015

Cast Donuts

Designed by Vesa Timonen, who is also the designer of "Cast Cylinder", which I have already reviewed here, "Cast Donuts" is one beautiful, original and unique puzzle! As its description says:
Cast Donuts has beautifully shaped rings that look like 2 donuts intertwined together.
Try solving the puzzle by imagining the inner structure and using each of the rings' division lines as a hint.  You will be pleasantly surprised by the unique movements needed to separate the rings. This puzzle is a masterpiece in design and concept. 

I could not disagree at all. The first time I saw this puzzle in real, I thought it was so small. Surely by looking at the image only, be it online or somewhere else, one cannot get a full idea of the puzzle. Not until they have it in their hands. Well, I imagined this one a bit different, but when I saw it on a stand in a bookshop, I was amazed for the second time (the first being when seeing it online when it was published in 2012). Then, I had no doubts - I should have this marvelous piece of art.
As per Hanayama's rating, "Cast Donuts" is level 4 out of 6. Its difficulty is 2, while its design and inspiration index* is 5, which gives this average of 4. My personal ratings in these are the same:
Idea: 5
Implementation: 5
Difficulty: 2
Which leaves the experience. Having the freedom to implement the solution in your way makes "Cast Donuts" very pleasant and fun, achievable and solvable by anyone. I mean that there are some steps which are needed to do the solution, but it is not mandatory to do them in any particular order or way. It is not like "Cast Quartet" or "Cast Vortex" for example, which are very precise and strict in the way the solution is done. This makes the puzzle suitable both for beginners and advanced puzzlers.

What I like most about the puzzle is namely the assembled version of it. It is very appealing and attractive. And the material is great - that black color which is present only on a few Hanayama puzzles is my most favourite. I think all 5 puzzles, which have it so far, are among my most favourite Cast puzzles (if not all in Top 10, then maybe in Top 20). I wish there were more great puzzles with this color/material.
The rest of my ratings for "Cast Donuts" are:
Experience: 4
Overall: 4

* Hanayama assess puzzles in these two indexes and gives one average level based on them

May 1, 2015

Deja Vu

"Deja Vu" is an "open-the-box" puzzle. It is indeed like a box - inside there is small space between the two pieces, where you can store something not to be visible. Opening this box is very fast, but requires a lot of knowledge to do. Of course, don't keep the most valuable thing you have in there, because a thief could come up with the idea of checking it and ruining the puzzle for you in search of the hidden.  Or they might even know how to solve this puzzle.
When I solved it the first time, I got a "deja vu". It means I already had a similar puzzle before it and solving this was like encountering that concept inside again. I think it fulfilled its purpose for me being a "Deja Vu". And yes - a small hint for those interested - I have already made a review of the other puzzle in my blog.
To be honest, I like "Deja Vu" more than the other puzzle I have, which represents the same idea. And it is not because it is more intuitive or easy, but because when you solve it, you are able to see with your bare eyes how and why the solution works. Then you will be amazed by the idea and certainly will remember it for good. With this, I am not referring only to the hidden trick inside for opening, but also for the way the two pieces could be separated once the first half of the solution is applied. Yes, you might come up with the idea for the second part of the solution without even knowing what the first should be.
What I got to know also about this puzzle is the fact that there are other puzzles like this, with the same outer shape of the two pieces, but different colors. I can't tell if the inside is the same, or even the solution, as I don't own the others, but if they were different, I would definitely try some of the rest. Some are known as "Dovetail", I suppose because of the shape of the middle of each side of the two pieces - they look like bird tails. And they seem to make the two pieces impossible to pull aside, although they must have been pushed together somehow. I will leave this up to you.
Finally, here are my ratings:
Idea: 6
Implementation: 3 (in general, the wood seems pretty basic and I think no special instruments or measures were needed to make this one)
Experience: 4
Difficulty: 4 (it is rated by PuzzleMaster only at level 7 from 6 to 10, which I think is low)
Overall: 4.25
You can get "Deja Vu" from PuzzleMaster. Check it here.

Apr 27, 2015

Alcatraz - The Puzzle

"Alcatraz - The Puzzle" is one extremely difficult puzzle, which is unsolvable, unless you already know the concept inside.
Many people state that this is not a puzzle, but rather a magical trick or something like that. Personally I think it is a puzzle, although not a regular one.
So, there is a cage with a ball inside. There are six columns around the ball, two of them keeping it tightly inside, while the other four could be rotated around their center axis, but cannot be removed from between the top and bottom of the puzzle. There is also a website devoted to this small little puzzle, and I am sure you will check it before you solve it by yourself. There, you will find more information about the structure of the puzzle and the solution.
To be able to solve a very difficult puzzle you need usually luck the first time you try it. Then, you have to see how the solution works and apply it the next time. For "Alcatraz - The Puzzle" this is not the case. Here, you cannot solve it at all accidentally the first time. Well, unless you see someone do the magic trick and then by observing their movements, try to do something similar. Then, and just then, accident could happen and you may solve it by chance. And I think this is how you should become acquainted to this puzzle. Otherwise, you have to cheat.
This is what I did - I cheated for this puzzle. And it is the puzzle I never regret I cheated. It is also the puzzle I never what to solve again, as it is not very pleasant for me. I do admire the idea and implementation, though, but this is not enough to make me like that puzzle at all.

This is my personal opinion for "Alcatraz - The Puzzle". It is suitable to see someone else take the ball out of the cage and then try to find out how. But if you are going to buy it for your collection with no demonstration about it - then I suggest you just don't do it. Spare yourself and get something much more interesting and fun.
My rating are:
Idea: 4
Implementation: 4
Experience: 1
Difficulty: 6
Overall: 3.75 (too high, after all)

Apr 23, 2015

Cast News

"Cast News" is a wonderful puzzle. Consisting of only two identical pieces, it is rated by Hanayama at level 6 (out of 6). Which means that despite the two pieces, it is very difficult to solve. Well, unless you are already familiar with the concept or are very lucky. To be honest, the first time you will indeed need some luck in order to separate the two pieces. After that, if you examine the inner structure of them, you have the task to find out how you can solve it faster and why the potential solution would work every time. Yes, it takes less than 10 seconds to separate the two pieces once you know the trick behind.
I myself did not manage to find the correct solution. I had something and thinking it is the true one, I checked on the internet if I was right. Well, I was not. This is one of the puzzles which I failed at. And it made me feel not happy with it, resulting in this puzzle not being in my top favourites. Most of the others I have, which I have failed at, are my most favourite, but not this one. I don't mean that I don't like it, I do, but not that much that I can boast with it. Don't get me wrong - I think the idea is more than great, the solution is very knowledge-requiring, the design is very precise. It's just not in my heart, if you know what I mean.
Mentioning design, there is something I noticed and it is worth sharing. If you have not seen it yet - it would be nice to know it. The puzzle is called NEWS, which has an anagram EWNS, which stands for East, West, North and South. These are situated on the surface of the puzzle in the corresponding order. So, if you need to know if you have put it properly back together, just take a look at the four directions and if they are displayed correctly. Not that you cannot put it back wrongly (WENS), but it would not make sense and will not be that nice.
Associating the puzzle with the four directions of the world, when I was trying to solve it the first time, I thought there is something like a compass inside, which, when pointed to north, would lead to position of the inner structure that allows separation of the two pieces. Well, I was wrong, but I think such an idea for a puzzle would be great, wouldn't it?
With all these, I am giving "Cast News" the following ratings:
Idea: 6
Implementation: 4
Experience: 4
Difficulty: 6
Overall: 5
You should have this puzzle is your collection as the idea presented is very popular and a must-know.

Apr 19, 2015

Jacob's Ladder

"Jacob's Ladder" is the last of the puzzles I ordered from BrilliantPuzzles with the gift certificate I won in December 2014 in Gabriel Fernandez's puzzle competition. The other two puzzles were "Two Lovers" and "Moon Walker".

To be honest, I enjoyed this puzzle one level less than "Moon Walker". The two have identical idea, only the position of the elements of the puzzles are different. This one has the sticks with the opening arranged next to each other, horizontally, each pointing vertically. I believe that if you have not solved any such puzzle before (in terms of the idea), either puzzle would present a good challenge at familiarizing you with it. But if you already know any of that type, the next one would be easier and less fun. That is what happened to me. Adding that fact that I had them together and solved them one after the other, I think it made me get the idea pretty well and implement it on "Jacob's Ladder" very quickly, with no trials and errors. I can't even remember if I have ever had any errors on doing the solution of this puzzle. Of course, if it was completely new concept for me, I would have many difficulties, but now I am sure I got it more than perfectly.
Anyway, one thing that caught my attention for "Jacob's Ladder" was that on the picture on the site it looked differently than actual. When I got it, I found out that the holes through which the sticks pass, are smaller that the ones on the picture. That made moving the string through that holes tricky at some points. Also as per the puzzle's description, it is enough to remove the string from the sticks (it cannot be taken completely from the rest of the puzzle), but in fact you can remove afterwards the bead from the stick. Not that it matters that much, but it is something I noticed that makes reality different from the information about the puzzle.
Finally, here are my ratings for "Jacob's Ladder":
Idea: 6
Implementation: 3
Experience: 3
Difficulty: 3
(The last two - because of my copy of the puzzle; otherwise they might have been higher.)
Overall: 3.75
I have seen other similar puzzles with the same structure, and I would not strictly recommend this one, but let the choice to you. What I would recommend indeed is the idea and the concept - if you are not already familiar with it, you should get it.

Apr 15, 2015

Cast Coil

I am having mixed feelings about "Cast Coil".
First, the design. The material (or at least the look) is so strange. I both like it and dislike it. I like that they made it look this way - a few Hanayama puzzles are looking like this, although "Cast Coil" has this blueish/grayish color which I have never seen used for the other Hanayama puzzles (although "Cast Plate" might be similar - I don't own it to say for sure). But then, it looks so dark in general, that I associate it with something unpleasant.
Indeed! Moving to the difficulty of this puzzle and finding the solution in general - this has not been a joyful task for me. I first encountered this puzzle when I bought it for a friend of mine for his birthday. Of course, being his first puzzle, he separated the two pieces, but did not how and was not able to put the back together. Then, I tried to help, but, going for the assemble of "Cast Coil" without even experimenting with the disassemble, was a hard job. Anyway, I looked up a video solution on internet and put the pieces back together. My friend did not want to separate them any more.
Some time later, I got "Cast Coil" in my collection. At that time I have already forgotten what I have seen on that video, so it was a new challenge for me. However, having experience with a lot of (Hanayama Cast) puzzles, I found the solution relatively easy. After that, I was determined to memorize the solution (after all, I was going to make a video solution for it for PuzzleMaster Canada). It took me some time. And, finally, after seeing the intended solution, it took me a lot more time to experiment with doing it from a different angle. What I mean is that there is only one solution to the puzzle, but you can do it by looking at the puzzle at different sides. Sometimes I use this method to challenge myself further in solving a puzzle. It is very interesting and fun, especially if I have memorized particular moves. And it is like solving a new puzzle!

My final ratings for "Cast Coil" are:
Idea: 3
Implementation: 4 (only because it requires a lot of brains to come up with the structure of two identical pieces, IMO)
Experience: 3
Difficulty: 4
Overall: 3.5
I would not recommend it to everyone, but people who like challenges should try it. Every move is unexpected - keep this in mind and don't limit yourself to the x or y axis only!

Apr 10, 2015

Internal Combustion

I understood what "combustion" means not until I was about to write this review. Now I am happy to know what the English term "internal combustion" stays for.
This puzzle is very interesting. It is one of my first of that type - fitting objects into another object or whatever the type is called (I am not that into the terms of puzzle types). The thing is that the four pieces inside the "box" or "frame" are only partially visible and one has to use their other senses to understand what the internal structure is. It is like cracking a safe or a combination lock. With the difference that the combination here is not that complex and you can find it with a few tries only.
I was surprised to find out that the intended solution was not what I have found. It appears that there could be different solutions to "Internal Combustion", depending on how the four pieces are put inside. Mine copy of the puzzle arrived with different initial setup than intended. And I think the solution I had at first was the most interesting and the most difficult. The intended one is fairy simple and discoverable. So far I have found only two different solutions, but who knows - there could be more as well.
With this feature (having different possible arrangements), I think "Internal Combustion" is an useful toy with time. Especially if you have forgotten the solutions which you have found so far. You will re-experience the joy of solving it.
Here are my ratings for "Internal Combustion":
Idea: 4
Implementation: 3
Experience: 5
Difficulty: 3
Overall: 3.75
This seems quite low, depending on how I really feel about this puzzle. But in time I might re-review it and change the ratings to higher.

Apr 2, 2015

Cast U&U

I have one word for this puzzle: remarkable! (Well, with all the synonyms of the word, there could be more than one in this case.)
Idea: 6
Implementation: 6
Experience: 6
Difficulty: 4
Overall: 5.5

"Cast U&U" turned into a favourite of mine only after seeing a picture of it when it was released in March 2014. Then, it was a period of desire to own this clever little puzzle. And at the end of October 2014 I got it in my collection from PuzzleMaster Canada. After that, it became even bigger favourite of mine.
The idea of "Cast U&U" is to separate the two Us. When looking (just looking) at the puzzle, one might think that moving the two pairs of nuts away from each other would make enough space for the two Us to be relocated and thus separated from each other. But when you have it in your hands, you can easily find that there will not be enough space to do that action. The six (to be honest, they are six - two pairs of three not separable) pieces are made so accurately that the solution is very, very precise and only that solution works and nothing else. No force, and - for those who count on it - no luck would help you in this one. You have to think what could be needed in order to separate the two pieces - that is, what the exact order of steps are necessary. Or, if you can't think that much - you have to look.
I really don't want to go into that much superlatives about the concept, the implementation and everything else about this puzzle. You have to own it to get it. I would just like to add that I solved it faster than I thought (I suspected a long time of torture), but still not that quick to just do it and leave it afterwards. I also think, on the contrary to other people's comments which I have read so far, that this puzzle is very pretty. I love the looks, the design, the grace and fineness it offers. For me, looking different than the rest of the Hanayama Cast puzzles makes this one outstanding.
Finally, if you are into puzzles for quite some time, you should try "Cast U&U". It would provide great experience and I hope you like at at least as that much as I do.

Mar 28, 2015

Moon Walker

"Moon Walker" is the second of the three puzzles I ordered from BrilliantPuzzles with the gift certificate I won in December 2014 in Gabriel Fernandez's puzzle competition.
It represents a very famous idea. There is a frame and there are sticks inside the frame. Each stick ends in a loop, except for the last stick, which is not needed to end in a loop. In this variant of the puzzle the last stick ends in a moon object. Then, each stick passes through the loop of the previous one. Thus, one interesting construction is formed. There is also a string - a closed one, with a bead or some other object on it. "Moon Walker" has a star on the string, which make you associate the puzzle with space and moon even more.
When I was choosing which puzzles to order from BrilliantPuzzles, I was sure that I wanted this particular idea in my collection. Then, I had to choose between two versions. And I am happy I stopped at this one - as I later nhoticed, the other one is easier, as it has one less stick, and it also does not look that nice as this one.
The idea of the puzzle is to separate the string from the rest of the puzzle. The string comes around the first, the longest stick. In order to take it away, you need to find out how the string must pass through the sticks and the loops. As BrilliantPuzzles advice - you should be aware not to complicate the puzzle by doing unnecessary moves of the string. I believe it (complicating) could be easily achieved, due to the specifics of the puzzle. And, if course, if you don't have experience with such types of puzzles.
My copy of the puzzle came full, but the string was not on its intended start position. Instead, it was hooked on the last stick, the one with the moon on it. This made the puzzle far easier than it could have been was the string on the correct initial place. With this setup, I was able to instantly apprehend how the solution should work. Of course, I had the task to do the puzzle in reverse order - put the string back, instead of separating it from the rest. I thought this would be harder. But after going for putting the string on the second, then third, and so on, stick, I solved the puzzle without complicating it with redundant moves.
So, despite having my full fun reduced a little, I still like "Moon Walker" very much. On my first two or three times I was able to do it perfectly fine. But then, I started messing around and had difficulties in solving it holus-bolus. Maybe it is then when I found the obstacles that this puzzle can offer. I also have found two approaches and both can work in the solution. One of them could be used in one way, and the other - in the other way of the solution, but it is not necessary. If you use one and the same approach on separating and putting the string back, it will work as well. Here, by approach, I mean consecutive steps and movements of the string.
Being a wood-and-string puzzle, the wood not the best out there, and having the above-mentioned experience with it, I would rate "Moon Walker" this way:
Idea: 6
Implementation: 3
Experience: 4
Difficulty: 3
(The last two - because of my copy of the puzzle; otherwise they might have been higher.)
Overall: 4
I recommend this puzzle to everyone who is not afraid of string puzzles. Give it a try, if you have not already solved this idea, and have fun!

Mar 24, 2015

Cast Nutcase

I am a complete nutcase about this puzzle!
I don't know where to begin with. OK, let's follow my usual categories, this time in a logical order:

The goal of "Cast Nutcase" is to take the small nut out of the bolt. The small nut can freely move inside the bolt, you can hear it and see it through the two holes on both sides of the bolt. But the holes are so small that the nut cannot pass through it. So, you have to find out how to move the other four pieces until the nut comes out.
There is also a second goal to the puzzle - you can disassemble all pieces and put them back together in two ways. One way is as the starting position - the two big nuts which rotate around the bolt read "Nut-Case". The other way of assembling is making the two nuts read "Case-Nut".
You will be surprised when you do both challenges of the puzzle.
Actually, I was indeed surprised to read very different reviews and opinions about this puzzle. Some people did not like it, others think it is a great puzzle. In the next paragraphs I will try to stress why I like it and find it one of the best Hanayama puzzles.
Before that, for idea, I give it a rating of 6. Created by Oskar van Deventer, I think this is a bright example of his masterworks! Great job, Oskar!

"Cast Nutcase" is looking very different than the rest of the Hanayama Cast puzzles. It looks as if it is made of another material. With the predominant green color, which has red-pink and blue hues, and hard surface, I think its appearance is very pleasant and unique.
If you look further, you will find that its overall design is magnificent! Every detail of the bolt, every part of the nuts and their sizes are so perfectly made that the whole puzzle looks like a masterpiece!
Some people say that their copies of the puzzle are not strictly fit. The nuts are loose and this spoils the solution. But mine is pretty much stable and follows (I am sure) the intended design. That is a great reason for me to respect Oskar and this work of his.
If you look even further more, you can find the difference and similarities in the pieces. There are actually 4 interlocked pieces and one loose (the small nut inside). I think that is why the theme of the puzzle is "interlocking".
When disassembled, you will see two pairs of identical (almost) pieces. But when put together, they might not seem identical, not even when you know how they are designed. At least for me this is the case. I always imagine how they should look like, but when doing any movements on the assembled puzzle, it seems my imaginations are not completely correct. Very intriguing! So brain-teasing!
That is why I give it 6 for implementation.

There are different opinions about what the difficulty of "Cast Nutcase" is. I think this just proves that people are different and everyone accepts difficulty differently. What is simple for some people could be hard for others, and vice versa. For me, this puzzle is correctly labelled by Hanayama at level 6 (from 1 to 6). The fact that the structure is half-visible leaves the solver with their brain and/or luck. And still, if one solves this accidentally, they can choose to stay unenlightened by trying to solve it back again without inspecting the details of the nuts. Or, they can understand why the solution works and go for the second challenge the puzzle presents - assembling it, so that the two nuts read "Case-Nut".
For me, putting the nuts in "Case-Nut" is easier than putting them in "Nut-Case". That is why I think they chose the starting position to be the second variant and leave the easier one with no visual reference for the solver. Otherwise, the disassemble would have been much easier and the assemble of the other version would have been more difficult. At first, I though that namely the first variant is the intended solution, until I solved it and found out I was wrong.
So, even now, when knowing how the solution works, I still have difficulties in applying it. Especially the one for the starting position of the puzzle (the "Nut-Case" version).
For difficulty, I give it 6.

I came up with an idea of the solution after seeing the picture of the puzzle several times on the list with Cast puzzles. Then, when I got it in my collection, I went for that idea. It appeared I was almost right - only the correct inner structure of the two nuts was not completely as I suspected.
It took me a lot of time to find the correct solution. I tried to use every hollow I could find. I turned the puzzle in every possible direction, used light to see through that hollows and try to find out what the inner sides of the nuts look like. I even almost solved the puzzle once, but I was too quick and the pieces went back to interlocked position.
When I finally solved it (by luck, the first time), I was exalted. I immediately went for the second assemble of the puzzle. And even I got the details of every piece and how its position should be according to the rest, I still had difficulties in doing the solution on my next tries. And it has been so up till now.
So, with everything said so far, I give it here a rating of 6 as well.

And my final rating for "Cast Nutcase" is 6! It is one of the best puzzle I have and I would recommend it to anyone (of course, if you are not a beginner in such puzzles, otherwise some obstacles might spoil the fun for you).

Mar 15, 2015

Secret Of The Butterflies

"Secret Of The Butterflies" is how I call my first two puzzles. Here, by my first two I mean the first two created by me.

Easier version

Harder version

The two puzzles have similar ideas, that is why I am reviewing them at once. One is an easier version, which is intended to familiarize the puzzler with the main feature of the puzzles, while the other is a more complicated version, which uses the main feature as well, but has several additional moves needed in order to implement it.
The idea of both puzzles is to take the string out of the butterflies. The ends of the string are two beads, which are intended not to pass through any openings on the butterflies. So, in order to take the string away, its movement around the wire is required. Then, the more complex version has two approaches: put the string back to start place, or put it on the same place, but reversed (see below).

Harder version - initial state

Harder version - reversed string

While the wire of the easier version is pretty straight-forward (it does not twist around itself and there is only one place where it comes between itself), the one of the more complex is more elaborate - it twists around itself on two places, namely where two "wings" on one side of the butterfly are linked. This is the main difference in the two puzzles, which is enough to make the solutions for them quite different.
If you are presented with the more complex butterfly, then I am sure you will find the solution very, very hard. As other wire and string puzzles, you can go into some wrong directions at many points, you can twist the string unnecessary times around the wire and you can even strive to put it out at a wrong place. I don't say that there is only one solution. I am sure there could be many solutions, depending on the exact steps performed. But the intended solution would be very hard to get. Of course, even with the easier butterfly, things might not be that bright. I gave it to two people, but they could not solve it. It is true they were not concentrated enough and did not have that much time to experiment, but this just calms me down by the fact that this puzzle could not be solved that quickly.
If you find the secret of the easier butterfly, then you can use it for the more complex one, but still some more digging and experimenting will be required to complete it, too.
Personally, for me, it is easier to put the string back to the butterflies than to take it out, even for the easier version. Maybe other people will find these two puzzles not that difficult, or, on the contrary, close to impossible. I would be glad to share them with anyone interested.

Here is how I would rate the two puzzles (although, being mine, it might not be such an accurate rating):
Idea: 4
Implementation: 3 (Currently, I use a 3 mm aluminum wire, which is pretty soft and could easily bent, but if I find a way to make the structures more robust, I think I will be able to supply people with copies of the puzzles.)
Experience: 5 (At first, I started with the idea of the assembled version for the complex butterfly; I experimented a lot with a starting position for the string, with the string itself - be it a closed one or with free ends, and finally, when making the easier version, I found out the desired solution to the complex one as well.)
Difficulty: Let's say 3 and 6 correspondingly.
Overall: 3.75 and 4.5

In conclusion, it was fun making a puzzle on my own. I have many other ideas and I would definitely try to implement some of them for real. Coming soon (hopefully) will be another puzzle of mine.

Mar 13, 2015

Yin & Yang

Two Yin & Yang have been put together to make this puzzle. Each Yin & Yang consists of two pieces - one black and one white, representing the famous symbol of evil and good.
"Yin & Yang" is one very expensive puzzle, in my opinion. Wherever I see it, its price is higher than the ones for other more complicated and more appealing puzzles. And in Europe and here in Bulgaria its price is in times bigger than others. To be honest, this is my least favourite puzzle in my collection. It is extremely easy. I solved it in less than a minute after getting it out of the package. Then, I put it together for another minute. Afterwards, I did not need any more attempts in order to comprehend the solution. So, in total, two minutes of a play with this puzzle.
I do find the idea of the puzzle intriguing, though. But it is not complex and is implemented with ease. I can't understand why the price is such then.
Nevertheless, I keep this puzzle just because it gives me some inspiration on coming up with ideas for puzzles on my own. It is also a nice object to have on display. However, due to the fact that (almost) every other puzzle, which I have, has this feature, together with everything else "Yin & Yang" does not have, I am afraid I cannot give high ratings.
Idea: 3
Implementation: 2
Experience: 1
Difficulty: 1
Overall: 1.75
I would recommend this puzzle only two parents, who want to ignite their children's interest on such puzzles.

Mar 7, 2015

Cast Cylinder

As the name implies, there is a hidden trick inside the cylinder puzzle.  There is absolutely no hint or clue on how to start from the outside appearance.  If there is one hint that we can provide, it is to go about it as if you were cracking open a safe.  Enjoy finding the solution while pretending to be a spy cracking open a safe with a shaken not stirred martini by your side.  The theme is "lock".
This is the description for "Cast Cylinder". When I first got it, I truly pretended that I was trying to open a safe. And what else could be done - with the inner structure of the puzzle not visible, you can only rotate the five pieces around until any of them is moved to an unexpected position. It is very intriguing to play with this puzzle, especially if you are into puzzles which do not give any hint how to be solved. Personally, I think I don't mind puzzles where there is something hidden inside and the only way to solve it the first time is by luck. Why should I? After all, the other Hanayama Cast puzzles which are similar to this are among my favourites - Cast Nutcase, Cast Marble, Cast News, Cast Delta, Cast Square. They all have this feature in common - there is something inside, hidden in or between the pieces, which is part of the solution, and which you have to figure out by yourself, if you have never faced it before.
I was impressed by the inner structure of "Cast Cylinder". It is something that requires time to come up with and even more time to experiment with before having a final version. The three inner pieces are created precisely so that they can fit in the other two and still there is room for some unexpected moves (be it part of the correct path of the solution or dead-ends). After opening it, you can inspect the pieces carefully and find out how and why the solution works. Thus, on your next goal you can do it much faster and with ease. OR, you can just try to put it back together without paying attention to the details and have the fun again the next time you go for separating the pieces. It is up to you.
Finally, here is how I rate "Cast Cylinder":
Idea: 6
Implementation: 5
Experience: 5
Difficulty: 4. I was not sure whether it should be 4 or 5. But I would agree with Hanayama's rating here, simply because there is not strictly just one solution - there are some variations on what is done first and one can solve it in alternate ways, just as I did on my first success.
Overall: 5
I would recommend "Cast Cylinder" to puzzlers who have at least one puzzle in their collection.

Mar 2, 2015

Butterfly's Revenge

"Butterfly's Revenge" is one of my most favourite puzzles! It is also one of the most difficult puzzles I have so far. Maybe if I had had more experience with such puzzles like it, I would not have found it that hard. But it was one of my first wire and string puzzles and I had great difficulties in solving it.

The puzzle consists of a lot of wire parts, combined together in the shape of a butterfly. There is also a string in there, but unlike other wire and string puzzles, it is not taken apart from the rest of the puzzle. What needs to be removed is a handle. Personally, I am more afraid of puzzles which have handles to be separated than those that have strings to be taken apart.
The string in "Butterfly's Revenge" ends in two wire (or metal) rings, each half of the string has also a bead on it - one round and one flat - and to make things more interesting, there is also a small ring which keeps the two halves of the string. The string is attached to one of the rings on the butterfly and could move on it, but cannot be taken completely out of that ring or the whole butterfly. The handle then enters two of the rings on the butterfly, including the one which has the string attached to it, and the string passes through the handle. This complex structure introduces the start point of the puzzle. I cannot imagine who has come up with the idea of this puzzle and how, but they did a great job!
I could say that two main features are used in the solution of "Butterfly's Revenge". I was not familiar with neither of them, due to the lack of experience with wire and string puzzles. That is why I failed at finding the intended solution by myself. To my surprise, I managed to find the second part of the solution. Lacking the knowledge about the first part, I did something else and ruined all my further chances in mastering the butterfly. Later, when I saw the solution, I regretted cheating.
The solution for "Butterfly's Revenge" is so great! It works perfectly with no force. So, anyone who reaches a point of a bit of a force needed, know that this puzzle is like any other - it has to be solved smoothly, no resistance of the pieces required.
I quickly apprehended the solution, and although I cheated, this one became one of my most favourite puzzles. I would have my memory erased, so that I can have another go at finding the solution by myself and have satisfaction and even more fun.
With all said (or written), I give the following ratings for "Butterfly's Revenge":
Idea: 6
Implementation: 5 (I don't give it 6, because, to be honest, it is not that beautiful of a puzzle; but everything was designed with a purpose, even though some parts are not actually used in the solution)
Experience: 6
Difficulty: 6
Overall: 5.75
Finally, I would recommend "Butterfly's Revenge" only to experienced puzzle-solvers. You might be more lucky than me and might already know some of the easier puzzles which could help solve this one. You can check this puzzle on PuzzleMaster here.

Feb 27, 2015

Cast Vortex

One of the most difficult Hanayama Cast puzzles is "Cast Vortex". Personally, I find it to be in Top 3 of the most difficult from the series so far.
My first encounter with this puzzle was when one roommate of mine got it for his birthday. At that point I did not have any puzzles in my collection (i.e. my collection had not yet been started). It was rated at difficulty 5 (out of 6) by Hanayama and I gave it some tries. At one point it seemed that the three pieces could not move to any direction and I thought the puzzle was stuck. But my roommate managed to solve it and with few more tries he was able to do it very fast. Then, I gave it no more tries, but I wanted to get some of these puzzles for me as well.
Some years later, when I bought this puzzle, I still found it very tricky. There are several places where one can have difficulties in moving the pieces, there are few dead-ends, although they are not so tough. If one is cautious, they can realize in time that these are dead-ends and can go back to try something else.
So, it took me a dozen of tries to remember the path and to solve the puzzle relatively fast. But still, sometimes I am not able to do it immediately. The puzzle is very tight, the solution is very precise and the pieces are very stubborn. Maybe that is why when Hanayama made re-evaluation of their puzzles (I cannot remember when exactly, but it was after 2010), they promoted "Cast Vortex" to level 6. And I agree with them. It is very difficult to apply the solution even after knowing it.

I also cannot deny that the design of this puzzle is perfect. It was very important to make the pieces precise, to put the obstacles on the correct places and to make the features fit properly to only those parts of the solution, where they are really needed. What I mean is that every one of the three pieces has two protrusions and one hollow on its surface. For each piece these are situated on different parts of it. These both help in finding the solution and torturing when one reaches a dead-end. And one common thing about all three pieces is that they look like the number 6 (but not closed 6 - there is a small opening on the pieces which the number 6 does not have at that place). This is the reason why I call "Cast Vortex" a devil puzzle - having three 6-like pieces and being tough enough, it should really stand for a devilish puzzle.
My ratings for "Cast Vortex" are the following:
Idea: 6
Implementation: 6
Experience: 6
Difficulty: 6
Overall: 6
This puzzle was not only hard to solve, but hard to rate as well. I think the rating is higher than I expected I would give it, but considering everything, I cannot give less in any category than this. Maybe in time, when I do my own re-evaluation of the puzzles, I will update this review, but for now this is how I rate "Cast Vortex".

Feb 21, 2015

EZ Galaxy & Great Collision

Great Collision

EZ Galaxy

"EZ Galaxy" is the third puzzle I know from the "EZ" series by Doug Engel. And it is my least favorable from the group. "Great Collision" is actually representing the same idea (and is designed by the same person), with a few differences. But due to the fact that I would say one and the same things for both puzzles (I am always comparing them), I decided to review them together.
First, I would like to share my ratings for both puzzles and then explain why I like one of the two more than the other.

EZ Galaxy:
Idea: 4
Implementation: 2
Experience: 3
Difficulty: 2
Overall: 2.75

Great Collision
Idea: 4
Implementation: 5
Experience: 3
Difficulty: 2
Overall: 3.5

You can see the difference between these two - the design. Although "EZ Galaxy" seems to be more complex, because of the fact that the ball in the center has some spiral attachments to make it more attractive, I am not fancy of it. The only thing I like about its design is namely the ball and its attachments. The other three pieces are not appealing to me. While, "Great Collision" looks extremely great. I like its color, material, design and everything about it. The only "bad" thing I would say about this puzzle is that it is so tight and the solution must be executed very carefully, that one might think it could break any moment. (Hopefully, mine has not, and I hope it will never do.) But this is part of the fun in some puzzles, so not a big cons after all.
Everything else about these two puzzles seems to be almost the same. The solution is the same with one difference for "EZ Galaxy", which is not enough to make me like it more. The fun I had when solving these two puzzles was almost equal. In fact, I have solved these two pretty close in time - it was just a few days between working on each of them. I don't know if I have solved them with a big pause in time it would make any difference. But I definitely find "Great Collision" to be the better one.

If you happen to choose which one to buy, I would propose to go for "Great Collision", unless you do not care for the looks of the puzzles that much. Of course, this is my vision about the puzzles. You can share yours in the comments.
Finally, both could be found in PuzzleMaster, so, if interested in any, take a look at the information about them here:
EZ Galaxy
Great Collision

Feb 13, 2015

Cast Rattle

"Cast Rattle" is a very interesting puzzle. I got it as a gift from a friend, who was impressed by the design. When I first saw it, I was not that impressed by it, but in time my overall opinion changed.
The puzzle consists of four equal pieces. Each of them has a strange shape (not very appealing to me). They all four form that weird object, which is symmetrical on both sides (if you turn it upside down you can see the same structure). Once you have it in your hand and move any of the pieces, you will think that they are about to get separated. But the next moment any further movements do not allow it to happen and the puzzle stays assembled.
The concept for this puzzle is excellent! I solved it easily, because I have already solved "Cast Quartet" and I found one similarity. That helped me a lot, although some people might not agree with me that these two puzzles have anything in common.
The solution to "Cast Rattle" is very precise and... yes, there is a solution. All four pieces could be separated, scrambled and then put back together in any order - they are just identical in shape. Finding that solution is a matter of thinking. If you come up with the idea how to separate the pieces, it is a matter of time to apply it and succeed. I don't think it could be solved accidentally, unless you have great deal of luck.
My rating for "Cast Rattle" are:
Idea: 5
Implementation: 3 (personally, I don't like the shape of neither the puzzle nor each pieces separately, that is why so low rating; but I can't deny that the design is clever and intriguing; also, the used material is very pleasant - it seems to be the same as the one used for "Cast Quartet" but with different color outside, although I am not familiar with the real deal about these materials)
Experience: 4
Difficulty: 4
Overall: 4
Finally, I would recommend this puzzle to people who already have few easy puzzles in their collection. Say you have experience with solving 5 or 6 similar puzzles and you wonder what the next one to be - you might want to give this one a chance then.

Feb 8, 2015

Two Lovers

In December 2014, a fellow blogger Gabriel Fernandes organized  a puzzle photo contest. I won a gift certificate for with the picture I was participating with. "Two Lovers" is one of the three puzzles I chose to buy with this gift certificate. I was going for something classic, which I had not yet had in my collection.
Idea: 6
This puzzle is one of the many interpretations of a very famous concept. Before buying it, I have seen similar puzzles on other sites, but when choosing what to buy with the gift certificate I have won, I was wondering which version of this idea to get - there were three at that time in At the end, I chose this one.
The goal is to put one of the two beads (or rings, or whatever based on the model) next to the other. I.e. they should come on the same side/loop/half of the string.
Implementation: 3
The puzzle consists of a string, an wooden stick and two beads. The two ends of the string are grounded to the two ends of the stick and they cannot be taken out. There is a hole in the middle of the stick. The string comes through that holes, twists around itself and then goes through the hole again. Thus, it makes that knot on itself. Two loops are formed on each half of the string and they come together in the middle, which keeps them locked between the stick and themselves. Each loops has a bead on it and the beads are bigger than the hole on the stick.
Experience: 4
At first I though that there is no solution to this puzzle. I considered it one of those which were created as a joke (I have heard of such) to be unsolvable. But then, when reading the description to this puzzle*, I was convinced there had to be a solution.
So, my initial idea was that the string should be un-knotted until one big loop is created and then knot it again by keeping one of the beads next to the other.
Difficulty: 3
It did not take me long to find the solution. It is truly an original idea, very clever and fun to figure out. The puzzle is pleasant to play with. I should definitely share it with my friends and family to see if they will be confused or not by it. It is suitable for beginners and if you happen to solve it by chance, you must be very lucky. Should you solve it with logic, though, then you have really mastered it.

Overall: My final rating for this puzzle is 4. I recommend it to everyone - be it a new or advanced player (who has not already solved a similar puzzle).

* The African ring puzzle was once used as magic by tribes living in the jungles of the Ivory Coast, and even today is still used for amusement in this part of Africa. However, the puzzle was not restricted to Africa. Variations were found in China where the most beautiful and elaborate puzzles were made.

Feb 6, 2015

Cast Horse

"Cast Horse" represents one classic puzzle idea. There are two horse-shoes linked with chains, forming a closed structure, and one additional horse-shoe should which is closed. The closed horse-shoe seems to be put around the other structure, but cannot be taken out by just sliding it on one direction or the other. The solution to the puzzle is not complicated, but it requires some thought.
I got this puzzle relatively late in my collection (for Christmas two or three years ago, by my sister) - I already had other Hanayama Cast puzzles of higher level of difficulty ("Cast Horse" is rated at level 2 out of 6 by Hanayama). And although I already had "Cast W-U", which is a bit more complex than "Cast Horse", and an idea about how to solve "Cast Horse", I still had some difficulties in finding out how it works. That is because Hanayama did what they do best - making the puzzles so tight that the solution is very precise. Don't be mislaid by the size of "Cast Horse" - the solution is tight to get. It took me several tries (and I would say a lot of tries, as they were more than I expected) to get the correct solution. But it was very rewarding. It was my first level 2 puzzle at that point, but I did not regret it. Later I would find that level 2 puzzles have some very attractive features.
My ratings for "Cast Horse" would be the following:
Idea: 5
Implementation: 3 (if it was not a Hanayama Cast puzzle, I guess the design would be less interesting and precise)
Experience: 4
Difficulty: 3 (it would be 2, but again, being a Hanayama Cast puzzle, I give it 1 more, just because they do make their puzzles look unique, even if you find something similar somewhere else)
Overall: 3.75
If you are a beginner to such puzzles, you should start with this one. Give it a try and have fun!

Jan 31, 2015

Space Space Maze

Space Space Maze - Puzzle 1

Space Space Maze - Puzzle 2

Space Space Maze - Puzzle 3

When I was a child, I had a few encounters with such puzzles. They were usually placed on some other toys, adding more "fun" for the child. I used to be scared of these, because they not only needed precision, patience and calmness, but they also required knowledge of physics, more correctly - sliding.
The goal of these puzzles in most of the cases is to place the small marbles on the small holes. Usually, the holes are randomly positioned and when you put marble on a hole, you will need to be very careful in handling the puzzle further, otherwise you will end in a marble leaving a hole. Some puzzles have obstacles on the way of the marbles, others have free space above the marbles and the obstacles, which will ruin your current placement of you happen to turn the puzzle (upside-down). And the most enhanced versions have bigger marbles as obstacles, to make the game more interesting.
I bought these three puzzles two or three years ago, at my puzzle craze, when I craved for puzzles almost every day. I was at the seaside and having my puzzle collection left at home, I wanted something new badly. I encountered these in a shop, can't remember which one now, and I bought them. I was hesitant at the first place, as I knew this kind already, but I gave up finally and got all three of them. I am not aware if there are any other puzzles in this series, but I saw these three and got them.
I was surprised to actually solve them faster than I thought. Indeed for one or two of them I had accidentally undone my current state once or twice, but in general it was fun solving them. Now follow separate review for each of the puzzles:

Puzzle 1
Personally, I think this is the most annoying of the three. It is tough to navigate the marbles through the maze. There is also one place where the marbles are intended to pass, but it is practically impossible to do that. You can use this in your favor. The place is positioned in such a way that if you miss the entry point for the inner part of the maze, the marble could easily go a few rings out. But with the opening being too small for the marble to pass, you will not suffer that much pain in your endavours to put it inside.

Puzzle 1 - solved

Puzzle 2
What "annoyed" me for the second one was the fact that from one point onwards the maze became the same no matter where the marble initially was, so it was a little (very little) boring. On the other side, this puzzle was the easiest from the three. Here there is also one place where the marbles should pass, but they were not able to. But it is not part of the correct path, so the only way to avoid it is to shake the puzzle more if any marble happen to go there.

Puzzle 2 - solved

Puzzle 3
Among these three, the third puzzle seemed the most appealing to me. It is indeed a bit different than the other two: the maze is different (straightforward); there are no small holes, so you need to just put the small marbles in the inmost part of the maze (which would have made the other two nicer if they had this feature as well); there are more than one big marbles as well; and there is no space above the maze and the marbles. That means, the puzzle cannot be reset if it is turned upside-down. This was a big plus for my choice. While the first and the second need only positioning the marbles in the holes and then shaking the puzzle to start from beginning, the third one has both directions as goals - putting the marbles in and then taking them out of the whole maze. I found it easier for the first direction and much harder for the second. So, if there was space above to reset the puzzle, it would be much easier in general.

Puzzle 3 - solved

I was planning to evaluate the three puzzles separately, because of the above-mentioned differencies, but while preparing the pictures for the blog entry, I decided to give them one and the same ratings:

Idea: 3
Implementation: 3
Experience: 2
Difficulty: 4
Overall: 3

In conclusion, I would not prefer to solve any of these puzzles once again (that is why the rating of 2 for experience for each of them). Even when preparing the pictures for this blog entry, I was wondering whether I shall postpone it until I find more suitable time to solve them. Glad I did it already and can move on with other, more interesting puzzles.