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.