Monday, 14 April 2014

Coffin’s Octet in F

At the risk of being accused of becoming a tray-packing nut, there’s one more interesting tray puzzle that I managed to acquire recently. 

Octet in F was Rosemary Howbrigg’s IPP32 Exchange Puzzle. I’d seen them for sale in Washington but for some reason I hadn’t bought myself a copy there, so when I spotted a bunch of them on Nick Baxter’s auction, I made sure I picked up a copy. 

Octet in F is Stewart Coffin’s design number 258(!). Your challenge is to arrange 4 F-tetrominoes and 4 High-4-pentominoes into the slightly skewed frame… which has a couple of little intrusions in the corners, presumably to prevent some false solutions. 
This one’s a tough little sod – you have a reasonable number of pieces to contend with and a pair of different shapes (albeit the one is just a slight extension on the other). 

I’d spent a while playing with this one and not getting anywhere when Louis arrived for one of our puzzling weekends centred around an MPP. It was out on the desk so he duly picked it up and started fiddling around with it. Something else must have come up as he didn’t solve it right there and then, but the next morning it was lined up on the desk with a bunch of other puzzles, neatly solved. 

Given how hard it is to find a solution, it’s quite amazing to see just how much spare room there is in the frame when this puzzle has been solved.

Classic Coffin tray-packing puzzle at a jolly reasonable price!

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Gouge Packing Puzzle

John Devost makes some gorgeous puzzles and from time to time he’ll sell a few of them on Puzzle Paradise. A little while back he posted a couple of copies of the Gouge Packing Puzzle, designed by fellow Canadian Gaétan Gouge. The first thing that caught my eye was the absolutely stunning woods that John had used … and knowing from experience that John’s craftsmanship is superb, it took only a couple of seconds to hit the Buy Now button. 

When it arrived, I was over the moon – John’s attention to detail is fanatical, right down to bevelling not just the edges of the box, but the corners as well … and then there’s the trademark Devost slipfeathers as well…

Right, enough gushing about how beautiful it is – tell us about the puzzle!

Inspired by the famous Hoffmann Packing Puzzle, Gaétan wrote about this puzzle in Cubism For Fun [Issue 33] back in 1994, explaining that he’d sought to use voids in the puzzle as an intrinsic part of the puzzle itself. The challenge is to pack a total of 26 cubes into the box so that nothing projects above the lip of the box. There are 21 cubes of unit size 5 and the rest are 8 units cubed. All of these cubes need to be packed into the box which is 18 units cubed internally. 

I started out by randomly experimenting with various combinations of big and small cubes and managed to find some useful interactions between the size of the box and the sizes of the cubes – that’s got to be useful! 


Time and time again I’d manage to find a way to get them all inside the box only to find a couple of errant blocks hiding on the desk behind a burr or something. Eventually I went back to basics and worked with what I knew – what would be efficient – and what wouldn’t be – and how to make use of the fact that there we a strange number of larger cubes … and then it all makes sense, as long as you can see it all in three dimensions … it really is more about managing the voids than fitting the pieces in. 

This one’s really interesting and makes you think outside the box, in a sense. And when you find the solution, it all seems so obvious, as long as you’re thinking about it in the right paradigm.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Four to Square

Recently I managed to pick up a copy of this great little tray-packing puzzle by Jacques Haubrich.  

The materials alone would set this tray puzzle apart from pretty much all of the others in my collection – it’s made out of stainless steel! Nobody if going to damage this puzzle in a million years! 

It’s a really handy size for chucking in your pocket to annoy other puzzlers with, although it’s not light – remember the whole thing is made of 2mm satin finish stainless steel. 

It’s one of those really simple looking tray packing puzzles with only four pieces (two of which are identical!) … and a tray that, as implied by the name of the puzzle, is absolutely square. In spite of all that, it still provides a pretty good challenge. 

There are stacks of almost-solutions, but Jacques has done a brilliant job of getting those shapes just right so that there’s always one little bit that doesn’t quite fit – find the solution and the pieces will rattle satisfyingly in their tray. 

I’m probably just a bit slow but I find the shapes quite confusing even when I’m re-solving this puzzle, knowing more or less what the final solution looks like. I still find myself wanting to do all the wrong things first before I eventually get back to the right answer. 

Great puzzle!