Plant Cycle

Designed and Built by Christian Cormier

Plant Cycle is a limited run of 50 puzzles, designed and built by Christian Cormier as a follow-up to his Father & Son Dueling Keys. Plant features three custom keys (as opposed to Father’s two), which are protruding evenly from a BIG piece of layered metal, notched discs centered in recesses at different heights outside of each key. The top of each key has a different image cut out: seeds, stem, and flower (from where we get the name). The goal is to remove all three keys.

The first thing that you will notice should you be fortunate enough to get your hands on one, is that this thing is heavy. Like drop-it-in-a-sock-and-fight-your-way-through-hordes-of-zombies heavy. It comes with a circular piece of astroturf to thematically protect your table and shelves from this metal hulk (did I mention it was heavy?), a card with instructions, and a thin reset tool, which is not required to reset the puzzle but can certainly help. The instructions tell you that there are no magnets inside and no tools allowed (including the reset tool, obviously).

I ordered this from Christian a few months ago, and it arrived quickly, packed well and with care. It feels solid in your hands and looks very cool. And so I began turning keys. Unsurprisingly, they do not just come out, but each one can be turned this way and that, hitting obstacles and dead ends, allowing you to lift each one up and down (to some extent), but not to actually remove them from the base. I did most of my work on it with it at rest on a table, occasionally picking it up to turn it around and peer confusedly into its three faces, wondering what in the heck is going on inside. It would end up taking me many hours over several weeks (and a couple nudges from him) to fully solve it.

It is not a spoiler to say that working on this puzzles feels akin, to a limited extent, to manipulating three Revomazes that share the same base. Whether or not it can be solved in the same way is not something I will say (and considering the fact that I have never actually solved either of my Revos, I suppose I am hardly one to do so). Suffice it to say that this aspect of the puzzle is clear as soon as you start getting lost in each key’s journey up and down and all around.

I will say that there is more to the puzzle than “just” wandering through the three keyholes – Christian included a few tricks that made this puzzle stand out and be truly enjoyable. The solution had to be worked out through deduction, with a bit of help from some clues provided by the puzzle itself, in combination with trial and error and general fiddling about (and perhaps a bit of mapping).

On several occasions while working on it, I felt that I was just about to “solve” one or more keys, only to find that Christian was just messing with me. But I never felt frustrated, only mystified. And when that first, big a-ha hit, I was genuinely pleased: it made total sense and let me know, to some extent, what I needed to do, without actually knowing how to do it. This was something I had to work out intellectually before I could apply it, which to me is a hallmark of a great puzzle. And this disconnect between understanding at least this one trick and knowing how to fully implement it affords the puzzler even more quality puzzling.

Having figured out this aspect of the solve, I proceeded to make good progress, but I would still need a few more hours to fully solve this behemoth, getting lost and trapped many times, creating the need to backtrack and rethink my approach as I progressed through to the end. As I indicated, this main a-ha is not the only one, and there were other hidden features that I had to discover before I was able to get any one key out. This elicited a squawk of success, startling my sickeningly supportive spouse as I set this single key down with satisfaction, somewhat certain that I could now solve this sucker. However, Christian again seems to have planned for this, as I was not able to easily go on to remove the second and third key, and actually had to (reluctantly) re-insert the key, seemingly having overlooked something or needing to take a few steps back before I could continue forward.

Nonetheless, I was now able to find my way clear to the removal of the second key without too much trouble. But the third would elude me for quite some time, requiring more painful thinking as I tried to see what I was missing. Finally, eventually, all three keys were out, and, after the requisite happy dance, I snapped some pics for posterity and allowed it to rest peacefully before I would go on to tackle the reset. I chose to tackle this without the use of the provided tool, although I did use it at the end to make absolutely sure that all three keys were fully reset back to their starting positions.

Plant Cycle is an excellent puzzle from a relatively new creator who I am certain will bring us some new and exciting puzzles in the future – it is a unique puzzle that incorporates some mechanisms that I have not previously encountered with a novel goal. I also love this puzzle from a philosophical perspective, which may sound somewhat pedantic, but had to be said as it is not something one will generally find in a puzzle. Plant took the lessons Christian learned from Father & Son and applied the same concepts to create this apparently more difficult puzzle that will most assuredly delight and confound any puzzler and I genuinely look forward to seeing what he will come up with next.

Grade: Four and a Half Sinatras

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