You Deserve a Brake Today…

Snack Brake from Daniel Alterman (DanielScottWoodworks on Etsy) hit the puzzling scene from out of nowhere. It helped that a certain famous youtuber did a vid on it (you know, where someone manages to solve IMPOSSIBLE puzzles all the time – somewhat counter-intuitive, but I digress) – but mostly, it is just a unique looking puzzle with a fun design that just makes it stand out from the crowd.

First off, it’s fun to have a puzzle box (which I’d say this is, more than anything else) with a bit of a story: it’s a vending machine, and you got to get your snack out, right? But alas no coin slot! What shall I do? Well, it took me quite a while to figure out how to get my wooden snacks to drop down to the vending slot. Even then, more surprises await, a welcome double solve!

Snack Brake is a pretty big piece – it weighs a good amount, and comes with a viewing window on the front, behind which you can see your wooden snack, colorful tubes extending upwards; the panel is locked and you can see a key in a little vial on the same shelf as your snack.

The whole thing is pretty colorful, and has a good, nostalgic and playful feel to it; especially when you plug it in and use the handy remote to, that’s right, light up the back! Puzzle Party over heeere!

Like I said, the puzzle has some good challenges – the opening sequence of moves was something I’ve never seen before. I especially appreciated getting a good look at the build (eventually), which was even more original than I’d thought.

It’s also rare to have a puzzle with some electronics built in, and it made for a nice aesthetic addition to my collection.

Finally, Dan is a super nice guy – easy to get in touch with, and happy to provide some direction or just chat about the experience. He has since released his Toasted puzzle, which also looks fun and keeps with the theme of eating one’s wooden puzzle solutions, and who doesn’t love the thematic consistency of tongue splinters!

Seriously though, I think Dan is someone to watch, as he brings something of an outsider mindset to his puzzles, leading to mechanisms and themes that are unexpected and deviate significantly from many other emerging works.

Make sure to follow his shop on Etsy as his puzzles seem to fly off the cyber shelf…. maybe I shouldn’t say that as it only means more competition, but he’s just that nice! Besides, Ramsay may have already driven one or two more people than this blog.

Eggs-celling at Eggs-cellence

Unstable Eggs

CoreMods, 2019 (Available on Etsy)

First, I would like to officially state that I solemnly swear not to make any more eggs-hausting puns (…starting now).

I think I should start by saying that these are the first 3D-printed puzzles I have bought; I think many of us assume that only wood and metal-workers can bring quality fun to us puzzlers, or at least I think maybe I did. However, I am far from disappointed with the colorful assortment of trickiness that arrived today, the noise of small things shaking around betraying its contents. In fact, I think the 3D print may be a benefit in this particular case (and not just in terms of helping to keep the cost within the bounds of reason).

My initial reaction was to smile; the whimsical font on the front of a half-dozen cardboard egg crate was a good start. Opening the box, there is a sticker warning me not to expose the eggs to magnets – a good precaution to know considering the plethora of magnets hiding within the puzzles on my shelves. Thanks for the heads up.

The eggs are all brightly colored and they bear the marks of their pedigree; CoreMods tells us on his Etsy page that we should expect the texture of 3D printed materials. Honestly, I can’t really see these being made any other way: I like the weight of them and the sound comes through clearly, essential should I have any hope of ever getting these bad boys to stand at attention. The movement of whatever mechanisms hide within can be felt and heard through the 3D mold. Further, it provides for a good texture with which to grip the eggs. Perhaps most significant is the fact that, in trying to solve them, they will definitely be rolling around, sliding, dancing, and generally making merry upon my desk; I would hate to watch a wooden puzzle of this ilk go spinning around my desk. The 3D print allows me not to worry about rocking and rolling and just generally experimenting with movements that may (and so far mostly don’t) work..

The purpose / goal of these eggs, if not already apparent, is to get the eggs to stand up. Unlike Weebles, these definitely wobble and fall down. I had been wondering how many different things one could put into an egg to make such a concept difficult, without them feeling repetitive or boring. The answer is at least 6. Judging from the fact that the sticker says this is Series 1, I suspect CoreMods knows of even more.

I had also been thinking of some obvious (to me) moves that might solve such a puzzle; I worried that I would get 6 centrifugal pieces of plastic with which I would be done in a moment. This is (thankfully) NOT what I got: of the 6, I was able to get 1 to stand up with any amount of ease (admittedly using one of the methods I expected to find, the rest of which have yet to bear any fruit… or yolk, perhaps – not a pun, mind you…).

Whatever is going on inside of these guys is unclear, but I can tell that they will all require different approaches; the noise and feel of each individual egg allows me to begin to develop an image of diverse mechanisms waiting to be solved.

And, at the end of the day, that is really what this is about: we want to find a puzzle we have never seen before, executed in a new way, which is uniquely solvable. I feel that this is what I got (and at a very reasonable price, I might add – another benefit of the 3D printed puzzle). Although this may not be true for everyone, I have not seen puzzles with this same goal (I may have heard of a couple, but this is certainly not a common puzzle-type). It is a combination of dexterity and the type of lateral thinking required to open a puzzle box, as one works to understand what is happening through trial and error (and error and error) and keen observation (again, this is where the 3D form comes in handy).

Suffice it to say that I am very happy with what I got – CoreMods has come up with a novel concept that displays with fun and humor, while requiring more than a little head-scratching to make progress. Which means I will be ordering his Screwball as soon as I have all my little eggs standing in a row (so it may be a while).

Update: a couple months later and…. I did it! I got them all to stand! Well. Not bronze, of course. I mean that ones impossible. But the others just began making sense to me, for the most part. I still not 100% clear what’s going on inside of purple, but if I can ever get bronze to stabilize, I’d told myself is crack open the included solution sheets that CoreMods has said contains images of what lies within. Maybe I’ll actually get to take a look one day and see how closely my understanding matches the reality.

Grade: Four Sinatras

Updated Update: Bronze! Wow. I’m genuinely surprised I got it lol. I immediately grabbed the solutions and, as suspected, I was still way off on purple (bronze is much more complicated and a very cool mechanism that I’d probably never have dreamed up). The other four were very close to what I pictured, having built up a mental model over weeks of light shaking, ear pressed to the teeny plastic eggs, mouth screwed up in concentration (I may have looked like a crazy person, but who cares? I got my eggs to stand!). It was very satisfying to compare this schematic to the reality, and even more satisfying to get these guys to stand. I didn’t dare touch my desk for a day for fear of falling, but now I’m able to get them all to reliably stand with a bit of practice. Well, maybe not bronze. Not yet, at least.