The World of Wooden Puzzles!

dragon1

Puzzles come in all shapes and sizes, adopting numerous forms that challenge the mind in seemingly endless ways.

While I spend a lot of time on PuzzleNation Blog talking about pen-and-paper puzzles (and their electronic siblings), today I’d like to focus on a brand of physical puzzles: ones made of wood!

As you’d expect, there are hundreds of different puzzles to choose from when discussing wooden puzzles, but I’ve tried to narrow the field down to a manageable size. Enough chatter, let’s get to it!


Sliding Tile Puzzles

[Available from FineWoodenToys.com.]

One of the oldest varieties of physical puzzles, sliding tile puzzles can be found in plastic, electronic, and wooden forms. And whether you’re shifting pieces in order to create a picture or pushing tiles around in order to put numbers in a specific order, the chain-solving technique is the same.


Tangrams

[Available from BrilliantPuzzles.com.]

A tactile and intuitive brand of puzzling, tangrams are a staple of the wooden puzzle market, utilizing simple geometric shapes in order to match designs or fit the pieces into a given space, as in the image above.


Brain Teasers

[Available from Mango Trees.]

These beautiful and elegant puzzles involve a level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes far beyond the usual mechanical puzzle experience.

Sometimes, you’re figuring out how to disassemble a shape into its component pieces (six examples of this sort of puzzle-solving appear above), while in others, you have to remove a given piece from a more complex arrangement, often involving ropes and other obstacles that interact with the wooden puzzle itself.


Puzzle Boxes

[Image found on FineWoodworking.com.]

A practical sibling of the brain teasers above, a puzzle box offers an additional incentive to the solving experience, since puzzle boxes can make terrific delivery mechanisms for cash or other gifts. (Sometimes solving them involves only one step, other times it can involve a dozen or more!)

My younger sister has a habit of employing puzzle boxes like the one pictured below to make my oldest nephews work a little harder for their birthday money. (One particularly diabolical design involved concealed magnets holding the trick access point shut.)

[Available from Pandora’s Puzzle Boxes.]


Labyrinths

Everyone knows the goal of a maze or labyrinth: to get through it with as few wrong turns as possible. But when you have to navigate a steel ball through the labyrinth without falling into one of many pits, that becomes an even greater challenge.

Whether you’re using handles to manipulate the maze and allow gravity to shift the ball from point to point or turning the labyrinth this way and that in order to move the ball toward the finish line, your dexterity and patience are sure to be pushed to the limit.


Jigsaw Puzzles

I would be remiss if I ignored the most common variety of wooden puzzle: the jigsaw puzzle!

Whether we’re talking about the more traditional shapes in a Ravensburger puzzle or a jigsaw incorporating unique and interesting pieces like those produced by Wentworth or our friend Rachel Happen of Baffledazzle (like the ones pictured below), jigsaw puzzles are among the first puzzles to which a young child is exposed.


3-D Jigsaw Puzzles

Of course, despite the many tough jigsaw puzzles available these days, you might be looking for a jigsaw with an additional dimension of difficulty. Thankfully, there are 3-D puzzles to give your spatial reasoning a run for its money!

Both the dragon at the top of the page and the camel pictured above are 3-D puzzles that were sent to me by the lovely Sara Kingsland, owner of Completely Puzzled in Port Townsend, Oregon.

And let me tell you, these puppies put my jigsaw skills to the test. Let’s look at the camel disassembled:

Is it immediately clear to you how to proceed? It certainly wasn’t to me! Now let’s look at the dragon disassembled:

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Believe it or not, I solved the dragon before the camel!

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This is because the puzzles involve different approaches. The dragon was designed to be assembled from tail to head, and rarely required me to hold more than two pieces at a time to continue solving it.

The camel, on the other hand, has to be solved legs first, which means holding numerous pieces in place while manipulating others in order for everything to come together.


With the advent of laser printing, the sky is truly the limit when it comes to imagining new and challenging wooden puzzles. I can’t wait to see what these wickedly brilliant puzzlers come up with next.

Are there any types of wooden puzzle I missed, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let me know! (Other than Scrabble, that is. I left that one off the list intentionally.) And while you’re at it, tell me what your favorite kind of wooden puzzle is!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

The Ultimate Jigsaw Puzzle

Jigsaw-style puzzling is a huge part of puzzle culture, one that’s easy to overlook. Even the average jigsaw is hardly average these days.

You can get them without squared-off edges — removing that crucial first step of finding all the border pieces — or with extra pieces that aren’t intended to fit anywhere. Some, like Baffledazzle puzzles, come without the final image as a guide, leaving you to rely on texture as well as shape. Others involve incredibly detailed or repetitive patterns, eliminating “find this color/image”-style searching. Some are even double-sided!

(My sister had a 550-piece edgeless puzzle that was nothing but coffee beans and some random cups. Another was golf balls and tees. They were mind-melting.)

Then there are the three-dimensional ones that tax your dexterity as well. Whether you’re making a sphere or a replica of the Taj Mahal, your jigsaw skills will be tested severely.

[A massive 3-D puzzle of New York’s skyline… in progress.]

Other forms of puzzles are hardly immune to jigsaw-style solving. Tangrams and pentominoes eschew jigsaw shapes for triangles, squares, and Tetris-style pieces. Even some pen-and-paper puzzles, like Penny/Dell’s Brick by Brick crossword, employs jigsaw pieces.

And, of course, there are all the building toys that rely on the same hand-eye coordination and pattern-finding skills that jigsaw puzzles require. Erector sets, K’Nex, Mega Bloks and LEGO and Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs and many many others… all have their roots in jigsaw-style puzzling.

But I think I’ve stumbled across one of history’s greatest jigsaw puzzles, and I’m curious if any of the jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts in the PuzzleNation community think they could’ve handled this challenge.

An entire London mansion, broken down and reconstructed jigsaw-style.

Yes, between 1910 and 1912 a mansion in Essex called Cedar Court was dismantled and moved piece-by-piece over 70 miles to its new home in Surrey and painstakingly rebuilt.

The mansion was already over 400 years old at the time, and it’s become known as the “jigsaw puzzle” house ever since.

According to the article in The Telegraph, “Every part of the building was sectioned out and numbered so that it could be stuck back together again exactly as it was after its trip across the capital.”

This was clearly a monumental undertaking, and even with careful planning, I suspect a few jigsaw-savvy workmen were required to get the mansion back in shape.

And hey, are any jigsaw aficionados out there interested in owning this bit of puzzle history? It’ll only cost you fourteen MILLION pounds to acquire it.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

Think outside the house…

[A friendly reminder that not everything is available online.
Stickers (and the story of their creation) can be found here.]

Summer’s almost here, and although we all love puzzles (and we’ve been talking about apps a lot lately), I think it’s safe to admit that puzzles have always been something of an indoor activity. So what’s a parent to do when puzzle-loving kids don’t want to go outside?

Why, take the puzzles outside, of course!

Do your kids enjoy shapes? Why not create some large-scale tangram puzzles for them? All you’d need is a sheet or two of posterboard and a pair of scissors. There are numerous designs online that you could recreate (minus the lines that show how the pieces make each shape) and challenge your young solvers to mimic with their pieces!

You could even cut the posterboard into Tetris pieces and play a game of Tetris where each kid takes a turn placing a piece, trying to leave as few open spaces between pieces as possible. (Though you’d have to be a real magician to make complete lines disappear like in the game!)

Do your kids like trivia? Why not grab a few frisbees, a hula hoop or two, and create a mini-game show!

[Frisbee golf provides the perfect model for an easily improvised puzzle game.]

Different hula hoops could be different categories or difficulty levels (either prop them up or let them sit on the ground), and the kids could show off their athleticism AND their trivia knowledge in one fell swoop! (Replace the frisbees with beanbags or softballs or whatever you like. This is a game meant to be cobbled together from whatever’s on hand.)

And of course, there’s always the ultimate fusion of outdoor adventure and puzzly skills:

Scavenger hunts are great, because you can tailor them to your audience. Do your kids love puzzles? Make the clues as puzzly as possible, incorporating riddles and anagrams and wordplay galore. Do your kids like searching more than puzzling? Be creative in crafting the list of items to find.

Since the dawn of the modern era of mobile phone technology, a new variation on the scavenger hunt has emerged: the photo scavenger hunt. Instead of finding numerous items and bringing them back to a predetermined spot, you take pictures of various items (or provide photographic proof that you’ve completed certain activities or accomplished certain tasks) and bring your phone back as evidence.

Some companies, like our friends at The Great Urban Race, offer city-specific scavenger hunts for adults, replete with puzzles, physical challenges, and all kinds of outdoor fun. Their website is a treasure trove of ideas for your own adventures.

Actually, you know what? That sounds great. Forget the kids, I’m gonna go recruit some people and go scavenging!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!