I happen to be an avid puzzle collector. I enjoy many different kinds of puzzles — jigsaws, crosswords, cryptic crosswords, logic puzzles, riddles and pretty much any other kind you can think of. However, I have always had a particular affinity for mechanical puzzles, my favorite being the disentaglement puzzle.

The basic idea of these “detachy” puzzles is that you have to figure out how to take them apart. When you’ve finished with that, you have to figure out how to put them back together. It can be surprisingly difficult to compete the second task even once you’ve already completed the first. The real key is figuring out how the puzzle “works.” That means knowing how the different pieces interact with one another and “why” they come apart. After some 20+ years of doing these things, I have gotten my approach down to science.

What makes up the most significant portion of my collection are Tavern Puzzles, forged metal puzzles handcrafted by a Long Island blacksmith named Dennis Sucilsky. I have nearly a dozen of them, handsomely displayed on a large steel carousel in my office at home. Most of them involve removing a ring or shuttle from the rest of the puzzle. They all seem most impossible at first, but can all be overcome eventually and without having to use any force.

Just about every year, they release a new puzzle of some sort. This year, the offering is called Odd Ball.

odd ball

I think it’s a pretty neat-looking puzzle. The goal is to remove the ring. Though I found it entertaining for about half an hour, once I solved it I realized that I also found it rather disappointing. Not that it wasn’t a sufficient challenge for a difficult puzzle. I’ve solved some of them in under five minutes. What failed to satisfy me was the fact that it is the exact same puzzle as Tinkers Bell.

tinkers bell

By “the same” I mean to say that they have the same functional parts. The directions to remove them are basically the same. Perhaps it’s a bit more obvious if I change Odd Ball’s orientation:

odd ball rotated

For all intents and purposes, these two puzzles are the same and Tinkers Bell is only an intermediate puzzle. I hope that instead of regurgitating old ideas, their next design will be as innovative as the annoyingly named Freedom’s Ring. “Innovative” because I haven’t actually been able to solve it yet, in spite of how similar it looks to the other two. Or, if I did solve it then I may have broken the “no force” rule. Either way, I haven’t been able to reproduce it so it doesn’t count. I feel like I’m getting my $16 worth on that one.

Tucker-Jones House, Inc should keep on their toes. Uncles Puzzles has a similar yet unique line of puzzles to choose from. That’s what we puzzle geeks want!