Meffert’s Challenge, Solved

By Shamus
on Aug 26, 2006
Filed under:
Nerd Culture
 ← Meffert’s Challenge, Part 2 Chinese Puzzle Torture →

Whew…

Solving these sorts of toy puzzles is a lot less like solving jigsaw puzzles or crosswords, and much more like cryptography. Beating the thing is not about searching for the solution, but more about building the tools that can take you from any arbitrary arrangement to the solved state.

I don’t know how other people go about it, but once I get serious about a puzzle, I sit down and start developing some tools. For example, I’ll come up with a series of moves that, if you hold the puzzle just so and perform these exact movements, it will (say) swap a couple of pieces without disturbing the rest. To record these moves (so I can look them up in five minutes, which is about how long it will take me to forget) I also need some system of notation. For me this is a series of symbols that will record each move. My system of notation for this thing consisted of four diagonal arrows, which was nice and simple.

This puzzle was a gift my wife picked up for me at a yard sale somewhere. I assumed the name was “Meffert’s Challenge”, since that’s what is written on the side. I looked it up, and it turns out that this puzzle is rightly called “3-D Creative Puzzle Ball“. Meh. Not very catchy.

The thing about this puzzle that I find curious is that two of the faces (the ones with the words) are not colored to match their neighbors in any way, which means that they could swap places and change orientation and the puzzle would still be “solved”. This is not true of other toy puzzles I’ve worked with. It certainly made this one easier, which is good. If I had needed to line up those two side pieces (which is how I think of them) then the thing might have been too hard for me. Having said that, I’m tempted to take some colored magic markers and put some dots on them just so I can observe how they shift around as I work with the thing.

This is the most fun I’ve had with a puzzle in a long time. The Rubik’s 4×4 is the absolute limit of my ability, and more recent puzzles have left that thing (and me) far behind, with puzzles of such astounding complexity that I never even know how to begin. A good example is this technicolor horror:

Pure evil. Colorful, though.

This “3-D creative thingy puzzle” was within reach, and I was able to tackle it in a few days instead of ramming my head against it for weeks, which is how things went in high school with Rubik’s 4×4.

Anyway, that was fun.

 ← Meffert’s Challenge, Part 2 Chinese Puzzle Torture →

1. BeckoningChasm says:

You’ve done a man’s job, sir.

2. ubu roi says:

Heh. That last bit of evil? Check out the bank in Ep.4 of Coyote Ragtime Show. That’s the vault. Complete with rotating facets. Absurdly unrealistic, but funny. (If I get around to some articles later, I’ll post a pic of it.)

3. Shamus says:

I just realized that the evil puzzle is the same shape as a d12. Which makes me want it. Which is bad.

The last puzzle you show looks similar to a wooden puzzle I have – its called the ‘All Five Puzzle’. Although I think the types of the puzzles are very different, it reminded me of it!

5. Sean says:

I’ve seen an even worse version of the rubik’s d12: the same thing, but with an extra layer on each side. It was the puzzle equivalent of waterboarding.