Site Map

This site shows my collection of mechanical puzzles - though I have tried to provide a lot of (what at least I consider to be) interesting information about puzzles, and make it more than simply a photographic catalogue.

It is very image-intensive, and I have tried to find a reasonable balance between image size versus image clarity. It is also subjective, like a blog, and I will inevitably commit some errors of fact. Please take everything with a grain of salt. This is a hobby, not a Wiki! I have tried to create the site that I wished existed back in the early 80's when I started collecting mechanical puzzles. I wanted to know what was out there and where I might get it. I wanted to know something about the origins, people, and ideas behind the puzzles I already had.

I started with a single page for each of the main categories, but the organization of the site has evolved over time as I have added new material and broken up some of the larger pages. I still tend to favor very long vertical scrolls, because I dislike clicking back and forth from some central page to lots of short sub-pages. Apologies to those of you for whom this method of presentation causes problems loading or saving pages.

At a high level, the puzzles are organized into categories generally recognized by the puzzle community. At a detailed level, I have tried to utilize sensible sub-categories that help point out similarities of design or goal of the puzzles.

In some cases I have grouped together a body of work by one maker, such as the Berrocal puzzle sculptures, the various products of the Synergistics Research Corporation, or the Cluster Puzzles of A. Z. Plerp. In other cases, the products of different makers exploit common ideas, such as the Instant Insanity Family, or the Crossed Sticks Family. The Rearrangement category is dominated by the ideas originated by Rubik's Cube - some refer to this category as "Twisty Polyhedra." Other categories of puzzle have large bodies of history and/or analysis behind them, including the traditional six-piece burr puzzle, and Pentominoes.

There are many opinions on how best to organize the ever-expanding field of mechanical puzzles, but even the experts don't fully agree. In any case, I hope you find this site informative and entertaining.

The best way to browse through the site overall is probably to go to my Classification Mapping Page and scroll through the chart, jumping to sub-pages that interest you using the links there.

Assembly - Puzzles where the main challenge is fitting pieces together. The pieces don't really interlock - see the Interlocking category for those. Examples here include Piet Hein's Soma Cube, Pentominoes and general Polyominoes, packing puzzles such as Conway's Curious Cube, Binary Arts' Four T's, "Packed in Tokyo" by the Toyo Glass Company, or Springbok's Moebies, designed by the late great game designer Alex Randolph. Also included are "dissections" of various figures including the square, the circle, the letter T, and the chessboard. You'll also find a selection of puzzles made by the Synergistics Research Corporation, as well as pyramids of various designs. There is a section on a group of related puzzles I call the "Crossed Sticks Family," and some free-form "Paracelsus" sculptures.

Tangrams and Anchor Stone Puzzles - The Tangram is a famous and popular puzzle, and the German company Richter produced a wide variety of silhouette-modeling puzzles in their Anchor Stone Puzzle line.

Pattern Puzzles - These puzzles require you to arrange their pieces according to rules about creating specific overall patterns based on traits of the pieces. Included here are edge-matching puzzles, which have been popular advertising giveaways in the past and continue to sell today, Matchstick puzzles, positioning puzzles such as the well-known problem of the Eight Queens, Latin, Graeco-Latin, and Magic Squares, and the family of puzzles related to the popular Instant Insanity.

Jigsaws - A section devoted to jigsaws, both 2D and 3D. I don't really collect jigsaws, but I am interested in some of them, including: vintage jigsaws such as the Parker Brothers Pastime puzzles, the Smashed Up Locomotive, and the Scrambled Eggs of the 1934 Chicago World's Fair; the figural jigsaws of the series of Cluster Puzzles put out by Cadaco; some of the jigsaws produced by the Synergistics Research Corporation; and other odds and ends.

Interlocking - a wide range of puzzles running from the simple to the sublime, in plastic, metal, wood, and some more exotic materials. Many geometric forms made from a bewildering variety of intricate pieces that are difficult to take apart, but often even more difficult to put back together. Examples include designs by Stewart Coffin, executed by a variety of talented woodworkers, as well as the six-piece burr analyzed extensively by Bill Cutler, and the metal puzzle sculptures of Miguel Berrocal.

Disassembly - open something, or take the pieces apart (excludes tanglements, which get their own page). Examples include hidden-mechanism or trick-opening containers such as the Alcatraz puzzle, "secret boxes" popularized by the Japanese Himitsu-Bako but now made by an increasing number of artists and craftsmen in wonderful new styles, trick bolts such as those by the premier craftsman Rocky Chiaro, and trick locks including ancient designs from India and China.

Tanglement - A massive category, spanning many designs and implementations. Usually a form of bent metal wire, rod, or rings, with several linked pieces and an objective piece to separate from the rest. May include non-rigid sections such as rope or chain. Well-known vendors include Tucker-Jones, Uncle's Puzzles, Livewire, Puzzletts, Puzzle Master, and Channel-Craft. This is the one category that has resisted attack by computer, though the mathematician Richard (Dick) Hess maintains a self-published categorization and analysis.

French Wire - A section devoted to boxed wire puzzles issued in France in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Some people collect them just for the attractive artwork on the boxes.

Dexterity - A controversial category, and one that often gets short shrift in some collections. Are dexterity toys puzzles or games? To the extent that they are solitary pusuits and require, like all mechanical puzzles, persistence, patience, and ingenuity - they qualify as puzzles. This page includes items such as the Remco Frustration Ball, the Columbus' Egg puzzle from the 1892/3 World's Fair, some puzzles in glass bottles, a few innovative modern designs, and some older classic collectibles from Robert Journet.

Sequential Movement - This class is fairly broad, and includes Peg Solitaire, Sliding Piece, Twisty Polyhedra, 3-D Sliding Piece, Route-Finding and Mazes, Gray Code puzzles such as the Tower of Hanoi and SpinOut, River Crossing, Measuring, and Weighing Puzzles. This page provides a central index to those subsections, and includes some subsections directly.

Peg Solitaire and Jumping Puzzles - A section devoted to the classic Peg Solitaire Puzzle, as well as variants and other types of single-player puzzles employing moving counters or pegs.

Rearrangement - I think to many non-puzzle people, puzzles fall into just two categories - jigsaws, and Rubik's Cube. The phenomenally successful puzzle Rubik's Cube hooked many people on mechanical puzzles, entered the mainstream conciousness, and spawned many similar puzzles. Lots of collectors focus on just this category. Rubik's Cube itself can be found in 2x2x2, 3x3x3, 4x4x4, and 5x5x5 editions, as well as countless "sticker variations" (which I do not collect). There are many other interesting members of this category, including the Pyraminx, the Skewb, the Whippit, the Dogic, and the Ten Billion Barrel.

Sliding Piece - Puzzles such as the famous "Fifteen" (15) puzzle, Rate Your Mind Pal, Get My Goat, Dad's Puzzler, and Rush Hour, in which you slide pieces to accomplish some goal. This section also includes Railroad Shunting Puzzles - I've hunted down many patents and supplied links to them.

Mazes and Other Route-Finding Puzzles - From the legendary Labyrinth of Knossos to the maize mazes of today, people have been fascinated by puzzles that require one to find a way from point A to point B. Inventors, including the prolific Dutch inventor Oskar van Deventer, have created many ingenious challenges based on the maze concept.

Naef Puzzles - A section devoted to the various puzzles issued by the Swiss company Naef Spiele AG. They produce many toys in a crisp style, and over the years have issued several puzzles by a variety of designers.

Woods - This section shows and describes various wood varieties used in the making of puzzles. If you're choosing wood for a custom-made puzzle, you might find this section handy.

All Other Categories - This page is a grab-bag of additional categories - magnetic puzzles such as the Laker Cubes, logic puzzles including the Monty Hall problem, vanish puzzles such as Sam Loyd's famous Get Off the Earth, geometric paradoxes such as L'Echiquier Fantastique, paper and card picture puzzles such as Les Quatre Vagabonds and the Toll Gate series, folding puzzles such as Rubik's Magic and the rarer Betcha Can't, and electronic puzzles such as Lights Out.

Also included are pages devoted to the following:

Home Made - I have built some puzzles using various materials, including wood, Lego, and LiveCube. The main advantages of working in the latter two media are economical re-use of the material, and the ability to quickly try out a design.

Theory - a section where I ramble on about some ideas I've had regarding puzzle categorization and analysis. Also some fun (but remember, subjective) lists.

Wish List - Puzzles I'd like to own but don't, including some of the rarer twisty-type puzzles, as well as pricey items from Donay and GarE Maxton. Also a selection of reasonably-priced and fairly easily obtained items, so my friends and family have some ideas for gift-giving occasions. Just my way of making their lives easier.

The Virtual Mechanical Puzzle Compendium Box - Many mechanical puzzles have been simulated in software by talented programmers around the web. I've tried to collect links to them and present them in this page to bring them to your attention.

Solutions Index - My site includes some (but not a lot of) puzzle analyses and solutions at various places. This page is a handy index for jumping to those locations.

Puzzle Books - Some information about books I own related to mechanical puzzles. For example, Antologica Berrocal, Stewart Coffin's The Puzzling World of Polyhedral Dissections, Van Delft and Botermans' Creative Puzzles of the World, Slocum and Botermans' Puzzles Old and New, and Solomon Golomb's Polyominoes.

Links - an extensive collection of links to other puzzle-related sites, including both domestic and foreign on-line vendors of mechanical puzzles, as well as many different enthusiast sites devoted to diverse aspects of the hobby, from other collectors' showcases to detailed mathematical analyses of puzzles. I've tried to highlight the vendors with whom I have had pleasant experiences (but your mileage may vary!), as well as the enthusiast sites I have found most useful and interesting.

What's New - a popular page, updated frequently (maybe too frequently!), showing recent acquisitions and describing site changes.