My copy of Cubi 20 came courtesy of Frederic Boucher. Frederic had contacted me several months before IPP37 this past August to ask if I wanted to play with his Cubi 20 and give him my thoughts on his new design. In all frankness, I don’t consider myself really qualified to test and comment on his (or anyone else’s) puzzle but I was flattered anyway. However, I was busy with production of my own IPP exchange puzzle SYM-353 (review another day) and other stuff and thus had to politely decline his kind offer. But Frederic being the true gentlemen and great friend that he is, still sent me a Cubi 20 a couple of months after IPP37.
The Cubi 20 was also Frederic’s entry into the Puzzle Design Competition. It is a 3D packing puzzle and the objective is to get the 5 odd-shaped pieces into a cubical box. Coming from Frederic, one would not expect this to be the run-of-the-mill multi-piece packing puzzle. With the Cubi 20, Frederic had designed the puzzle with his trademark style; using half-cubes for his pieces. This adds to the trickiness and complexity. The box also has three protrusions forming along the top and inside to further restrict ease of entry of the pieces. The puzzle measures about 65mm all around. My copy is made out of laser cut MDF board for the box frame and Magnolia wood for the pieces. The competition version on the other hand is made from elm, wenge, zebrawood, walnut; very exotic woods.
True to form, I found myself struggling with the solve. I had a fair idea of how the pieces needed to go into the box having had previous experience with some of his other puzzles. But unfortunately, I got stuck (or rather, one of the pieces got stuck) for a pretty long time.
I was aware that perhaps due to the high humidity, the pieces may have expanded and thus I had even made it a point to dry the puzzle out in my camera dry box for several days before play. But in the end, with no solution in sight, I asked Frederic for the solution anyway. He also mentioned that this was one of the early copies and hence the tolerances were not that accurate. When I saw the solution, my suspicion was confirmed – one particular piece kept getting jammed during play and could not fit where it was supposed to be within the box. I needed to use a little more force than necessary to get that same piece into place…and when that was done, everything slotted in nicely into their respective positions.
Notwithstanding, I think Cubi 20 is a well-designed puzzle which would certainly appeal very much to hardcore packing puzzle lovers. The tight tolerances, half cubes and obstructions in the box adds significantly to the difficulty quotient. Pity my copy was not really working as intended. Frederic designs puzzles across several genres and he also sells them from time to time. Check some of them out here and if you want to buy any of them, you can PM me for his contact.