I have had the Cast Ring for quite a long time now, one of those puzzles that I bought a while back, stacked it together with other puzzles in the puzzle cupboard out of sight and promptly forgot about it. Until a couple of days ago when I was doing some puzzle tidying and out pops the Ring again!
The Cast Ring is one of the older Cast Puzzles around having been released 17 years ago in the year 2000. Not only is it one of the older puzzles (the first Cast Puzzle, the Cast Star came out in 1983!), it is also a fairly large sized puzzle and hefty, compared to some of the other Cast Puzzles around today. Measuring about 58mm x 53mm x 30mm, the Ring is made from zinc alloy and finished with a two-tone polished gold and chrome surface for the four pieces. My copy comes from the early versions of the puzzle and thus has that shiny look. The packaging is also the old style transparent window black box with gold text.
Today’s Cast Ring, while still retaining the silver and gold look, has a matt finish. Personally I feel the older version which has a polished surface all round looks better than the current matt copies today. And the Ring looks like a real (giant) decorative ring which will probably fit the small wrist of an adult or a child. In terms of aesthetics, I think the Cast Ring is also probably one of the best looking Cast Puzzles around!
There is no information who is the designer of the Ring is, but it seems that the design came under the “supervision” of Nob Yoshigahara, the famous Japanese puzzle collector and designer. Today the annual IPP Puzzle Design Competition is named after him in his honour.
The Ring consists of 4 pieces which are looped against each other inside and cannot be separated. The puzzle does not “interlock” in the usual sense. Hence, the moment you take it out of the packaging, you can quite easily dismantle the puzzle and it comes apart (sometimes without warning) and automatically becomes unscrambled.
The Ring is rated 4 out of 6 stars for difficulty, meaning that it is above average difficulty. Hanayama Cast Puzzles are for me a bit of a 50-50 thing…meaning that I can usually solve them about 50% of the time. The Ring is one of those in the -ve 50%. When I took it out of the box, it didn’t look that difficult with the pieces all stacked together. But the moment I disengaged the Ring, I knew I would have a hard time re-assembling…and boy I did! Luckily Hanayama has a more mainstream and mass appeal and a lot of casual puzzlers (and non-puzzlers) buy Cast Puzzles for their affordability as well as their overall good quality and playability. Hence there are usually more than several videos from zealous folks on YouTube showing the solution to probably every Hanayama Cast Puzzle on the market today.