Now amongst the many 2D packing puzzles made of acrylic (a.k.a Plexiglass), the International Puzzle Party Airports Puzzle (“IPPA”) must be one of the best made and sophisticated looking ones around. I really like the way the tray has been put together and the letters laser etched so nicely on the inside.
The IPPA is the IPP37 Exchange Puzzle of Juozas Granskas of Lithuania, whom I had the pleasure of meeting the first time last year. The IPPA is not your typical packing puzzle which forces you to fit a certain number of pieces within the confines of a tray. Rather, the design requires the puzzler to arrange the pieces into the tray to form a certain shape or cover certain parts. In this regards, Juozas has designed the IPPA using an “international” airports theme. The object is to fit the five hexaminoes (a piece with 6 units) into the tray, leaving uncovered only three empty cells plus the IATA code letters of selected airports. In some ways, it is similar to Lixy Yamada’s 2016 8 August puzzle reviewed earlier, but with a different theme. Dimensionally it is 11cm x 10cm x 0.8cm.
As you can see from the photo, a number of the major airports around the world are included, giving it a total of 17 challenges. Too bad Singapore Changi International Airport (SIN) was not included (the latter being one of the best in the world).
Update 5 Feb 2018: Tyler Somer, a puzzler from Canada emailed me the following which explains why Singapore was not on the puzzle and how the list came to be formed. “….. the list of airports is a summary of the locations of the International Puzzle Parties, up to this point, with the exception of Ottawa. I recall that Juozas was disappointed that he was not able to arrange the grid to include Ottawa, but the reason for this difficulty is that the Ottawa airport “YOW” would require 2 more letters. He had to choose either “NRT” or “YOW” but could not include both, as both of these would introduce 2 unique letters to the grid — all other airport codes use repeated letters, or at most 1 unique letter. (With no IPP yet in Singapore, its airport code is not included in the list of challenges.)…”
Apart from the 17 airport challenges for the IPPA, Juozas has also added a bonus challenge; that is, to arrange the 5 pieces inside the tray to leave space for a 6th hexamino. As IPP37 was held in Paris, I thought I would try finding the answer for CDG (Charles De Gaulle Airport). Not too difficult to solve, since you can keep trying various combinations of adjusting and rearranging the pieces until you leave the letters C, D and G uncovered. Next I tried LAX and got the solution pretty fast. I didn’t bother with the rest but instead went to the bonus challenge. However this bonus puzzle was much harder since a hexamino can take a variety of shapes; 35 possible shapes to be precise. The bonus task took more than several minutes but eventually I got it. There are two solutions but I didn’t attempt the second one.
Overall, the IPPA takes on a different design concept from the norm and adopts a rather interesting theme for play. Not too difficult and with more than enough challenges to keep you occupied for a good while, assuming you go through all 19 problems.