The Melting Tile

Happy New Year everyone and may 2018 bring you wonderful blessings and happiness. This is my first blog post of the year and I thought I would start off with a rather interesting and unique packing puzzle designed by my good friend and awarding winning puzzle designer Goh Pit Khiam.

The puzzle in question is The Melting Tile, which also happens to have been the IPP37 Exchange Puzzle of puzzle/puzzle books collector Yee Dian Lee of Malaysia. I would imagine most puzzlers would have heard of the famous Melting Block puzzle designed by Tom O’Beirne, which has seen different variants made by different puzzle craftsmen over the years. The Melting Block is a 3D packing puzzle that requires a puzzler to fit a ninth block into a box which already contains 8 other block pieces (of varying shapes) with no internal spaces/voids. Sounds impossible right? Yes and No. Bill Cutler describes it as such:


The Melting Block is more of a paradox then a puzzle. The eight pieces fit together easily to form a rectangular block 57 x 87 x 132. This fits into the box with a little room all around, but looks to the casual observer to fill up the box completely. When the ninth piece is added to the group, the pieces can be rearranged to make a 58 x 88 x 133 rectangular solid. (This second construction is a little more difficult). This is a great puzzle to show to “non-puzzle people” and is one of my favorites.

Goh Pit Khiam applied this same principle and came up instead with a 2D version the goal is to remove 7 pieces that fills a tray completely, rearrange them and fit in an 8th red piece…and completely fill up the tray again…again seemingly impossible. Quite a design feat I might add, and burr tools is not something you can use here for this sort of design.

Sorry, photo deliberately blurred so as not to show the solution!

When Oscar came to Singapore and we had an informal second Singapore Puzzle Party, Oscar played with The Melting Tile and managed to solve it over dinner. I decided to give my copy of this Exchange Puzzle a try, but (fortunately or unfortunately) with the benefit of knowing the hint for solving such a puzzle…which Oscar alluded to during his solve.

With a hint or not, this is one of those puzzles which can be solved with some persistence. Given the fact that it has only 7+1 red piece to fit into a squarish tray, it is not such an impossible task as one would imagine. Both solving and un-solving and placing the pieces back to where they belong doesprovide some degree of challenge, easy for some, difficult for others.  But notwithstanding, a nice puzzle to confound non-puzzlers and even puzzlers alike. I love it when people give that look of bewilderment on their faces when they see the small red piece fit inside the tray with the rest…”gosh, how’s that possible?”

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