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September 16, 2007

The Spelling Hex

The theme of this year's Microsoft Intern Puzzleday was the Harry Potter books; we told the interns that they were attending the summer residential session (Redmond Campus) of the Kwikspell (TM) Correspondence Course in Beginners' Magic.

Because Microsoft gets summer interns from all over the world, we couldn't assume that they'd even heard of Harry Potter, let alone devoted themselves to its arcana. We could refer to Hogwarts all we liked, we just couldn't require them to know what it was. The result was that we named all of the puzzles after various spells (from the books or otherwise) and all of the live mini-events after Hogwarts classes (e.g., Charms, Potions, etc.).

The original idea for this puzzle came from a Perplex City card, but I wanted to avoid the non-sequitur in my own version. (Also, I wanted to use the "hex" pun.) Pretty much all of the intern teams ended up solving this one.

September 02, 2007

The Finnish Cross

I originally blogged about this puzzle a couple of years ago, shortly after I got my first copy of it, six years in the making. A few days after that, I got email from my friend George Miller, telling me that he'd laser-cut his own copy and liked it a lot. He showed that copy to long-time IPP attendee Stan Isaacs, who asked me for permission to use it in the IPP 26 Exchange, in Boston. At the time, I had a different puzzle in mind for my own exchange gift, so I agreed. Unfortunately, that other idea fell through (sometimes that happens with puzzle designs), so I ended up not exchanging that year. Instead, I was Stan's exchange assistant, which was fun in its own way.

The version that Stan exchanged was somewhat different from my original copy: he and George reshaped the pieces from rectangles to half circles, making the completed puzzle into a sphere instead of a cube; they called it the "Fan-Way Park Ball", following the Bostonian theme. They also used laser-cut maple instead of plastic and reduced the size to about 1-5/8 inches. It was cute in its own way, and I was happy to see the puzzle exchanged, but I still preferred the clear Lucite look of my original version; it looks a bit more stylish sitting on your desk.

I'm now happy to announce that I can offer copies of my version for sale here. The puzzle is shipped disassembled, flat, and putting it together provides a very satisfying but accessible solving experience.

[Update 8/27/2011: I've renamed this puzzle from "Six Tabbed Planks" to the more euphonious "Finnish Cross", in honor of its original designer, Matti Linkola. It's still the same great puzzle, just with a spiffy new name!]

[Update 4/9/2012: I now have The Finnish Cross available in three jewel-tone colors, in addition to the original crystal clear. Check it out!]

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