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Dissections

Monday, March 3, 2003 Mechanical Tsunami

I have been interested in puzzles for as long as I can remember. When I discovered Tsunami puzzles I was immediately addicted, the combination of logic and the artistic nature of the finished puzzle appealed greatly. This is a combination that a number of puzzle types share - logic and aesthetics, some physical and others mathematical. Physical puzzles - or mechanical puzzles as they are more often known - can have a great beauty about their appearance, or in the way they work. I started collecting mechanical puzzles a few years ago, and soon found that the range of puzzles is huge, but my favorites can be split into two groups, those I like because of their look, and those that have a clever twist to solve them.

L shaped pieces

Make your own dissected Checkerboard puzzle

First, download full image of the pieces and the unsolved puzzle. Now either print out the pieces, or copy them carefully onto squared paper. You will need to paste these onto either thick cardboard (or even better - plywood), and then cut out the individual pieces. You could use normal paper, but these tend to move around too much when solving the puzzle. This leaves you with all the necessary parts to start on the puzzle.

One particular type of puzzle is a checkerboard dissection, where a standard checkerboard has been cut up, and you have to reassemble it to make the completed checkerboard. It occurred to me that Tsunami (Pic-a-Pix) puzzles could be treated in the same way as the checkerboard, with the added puzzle of finding the picture to be made. My first attempt took a 15 x 15 Tsunami puzzle, added an extra row and column - both with zero as the clue numbers.

This meant that the puzzle was a multiple of a standard 8x8 checkerboard puzzle, with 4 Tsunami squares to one checkerboard square. I then cut the solution up into L shaped pieces, each one with part of the solution on it. This proved to be fairly easy to solve, once the Tsunami had been solved. To make it more difficult I decided to remove some of the clues from the Tsunami and replace them with a question mark. This means that you have to complete as much of the Tsunami as possible, and then use the pieces to complete the puzzle.

There are a number of other possibilities that move on from this idea. If the pieces are double sided then the assembling of the finished picture becomes more difficult, or if more of the puzzle were to be removed then the mechanical puzzle is more difficult, but this means that less of the Tsunami is required. What I am trying to make at the moment is a puzzle where you have to solve part of the Tsunami, and then use some of the pieces to add some squares to the solution. Alternating this way would use both your logic skills, and visual skills to solve the puzzle.

Mechanical Tsunami

Another puzzle that I have been trying is the sliding block type - commonly with the numbers 1-15, which have to be mixed up and rearranged. Tsunami can very easily be printed on these and used as a two-part puzzle. And if you cut the pieces up into squares you can make it a three part puzzle, solve the Tsunami, assemble the pieces, and finally use it as a sliding block puzzle.Obviously any mechanical puzzle could have a Tsunami printed on it. But what I am trying to do is to use the Tsunami puzzle to add an extra dimension to the puzzle. I hope you agree that the above puzzles do that.

About the author

Frank Potts is the editor of pottypuzzles.co.uk