Have you ever wondered, while working on a particularly great mechanical puzzle: who comes up with this stuff!? You’re not alone. Copious amounts of thought, creativity, and imagination go into the designs for some of our (and probably your) favorite puzzles. This week, we’ve collected some of Kubiya’s favorite Puzzle Creator Databases, from the most inventive minds, and we hope you’ll use these resources to check out their work. As always, let us know if we missed anyone. Where does one go to mine the internet for the latest information about puzzles? Take a look at what we found:
Puzzle World (puzzleworld.org)
Taken right from the front page of their website, “Puzzle World contains information about many of the finest handcrafted mechanical puzzles in the world. Most of the puzzles presented here are not the mass-produced variety found in stores, but limited production puzzles designed by the foremost puzzle designers in the world and produced by craftsmen (often the designers themselves) working primarily in wood.” We appreciate the down-home, small business approach to what these creators choose to include. Often, smaller designers are shut out of the market due to how easy it is to get mass-produced puzzles. No judgment towards the larger designers or producers, but we love to see variety and new perspectives. I would recommend this website if you are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of designers and puzzles that other websites show to you. Puzzle World purposefully shows you smaller lists of designers, books, and puzzles. They opt for simpler, smaller lists with quick plugs for their favorite, most relevant designers. Again, we’re not saying this is the best way, but it’s another cool option to consider when faced with many options to sift through. Similar to Rob’s Puzzle Page, the website has a more stripped down, nostalgic, birth-of-the-internet feel to it that hearkens back to pre-social media days.
Rob’s Puzzle Page (robspuzzlepage.com)
We’ve written about him before, and chances are we’ll never stop: Rob of Rob’s Puzzle Page is a master artist with his collective Puzzle Book that he shares for free with the world. He describes the website as a “virtual museum showcasing my collection of mechanical puzzles. I maintain this to report on the world of mechanical puzzles, have fun, and share discoveries with other puzzle-people.” Like he explains, Rob’s Puzzle Page is less of a communal share of knowledge and more like his own creation to share with the world. The upside to this is that he doesn’t have to compromise his artistic vision of the website’s growth with the rest of the puzzling community. He provides historical research, mathematical analysis, pointers to designers/craftspeople/vendors, and help with solving strategies. There’s a low-tech, under-produced vibe in the formatting that works well with Rob’s own voice and style - exactly the type of no-nonsense, informative collection that you would expect from a STEM-oriented field. What makes this blog most unique is the sheer volume and diversity of the imagery compared with the writing content. It’s a great choice for readers who connect more with a genuine, down to earth writing voice.
Puzzle Will Be Played (puzzlewillbeplayed.com)
This particular site is probably the most up-to-date from the list that I’ve encountered, which is immediately a huge perk in itself. Amazingly, even though the content is so new and regular, they’ve maintained a straight-forward, no-nonsense aesthetic. Puzzles Will Be Played shows you exactly what you came for, and nothing more. How many places on the internet can you say that about? Honestly, their platform (which I encourage you to check out) is a breath of fresh air, and quite unique on top of that. The website features a large database of detailed descriptions for mechanical puzzles, including 3D, labeled images of each individual piece. We’ve never seen something exactly like this, and it’s a great way to search for your favorite puzzles and see exactly what a curious puzzler might be getting themselves into. Designer name, number of pieces, dimensions, number of solutions, the goal, and the amount of moves are all compiled in an orderly, consistent, easily searchable way. And, no spoilers! This is the perfect place to double check if you’re on the right track with a tricky puzzle; is there in fact only one solution, or could there be several? It’s clear that the creative geniuses behind this website are organizational, imaginative masterminds who understand what logical brains long to see.
Puzzle Place (puzzle-place.com)
In their own words, “Puzzle Place is a site whereby using all of our collective knowledge we hope to build a 'one-stop shop' for all things puzzle related. Here you will be able to find out about many different puzzles, who designs them, who creates them, and much more!” With this choice on our list, the first thing that stuck out to me was the simple, stripped down design of the website itself. Similar to the picks above, there is hardly any distraction, no pop-up ads, just a clear focus on content. There is a forum where users can talk to each other about puzzle related ideas and endeavors, and a “Wikipedia”-esque editing feature that means the sources and images are constantly growing. Puzzle Place currently has 1,500 puzzles, illustrated with 3,015 images, from 255 designers, and 194 manufacturers. Their forum, in particular, is incredibly useful for identifying older puzzles - matching them to the correct designer or even working together to rediscover the solution if one does not exist online. Don’t worry, though, in the true spirit of puzzling, nobody on here would spoil a puzzle’s solution unless you really, really want to know.
Burr Tools (burrtools.sourceforge.net)
As a final treat, we wanted to introduce our readers to Burr Tools, a puzzle creation and solving tool for those who are technologically inclined. Be warned, this program is not for the faint of heart or the easily discouraged. That being said, in the creator’s own words, “as long as your computer has the memory and you have the patience, this program will do it for you, even if it takes aeons.” Basically, by “do it,” he really does mean solve your puzzle or help you design yours. It sounds amazing, it is amazing, and it’s free! Of course, the program can’t solve any puzzle in existence. The creator would probably be a millionaire if that was the case. What the program will do, which deserves much celebration in the puzzling community, is solve a certain type of puzzle. Mechanical puzzles that meet a set of constraints are entirely solvable, explained in more detail in the user guide. In simplest words, think of a puzzle where you have to use a set of pieces to construct a wooden sphere, cube, or other shape; that’s the sort of thing this program can tackle. The more you explore the website and study the program, the more the constraints will make sense for what you can accomplish here. The creator is adamant about keeping the code free, and incredibly direct about his motivations in the explanation detailed here. We admire the dedication to such a niche computer programming community, and Burr Tools is a great example of the wonderful things that happen when creative geniuses latch onto a cause that is dear to their hearts.
The databases that we’ve showcased here, as well as the Burr Tools open-source code, are all vibrant examples of communal strength in the puzzling world. Everyone has their own life, their own jobs, their own struggles; nevertheless, these puzzlers have persisted in creating free and expansive libraries of knowledge. What’s more, most of them don’t receive much back in terms of financial gain. Not all heroes wear capes, some of them solve puzzles!
Thank you as always, cheers, and happy puzzling.