Metal Puzzle 4 – Star


I had a bit of spare time one day, and figured that I might as well get one more metal puzzle to see how difficult it would be. Again, these are 200 yen ($1.80 USD), so they’re cheap entertainment. The one I got this time is “Star” in Japan (in the U.S., it’s being marketed as Star Trap, but there’s really very few hits on it, and no pages showing solutions). I spent about 10 minutes on it before I had to teach English classes. Then, during the afternoon I’d come back and work on it for another 10-15 minutes at a stretch, then do something else. In total, I had at least an hour invested in it, and I was getting concerned that I wasn’t finding anything useful on the net in the way of walkthroughs.

What’s interesting is that I got two related books at the same time for Christmas. The first was Professor Hoffmann’s “Modern Magic” (the first true comprehensive text on stage magic and sleight of hand, printed in the 1800’s). The other was “Brain Works”, from National Geographic, with a forward by magician David Copperfield. “Brain Works” also focuses on illusions, and how the brain can trick itself into seeing or not seeing something. Almost immediately afterward, I encountered the below picture from Dudolf, titled “Can you find the panda?”

It’s all connected. The brain tricks itself and you find yourself looking in the wrong place at the wrong time trying to find something that’s right in front of you. And, magic is about getting you to intentionally look at one point while missing what’s actually happening under your nose. And metal puzzles? The designs are all about misdirection. The puzzles are made to draw your attention away from specific parts of the design, yet if you deconstruct the puzzle, you have to ask yourself, “Wait, why is this piece this shape? Why are these two interlocking rings instead of one long rectangular piece? Why is one piece narrow enough to fit within the rings, yet long enough to go around the entire rest of the puzzle?” How much of this is distraction and misdirection, and how much is solution?

Going back to Star, I suddenly found myself approaching it as a magic trick, rather than as a puzzle. I visually traced out the path the long piece would have to follow if I’d freed it already and I was instead putting the puzzle back together again. Then, when I picked it up and started working on it, I solved it within 1 minute. The trick is so blatantly obvious when you know it that I can again take this one apart in 5 seconds, and reassemble it in 3. And, yes, the design is intended to misdirect you, just like with any magic trick. It’s all connected.

Final comment: I was thinking of getting one more puzzle when I had more spare time, but when I went back to the capsule shop, it was shuttered. I guess the owners simply decided to close the place one night, and that was that. There are capsule dispenser banks in a few other places around Kagoshima, but none of them have the wire puzzles that I can find. So, the question of whether I should keep buying them has been taken out of my hands. Sigh.

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