Hanayama Puzzle – Chain

Hanayama is a Japanese producer of metal puzzles. I received this one, called “Chain,” from the U.S. as a Christmas present. On a difficulty ranking of 1 to 6, this one’s rated a 6. But, that’s a bit misleading. If you look at the photo closely, you may figure out the solution visually. This is because there’s an “easy problem” and a “hard problem”.

I’ve written before about how I view wire puzzles as a form of magic trick. A lot of the design revolves around misdirection. If you try to attack the puzzle in what appears to be the more obvious solution, you’re going to fail horribly. You have to sit back, think, and ask yourself, why is this bend where it is? This feature? Why does one piece have this feature, and the others don’t?

After about an hour, I decided to check youtube to see if anyone had posted videos there. The answer was that they had, so I watched the first few seconds of one to get a hint, then went back to the puzzle. The hint didn’t help, so I checked a second video. That didn’t help either. The reason was that the videos were showing the easy approach of the puzzle, and the one I had was assembled for the hard approach from the factory.

The box has a challenge printed on it – “You may be able to take this puzzle apart, but can you put it back together?” Eventually, I realized what the trick was and I could pull the three links apart. Putting the puzzle back together, I quickly verified that there really are 2 variants – the easy approach and the hard one. The interesting thing is that there’s a trick to assembling the hard approach, also. There are many ways to do it wrong, but only one way to do it right, which isn’t intuitive.

I brought Chain with me to a party, and I passed it around to about 10 people there. Even in the easy approach, only one person got it right. I had to show the others how to take it apart, which made them really happy. Then I pulled the old stage magic prank of assembling the puzzle with the hard approach without telling them, and watched their faces as they discovered that even if you know the solution, it still doesn’t help.

If you like puzzles, the Hanamaya collection is challenging, cheap for their weight, and very durable. Recommended to puzzle lovers. (As a note, I can take Chain apart in either approach and reassemble it within 30 seconds now.)

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