3D printers have made a lot of things possible that were either extremely difficult or downright impossible with traditional tooling. Certain shapes lend themselves to 3D printing, and materials and tooling costs are also generally greatly reduced as well. One thing that may not be touched on as often, though, is their ability to rapidly prototype solutions to complex mathematical problems, in this case taking the form of a 3D printed maze, known as a dodecahedral holonomy maze, with an interesting solution.
The puzzle presents itself as a sphere composed of various inlaid hexagons which form a track for the puzzle piece, or “rook”. The tracks create the maze for the rook to travel, as some paths are blocked when the rook is oriented in certain ways. To solve the puzzle, the player must rotate the rook by moving it around the hexagons in such a way that its path isn’t physically blocked by any of the pegs in order to successfully reach the exit. This might seem like a fun toy to have on its surface, but the impressive thing about this is that the solutions are designed to reduce the likelihood of solving the puzzle with any “brute force” methods while at the same time having more than one path that will reach the exit as well as several bottlenecks that the puzzle solver must traverse as well.
There are actually many possible puzzles that can be produced in this size and shape, and all have predetermined solutions with cleverly chosen paths. This might seem like a lot but when you realize that the entire build from concept to 3D modeling to implementation was done by [Henry Segerman] and a group of other mathematicians at Oklahoma State University it starts to become more clear how the puzzle was so well-designed. In fact, we’ve featured some of his other mathematically-modeled builds in the past as well.
[Sebastian] describes the 4×4 Color Dot Puzzle as a sort of combination of the ideas behind the Rubik’s Cube and the 15 puzzle. The aim is to arrange the 16 colored tiles on the board to form four single-colored 2×2 squares in the overall 4×4 board. The puzzle is 3D printed, using 6 colors of filament – black for the body of the puzzle, white for the control sticks, and yellow, green, red, and blue for the individual tiles.
We haven’t seen any mathematical proofs of how to beat the game, but we’re sure [Sebastian] has gotten good at beating the puzzle having designed it himself. According to tipster [Michael Gardi], who knows a thing or two about 3D printing games himself, the puzzle makes for a fun little mind teaser.
We don’t know about you, but we have mixed feelings about online puzzle fads. On one hand, they are great tool to help keep one sharp, but they’re just everywhere. The latest social-media driven fad, Wordle, may be a little bit too prevalent for our liking, with social media timelines stuffed with updates about the thing. [Ed Locard] was getting a bit miffed with friends’ constant posts about ‘Today’s Wordle’, and was hoping they’d get back to posting pictures of their dogs instead, so did what any self-respecting hacker would do, and wrote a python script to automate solving Wordle puzzles, in a likely futile attempt to get them to stop posting.
Actually, [Ed] was more interested in building a solver for a related game, Absurdle, which is described as an adversarial variant of Wordle. This doesn’t actually select a single word, but uses your guesses so far to narrow down a large pool of possible words, keeping you guessing for longer. Which is pretty mean of it. Anyway, [Ed] came up with a tool called Pyrdle, (GitHub project) which is essentially a command version of Absurdle, that has the capability of also solving Wordle as a byproduct. It turns out the JS implementation of Wordle holds the entire possible wordlist, client-side, so the answer is already sitting in your browser. The real interest part of this project is the approach to automated problem solving of puzzles with a very large potential set of solutions. This makes for an interesting read, and infinitely more so than reading yet another Wordle post.
And one final note; if you’re not at all onboard with this, love Wordle, and can’t get enough, you might like to install [brackendawson]’s comically titled (command) notfoundleshell handler, for some puzzling feedback on your command-line slip-ups. Well, it amused us anyway.
The festive season is upon us, and for Brits of a technical bent that means it’s time for the GCHQ Christmas Challenge. Sent out annually as part of the Christmas card from the UK’s intelligence centre, this is a chance for would-be spooks to pit their wits against some of the nation’s cleverest cryptologists whose work you’ll never have heard of.
This year the puzzle is aimed at those with a secondary school education, in the hope of fostering an interest in maths and science in younger people. It’s a series of puzzles of ascending difficulty, but don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by the earlier ones being easy, to complete the set will still require some brain power.
Have you ever been about to finish a puzzle, when suddenly you realize there are more holes left than you have pieces? With [Nikolaos’s] 3D printed sliding puzzles, this will be a problem of the past!
The secret of the puzzle is in the tongue and groove system that captures the pieces while allowing them to slide past each other and along the puzzle’s bezel. The tongues are along the top and right sides of the pieces shown here, with the grooves along the left and bottom. There is only one empty spot on the board, so the player must be methodical in how they move pieces to their final destinations. See this in action in the video after the break.
[Nikolaos] designed the puzzle in Fusion 360, and used this as an opportunity to practice with parameters. He designed the model in such a way that any size puzzle could be generated by changing just 2 variables. Once the puzzle is the proper size, the image is added by importing and extruding an SVG.
Another cool aspect of these puzzles is that they are print-in-place, meaning that when the part is removed from the 3D printer, it is ready to use and fully assembled. No need to remove support material or bolt and glue together multiple components. Print-in-place is useful for more than just puzzles, you could also use this technique to 3D print wire connectors!
Putting the last piece of a project together and finally finishing it up is a satisfying feeling. When the last piece of a puzzle like that is a literal puzzle, though, it’s even better. [Nadieh] has been working on this jigsaw puzzle that displays a fireworks-like effect whenever a piece is placed correctly, using a lot of familiar electronics and some unique, well-polished design.
The puzzle is a hexagonal shape and based on a hexagonally symmetric spirograph, with the puzzle board placed into an enclosure which houses all of the electronics. Each puzzle piece has a piece of copper embedded in a unique location so when it is placed on the board, the device can tell if it was placed properly or not. If it was, an array of color LEDs mounted beneath a translucent diffuser creates a lighting effect that branches across the entire board like an explosion. The large number of pieces requires a multiplexer for the microcontroller, an ATtiny3216.
This project came out of a FabAcademy, so the documentation is incredibly thorough. In fact, everything on this project is open sourced and available on the project page from the code to the files required for cutting out the puzzle pieces and the enclosure. It’s an impressive build with a polish we would expect from a commercial product, and reminds us of an electrified jigsaw puzzle we saw in a previous build.
The trick to a fun escape room is layers. For [doktorinjh]’s Spacecase, you start with an enigmatic aluminum briefcase and a NASA drawstring backpack. A gamemaster reads the intro speech to set the mood, and you’re ready to start your escape from the planet. The first layer is the backpack with puzzles you need to solve to get into the briefcase. In there, you discover a hidden compartment and enough sci-fi references to put goofy smiles on our faces. We love to see tools reused as they are in one early puzzle, you use a UV LED to reveal a hidden message, but that light also illuminates puzzle clues later.
All the tech in Spacecase makes it a wonder of mixed media. The physical layer has laser engraved wood featuring the font from the 1975 NASA logo, buttons, knobs, LEDs, toggle switches, and a servo. Beneath the visible faceplate is an RGB sensor, audio player, speaker, and at the center is an Arduino MEGA. We’d love to get our hands on Spacecase for a game, and we’re inspired to pull out all the stops and build games with our personal touches. Maybe something with a mousetrap.