Well, I finally got my hands on the latest Hanayama Cast Puzzle, Cast Donuts! My favorite puzzle store in the Boston area, Eureka Puzzles & Games, had them in stock briefly a month ago, but I moved too slowly and they sold out before I could get down there. Fortunately, they restocked recently so I called up to have them hold one for me, and I headed down there as soon as I could. David Leschinsky, the owner of Eureka, was there, and it was great getting a chance to speak with him.
Cast Donuts is a really cool looking puzzle: two donuts are linked together, and the goal is to separate them. You'll quickly see that each donut is made out of two pieces, making for four total pieces. This puzzle was designed by Vesa Timonen, the same designer who designed Cast Loop, Cast Hook, and Cast Square.
I played around with this one a bit on the subway ride home, and felt like I had a pretty good handle on how it worked. I thought I knew how it needed to come apart, now it was just a matter of getting things lined up correctly. In this way, it is similar to Cast Marble and Cast Rattle.
One downside to this puzzle is that you sort of need to pry the pieces apart a bit to see what is going on inside during this exploration phase (as well as when you're trying to get things lined up correctly). This got a bit tiresome, so it may have been nice if there were small marks on the outside to help you out. I'm not sure if that upside would have been worth the downside of marking up such a pretty puzzle though!
As it turns out, getting the pieces in the correct position was quite a bit trickier than I anticipated. At any moment, I figured I'd get it right, and it would come popping apart, but no luck! Eventually, I was able to get the darker pieces apart, but I managed to do so without getting the lighter-colored pieces apart. Since each darker half ends up being 3/4 of a circle, they both were still attached to the lighter donut! It turns out that this was an unintended "solution" if you use a bit too much force.
After a bit more fiddling, I was able to get the lighter donut to come apart as intended, which is quite cool movement. Seeing how it was intended to work, I really liked this one, though it loses some marks in my book for not preventing that accidental forcing better.
I'd say that the difficulty rating of this one is just about right. It took me about 30 minutes to solve it, but it could easily take less time if you happen to either be luckier or smarter about the alignment of the pieces. Oli and Kevin have both written about it (here and here, respectively), and they both made fairly short work of it. I'd have known to avoid forcing it if I had read their entries, but I wanted to try solving it without any prior information.
Overall, Cast Donuts is a great new puzzle by Vesa Timonen! It looks beautiful, feels nice in your hand, and has an interesting solution. What more could you ask for?
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