Extremely Puzzling - Goetz Schwandtner's Puzzles

Puzzle Group: My Adventures in the Zoo of Burrs

This group page shows some burr puzzles with something special to them. Most of them look like traditional 18 pieces burrs, but actually they are not: They contain one or two extra pieces, and these extra pieces are animal shaped and lend their names to the respective puzzles.

It all started with a puzzle created by Alfons Eyckmans: "Free the monkeys" contains two monkey shaped extra pieces. The following ones were also created by Alfons: one with a gorilla piece, a bit bigger than the monkey pieces, and then a whole series containing several variations of hellhounds, the "Devil's Pets". This idea was adapted by a second designer, Stephan Baumegger, who created a burr with a big snake in it. All these burrs so far have two things in common: Based on the traditional 18 pieces burrs scheme, and because the animal pieces are quite big, they only move just when they come out of the puzzle, not before. The latest invention in this group is a 12 piece burr containing a camel piece. The 12 piece burr shape has been used by Alfons earlier already to hide some smaller 3- or 4-piece burrs in it and seems to offer a lot of room. Although the camel is quite big, it moves a lot during the solution.

In the following, I will review these "Animal Burrs", so beware: there may be some spoilers for the solution. For each puzzle, a picture of the animal piece is shown, and also a picture showing how the animal piece is built into the burr. Click on these pictures for bigger versions.

These reviews are result of my recent solving of these puzzles. All disassembled without the help of Burr-Tools and all of them have been great fun to play with. They are behaving completely different, even within the series. A big thanks to Alfons and Stephan for designing these puzzles.

Free the Monkeys
Free the Monkeys Free the Monkeys Free the Monkeys The first two pieces come out easily, then the fun starts: Some interesting moves with whole groups of pieces moving at the same time for removal of piece 3 and 4 — and the first monkey to come out ensures that these moves cannot be found too easily. Once you have found these moves, you will see that the pieces seem to have been designed for exactly these moves.
Save the Gorilla
Save the Gorilla Save the Gorilla Save the Gorilla This one has nice repeating and not too difficult move patterns for removal of pieces 1 and 2 (took me about 45 minutes). After that, you have to return to nearly the start and find some lateral and group moves to remove pieces 3 and 4. The rest is quite easy.
Devil's Pet 1
Devil's Pet 1 Devil's Pet 1 Devil's Pet 1 The solution starts off with a nice long sequence to remove the first piece, with special "tunnelling" moves which will return in Devil's Pets 3 and 4. While piece 2 is quite easy, the third piece requires some interesting and hard to find moves, where a group of pieces has to "entangle" with some others — while even moving more pieces simultaneously. This puzzle is not easy, but an excellent start if you would like to solve Devil's Pets 1, 3, and 4.
Devil's Pet 2
Devil's Pet 1 Devil's Pet 1 Devil's Pet 1 Somehow this one seems to be an odd family member of the "Devil's Pets": It is easier than the others and does not share common move sequences. Instead, it is starting with some unusual group moves, where some piece has to be stored away before anything else may happen. For removing piece 5, you will have to make some room where apparenty there is none, and this is probably the most difficult piece to remove for this puzzle.
Devil's Pet 3
Devil's Pet 1 Devil's Pet 1 Devil's Pet 1 This puzzle starts very similar to Devil's Pet 1 with a similar move sequence to prepare the removal of the first piece, adding some more spice to it. Unlike Devil's Pet 1, the level for the following pieces is quite high (Level is 38.14.13.14 for the puzzle). When solving the puzzle, I found the 14 moves of the second piece quite easy, while the 13 moves for the third piece contain some very interesting and harder moves. This is then superseded by piece 4, which seems to be the hardest to me in this puzzle with some preparation moves well hidden. Further along, you will find that even after removing 8 pieces, the puzzle shows some interesting behaviour: Quite loose, but stable enough so that no piece can be removed, even with attempted rotations. The pet does an excellent job to lock the pieces in place. To move on, some hard to find moves have to be carried out. The third picture shows the puzzle shortly before this situation.
Devil's Pet 4
Devil's Pet 1 Devil's Pet 1 Devil's Pet 1 Clearly, Devil's Pet 4 has inherited the sequences for the first piece from Devil's Pet 1 and 3, but something strange has happened here: The moves are actually less sophisticated than for Devil's Pet 3, just to add some moves afterwards and to raise the level from 38 to 43. Noticeably, the same first piece is removed in both burrs and the last few moves for this are the same again. For the next few pieces to be removed, some tricky moves have to be discovered, but after mastering Devil's Pet 3 before, you will have an idea which pieces may move out and how they might move out. To make things more complicated, they won't come out in the same order! The sixth piece has another challenge to offer: 10 moves. Similar to Devil's Pet 3, the puzzle becomes very loose without releasing any more piece, even with attempted rotations or tilting pieces. Seems the hellhound (pet) is eager to keep it's keep together at this point and not letting any more piece out. Until you find an unusual move, it looks like none of the pieces can get out at all. However, a systematic analysis will show you the move you need and release another piece. I guess the third picture showing this situation does not give this loose lock enough credit! When verifying the solution, something strange happened to me that I experienced before for other puzzles. Instead of releasing piece 2, I released pieces 3 and 4 with some additional moves, and then the sequences for pieces 2, 5, and 6 became much shorter than before. Nice feature! Overall, this puzzle seems to be the most difficult Devil's Pet to me, but after training with the others I completely disassembled it on two evenings, maybe 5 hours in total.
Beware of the Snake
Beware of the Snake Beware of the Snake Beware of the Snake This puzzle set a new record for me: After picking up the puzzle for the first time, I removed the first piece in 15 minutes! It seems that this had not been the optimal 40 move solution, but some 6 more moves and I immediately pulled out some more pieces with 2 or 3 moves each (not 13, as in the optimal solution). Of course the quick solve made me curious to analyze the structure of the solution. This puzzle is a good example of a puzzle that is guiding the solver and can best be solved by looking at the pieces, analyzing which piece locks which other piece, and building a theory, which should be the next target piece. Seems like this is how I solve burr puzzles best, and this makes it very interesting to me — despite the quick solve. As you can see, the burr comes with an extra snake, so you can keep one snake on display while the other is securely locked.
Camelride
Camelride Camelride Camelride This 12 piece burr is the only seen so far in which the animal piece moves before it is removed. Actually, already the second move is a camel move and as an extra feature gravity or very thin fingers are required for it. Later on, the camel hops through the burr in a long sequence to make room for other pieces, but only after one has unlocked the camel with a certain set of two pieces. Very interesting and unusual for a burr!
The Devil and his Pet
The Devil and his Pet The Devil and his Pet The Devil and his Pet This latest addition is a 12 pieces burr with two different pieces in it. One is the devil and one his pet, so we finally are going to meet the master of all the pets presented before (or should we rather leave him locked into this burr?). This beautiful level 19 burr — don't you think the purple heart color matches the devil topic well? — extends many known concepts in this group:

From Stephan's Camelride and also Alfon's 12 Bastards it inherits this 12 piece burr outer shape with additional pieces inside. From Save the Gorilla it inherits the gorilla figure (with a small modification) sitting staticly in the puzzlei until it is removed. From the Devil's Pets puzzles the pet shape of course, and also from Camelride the agility of this piece, moving through the puzzle during the solution. Like in Dirty Dozen it is also pushed with other pieces.

The puzzle solves nicely and removing the first piece is quite difficult for only 19 moves. Among those moves are some typical moves for such a 12 piece burr, where the pieces heavily interlock while protruding from the puzzle, and some back and forth move sequences. The most interesting feat is what the pet piece does: This animal seems to have some free energy and is moving a lot during the solution, already four moves until the first piece comes out. In these moves, the pet piece is always pushed by others to move. When it comes to the third pet move, you better tilt the puzzle into the right orientation and carefully align the animal, or it will put its claws into the ground to resist. After the first piece has been removed, there are also moves where the pets moves on its own, unlocking more moves of other pieces. When you have removed most of the burr pieces, you will also be able to remove the pet and then also its master. The devil piece is securely locked into place until this moment and won't budge. Overall, this puzzle has some complex move sequences and as the puzzle is very well made and has perfect alignment, they are not obvious to find. With its level 19 and the move sequences for complete disassembly it is not too difficult to solve for an expert, but a nice little challenge, especially if you have some training on this topic like I did. It is a nice addition to the group with some interesting concepts!

Adam and Eve in Paradise
Adam and Eve in Paradise Adam and Eve in Paradise Adam and Eve in Paradise With this latest 12 pieces burr (in fact 14 pieces!), I had several doubts whether I should show it here. First of all, we are in a "zoo" group page and there are no animal pieces in the burr. Well, but very close: they are basically mammals (which you would find in a zoo), but then again they are not. They are more mythological characters from what many people refer to as "the book". But maybe I should stop with discussions about religion, evolution, and philosophy here. This page is about puzzles! After seeing the snake in one burr above (how appropriate!), we now have Adam and Eve as the two extra pieces. And now there is the second doubt I had about showing the puzzle here. These pieces appear as they should appear according to the original story. Would this have some impact on limiting the audience of this page? I hope not! They are nice wooden pieces with not very many details and again: We are talking about puzzles here! So back to topic:

This puzzle is a nice 12 piece burr which offers its first challenge already at the beginning: Not only the pieces are symmetrical, but so are the first few moves. Only after a few moves you find out whether you have gone the right way or should return "to square one" and head for the other solution path. Moving out all sorts of pieces you will soon find the first person, and at this point in time it is not clear who it is. Well, push its head down and on you go! Some more tricks and the first piece is removed from paradise. Ah, it seems it was Adam who needed a little push, or in fact two. Alfons mentioned that this piece would only move once, so I must be doing something different again. But hey: the solution works and I am working without a solution for most burrs, remember?

Soon after removing the first piece, paradise starts coming apart and piece after piece is removed. But that is what happens to paradises, once you start looking behind the scenes, isn't it? Good news for you being concerned about Adam and Eve: These two piees will stay in there for a long time and just come out when nearly everything else has gone. When starting to write this review and to solve the puzzle, I did not know that all these stories would come out of it. So maybe my conclusion should be a bit more puzzle related: A very nice puzzle, not overly difficult to solve, but with some very interesting aspects.

Gobi
Gobi Gobi Gobi This burr leads us out of the zoo on an expedition into the famous and big Asian desert "Gobi". Although it only has 12 pieces (plus two extra special ones) and a moderate level of 31, it kept me busy for some time and after some time I was feeling like I was lost in the desert eager to come out again. In this puzzle I found the real reasons for the name of the puzzle: A nice camel piece (with double hump) and a desert dwelling nomad. To find these pieces, you will have to remove a couple of pieces. The first piece will take 31 moves, and some of them are very well hidden. For some moves, you will have to move what feels like half of the puzzle, just to reverse most of the moves later again. At these early moves, it seemed to me that someone was shadowing me during some moves — maybe a native desert inhabitant? Like going in circles in the desert trying to find the way out, I returned almost to the starting configuration of the puzzle, just to head for a different direction, and then the first encounter with the nomad! Being familiar with the "Rat trap" puzzle by Alfons, I decided to use a pencil for support. Had to hit that nomad with a stick to get him out of the way to continue! Just the camel did what these animals seem to prefer: Stubbornly lying in place and not moving at all! Later on, I found out that the nomad can also be moved by tilting and shaking the puzzle, but still he will have to move on his own. A few steps later, there he was again, obstructing my way. This time I knew what to do and a few moves later the first piece came out, as usual the one with the signature on it. That has been the hardest part of the expedition into the Gobi. The next nine moves for the second piece required some creative moves, but followed rather easily. Seems that you only have to adapt to this desert enviroment a bit!

The moves after that are not that difficult any more. The nomad seems to want to keep the cage together, but with one firm push this is solved. After some more moves we find out the secret of the stubborn camel: Up to the very end, the poor animal is tightly locked into place, unable to move at all! Like with a sand dune in the desert moving quickly, you will have to be careful to notice where which piece had been before when they fall off the puzzle, or you will be lost in a sand storm of pieces, difficult to reassemble.

After first seeing this puzzle (the very one shown here) on facebook, I found the idea and form fascinating. There are two big pieces inside the burr and yet there is room enough for a high level of 31.9.5.5! Not an easy puzzle, but a very interesting one. It might in fact be the most difficult 12 (+x) pieces burr I tried for some time. A very nice puzzle and also an interesting theme, thanks a lot, Alfons! Now I am back home from my expedition, looking at the assembled puzzle and still thinking of some small yet interesting challenges on the way back.

Gumball 3K
Gumball 3K Gumball 3K Gumball 3K This Burr relates to an (in)famous street race, the Gumball 3000. This puzzle looks like a ball trophy and has two car pieces inside. Not really animals, but some fast cars have animal names! Now this is a burr related to a car race, let me tell you my solving experiences. Eager to make some miles I started quickly and right from the start I used some drifting (rotations of pieces) to remove the first two pieces. Quite appropriate for a street race! However, it seems that with all these stunts I lost my way a bit and after looking to get back on track for a long time I had to resort to the map (burr-tools — yes! guilty as charged!). During all that, I noticed that suddenly my car has been completely parked in and I needed a tow truck (screwdriver!) to move the car sideways so the journey could go on. You heard right: The car piece has to make a move on its own, sideways, and while well built into the burr. With current humidity conditions, the puzzle is tighter than usually and so the car would not move just by tilting or hitting. But believe me: finding that move was the difficult part. After that and moving some other bricks out of the way, the car started moving forward and some more pieces came off. The fifth piece contains some tricky move sequences with the car interlocked with other pieces. Soon after, a couple more pieces come out easily, which then leads to the situation in the third picture. While the second car is hidden upside-down in the bottom part of the puzzle (can you see the bit of tire?), the first one and my main car so far was hooked into a strange mechanism, just like it was in a repair shop. With a few moves more, the mechanism swings out and the car comes off the mechanism. Hooray, first car over the finish line! The second car is not that lucky. You have to unwind the rest of the road (i.e. burr puzzle) to remove it from the puzzle. It is tightly locked into place in the lower part of the burr. Removing these other pieces is not too difficult and some of the pieces try to fall out, but overall it is a quite stable puzzle until the end.

When first looking at the level, I thought of this puzzle as being easy or of moderate difficulty. This impression was supported by the first two pieces coming out rather easily. How wrong have I been! The level is not that high, but the complex piece shapes and the cars inside trying to move, make it a more difficult puzzle. Took me some time to find the moves for the third piece, for which a lot of preparation moves, including a car slide are required. Alltogether I like this puzzle not only for the move sequences, but also for the beautiful look and craftsmanship of it, and even more for the way how the designer and craftsman Stephan Baumegger has incorporated the Gumball race theme into the puzzle. Fun to play on multiple layers!

Dozer
Dozer Dozer Dozer After recent car race, there seems to be some cleanup to be done, so I got myself a dozer to clean up. And a dozer might also be useful in a zoo, so it fits onto this page, doesn't it? The Dozer came well packaged and I had a hard time removing the packaging (read: 12 pieces burr), which by itself is quite beautiful. This burr is bigger than the usual 12 piece burr and uses two different basic piece layouts (3x3x9 and 2x4x9 sizes). Opening the burr and removing the first piece is not overly difficult, but also non-trivial. My first impression was: it is all hooks! Lots of hook shaped pieces ensure that the puzzle stays together, while providing enough room for the dozer inside. Thin piece shapes like in this puzzle usually allow for easy rotational shortcuts, and in this case I found rotations, but no shortcuts. Pretty stable for these piece shapes! After a while I noticed some systematic structure behind the moves and was able to remove the first piece. The second, third and fourth follow immediately (see third picture). The most difficult part of the solution seemed to be the 11 more moves to remove another piece. During these moves, also the heavy dozer has to be shifted a couple of times. After removing one or two more pieces, the puzzle looses most of its cohesion and can be disassembled easily, revealing the dozer at the end.

Because of this, reassembly is another story! Overall, the puzzle is nice to play with and not overly difficult (managed the disassembly in two afternoons). In the first part of the solution (removal of first piece), the pieces nicely interact and these interactions can be studied and used for the solution. The second part (fifth piece to come out) is a harder challenge with 11 new moves. A very nice puzzle and both dozer piece and the burr are beautifully made!

Dragon's Cave
Dragons Cave Dragons Cave Dragons Cave A difficult eight piece burr in a frame, with an additional dragon piece in it. Has been some time since I first discussed the puzzle with Stephan before it was released and different aspects some of which you will find in the review below. This time, I tried to solve the puzzle unsuccessfully a couple of times, and after it had waited for some time still being unsolved, I resorted to Burr-Tools for help (Hint: dim the frame piece to see what is going on inside when watching!).
The most important piece, the dragon, moves in groups of pieces, but also on its own. There must be a great and fearsome power in that cave, because after around 50 moves, the dragon retracts and peeks out a bit — back end first. Indeed, a few moves later, it flees from the puzzle backwards. Now we are left with a "Cave" puzzle instead of a "Dragon's Cave". As the shorter name suggests, this is now much easier and the rest of the pieces come out quickly. Seems that rest of the complexity has fled together with its former inhabitant.
Before the dragon comes out, there is already enough room for some pieces to move a lot, but I have not seen any possibility for rotational shortcuts. Even after a while after production and of playing the pieces move flawlessly and without stability issues. The brass pins making up the dragon's eyes and for stabilizing the cave are nice visible features. One excellent idea are the round holes at both sides. As far as I have seen, no shortcuts become possible via them, but they give you excellent visibility of the dragon and allow you to manipulate this piece when it does some solo moves. Surprisingly, I have never seen a situation when that dragon piece had too much space, and its moves were always well controlled and the physical features (gap between legs) was nicely included in the solution, for other pieces to lock in.
Overall, this is a very nice and quite difficult puzzle and the space inside has been well used to put in a rather big extra piece. This group of interlocking pieces (8 sticks with 2x3 end plates in a cage) is probably the one I am least successful with, and with the lot of room and possible moves, I decided to go for the guided way. It is a very nice puzzle to watch the solution, too!
Alligator
Alligator Alligator Alligator This is a six piece burr with an additional alligator piece in it and consequently smallest puzzle (in terms of piece count) on this page. It looks beautiful from the outside, but wait until you have freed the alligator and have seen all its nice little details! That is what I did — free the alligator. The level is not that high so I stood a chance to manage this burr in reasonable time (without Burr-Tools, of course!). The movement is excellent and after a few moves you start seeing first details of the wild animal within it. Some more moves later, more details show up, like the curved tail. Seeing this, I asked myself if the alligator would do some illegal moves, not being a box shaped being. There is some space for tilting the alligator, but not enough to allow shortcuts. Well designed and crafted! The puzzle came with some helper sticks to move the alligator, but I did not need them, maybe when humidity changes I will. The first required move could be achieved just by carefully tilting the puzzle and giving it a slight tap. After that, the alligator could be moved with the fingers quite easily, until at one point, it stood out like in the third picture. Looks like it's hungry and trying to get out. Not that way, I am afraid. If you get all your wits together and push it on the widely open jaws, it will slide out backwards and leave the scenery. Never try this at home with a real alligator!
Now I was left with a six piece burr to disassemble. Stephan employed his usual hook shapes to ensure that the pieces would not come apart easily. Instead, one piece could be dragged far away from the center still being tightly locked to the burr. Looking at the other end, I discovered that now a piece should come out, and as a confirmation it had the signatore on it, which is typically on the first piece to come out. The rest was not too difficult, and meanwhile the alligator is back in the burr already waiting for the last of the gaps of his prison walls being closed (=burr in original starting shape). A beautiful puzzle, very well crafted and astonishingly complex for such a 6+1 piece burr. A nice puzzle and I like how the alligator interacts with the surrounding pieces! Probably, I have moved the alligator more times than in the Burr-Tools solution, but that was fun!
Beware of the Dogs
Beware of the Dogs Beware of the Dogs Beware of the Dogs Beware of the Dogs is one of Alfon's latest puzzles, which demonstrates how much space there is in a 12 piece burr with 2x3x8 pieces. There are three additional dog shaped pieces in there, which is quite a lot for such a burr. At first, the puzzle does not want to open at all. Then after finding some moves, there are sequences discovered blocking each other. Either you run through one of the sequences, or the other, but not combined. Those dogs won't come out easily! After some systematic approach including observation what moves may also be possible, I found another piece that could be moved to the far end, now two pieces were sticking out into different directions, giving a first glimpse inside, but locking the puzzle. Reversing one of the sequences (again!), only one was sticking out and then could perform some interesting moves. Until now, I had only seen some legs of several dogs, not more. Finding some more moves, I actually moved one of the dogs by one unit, and then found that the legs of this dog were used to lock another piece, which was then freed. Funny aspect about this move: The dog is actually moved by moving its tail, literally the tail wagging the dog! After letting that new piece stick out and reversing some sequences (again!), including wagging the dog, I could remove this piece. As to be expected from the level, I quickly removed some two other pieces. After that, the puzzle pieces got a lot of movement, but not loose. It is too packed to become loose, as can be seen in the picture after removing five more pieces!
The rest of the disassembly is straightforward and reveals how tightly the dog pieces are packed into the puzzle and interlocking with the other pieces. Two of the dogs are stacked and only come out as a group. Luckily, the reassembly was a nice and quick exercise and within 5 minutes I had the puzzle back together.
This is the latest of the animal piece puzzle I have and it is really stuffed with these pieces. It is not a difficult one, but a nice exercise for one evening. Some interesting sequences to discover, and also interaction between these sequences. As to be expected, only one of the dog piece moves during the solution, the top dog in the picture — as it should be for a top dog! (Sorry for the pun!) I like the puzzle, beautifully made and three new woods to discover inside the puzzle, and three different dog shapes. Even with the tightly packed interior, one of those dog pieces is moving several times during the solution (back and forth, one unit), a nice feature!