About my ratings

Perhaps because of my day job, I'm a tough rater. Everything 3/5 and above I consider worth the time and money.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Sue Coccia, Dragon

210 pieces, Wentworth. This is a different style than the ones she's done for Liberty.  Because of my prior exposure to those, I saw this as "early" and less well developed, but I'm not sure that's accurate; it's just different, with more watercolor-like colors and fewer internal animals.  3/5

Qiu Ying, Han Palace Spring Daybreak

Artifact, 423 pieces. This was a difficult puzzle because of the similar colors throughout.  The puzzle is three separate panels which can be laid out in a continuous line.  3/5

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Nervous System, 630 pieces. I love Nervous System's generative designs, which are unique to each puzzle. This super-hard cut makes the picture hard to see, and the repeating image made it harder!

Unicorn whimsy at the center

Boats by Lindsey

Liberty, 486 pieces.  Nice nautical themed whimsies (no pashmina afghans, though).  3/5

Friday, June 8, 2018

antique birdhouses

CrowPrints, 300 pieces.  I like this picture style--an artsy filter, I take it--and the cutting has just enough variation to make the strip cut reasonable.  3/5

Mavis Perfume

Liberty, 493 pieces.  Very unusual Liberty--this one has drop-outs, which might be the only Liberty drop-outs I've ever seen (aside from a few border pieces where the puzzle has elaborate borders). I associate drop-outs as a visual trick performed with hand-cut puzzles and it really did increase the challenge level here.  4/5

I got a great question about my puzzling judgments recently: I feel like the answer to what I like has changed a lot as I've done more wooden puzzles--I now think that I get a lot out of trying something new, and with smaller cutters I often think "I don't regret that, but I've experienced enough of that." For laser cutting, clearly the strength is the ability to do unusual piece design (Nervous System is a great example of this) or elaborately detailed whimsies (Liberty). Artifact's great strength in my opinion is that it is often *witty* in a hard-to-define way--I feel as if Zen Puzzles' whimsies are very targeted to the puzzle in the same way as Artifact's, but not necessarily adding to its meaning or references in the way that Artifact's can. Artifact also occasionally does fantastic themed connectors--the best in my opinion is its version of Rachel Pedder's Beans, which has a whole bunch of different beans, onions, etc. as the connectors. My biggest complaint with Artifact is that whatever they're doing can leave pieces feeling a little loose-fitting, and details are lost on the whimsies which can make pieces look like they don't exactly fit together.

It's easier to do negatives--pieces that are too thin and break are clearly bad; sometimes the chance to do a really neat whimsy is worth the risk, but it should be considered, especially if you're using thinner wood. A laser-cut strip-cut puzzle is a waste. With whimsies, it's useful to keep in mind the size of the pieces that will be created around them. A few early Liberties I've done have some severe disproportions in piece size where there will be a teeny tiny (like half of a dime's size) piece created by the intersection between whimsies and other normal pieces, while the biggest pieces are fifteen times that size. Those are easy to lose, hard to place, and generally less fun. For the same reason, I'm not a huge fan of pieces with internal spaces (unless those spaces are actual dropouts not occupied by other pieces).

some unusual whimsies--note the dog tugging at the Coppertone girl's swimsuit, in green

The oval is the arc of the whimsy girl jumping rope

Monday, June 4, 2018

Paul Klee, Plant According to Rules

Artifact, 311 pieces. I wasn't sure I liked this in the beginning, because the salmony middle wasn't particularly interesting. But the layers of edge pieces redeemed it.  3/5