How do I solve this puzzle?
January 28, 2009 10:09 AM   Subscribe

How do I solve this puzzle?

before I destroy something beautiful...
posted by Steph1en to Grab Bag (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ever seen or heard of it in a solved state? It doesn't look solvable to me.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:19 AM on January 28, 2009

Response by poster: Yes, it's similar to the horseshoe, chain, and ring puzzle. A tad harder. I used to do it as a kid. Solved = two rings, chain and two balls are separated from the phallic metal piece.
posted by Steph1en at 10:21 AM on January 28, 2009

Is one of the rings smaller than the other? When I've done similar puzzles the key was to do with the smaller ring. Will one of them fit through either the other ring, the base or the 'phallic' shape? I need to study it a bit more... but no doubt somebody will figure it out before I do.
posted by valleys at 10:27 AM on January 28, 2009

Do the rings fit through the tall piece, even if the wooden beads don't?
posted by vytae at 10:33 AM on January 28, 2009

Response by poster: Rings are the exact same size. They do fit through the phallic shape. However, the wooden balls do not. IIRC, part of the answer involved sliding the rings over the phallic part. It may have involved sliding them through.
posted by Steph1en at 10:35 AM on January 28, 2009

I feel like I must be missing something--the tall piece is a closed loop, right? There isn't a gap, obscured in that picture by the chain?

Man, this is gonna drive me nuts all day.
posted by equalpants at 10:37 AM on January 28, 2009

Response by poster: No gap. Here's a picture of one ring slid through the phallic part.
posted by Steph1en at 10:44 AM on January 28, 2009

Check this page. I'll be amazed if the puzzle, or one that's topologically equivalent, isn't there.
posted by GuyZero at 10:48 AM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

If the phallic part is a closed ring, and the wooden balls will not fit through it, I suspect this is not a solvable puzzle. The wooden balls will always be on opposite sides of the phallic part, thus no way to remove the chain/ring/ball segment.
posted by ecorrocio at 10:48 AM on January 28, 2009

D'oh ! It just lists them but doesn't have obvious solutions. Sorry!
posted by GuyZero at 10:50 AM on January 28, 2009

Best answer: You're absolutely certain there wasn't an additional ring that went around the chain? The puzzle looks very similar to one that is sometimes known as the "Fisherman's Folly", but that one has the extra ring; the object is to remove this ring. You didn't solve the puzzle and then lose the ring did you?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 10:50 AM on January 28, 2009

Are you sure it's not missing a ring? This page led me to this page and it looks extremely similar to the Left Brain teaser (do a page search to see 3 variants). But each of those has a ring that fits over the shaft - I assume that's the part that comes off, not the chain/string part.
posted by O9scar at 10:51 AM on January 28, 2009

Response by poster: ecorrocio, that's what they want you to think. It is solvable. I used to do it all the time as a kid.
posted by Steph1en at 10:51 AM on January 28, 2009

The balls are not perfect spheres and may fit through when turned so their flat sides are parallel to the upright wires in the narrow part.

Also, can the chain be "broken"? Maybe the rest of the puzzle is a distraction if two chain loops can be separated.
posted by GuyZero at 10:54 AM on January 28, 2009

Alrighty Steph1en... got a solution?
posted by ecorrocio at 10:55 AM on January 28, 2009

It looks like the balls are flat on the side where the chain goes through. I suspect that the key. If the chain wasn't there, would the balls fit through on their flat side?
posted by bondcliff at 10:56 AM on January 28, 2009

Response by poster: I don't remember it having a ring and neither does my brother. But maybe we were just so young (this thing is 14 years old) we don't remember.
posted by Steph1en at 10:57 AM on January 28, 2009

Response by poster: The wooden balls will not fit through and the chain is not meant to be broken. I could always solve with box cutters.

Anyway, I'll fuss around with it some more and if I can't get anywhere I'll declare that it must have had an extra ring.
posted by Steph1en at 11:00 AM on January 28, 2009

I don't think it ever had an extra ring like in the "Fisherman's Folly," because the chain isn't long enough to have a ring that would fit between both balls and the center frame. I also suspect that the answer is that the chain unbuckles somewhere, which is totally cheating, and not cool at all.

It's also possible that this puzzle was made to look eerily similar to other puzzles of its ilk, yet is completely unsolveable and thus maddening. Why? To piss off your friends/family by giving them a few solveable puzzles first and then giving them this one and going "oh no, it's totally solveable, I do it all the time!"
posted by billysumday at 11:02 AM on January 28, 2009

I think bea arthur and O9scar are right, unless there's a trick like the ones GuyZero suggests.

Picture a different puzzle: two solid boxes glued to the table, with a flexible, stretchable chain suspended between them, and a ring, smaller than the boxes, on the chain. Clearly this ring can never come off its chain. Your puzzle is equivalent to this.
posted by equalpants at 11:05 AM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ah, okay, O9scar's link (if you do some searching) eventually leads you here. In this puzzle, there was extra ring at the bottom of the base which needed to be removed. That might have been the trick.
posted by billysumday at 11:06 AM on January 28, 2009

I used to get lots of puzzles like that from my nearby game store. The answer is always "do something different" and not "find another way to do the thing you've been trying to do."

Rather than focus on getting the loops through the hole, try to think about how you would center piece through the loops.
posted by Muffy at 11:10 AM on January 28, 2009

Response by poster: The past hour.

Best answer given to le morte de bea arthur.
posted by Steph1en at 11:21 AM on January 28, 2009

Disentanglement puzzles are a hobby of mine. I own 40 or 50 of them. I've been able to solve every one I've tried. (Not always right away! Some have taken me weeks from the first time I tried to solve them to actually solving them, usually involving hours spent, over several days, in futile attempts, then frustratedly setting them aside for a week or two, and only then picking them up again, and trying something I hadn't before, which worked.)

Based on my experience, which I hope counts for something, I agree with most everyone else here: the puzzle, as you are presenting it here, is unsolvable unless a bead comes off the chain, or a bead fits through the oblong loop, which does not appear to be possible. I also agree with most everyone else that there was probably another ring, and the object was to remove that ring, making it essentially the same puzzle as the Left Brain puzzle O9scar linked.

As a thought experiment, which may help you to realize the puzzle as you are presenting it is unsolvable, suppose that the "phallic piece" instead consisted only of the oblong loop, and the spur and large circle which are connected to it weren't present. Hopefully, it's a little more obvious that that puzzle has no solution; so adding the spur and circle would not change that.

OTOH, the possibility that billysumday brings up, that the puzzle is deliberately unsolvable, should not be dismissed out of hand, either: such things are known to exist.

Memory is a tricky thing, and things that we are absolutely certain we remember, especially from years or decades before, can be completely wrong. You may be remembering a different puzzle, or conflating two or more puzzles.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:37 AM on January 28, 2009 [3 favorites]

as a side note, i had a great uncle who, among other things, used to make unsolvable puzzles similar to what you have.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 12:57 PM on January 28, 2009

Nthing that it's unsolveable. Light, DevilsAdvocate, a thought experiment: Imagine the chain and two balls part is simpler. Imagine there aren't those rings at each end of the chain. Now look at that puzzle again. Clearly there's nothing you can do, right? Well adding those rings won't make it any more solveable.
posted by losvedir at 2:30 PM on January 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Will the central tower flex wider? Maybe if you use one of those rings as a lever, by putting it within the central tower, and twisting?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:47 PM on January 29, 2009

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