Puzzle designer Jean Claude Constantin from Germany has an extraordinary collection of mechanical puzzles with his name on them. Ranging from Packing Puzzles to Wire Puzzles, he has such a wide variety of original designs, I bet you have one in your collection that you probably didn’t even know it was designed by him.
Mad in China (no, it’s not a typo), pun intended, will drive you mad and it’s one of those examples of Constantin’s genius.
The puzzle is a classic Packing problem, where you have to fit a given number of pieces into a tray, when at first glance, just seems impossible. There are four laser-cut wooden pieces, all different from each other and they resemble what you usually see in a maze pattern. In the tray, there are four small protrusions that seem to be an extension of the pieces themselves and may or may not be part of the actual solution.
PuzzleMaster rates the Mad in China puzzle as an 8/10 in difficulty and they are probably right. It is in fact, quite challenging to solve. When you try to fit the pieces into the tray, you realize that in order to pack them all, they need to overlap at least, part of another piece, since their combined areas are greater than the packing area… And this was the hardest part to figure out – How to find the correct way to connect them?
Looking at each individual piece, they look almost the same from both sides, but you can feel that the backside is much smoother than the front side. The question is, can you use any side of a particular piece in the solution? – After solving it and analyzing the result, the answer is no, leaving less possible combinations and a unique orientation. Even though this is true, it doesn’t make it much less harder, because you still need to find the correct overlapping position for each piece.
I won’t show a picture of the solved puzzle here, because there could be someone reading, that doesn’t want any spoilers. Instead, if you really want to take a look at the puzzle in its solved state, click this link.
Everyone that reads my reviews regularly, knows that I’m a sucker for Packing Puzzles, and Constantin’s Mad in China is no exception. I love how different it is from other puzzles found in this category, so previous experience on how to solve them won’t do you much good at solving this one. Definitely worth a try.