Weblog > 1 x 9 #2
1 x 9 by Jean Claude Constantin is a fascinating little puzzle. There are a few reasons for this, and if you're a fan of packing puzzles you're in for a real treat.
Let's start by its name, 1 x 9. It's as simple as that, you have 9 distinct pieces arranged in a 3 x 3 one-layer frame and your task is to remove all pieces and pack them again so that all of the tray's area is occupied without any empty spaces. This could easily describe a good portion of all packing puzzles out there, if we weren't talking about a Constantin puzzle, that is. There are some characteristics, however, that make this puzzle quite unique and very original.
One of the 1 x 9 unique features is its size. We're talking about a really tiny puzzle here, measuring only 5 x 5 x .8cm, which is about 1.97" x 1.97" x .31" (check out the photo below for a size comparison with an Euro coin). I believe this is the smallest packing puzzle in my collection so far. It fits in a wallet. How much more portable could it be? Despite its apparent smaller size, handling the puzzle feels natural and doesn't bother me a bit.
Another nice feature of the puzzle is the use of nine different wood types, one for each piece. This array of colors create a stunning pattern that captures the attention of anyone right away. That's quite a feat for a puzzle of this size. Each piece is carefully made from laser-cut wood and the surface is very smooth to the touch, very pleasant to handle. From what I can see, even the frame has been cut from a different wood, for a total of 10 different wood types - You don't see that everyday in a puzzle.
In terms of difficulty, and looking at the shape of the pieces, you can already tell that it should be a little challenging. It's rated as a difficulty level 8/10, and after solving it in about 15 minutes or so, I'd say it's about right. There's a trick from solving Jigsaw puzzles you can apply here. If you take a closer look at the pieces, you'll see that some of them have two straight edges adjacent from one another in a 90º angle. There's actually more than four pieces with these characteristics, though, so it's not as simple as that, but it's a start and should help you in your task. Try to separate the pieces and keep alternating between those corner pieces. You can also use both sides of the pieces.
Constantin could've stopped at the features mentioned above, but he outdone himself by creating 9 different versions of the puzzle using different shapes for the pieces. That's the reason why my puzzle is #2... Because there are 8 more and he needed to differentiate them from one another. If one puzzle is not enough for you, Constantin also thought of that by creating a unique version of the puzzle with all versions in one. It's called the 9 x 9, and it's rather intimidating, even for experienced puzzlers.
I absolutely loved Constantin's 1 x 9 puzzle. The design looks so simple and yet, with all the special characteristics, he turned the puzzle into something extraordinary. I highly recommend this one, or should I say these 9 puzzles, to anyone who loves packing puzzles. You'll certainly love it just as much as I did.
Availability: As of this moment, only 2 versions of the 1 x 9 puzzle are available at PuzzleMaster, #1 and #3. If you really want all nine versions you can purchase the 9 x 9 puzzle instead. It also adds another degree of difficulty.