Oskar van Deventer‘s Writer’s Block has been on my wishlist for as long as I’ve been collecting puzzles – That’s over five years now. The reason it took me so long to get it was because of its packaging, which is very bulky for its size and would always steal precious space for other puzzles (see the package here). You all know how postal services are with box restrictions. The puzzle is manufactured by Recent Toys, and it’s probably the company with the worst packaging design out there. All of their puzzles are packaged in giant boxes, which not only are hard to open, but it’s basically a waste of materials. Long story short, I had to ask for the package to be taken out and only the puzzle itself be sent.
The name of the puzzle is quite interesting, and for those of you who don’t know, the term refers to when an author is unable to write new material (explained better here). The puzzle is very unique and like nothing I’ve ever seen. Only the genius of Oskar could create such an amazing concept. It consists of seven pens that keep the mechanism locked with their buttons, and with the help of a key, inserted at the top, you will be able to open it, sort of like the movement you do to flip a notebook’s page.
The mechanism is easier to explain if you think about the Lights Out puzzle. Anyone should remember this classic. The pens have only two states, on or off, but the tricky part is that the key is only able to turn on some of the pens at the same time, while turning off others in the process. The goal is to find the correct sequence of movements necessary to get all the pens with the same state – On.
The key itself is quite unusual. You can turn it and flip it over in eight different ways to produce different results. The pens can also show 128 different positions and you can solve it in only four moves. Numbers courtesy of Jaap’s Puzzle Page. The difficulty depends on the number of moves it takes you to open it. You should be able to eventually open it by trial and error, but that wouldn’t be no fun.
This is considered a difficulty level 7/10 and I sort of agree. The puzzle can be solved within a minute the first time, or it could take more than 10 minutes. I don’t think it should be more than that, even for a beginner, because of the number of pens and ultimately, the number of possible moves. I solved it in a couple of minutes the first time, but curiously enough, it took me twice as much to get all pens in the off position. The challenge is basically the same, except in reverse. I still don’t have a flawless system to solve it, so my times are always varying. Still, it’s rather fun to solve it multiple times.
I waited so long to get this puzzle that I was afraid my expectations wouldn’t be met and I would be disappointed with it. That feeling was quickly overcome the first time I tried it. The concept and design are so original that it will be a while before you’re bored with it. I strongly recommend it to any puzzler out there. Oskar never disappoints.
Availability: I got my Writer’s Block at PuzzleMaster, but it’s currently out of stock. Just keep checking their site, because it should be restocked soon. You can check other puzzles by Oskar here.