1 2 3. A strange name for a puzzle, right? Apparently, not only Jean Claude Constantin‘s puzzles are very original, but their names are quite unconventional sometimes. Well, the name is not random. It actually has a pretty good reason to be simply called “1 2 3″. Read on.
1 2 3 can be described as a hidden maze with movable parts, or a dynamic maze. There’s a steel ball inside and your task is to guide it through the exit. Easier said than done, since you can’t really see what’s going on inside. The puzzle is made from several plates of laser-cut wood stacked together to form a 2.7cm (1.1″) thick block. On the top there’s this engraved image of a maze (looks more like two mazes side by side), but looking closely at how the puzzle works I believe the image is just there for decoration purposes, as it doesn’t represent the actual mechanism. The other measurements are 9.5cm x 7.2cm (3.7″ x 2.8″).
The mechanism looks quite simple, and it is… But given the fact that you’re only able to see a small part of it turns things a tad more difficult. There are three sliding bars that move independently, and each bar has notches in different places that, when aligned with the other bars, allows the ball to move back and forth. Sort of like the notches you can see on pieces of a Burr puzzle.
The ball is already inside the maze when you get the puzzle, so it’s difficult to know where it is. Removing the ball from the maze becomes then an exercise of random moves with the bars until you’re successful. Surprisingly, this took less time than what I was expecting, only a couple of minutes. Once you have the ball out of the maze you can reset it by inserting the ball in the back opening. Here, you can have a little understanding of where the ball might be at first, but pretty soon you’ll lose track of it and becomes yet another game of random moves and wishing on lady luck to intervene. This time, it took me a bit longer to free the ball, so I suspect the ball was closer to the exit on my first try. Even though you can’t see the actual mechanism, it’s perfectly possible to learn the necessary movements and shorten the solving time. I recently had a similar experience with Robrecht Louage’s Escape from Alcatraz, so I know exactly what I’m saying.
Hidden maze puzzles seem to defy the logic of solving them with more luck rather than skill. With practice, however, you can change those odds and be in control of the puzzle with just a few successful attempts. The 1 2 3 puzzle is surely a worthy addition to any collection and deserves at least a try. Even beginners can have a go and feel satisfied and rewarded.
Availability: Unfortunately, the 1 2 3 puzzle is currently out of stock at PuzzleMaster. You can still check back regularly to see if it’s back on stock, but in the meantime, you can browse dozens of other designs by Constantin.