It’s amazing how Jean Claude Constantin keeps surprising me even after dozens of reviews for his puzzles. This one, the Bouchons (French for corks), is one of the most original designs, using everyday objects, I’ve ever seen.
At first sight, the puzzle looks just like 32 regular corks put together inside a square tray. However, when you start taking the pieces out you’ll see that they are joined together in groups of three (except for one piece with two corks) with different configurations. In total, there are 11 pieces, all unique, and they’re made out of real corks, not wooden imitations. Some corks have a darker color, which offers a nice contrast to an otherwise bland appearance. Even here, Constantin is always thinking of aesthetics. The puzzle is quite big, measuring 21.4cm (8.4″) in diameter, but extremely light in weight due to the nature of the pieces, as 90% of its total weight is from the tray itself, which is built from natural wood.
Since this is a packing puzzle, the hard part comes after you take out the pieces and try to put them back in the tray. This is no harder than an average packing puzzle, but no picnic either, as the 11 pieces will certainly offer a pretty good challenge for most puzzlers. PuzzleMaster classifies it spot on as a difficulty level 8/10, which in terms of solving time should take anywhere between half an hour and a couple of hours. It took me about an hour and a half with a break in between.
Like most puzzles, my advice is that if you find yourself in a jam, give it a rest and return with a fresh mind after a while. A break solves many things, and in this case, it surely is a big help. When you first take out the pieces, be careful separating them because some may be stuck together and you could break their joints, since they’re packed pretty tight. When you put them in the tray again they’ll move around relatively loose.
Bouchons is simply a fantastic puzzle. Not because of the concept, which is a regular packing puzzle, but because of its design. It really takes originality to a new level, using unexpected materials that we don’t usually associate with puzzles. As cleverly mentioned in its description at PuzzleMaster, this puzzle together with the Einer Geht Noch puzzle make a perfect gift for wine lovers.
Availability: The Bouchons puzzle is available at PuzzleMaster for $38 CAD. Click here for other designs by Constantin.