Thursday, February 10, 2011

Digits in a Box

Because my mind tends to run in fairly dark grooves, my first image when I heard the name Digits in a Box was a box full of fingers.

Alas, the digits in questions are plastic numbers, and the box in question is just the right size to fit them in.

Digits is the work of Eric Harshbarger, who designed our March cover for Games Magazine. This is a 3D manipulative puzzle originally designed by Eric for the 2007 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition. He's been selling them himself for a little while, but this year Popular Playthings is bringing out a retail version.

The puzzle is quite clever, and one enterprising blogger calculated the number of possible configurations at 4239. There are ten digits--zero to nine--crafted from hard plastic. They're angular and uniform in size, and thus may be fitted together to form a cube that fits snugly in the plastic box.

As if...

Obviously, there is a solution, since the pieces came out of the same box, but no one at Casa McD has been able to figure out how to get that last little half-inch tucked inside so the box will close firmly. It's not for lack of trying. The kids and I have all been able to get it down to just one tiny edge, but no further.

Confession time: I never solved a Rubik's Cube. I never really even tried all that hard. 3D puzzles were never quite my bag: I respect them, but I have no aptitude for them.

That said, I'm enjoying Digits. It's clever, well made, and different. Once you start fiddling with it, it's almost impossible to stop trying new combinations. You think "if I just move the "3" over here and the "1" over here ... That's the sign of a good puzzle.


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