When playing with Noncsi a noticeable feature is the way the pieces move: they enter the puzzle through the opening in the centre of the frame and for each new piece that enters a number of other pieces need to be jiggled back and forth in a specific sequence so that it can reach its final position.
If you insert the pieces in the wrong order you wind-up stuck in a traffic jam where no new piece can be inserted and everything has to back-up and reverse out of the puzzle. The relatively small number of pieces means that the puzzle can be solved through trial-and-error strategy without the need for extensive forethought.
One thing I notice about Noncsi is that it is a very elegant puzzle with a non-traditional design. There is a sort of unbroken fluid rhythm to the way the pieces move. The single point of entry in the frame limits the number of choices, compared with, say, a boxed burr where even a simple one offers a multitude of options.
Those who solve the puzzle quickly can look at alternative solutions. Given that there are only eight pieces this is a doable task. I found a second solution that uses rotations.
Since earlier this year Tamás posted a number of his puzzle designs on www.puzzlewillbeplayed.com. In October 2013, he took time out from work and tending his garden to answer some questions via email.
Saul Symonds: The first thing you mentioned to me about this puzzle is that it is named after your middle daughter. In what way was she an inspiration for the design?
Tamás Vanyó: I named my puzzles from my family (Orsi, Berni, Noncsi and Virag) and what you found interesting I named from my middle daughter. The Noncsi puzzle is easy and interesting, complicated and friendly, open and closed in, like my daughter, like any teen girl. So the name was from this and the puzzle expresses her complex personality.
SS: When I first saw a picture of this puzzle on Friends of Cubicdissection’s Facebook page I was struck by the unusual shape of the frame which resembles a boxed question mark. Did the frame or the final shape of the puzzle come first?
TV: First I must say that I really like mazes. This puzzle started as a three layer maze with identical sticks. Later the frame was simplified and the sticks were made more complex. What remained was a one layer maze – a frame, like a question mark – and added to this three types of eight sticks. So I planned the frame first, then I started to vary the shapes of the sticks.
SS: Can you walk me through the steps in the design process for this puzzle: was a computer used? how long did it take? and how did you go about testing and finalising the shape of the pieces and frame?
TV: I use Burr Tools for my puzzle designs. Before working with this software I often plan puzzles in my mind (sometimes in my dreams) then I begin to experiment with the software. Sometime I get something different to what I thought, as I work more and more with the programme. Newer and newer ideas come, until the final shape is formed. Sometimes I build puzzles from my LiveCube set, which is a useful game. I can see it taking shape, and I can modify it and try to solve it. Often better than a programme.
The Noncsi puzzle was born thus: I planned with Burr Tools, I varied the elements, and the programme tried to solve it. I planned it one evening and the final solution took half an hour on the programme.
SS: You are a fairly new designer. When did you start designing puzzles and why?
TV: I have liked puzzles since my childhood, but I began to seriously deal with them two years ago. The first impression was a Hungarian blog, where I found interesting game descriptions. Peter Gal (from ordoglakat.blog.hu) is the leader of Hungarian puzzles, to whom I owe a lot. I made a lot of games from wood at home. As I became more and more immersed in this topic I discovered www.puzzlewillbeplayed.com, where great designers publish on a daily basis. I watched with admiration Stéphane Chomine’s and Yavuz Demirhan’s puzzle plans. I decided that I would try to plan some. I sent some plans to Ishino, and he published those. I’m thankful to him. Some designers congratulated and encouraged me, which is also very gratifying. Some of my designs were liked by Eric Fuller and Jakub Dvořák, who made them and sent complimentary copies to me.
SS: What types of puzzles and puzzle designers inspire you? Although I’ve seen a lot of puzzles with frames or cages of various types this is quite a unique one.
TV: As I mentioned, my big favorites are S. Chomine and Y. Demirhan, who publish on a daily basis. They have created hundreds of wonderful puzzles. When I published my Snake puzzle Stephane congratulated this unique design.
SS: In Noncsi the pieces need to be moved back and forth in a very specific order for new pieces to be inserted. A lot of your other puzzles seem to function in a very similar way (Snake, Orsi, Berni, Filled Maze 1, etc). What attracts you to this type of puzzle?
TV: I’m looking for new forms of puzzles. I like special forms, not just a “cube”, and because I like mazes, I try to plan this way. However, since I’m a new designer I haven’t established a style, I’m trying everything. Although maybe that’s my style: maze puzzles where “pieces moved back and forth in a very specific order for new pieces to be inserted”.
SS: You could have made Noncsi a more difficult puzzle by increasing the complexity of the frame and the number of pieces but you did not. How do you gauge the level of difficulty when making a puzzle and how important is it to you?
TV: The difficulty of puzzles is an interesting thing. It varies from person to person what is difficult and what is easy. For most of my friends who have tried Noncsi, it was resolved, but there were others who gave up. There are two kinds of feelings in me: to make a puzzle hard with many steps, or to make a puzzle from simple elements which people can play. I am just starting in this area, but I think the latter is a good way. It is interesting to plan heavy games that push the boundaries (in the number of steps), which can be solved only by computer, and/or to plan simple games which people can play with. I try both. Examples are the Noncsi, and his “little (big) brother”: Filled Maze 1.
Noncsi was made by Eric Fuller at Cubic Dissection