3 of my first 5 reviews were packing puzzles from Dai Nagata (the Philos versions of Arrow Case, Polo Shirt Case and Cup Case) and since he did more than those in his career I have the opportunity to review one of his earliest designs – the PENCIL CASE. It made its debut at the IPP competition 2001 (may be you can recall that ARROW CASE was awarded an Honorable Mention). I found my copy on Ebay from an American seller for USD 4,99 only.
There is of course a big downside being that cheap which is the material (kind of plastic instead of wood), size (it is the mini version with the size and appearance of a CD jewel case) and the fact that usually Dai’s packing puzzles have two challenges – one on the front and one on the rear. In this special case it is not a big problem because the missing challenge is a frame where you put the pencils just next to each other (so no puzzle at all). The ultimate goal of this puzzle is to place the 4 pencils into the given frame and the instruction says that there is only one solution to it. After playing around with it for 10 minutes I already got 3 different solutions but not the intended one. Strange enough the intended solution has the tightest fit. Consequently I believe there is another flaw which is the missing precision compared to the big sized one in wood (would be great if someone who owns it can confirm that). The difficulty rating for me is only a 2 out of 10 because I could easily find 3 solutions in actually no time, but to find the intended solution it can easily go towards a 5 out of 10.
Looking at the price I think no one makes a mistake buying a copy but if you should have the chance to buy the big sized wooden one than better go for that one. I for myself am trying to buy the other version if I see it somewhere or try to produce an own copy for myself.