anglement puzzles (also referred to as Disentanglement puzzles, though re-entangling them is often as difficult or more difficult than dis-entangling them) comprise a very large category, which encompasses wire puzzles, ring-and-string puzzles, and bent nail puzzles. They range in size from tiny and flimsy to large and indestructible. They can be made by a blacksmith from thick metal rods, or from much lighter-gauge wire, bent into shapes including closed rings. Sometimes they're mainly wooden. They can include flexible (string, rope, or chain) pieces, and other elements such as wooden or plastic beads - that mainly serve to prevent certain movements. Some have been made from nothing more than paper and string. Even leather or glass.

The objective is usually to separate a distinct piece I'll refer to as the Traveler (a term I've borrowed from a description of route-finding puzzles) - often a rigid ring, shuttle, or flexible loop - even an open cord with a bead at each end - from the rest of the puzzle, to which I'll refer as the Frame, and then to re-engage it. The best tanglement puzzles can elicit the reaction, "It can't be done!"

Other types of tanglement include those where there are two, sometimes more than two, more-or-less equal parts that must be separated, typically by some sequence of twists and slides relative to each other. These are usually made from hard wire or cast metal elements, sometimes nails.

I have been successful at solving other puzzles using computer programs, but this type of puzzle is difficult to model for an algorithm using a tree-search based approach. My solution strategy is to re-draw the puzzle in its simplest topologically equivalent form, then "re-fold" it, keeping track of how the target piece moves through the other elements. The solution is this sequence of crossings played in reverse.

I had not found much formal analysis out there on the web, but through the LiveWire site I was able to contact Dr. Richard Hess, who has compiled a self-published Compendium of Over 10500 Wire Puzzles. This fantastic resource has drawings in schematic form of many tanglement puzzles, categorizes them, and formalizes some solution strategies. Where possible below, I will try to show the "Hess ID" he has assigned to a given design.

Dick's categories:

A. Trapezes (like TJ Iron Heart) pp.1-13
B. Pagodas and Houses pp.14,15
C. Rings pp.16-26
D. Horseshoes, Scales, and Folding Puzzles pp.27-36
E. Other Puzzles pp.37-44
F. Hard Wire Puzzles (bent nails, Magic Metal) pp.45,46
G. Type 1 Finnish Trapezes (like Uncle's Challenger) pp.47-49
H. Type 2 Finnish Trapezes (hinged crossbar rather than U) pp.50-52
I. Type 3 Finnish Trapezes
J. Looped Finnish Trapezes
K. Other Finnish Trapezes
L. Join the Rings
M. Join the Rings on Type 1 Finnish Trapezes
N. Join the Rings on Type 2 Finnish Trapezes
P. Join the Rings on Type 3 Finnish Trapezes
Q. Join the Rings on Looped Finnish Trapezes
R. Join the Rings Double Cross on Other Finnish Trapezes
S. Join the Rings Coiled Cross on Type 1 Finnish Trapezes
T. Join the Rings Coiled Cross on Type 2 Finnish Trapezes
U. Join the Rings Coiled Cross on Looped Finnish Trapezes
V. Join the Rings Coiled Cross on Other Finnish Trapezes

(Whew! That's a lot of Finnish Trapezes! :-)

Frame and Traveler

The Patience Puzzle

Uncle's Puzzle Ladder, Tucker Jones Patience, Rings-O-7, Rings of Ming, Family Games/IQ Collection Brain Game

I'll start here with what is probably the best-known of all Tanglement designs - the Patience Puzzle.

Over several centuries (!) it has appeared in many, many forms and has been the subject of countless patents both in the US and Europe. I have versions made by several manufacturers - no tanglement set can be considered complete without some form of this puzzle and almost every commercial set includes one. It is still produced today - in metal, wood, and plastic - by everyone from small-volume craftsmen to Asian factories.

It has been known by several names, including The Puzzling Rings, Meleda, The Devil's Needle, Baguenaudier ("Time-Waster" in French), Tiring Irons, Prisoner's Lock, Cardan's Rings (after the famous mathematician Girolamo Cardano who lived from 1501 to 1576 in Italy, who described it in his 1550 book De Subtilitate Rerum, published in Nuremberg), and the Chinese Rings Puzzle - in the orient it was known as the "Delay-Guest Instrument." It has been put to practical use as a lock.

Cardan's Rings was included as number V in Chapter X of Hoffmann's 1893 classic "Puzzles Old and New." Slocum found an advertisement for the puzzle in the 1785 catalogue of Peter Catel in Berlin, where it was called the Nuremberg Trifle. Slocum notes that in Germany it was also known as Zankeisen (quarrel iron) and by using this name it can be traced back to 1541. According to David Darling, the earliest European reference is from about 1500 in problem #107 of De Viribus Quantitatus by Luca Pacioli. According to the Wolfram Mathworld site, Stewart Culin (1858-1929) avers the puzzle was invented by the Chinese general Hung Ming, who lived from 181 to 234 A.D.

Many puzzlers consider this to be among the top puzzles of all time, but I confess it is not one of my favorite puzzles - I don't even think it is a very good representative of the Tanglement class. I prefer to categorize the Patience Puzzle as a Sequential / Gray-Code puzzle since its solution involves a lengthy, rigid, and repetetive sequence of moves which must be scrupulously followed. With seven rings, the puzzle requires 85 moves. Each additional ring doubles the required number of moves - with 65 rings, the time required to solve the puzzle at a brisk pace of one move per second would be measured in billions of years!

There is a photo of a 65-ring version made by Rick Irby in the Slocum Collection at the Lilly Library.

One of the hallmarks of the Tanglement class is the analog nature of the movement space - Patience is the most digital of tanglements, yet it is still analog in nature and thusly its motions have a lot of play - which can frustrate the pursuit of the digital solution. There are much better Gray-Code puzzles available, and in my opinion the world of Tanglement puzzles offers far more fun to be had, too. However, the Patience Puzzle remains important for the logical thinking it has inspired over the centuries.

Here are nice micro (yet fully functional) versions of the Patience Puzzle, and another tanglement design known as "Eyeglasses," both made by Brett Kuehner, from silver wire.


Dennis and Donna Sucilsky own and operate Tucker-Jones House, Inc. of East Setauket, New York, established in 1975. Dennis is a museum-trained blacksmith, and in 1980 began producing their trademark Tavern Puzzle brand of robust metal tanglements. Tucker-Jones' roster is now organized into eight groups, rather than the four previous difficulty categories of simple, intermediate, difficult, and very difficult. I believe their easiest puzzle is the Iron Heart (Hess A001 p.1). My favorite is the Dirty Dog (equiv. to Hess A291 p.11). The Group 6 puzzles are intended to be modular - you can re-combine their constituent parts in novel ways to invent new puzzles.

Group 1
Antique Designs
Group 2
  • Iron Heart (1981)
  • Conestoga Playmate (1981)
  • Old Shackles (1981)
    (identical to Horseshoes)
  • Captive Heart (2012)
    (Created for their
    daughter's wedding.)
  • Tridiculous (2017)
  • Bottoms Up (2009)
  • Self Restraint (1996)
  • Painted Lady (1991)
  • Black Jack (2000)
  • Iron Maiden (1982)
Group 3 Group 4
  • Lyon's Loops (1983)
  • Traveler's Woe (1997)
  • Clef Hanger (1987)
  • Tinker's Bell (1992)
  • Jack of Hearts (2015)
  • Wise Guy (2003)
  • Collaborative Effort (2016)
  • Blackbeard's Revenge (1993)
  • Satan's Stirrup (1985)
  • Dirty Dog (1985)
  • Smartypants (2012)
Group 5 Group 6
  • Double Bypass (1994)
    (Hess A010 p.1)
  • U-Turn (1998)
  • Big Kahuna (2001)
  • Smooth Operator (2011)
  • Odd Ball (2004)
  • Big Shot (2005)
  • Tri Again (2006)
  • Doozie (2007)
  • Best Ever (2008)
  • Heart's Desire (2014)
Group 7 Group 8
  • Long Island Catch (1995)
  • Double Trouble (1988)
  • Matched Set (1999)
  • Yankee Ingenuity (2010)
  • Sneaky Pete (1990)
  • Patience Puzzle (1984)
  • Freedom's Ring (2002)
    (eq. to Ball and Chain)
  • Genuine Article (2013)








Uncle's Puzzles

The tanglements from Uncle's Puzzles are shown below. Uncle's Puzzles were originally made by blacksmith Corky Storer at Heritage Forge of Maple Valley, Washington - but he sold the puzzle company to focus on more artistic work.

I would say their easiest is the Heart's Desire. (I own those in bold; thumbnails shown for items I lack, which are almost all equivalent to puzzles from other series.) My favorites include: Pentagon, U2, Trapeze, Vee Mobile, and Suffacator.

  • Gingerbreadman

    (eq. to TJ Conestoga Playmate)
  • Heart's Desire
  • Carpenter's Special 
    (bent nails)
  • Trapeze
    (Hess E018 Govenor p.37)
  • Sweetheart

    (eq. to TJ Iron Heart)
  • Lucky Horseshoes
    (a really hefty version of Horseshoes)
  • Vee Mobile
    (Hess D104 p.29)
  • Butterfly

    (eq. to TJ Lyon's Loops)
  • Derby
    (eq. to TJ Satan's Stirrup)
  • Double Image
    (eq. to Puzzletts Jigsaw)
  • Fooler
    (Hess D023 Stirrups p.27)
    U.S. Patent 1393565 - Parmenter 1921
  • Heartbreaker
    (eq. to TJ Double Bypass)
  • Lance
  • Derby Junior
  • Triangledangle (2003)
  • Witch Way (2005)
Double Image - Uncle's Puzzles
  • Baffle
  • Chain Reaction
    (Hess D041 p.27)
  • Challenger
    (Hess G002 p.47)
  • Grand Wizard
  • Ladder
  • Nonplus
    triple compound trapeze var.
    (like Hess A019 p.1)
  • Pentagon
    (like Hess E020 p.37)
  • Ring
    (eq. to Ring and Fetters)
  • Rope
    (eq. to Ball and Chain)
  • Suffacator
  • Triad
    Compare to U.S. Patent
    3441282 - Lewis 1969
  • U2
    (Hess E143 p.39)
  • 4 Play
  • Snafflebit (2003)
  • Luke's Lock
  • Triple Crown
  • Cuffed (2007)

Ring - Uncle's Puzzles Rope - Uncle's Puzzles
Other (Discontinued, Promo)
  • FLP (Front Line Partnership)
    (Microsoft/Compaq promo)

I finally solved Suffacator! This picture of a version of Suffacator called "Tripwire" (I don't own this) shows that the solution requires only one end of the "shuttle" loop to pass through the body of the puzzle.




Frank Gregory founded LiveWire Puzzles in 1979 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Frank retired a few years ago now and the website is defunct. LiveWire's puzzles are smaller and made of lighter gauge wire than either Uncle's or Tucker Jones'. The lineup contains many novel and wonderful designs! LiveWire's roster is shown below - I omit non-metal tanglements and non-tanglements.

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3



Puzzle Master in Canada offers very nice lighter-weight tanglements. Several unique designs, including new (and difficult) designs by Dick Hess!

Here is their roster, with thumbs of items I don't have (most being duplicates of designs from other lines I do have). Items I've got are in bold.




Arrow Dynamics

=Triple Trapeze, LW Arrow

Batwing and Batwing 2

Beetle Bug

=U Derby/TJ Satan's Stirrup

The Big 30

Black Widow

Blue Knight


Butterfly's Revenge


=Patience (6 rings)

Catacombs Plus (12 rings!)

Chain Gang

Cowboy's Hobble

=Ball and Chain

Cupid's Dart
(= Uncle's Suffacator)



The Eagle

=KG Step in Future

Fantastic Five

=U Pentagon

'G' Factor

Gordian Knot




Heart Breaker

=TJ Iron Heart


Iron Maiden

=TJ Iron Maiden


=U Fooler


King Cobra

=U Lance

Lion's Lair

=LW Double Vision

Make My Day

Man of War

Mirror Image


Panic Attack

=KG Love Secret

Parallel Dimensions


Rat Race
like (but not) Squaring Off
From the Old Game Store, VT ($14)

(Hess E069 p.38)

Scorpion's Sting


Silent 'E'

The Rack

=U U2


29 and Holding

Wedding Vows

=Ox Yoke

The Whale

The Yak

Roller Coaster


Family Games / IQ Collection

Here are puzzles in the Family Games line. They've recently undergone some re-packaging and re-naming. The items in my collection are noted in bold. The others are shown for reference.

You might be able to find them at these resellers:

The (mostly) wood/cord/bead puzzles (now re-branded as "Flabber Floovers" in four levels):

Abacus (4)

Clench (4)

Dipper (1)

Duress (3)

Granville (2)

Grape Grief

Gripper (3)

Owl (4)

This one is in the "Science Stumpers" line.

Pulley (3)

Shackle (2)

Weaver (1)

Yank (2)


The other wood/cord/bead puzzles (discontinued?):

Brain Drain

Brain Strain

Brain Tester

Brain Twister

Cuckoo's Nest

Wedding Vows


The (mostly) metal puzzles (now re-branded IQ Collection in four levels):
(Where noted with "PM" there is an equivalent PuzzleMaster puzzle.)

A (4)

Beetle Bug (3)
eq. to TJ Satan's Stirrup

Black Widow (2)

Brain Baffler (1)
eq. to TJ Conestoga Playmate

Brain Bender (2)
IQ Co. New Zealand

Brain Burden (4)

Brain Buster (1)
eq. to Ball and Chain

Brain Game (4)

Brain Spiral (3)
(Hess E016 p.37)

Cowboy's Hobble (1)
eq. to Ball and Chain (Hess E017 p.37)

Cranial Key (3)
eq. to Puzzletts' Jigsaw (Hess E022 p.37)

Fantastic Five (3)
eq. to Uncle's Pentagon

Handcuff (1)

Heartbreaker (1)

Iron Maiden (1)

Lobotomy (4)
eq. to Uncle's Challenger (Hess G002 p.47)

Mental Maneuver (2)

Mirror Image (4)

Parallel Dimension (4)

The Rack (3)
eq. to Uncle's U2

Scorpion (2)

Scorpion Sting (2)

Sproing (3)

Yield (2)
eq. to Uncle's Lance


There are some dexterity/balancing puzzles in their line, as well as other types.

(see Dexterity)

(see Dexterity)

(see Dexterity)

(see Route Finding)

(see Magnetic)

(see Assembly/Packing)

Family Games offers several puzzles in their "Don't" series - not all of them are tanglements; several are secret-opening.

Don't Break My Heart

Don't Break the Bank

Don't Break the Bottle

Don't Break the Bottle Caddy

Don't Break the Bottle Corkscrew

Don't Count on It

Don't P Me Off

Don't Push My Buttons

Don't Tee Me Off

Don't You Dare


Family Games also sells some larger puzzles in their IQ Collection series, shown here for reference. I have the Citadel and Porcupine.

Arch Rival







Fiddl'Widdit Wire Puzzles is located in Bodega Bay, California. Marichu Hernandez and Paul Wood make the puzzles. I have those in bold.

Basic Intermediate Difficult Very Difficult

Bridge (copper)

Star Maze

Heart in a Box

Heartful Dodger

Heart Loop

Heart to Heart


Loop de Loop

Mini Ring Ladder

Ring Trapeze

Double Heart Loop

Heart Ladder

Ring Trapper

Siamese Angels

Triple Trapeze

Heart Breaker

Jordan's Journey

Ring Ladder

Ski Doodle

Triamese Angels


House of Marbles

From the gift shop at Old Sturbridge Village, and from Necker's, a few tanglements by houseofmarbles.com:

Bungler's Block
(aka Chinese Pendulum)
(Hess E273 p.44)

Hell's Bells

Madman's Maze
same as Dirty Dog

Hess D326 p.36 Crossed horseshoes

Labour of Love
Don't have it
- but it's the same as
Tucker Jones' Double Bypass

Mortal Coil
Don't have it
- but it's like
Tucker Jones' Lyon's Loops

Gordian knot



The German company Logika offers several puzzles by Ingo Uhl, including "Das Magische Schnurspiel" tanglements. They're made from recycled materials.

Schnurspiel 4

Schnurspiel mit sechs Wurfeln

Schnurspiel mit zwei Wurfeln

Schnurspiel mit ein Wurfel


Kawada Giant Rings Series

GR.01 Heart = TJ Iron Heart
GR.02 Swing = F024 Post and Twirls
I don't have either.

GR.03 U Ring

GR.04 Devil

GR.05 Pot

GR.06 Loop

GR.07 Trio Ring

Kawada black packages Nos 3,4,5,6
F024 post and twirls, U Ring, F008 Long-stemmed Rings, F056 Triple Twists (Devil)

The Oskar's Keys puzzle was also offered by Kawada:



I got these 3 Tenyo "Electro" puzzles in Japan at Tokyu Hands, then found some additional boxed copies.


See patent 4391445 - Vizelyi 1981


Tenyo also issued a series of "Computer Puzzler" tanglements:

This is not a Tenyo,
but it is similar to
Computer Puzzler No. 1

Computer Puzzler No. 2
See patent 1091709 - Rutledge 1914

Computer Puzzler No. 3

Computer Puzzler No. 4

Computer Puzzler No. 5
(was No. 3)

Tenyo seems to have re-numbered their Computer Puzzler series (or someone copied Tenyo) - above are two box backs showing different numberings. Numbers 1, 2, and 4 are the same, but the square-shaped No. 3 has become No. 5 and a Gordian Knot / Loony Loop - type has usurped its place...

I think I figured out the point of Puzzler No. 4. The string loop needs to be between the lobes of the heart - see in the lower left diagram, where the two arcs make a "closed" loop (at least when seen edge on)? Right through there.

Lambert Bright

Penny Farthing I, II, III, IV

Penny Farthing V

Bathtub Ring

Out of Time - Lambert Bright - IPP31
Free the Cuckoo from the Clock

Monumental Mystification, designed, made, and exchanged at IPP32 by Lambert Bright


Dr. Richard Hess

Menagerie including: Bison, Yak, Pig, Hippo, Ox, Rhino, Whale
You can buy Hess' "Yak" puzzle at Puzzlemaster.ca

Torito has it.

This set of three were provided by Richard as souvenirs for IPP14. Included: Keyring with Two Cups, Ring, and Baffled Key; Keyring with Horseshoes and Ringed Key; Keyring with Double Cups, Baffle, and Simple Key.


Wang Yulong

I received several novel tanglement puzzles designed by Mr. Wang Yulong of China, ordered from Felix Puzzle Company.

Mr. Wang Yulong also very kindly sent me four additional puzzles as gifts. Thanks!

Wormhole I Wormhole I
Wormhole I - Wang Yulong
Wormhole II Wormhole II
Wormhole II - Wang Yulong
The Leo The Leo
The Leo - Wang Yulong
Doraemon Doraemon
Doraemon - Aaron Wang
Sandwich Sandwich
Sandwich - Wang Yulong

[name unknown] - Wang Yulong
[name unknown] - Wang Yulong
[name unknown] - Wang Yulong
[name unknown] - Wang Yulong

Boxing Glove - a tanglement
designed by Aaron Wang,
from PuzzleMaster.ca.

Grenade II - a tanglement
designed by Aaron Wang,
from PuzzleMaster.ca.


Markus Götz

This set of puzzles is called Six Serpentile Strings. I bought it from Markus Götz at IPP29 in SF. R.I.P. Markus.

No. 1 - The Vulpine Colubrid

No. 2 - Morning Dew in the Mountains

No. 3 - Bite of the Scorpion

No. 4 - Sky With Some Clouds

No. 5 - Double-Edged Thought

No. 6 - Thunderstorm in Spring

More Serpentile Strings, designed, made, and exchanged at IPP32 by Markus Götz

Make My Day - by Markus Götz
This hefty version was Markus' exchange at IPP34 in London.
A gift from Markus - thanks!
Now mass-produced in a lighter form by PuzzleMaster.

Simplexity - by Markus Götz - his exchange at IPP35 in Ottawa.
Move the cord to lie along the opposite branch.


Kirill Grebnev

These fascinating original designs are from Kirill Grebnev:

Now sold by PuzzleMaster.ca as "The Eagle"

Love Secret
Now sold by PuzzleMaster.ca as "Panic Attack"

Step in Future



  Hearts - Grebnev
Purchased at IPP37 Paris (I am not sure of its name)



These are from Davan's:




Channel Craft used to make a nice line of wooden/rope puzzles.

Left Brain Teaser, Right Brain Teaser, and No Brainer

Twin Trouble, Triple Trouble, and Quadruple Trouble


Jeff Taylor Original (gift)



Lumberjack Toys of San Francisco, offered a nice line of wooden/rope puzzles called Stumps Puzzles from 1979 and 1982. They were identified by letter. I've obtained A, F, L, M, N, and P. Others shown for reference.

















single stick
Is this B?


Mad Cow

Mad Cow in the UK makes a series of wood/string/ring tanglements. I found several at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore, nicely packaged and offered by stirlingfox.com. There are eight designs in the stirlingfox series (more in Mad Cow's lineup), I got some of them, in bold:

Full Moon


Mad Cow






There are 7 other tanglements in Mad Cow's lineup (I don't have these):



Garden Gate



Rope Ladder


Danley Quest

Back in the 1980's in California at Games of Berkeley I found plastic "Magic Ring" tanglements by Danley Quest. There were seven in the series but initially I bought only the Level 6 and 7 puzzles. Years later I found on auction levels 2 through 7. I haven't found the level 1 puzzle, but it is an instance of the very common Boomhower design. Level 2 is an instance of the Wit's End design.

Chronos / Zoyo Sets

The Japanese company Chronos produces wire puzzles, sold in various sets. The series of 3-puzzle sets pictured are available from Torito. The Chinese company Zoyo produces copies of many wire puzzles and offers them in look-alike boxes.

These sets contain many designs I already have in various forms from other sources. I've given names/IDs of equivalent puzzles in each picture clockwise from top right.

I got the purple set (#3+) - it includes one puzzle isomorphic to LiveWire's discontinued Firecracker, which is a simplified form of the Suffacator/Tripwire design, and two other interesting designs. The other sets are shown for reference.

Puzzlerings Set 1
F117, TJ Lyon's Loops, C264

Puzzlerings Set 2
Stumpy X, TJ Conestoga Playmate, IQ Brain Bender / MI group

Puzzlerings Set 3
F116/ BA Twin Tangle/ Hanayama Devil, HoM Indefinity, Smithsonian set large puzzle

Puzzlerings Set 1+
Puzzlett's Jigsaw, A001 (e.g. TJ Iron Heart), ?

Puzzlerings Set 2+
Simplified Ball & Chain, Simplified Flight Test, E044

Puzzlerings Set 3+ / Zoyo Set 3+
?, LW (disc.) Flight Test, PM Mosquito / LW (disc.) Firecracker / Simplified Suffacator/Tripwire

Puzzlerings Set King 1
?, ?, eq. to LW Silent E

Puzzlerings Set King 2
?, D023/U Fooler, ?

Puzzlerings Set King 3
E143/Eyeglasses, E020/Pentagon, Triple Trapeze

Puzzlerings Set Stylish 1
F023 (Ring on Spring), "Questions," F027 (Ring and V)

Puzzlerings Set Stylish 2
Sam Loyd Buttonhook, ?, A048 (e.g. Uncle's Heart's Desire)

Puzzlerings Set Stylish 3
Schumacher Keychain, IPG Hooks, ?

Perry Horton Tangles

I acquired a group of tanglement puzzles made by the late Perry A. Horton of Albany Oregon, from a neighbor of Horton's who purchased them at Horton's estate sale. Horton was born 8/25/10 and died 2/2/94. Several of the puzzles are whole, but others are mere fragments. The lot also included some instruction and inventory sheets.

The Boomhower and Wit's End Puzzles

In 1966, Robert R. Boomhower filed for a patent on a tanglement puzzle design. The patent, U.S. number 3387847 was granted in 1968. Since then, Boomhower's design has been sold in many different forms, all of which are topologically identical and can be solved using the same general technique.

A small modification to Boomhower's design resulted in added complexity, and this modified design was marketed by the Reiss company (Hoi Polloi Inc.) during the 1970's as the Wit's End puzzle.

From time to time folks email me asking for help solving a tanglement puzzle they own, which turns out to be one of the many variations of the Boomhower or Wit's End designs, so I created this section to provide some background info on these classic puzzles and help folks recognize the basic designs and how they are solved.

Boomhower's puzzle consists of a tapered base, with a slot. A ring - I'll call this piece the traveler - starts out on the base and cannot be removed off the wide end of the base. The traveler can be passed over the slot and off the other end. However, this is impeded by the presence of a cord which passes through the slot in the base, and is permanently stationed there by virtue of elements at each end of the cord. Each end of the cord has two attached elements - usually a bead or block in the penultimate positions, which can slide along the cord, and a ring or disk permanently fixed on either end. The beads/blocks are prevented from sliding off the cord ends by these end rings/disks. The relative dimensions of the traveler, slot, beads/blocks, and rings/disks are very important:

If you try to simply move the ring up over the slot and off the base, you'll find that it encircles the cord and gets stopped by the too-big rings/disks on the cord ends. How can it be removed (and, of course, subsequently restored)? That's the challenge of the Boomhower puzzle!

Here are examples of the Boomhower design, produced and marketed under different names by various vendors over the years:

One example of the Boomhower design was called the Tee Bar and was offered by the John N. Hansen Toy Company in 1978.
Skor-Mor issued a similar example they called Ring-a-Ling, in their Thinker Series line of puzzles.

To solve the Boomhower puzzle, you should be able to follow the steps presented in Boomhower's patent:

Below are photos of my copy of the Wit's End puzzle marketed by Reiss during the 1970's. Can you spot the difference between Boomhower's puzzle and the Wit's End? Look at the cord - in Boomhower's design it passes through the slot only once. In the Wit's End design, the cord is looped around and passes through the slot a second time. This extra loop necessitates extra moves in the solution. The original Wit's End box says there are three solutions.

Here are additional examples of the more complicated Wit's End design with a looped cord.

To solve the Wit's End, treat one side of the cord - the one closest to the base and the traveler when it is in its starting position on the base, as irrelevant.

  1. Using the other, relevant, end of the cord, pass its end element through the slot from the same side as the cord emerges - just as in the first step of the Boomhower solution.
  2. Pass the traveler up the base, over the relevant end bead/block and off the end of the base.
  3. Pass the traveler through the slot.
  4. Remove the cord end element from the previous step back out of the slot.
  5. Pass the ring over the base end and back down onto the base, back down over the relevant end bead.
  6. Observe that the ring now sits on the base between where the irrelevant part of the cord goes through the slot and the useful end of the cord goes through the slot. Now you can perform the Boomhower solution to finish!
  7. Pass the relevant cord end element into the slot from the same side as the cord emerges.
  8. Move the traveler up over the bead/block and off the base end.
  9. Move the traveler along the doubled cord, through the slot, over the bead/block and free!

Here are example of derivations that, while related, offer new levels of confusion and/or complexity. Many years ago I received a custom puzzle from Jeff Taylor, produced for him by ChannelCraft. In Jeff's design the cord is looped through the slot yet again! I also acquired a very nice puzzle called Ynoa from the defunct Davan's website. Ynoa has the usual base with slot, traveler, and cord with bead and end-ring, but one end of the cord has no end ring and is instead passed through the base to a bead fixed on the other side! Also, the cord itself is very short and the beads are very large, making all movements quite restricted. Ynoa presents a fresh take on this classic design!

The above info on Boomhower notwithstanding, I am told this version called the Mystery Key was issued by Peter Pan of the UK in the 1950's, so the design might predate Boomhower if the date is correct...

The Notorious Figure Eight Puzzle

This "puzzle" is variously known as the Figure Eight, Possibly Impossible, or Loony Loop (though the name Loony Loop is also used for another puzzle which is alternatively known as the Gordian Knot or Egg-Beater). I bought this copy, called Possibly Impossible, from Puzzlesdownunder in Australia. They're defunct and have become Curiousminds.com.au, but they don't seem to stock it. A fellow enthusiast asked me for help with this item, so I did a little research.

The Figure Eight was designed by Stewart Coffin, and he gives some background in an article entitled The Odyssey of the Figure Eight Puzzle he wrote for a Gathering for Gardner. That article was included in the book The Mathemagician and the Pied Puzzler - the book may be available for download at the G4G website.

In their 1978 book Creative Puzzles of the World, van Delft and Botermans have this to say about the Loony Loop: "This Loony Loop puzzle was stumbled upon by the great American puzzler, Stewart T. Coffin. The aim of this puzzle is to free the tied cord from the figure-eight metal loop, without breaking or untying the cord. But -- beware -- the simplicity of the wire loop and intertwined cord may be deceptive."

They go on to say, "Problems with this one? Then look below for help." They give a diagram showing some motions of the cord, but it is vague and difficult to follow. The accompanying text says: "Follow the direction arrows on the diagram: pass the cord loop through the left eye; over the top loop; through the right eye; and around the bottom loop. Now the cord should come free -- or should it? After all, no one has proved it impossible!"

I have never solved it, nor seen it solved, nor been able to follow the diagram. Stewart pretty much says it is impossible, and refers to a "proof" he received from Japan.

Compare this puzzle to LiveWire's "Keyring Companion." LiveWire states that Keyring Companion is a novelty and is impossible. To me it looks topologically equivalent to Loony Loop.

A great write-up on the Figure Eight and related puzzles appeared in two parts in the CFF #80 Nov. 2009 and #81 Mar. 2010 - Later Odysseys of the Figure Eight Puzzle by Mikko Kiviharju. Mikko discussed this puzzle in the PuzzleWorld forums. Interested readers with a tolerance for rigorous topological analysis might also wish to check out an article by Inta Bertuccioni (PDF). Also check out Link L10n36 at the Knot Atlas. This is equivalent to the Figure Eight Puzzle!

Perhaps the name "Possibly Impossible" is almost accurate. You may draw your own conclusions :-)

Classic Tanglement Designs

In this section I intend to highlight [disen]tanglement designs that have been around for a while (decades if not centuries) and have withstood the test of time. Where possible, I will provide interesting historical references.

These designs have been re-issued/copied over and over again and will often appear under various names and in various forms where the topology on which the puzzle is based remains the same but the shape or decorative/thematic details have been modified.

The earliest disentanglement puzzle I can remember having is the Ox-Yoke aka Solomon's Seal - rather than free a ring, get the two rings onto the same loop of cord.

The Ball and Chain (Hess E017 p.37) is a very difficult puzzle I managed to solve unaided. From Pentangle, purchased in Japan.

I obtained Rick Eason's Tricky Dick from Rick at the 2005 New York Puzzle Party. To me this seems very similar to the Ball and Chain.
Betcha Won't Betcha Won't Betcha Won't
Betcha Won't - "The 'Togetherness' puzzle made by C. B. Enterprises exclusively for Skor-Mor." Copyright 1971 by C. Schieber.
Move the beads so they are side by side on the same loop of the cord.
At first glance, this appears to be a version of the Solomon's Seal / Ox Yoke / Wedding Vows design.
However, the Betcha Won't puzzle is more difficult than the traditional Ox Yoke because of the presence of the 'D' Ring threaded onto the cord. Note that the beads can pass through the D Ring, but not through the hole in the crossbeam. Also, despite the shape of the D Ring, no part of it can poke through the hole in the crossbeam. Here are closeup pictures:

Betcha Won't Betcha Won't

Betcha Can't - Skor Mor 1970
Betcha Can't - issued by Skor Mor in 1970
An instance of the Wit's End design.
Packaging matches the Betcha Won't instance of the Ox-yoke design I obtained earlier.

This design is one of my favorite tanglements and is known by several names - I call it the "Eggbeater." It was patented in 1937 by Courtland van Luven ( 2091191 2091191), and the more modern form appears in Design Patent D0172310 USD172310S issued to Hansel Riddle in 1954.

Onto a central axis are welded teardrop-shaped loops, which are interwoven about the axis and each other in a specific pattern. Sets of loops in graduated sizes emanate from two common weld points , one near each end of the axis. The graduated loops extend back along the axis alternately on each side of the axis. In the basic design there are two pairs of loops - 2 larger identical but oppositely affixed loops and 2 smaller identical but oppositely affixed loops. I call this a 2-layer 4-loop configuration. The objective is to remove a cord which starts looped only around the axis inside all the loops, hanging from the center of the axis down.

Several versions have been produced commercially, including those shown above: the very nice vintage Loony Loop (not to be confused with the Figure Eight puzzle which is sometimes also called the Loony Loop) - no longer produced, but usually available; the Gordian Knot by IQ Products of New Zealand (not to be confused with a plastic burr puzzle from Thinkfun also called the Gordian Knot); a wooden version by Gekkenwerk called Puzzleblok 5; the recent but defunct plastic Slip-a-Not; and the defunct Puzzlett's #505 Jailer. Professor Puzzle has also produced a version in their Great Minds series called Alexander's Gordian Knot (not shown). Next is a vintage French boxed tanglement - a simpler 1-layer 2-loop version called Le Lien Soudanais (listed with notes on my French Tanglements page). The last image above is a more difficult, 3-layer version called Triamese Angels from Fiddl'Widdit Wire Puzzles.

Here is a solution - refer to the diagram below:

I have labeled features of the puzzle: the left and right ends of the axis LE and RE, and the four loops (according to where their apertures, not their welds, are) - the large loops R1 and L1 and the smaller loops R2 and L2. Hopefully you can follow my notation for the sequence of moves of the cord - the cord starts hanging down from the axis in its center, and you move the dangling end. X means go through loop X, and (X) means go around loop or end X. It's not always obvious when you're actually going around something, so be careful. (X,Y,Z) means you go around X, Y, and Z in one move.

(RE), R1, (R1,RE,R2), L1, (LE), L2, (L2,LE), L1, (R2,RE,R1), R1, (RE,R2), R2, (RE), R1, (R1,RE,R2),
now move the top of the cord: (L2), (LE), L1, OFF!

There are many designs where you have to take the end loop of a cord and follow the cord backwards through several holes to finally loop it over an element, then bring the cord back out through the holes. I call these "Follow the Cord" type puzzles. Here are some examples:

Brett brought me back an Emmentello by HABA from Germany. I got the Mausefalle by Philos in Montreal.
The third photo depicts a nice miscellaneous example on a post and featuring a large ring at the end of the cord.

A vintage Imperial Scale tanglement
This is one of several classic tanglement designs that have appeared in puzzle chests from the orient in the 19th century. You can download a PDF showing how to make and solve several designs including the Imperial Scale.
Fellow puzzle collector Richard Whiting kindly made me this beautiful Imperial Scale tanglement puzzle. It's very elegant and Victorian-looking, with brass fittings throughout. According to Slocum, the earliest known example appears in Catel's Catalog of 1785. The Imperial Scale also appears in Hoffmann in Chapter II, #19. Richard tells me this is the second one he has crafted (the first can be seen on his own website, which is definitely worth your time). Thanks again, Richard!

A Three Balls Conundrum - hand-turned by John Berkeley
This puzzle appears in Hoffmann in Chapter II as No. XXIV - The Ball and Three Strings.
I've wanted one for some time and finally obtained this beautiful instance
from the master wood-turner John Berkeley.
John offers hand-made items at his Etsy Store Jaybeeseturnery.

Miscellaneous Frame and Traveler Tanglements

Here are other lighter-gauge tanglements I own.

Double Treble Clef
(Hess E041 p.37)
Potty Puzzles has it.


Bunchgrass Mountain Misery

Two puzzles from the
Great American Trading Co., York PA,
purchased at Necker's:
Provoke (on the left),
and Torment.

IQ Co. New Zealand

Possibly Possible

From the Puzzle and Craft Factory.

Butterfly Pendant
Atlantis / Karl Scherer
Hess E065 p.38

Ball and Chain
From Stumpy Originals

Wire Puzzle No. 2
From Stumpy Originals
Hess D028 Double star

Hemispheres - Eureka Mini

Jumper - Eureka Mini

Heart String
purchased at Eureka

Escargot - Constantin
purchased at Eureka

purchased at Games People Play

Gluhbirne by J.C. Constantin.

this is the "Hobbles" design
purchased from Hendrik Haak

HM Wire F

Fujita - Meiro Tower

Fujita - Meiro Maze

Five Keys - Constantin


See patent 779874 - Saunders 1905

Bull's Nose - Eureka

A set of 9 small wire tangles from Rick Irby, including: The Magic Snail, The Magic Balance, The Magic Bracelet, Wire Monkey, U Ring, Ring on Spring, Horseshoes, Japanese Nails, and Rings with U Handles

"Puzzle Party in a Box" set from Rick Irby. Includes 9 puzzles depicted (plus a shuttle on spiral): Magic Scissors, Magic Gypsy Earring, Magic Impossible, Magic Snail (dup), Magic Ladder, Magic Balance (dup), Magic Pistol, Magic Bracelet (dup), Magic Guitar

A set of 6 in the "Mini Puzzle Series" by MI Toys, including: Heart on Double Trapeze, Shuttle on Triangle with Two Loops, Violin, D028 Double Star, Butterfly, and Clef.

a group from Spilsbury

A "Russian Angel"

Philos Verflixte Vier
Purchased in Berlin on the way to IPP28.

No. 74, "Orli hnizdo" (Eagle's Nest) by Jan Sturm. Instructions: "Vyndejte provazek." (Remove the cord.) Thanks to Stanislav Knot for providing the information to me!
Purchased at IPP28 in Prague.

Black Widow - Go Games Austin

Australia Map tangle - Mr. Puzzle Australia
(Obtained from Rick Eason at NYPP 2009)

Outrageous Rings, by Dr. Richard Hess.

Toysmith/ Mindgames/ MiMi Puzzle Drum No. 8137
Purchased from Eureka in Brookline.

Marks and Spencer offered a puzzle called "Bull Ring" (I don't have) which had the above "solution" depicted on its box...

A fellow puzzler determined that the pictured solution is impossible and the above solution is correct...

The Bull Ring is equivalent to this hard wire version I have.
B1 from the Kawada B set
John Jaques & Son, a venerable British firm, called this Ring and Fetters.

Ring and U with Chain

Wal-Mart tangle w/ red cord

Target 2001 set

Dayton Hudson 1998 set

Ring and U on twist
Target 2002 set

loops (Eq. to Lyon's Loops)
Target 2002 set

Dayton Hudson 1998 set

PuzzleMaster carries this design and calls it Schaukel by Constantin
very tricky, especially restoring it without an awkward twist

From the Zoyo Wire Puzzle set 3+
similar to Livewire's discontinued "Flight Test"

The large puzzle from the Smithsonian set - except I modified it so the lower left ring is as shown - in the puzzle as supplied in the set, that ring hangs off the frame and is useless.

Wire Puzzle No. 1 - China
Purchased from EsTOYS.

Three Brothers - David Goodman - from IPP30

Marks & Spencer Lateral Thinking set of 4
The Twisted Puzzle Collection from the "Seriously Tough Puzzles" series by Lagoon Puzzles:

Coiled Two Stepper - Abraham Jacob IPP30

Lagoon Wild Wire Crocodile

Pentangle Leg-Irons
Unlink and re-link the two hoops - each contains a small segment of cord.

Nice & Easy set
"Our Starter Collection"
Includes (l to r): Ringer, Block & Tackle, Cherry Tree

Impossible from Rick Irby

A tanglement puzzle featuring a wooden Horse - purchased from Rick Irby.

A robust metal tanglement puzzle - a variation of the "Wit's End" type, where the cord has been looped through itself (an eBay find).

Schylling Pony Puzzles -
tanglements featuring a wooden horse figure

A vintage wire tanglement lot.
The top middle puzzle looks like the Folley patent # 1102576 of July 1914. Bottom middle is a Chilian.

A vintage square wire tanglement puzzle (pair). From another puzzle collection. Similar in design to a Ryede puzzle I've got.

A tangle from Hong Kong "AC137"

Schlitten - Constantin

The Squared Fish - A. Jacob

Encircling the X, designed, made, and exchanged at IPP32 by Abraham Jacob

IPP31 gift - Markus Götz

I Heart NYPP - a gift from Nick Baxter and Dick Hess - Thanks!

Push 'n' Pull - House of Marbles - purchased in St. Augustine.

Bernhard Schweitzer sent me a care package containing various tanglements and other puzzles. Thanks, Bernhard!

Puzzletts' Jigsaw
(Hess E022 p.37)

Google Unchained - promotional tanglement puzzle

The Fiddler - from the The Puzzle & Craft Factory
Thanks, Em!

Squiggle - Dr. Richard Hess
Received at a meetup at the Liberty Science Center in September - thanks, Dick!

Bickering Couple - Pavel Curtis

It's a Twister - Tim Udall
At NYPP 2016 Tim was giving away some of his G4G tanglement puzzles. Thanks, Tim!

Coils II - from the Puzzle & Craft Factory.

This tanglement puzzle was Wil Strijbos' exchange at IPP35.
Free the metal U.

Bon Voyage Tangle Set
From PuzzleMaster.

A set of the latest tanglement puzzles,
via Wil Strijbos
They are (top photo): 4 et 4 U, Zauberschlüssel, OUU Metal, OUU Wood
(bottom photo): 8U8 Large, U-Twins, 8U8 Small, U-Sockel, Und+Kugel, U-Loop
Heavy Metal Tangles group Puzzlers Tangles group
Some tanglement puzzles, purchased from Calendars.com
The group of five bronze-colored Heavy Metal puzzles come with stands and are produced by Go! Games of Texas and made in China -
(clockwise from back left) Cowboy, Bullets, Saddle Up, Big Slick, and Aces Up.
The three chrome puzzles are lighter gauge and were also produced by Go! Games - Vertigo, Bad Trip, and Sink or Swim.
Assorted tanglement puzzles from my friends at PuzzleMaster.ca:

Eagle 2, Glückspiel, Silkworm, Weigh Anchor

I bought a set of tanglements from a French vendor who sells Japanese items. The puzzles are attractive and of good quality. I found the above group shot of the complete set of 10 on the website of an Asian collector (now defunct). I've got 6 of them:

No. 2 Helios

No. 3 Maze

No. 4 Labyrinth

No. 5 Upside-Down

No. 6 Escargot

No. 7 Hatena

No. 1 looks like it's equivalent to horseshoes. Nos. 8-10 are other familiar wire designs - claws, trumpets, and twists with straight handles.

The packages indicate that these puzzles are made in China. Based on the Babelfish translation of the text on the site, I believe these come from a "100 Yen Shop" chain named Cando. 100-Yen Shops are the equivalent of Dollar Stores, and are described on Wikipedia.


Here is a set of several Chinese copper-wire puzzles in various whimsical shapes, and another group of five in brass.


Other miscellaneous tanglement puzzles:

Trilogy II from Puzzle and Craft Factory

Cocktail Glass with Olive
Not sure of its provenance, but I love it!


A Trapeze

The Devil's Staircase, with dark and light bases

a different staircase arrangement

The Horse (a triple trapeze) and the Cat (a double trapeze), from Binary Arts (circa 1985).

This puzzle keychain was a gift from Mike Green. U.S. Patent 692167 - Schumacher 1902


Invincible Rings - Bits and Pieces (aka Dutch String Puzzle)

Minotaur - Loncraine Broxton
Part of a set that includes: Sax, Shark, Minotaur, Rocket
(I don't have the others.)

three triangles

Dragon String

Dragon / Rings

Pentangle Traffic Lights

The Adams' Scissors Puzzle

The Rudis Sword - by The Grail Inc.
See U.S. Patent 3958807 - Hand 1976

Sticks / Two Rods (?)
Purchased at IPP28 in Prague, from (I think) Ray Bathke's table.

A JCC tanglement "S270" from a Baxter Ergatoudis auction.

Can you take three safety pins and link them in such a way that if any one is removed, all fall apart? Think about it, then look up Borromean Rings.

Mind Benders Star Ring
"Brought to you by the Wireman (c) 1978"

Teaser Balls - designed by Anneke Treep and Christian Freeling,
made by John Rausch.
A gift from John, at the 2014 RPP - thanks!

Mini Teaser Balls - Rocky Chiaro IPP 29 - thanks, Rocky!
Teaser Balls was invented by Anneke Treep and Christian Freeling. Also made by John Rausch.
See a solution at George Bell's site.

Scissors Puzzle (incorrectly translated as "Chisel")
From Jeux Manitou (François Vachon)
Daniel Deschamps gave an interesting lecture about
this line of puzzles at IPP35 in Ottawa.
Here are several wooden & string tanglements issued by Bit & Pieces:


Triple Post, Window Pain, Terrible Twosome / Twin Towers, Triple Torment

Adam & Eve - by Alan Rolfs, Tom Sun, George Miller
Join the heads together, leaving the apple around Adam's legs.

I got a partially filled wholesale box of old Skor-Mor Thinker Series puzzles. The lot included: 3x F14 Frantic Frenzy (eq. to Wit's End), 1x F18 Ring-A-Ling (equal to Left Brain), 1x (no label, but equal to horseshoes), and 5x F17 Two On One (equal to Ox Yoke). See below...

Various packaged wooden tanglements I brought back from Japan.

Polycube Tanglements

This section is for wooden polycube puzzles that would otherwise go in the Interlocking section, but have only two pieces each and behave more like tanglements due to the freedom of movement of the pieces.

This is Tom Jolly's great two-piece design called Tangler, made from Quilted Maple by Eric Fuller.

Sun, designed by Jos Bergmans, made by Eric Fuller, from Sapele wood.
Here, one must manipulate the two pieces in order to position them such that the two inset semicircles mate.

Changing Partners designed by Chi-Ren Chen.
Purchased from Puzzlewood. Four different pieces - all six possible pairs fit together (with rotations) to form 4x4x4 holey cubes.

Bent Nails

Basic two-piece disentanglements made from hard wire, especially the sturdy bent nails puzzle, are among the best introduction to puzzles. There are many variations, all having different solutions.

Basic Bent Nails - F001 Nails
U.S. Patent 969481 - Jenkins 1910

This is the archetype for the class. Myriad instances have been made.
The Glass Nails were issued by Bits & Pieces some time ago.
Variations with large flat nailheads bearing graphics have been used for promotions.
You can easily find the solution to the basic bent nails puzzle on the web. Notice how the pointed ends exit through the loops? Other nails puzzles will change this...

Trumpets aka S-Nails
(Hess F114 p.46)
Found at Games People Play Cambridge MA, now defunct.
See Nail 'N' from PuzzleMaster.ca.

ProfessorPuzzle used to offer a set called "Hard As Nails" containing five puzzles. Recent Toys later called it "Box of Nails."
I obtained the Box of Nails set. The set includes:
  • Nail Biter (equal to Bent Again, below).
    The Nail Biter/Bent Again design improves on the basic bent nails by preventing the solution where the points exit through the loops.
  • Nail Jail (see below)
  • S-Nail which seems like the Trumpets puzzle, above, and Twisted, below.
  • The Last Nail in the Coffin (see below)
  • Bed of Nails - balance nails on the head of another - see my dexterity page.
I found a link at PuzzleThis UK but I think the set is discontinued and unavailable.

Nail Jail - see Hess F123
#2 in a series of 5 Professor Puzzle nail puzzles.

The Last Nail in the Coffin - see Hess F126
#4 in a series of 5 Professor Puzzle nail puzzles.
This is an excellent puzzle and very different from the usual linked nails!
Two distinct maneuvers are required in sequence. I still forget how it's done even after practicing!

Mr. Puzzle Australia offered several nail puzzles, including a set of four with stand called Another Nailbiter,
and their entry in the Tokyo 2004 IPP Design Competition called Twisted's Sister (with Torii gate).
Read their blog post about Twisted's Sister.

The set includes four puzzles: Bent Again (like Nail Biter) - F122, Get Hooked (like Last Nail in the Coffin), Last Tangle in Tamborine (3 nails), and Twisted.

This is the 3-Nail Combo from Puzzlesdownunder. It includes the Nail Twister, Nail Lock, and something similar to the Trumpets / Twisted.

Spider Nails
Puzzlingpuzzles.com offers nail puzzles, including this 4-nail puzzler called Spider Nails.
As of March 19, 2021, I see them offered at Mind Games Geelong in Australia.

Puzzles by Noboru Hayashi

Fang Duet

Heart & Heart
Entered in the 2020 IPP Design Competition.

Mobius Triangle Junior
Entered in the 2020 IPP Design Competition.

Heavy Oden
Entered in the 2021 IPP Puzzle Design Competition.

Nail Quartet
Entered in the 2021 IPP Puzzle Design Competition.


Over the years, Rick Irby has created many wonderful tanglement puzzles, including several bent nails designs.

Double Loop, Get the Point, Lucky Charm, Naughty Nails, Nasty Nails, Nastier Nails, One Way Only Nails

Point the Way, Puzzle Up, Rattlesnake, Revenge of the Nails, Triangle Nails, Twister Nails

Nails Puzzle Ring

Puzzle Up Nails

The Revenge of the Nails

Triple Twister

Nasty Nails


Hard Wire Sets - Vintage

This is a vintage Puzzle Parties set by Gilbert. It includes 21 puzzles and an instruction booklet. (Gilbert's numbering, with Hess IDs.)

  • No. 869 - The Twin Rings (F079 p.46)
  • No. 878 - Three Rings (F010 p.45)
  • No. 877 - Question Puzzle (F002)
  • No. 868 - Twin Links (F063)
  • No. 884 - Nails (F001)
  • No. 896 - Heathen Ring (F017, but triple)
  • No. 885 - Three Links (F014)
  • No. 879 - Foxy Links (F024)
  • No. 871 - Shamrock (F025)
  • No. 895 - Wishbone (F008)
  • No. 897 - Chinese Rings
  • The Mysto Crosses (F026)
  • Vampire Puzzle (F006)
  • No. 891 - Tangle Twister (F020)
  • No. 893 - Spider Web (plate maze)
  • No. 880 - Conjuring Rings (F017)
  • Turtle Puzzle
  • No. 855 - Heart Puzzle
  • No. 859 - Star and Crescent
  • No. 883 - Spiral (ring on spring)
  • (eq. to Hess F005 - Double Rings with bent handles)

Gilbert Set

Six puzzles, including:

  • No. 891 Tangle Twister
  • No. 895 Wishbone
  • No. 869 Twin Rings
  • No. 884 Nail Puzzle
  • No. 878 Three Rings
  • No. 877 Question Puzzle

Journet's Family Compendium. Instructions inside lid.

Eighteen puzzles, including:

  • Two Nails
  • V and Two Rings - F027
  • Dee Rings - F017
  • Rings & Links - two clips and a ring (or two?)
  • Three Links - F014
  • Three Rings - more like a smaller version of
    Triple Twists (Target 2000) than F010
  • Ring on Spring
  • ABC
  • Salmon & Grid
  • Pig Tail - F002
  • Two Loops - C and U F030
  • Lucky Star (horseshoe/ heart/ star)
  • Curly - Post & Twirls F024
  • Jolly Ni**er (Strongman)
  • Three Nags
  • Maze - Ring and Plate
  • Hearts
  • Keys

Journet's Popular Compendium. Instructions inside lid.

Nine puzzles, including:

  • Heart & Anchor
    (aka Faith, Hope, & Charity)
  • Two Links - Devil's Keys
  • ABC
  • Keys
  • Spring (ring on spring F023)
  • Star & Garter
  • Pig Tail - F002
  • Two Nails
  • Three Snakes

The International Box of Assorted Puzzles, from H.P. Gibson & Sons, Ltd. London E.C.1 (IBA)

Eight puzzles, including:

  • Fire Irons
  • Snake & Scissors
  • Tango (loop is broken)
  • Lucky Star (horseshoe/ heart/ star)
  • Salmon & Grid
  • Heart & Anchor - aka Faith, Hope,
    & Charity - (missing - sub. shown)
  • Hearts
  • Sandow

The International Monster Box of Puzzles, from the International Card Company, London, E.C. (IMB)

Nine puzzles, including:

  • ring and twist - F018
  • ring on spring - variation where spring end
    runs back thru spring axially, has bead on ring
  • double rings with handles F002
  • Three Snakes
  • nails
  • ABC
  • Three Nags
  • Faith, Hope, & Charity - cross/anchor/heart
  • Kultur - Strafe der Kaiser - like Sandow

The International Box of Metal Puzzles, Series No. 4, from H.P. Gibson & Sons, Ltd., London, E.C. (GIB).
This is the one I would've wanted back then - it has almost everything! The inside cover of the box describes each puzzle.

Twenty puzzles, including:

  • Pick-It-Out - pick the ball out of its flower-like cup
  • Spring - F023
  • Aeroplane
  • Two Nails
  • Fire Irons
  • Two Wire Links - F016 Claws
  • Anchors
  • Three Wire Links - F014 Triple Clips
  • Two Loops - C and U
  • Pig Tail - F002
  • Hearts
  • Two Keys
  • ABC
  • Lucky Star - heart/horseshoe/star
  • Tango
  • Salmon & Grid
  • Three Snakes
  • Star & Garter
  • Three Nags
  • Two Links - Devil's Keys

"Chad Valley Series British Made Metal Puzzles" (blue box). (CVB) Instructions on loose blue sheet included.

Twelve puzzles on the sheet, including:

  • ABC
  • Spring
  • Three Twists - Triple Clips F014
  • Maze - ring on plate
  • Two Nails
  • Pig Tail
  • Three Rings F010
  • Aeroplanes
  • Keys
  • Two Link - Claws F016
  • Link & Twist - F020
  • Three Link - like Target 2000 Triple Twists

"Chad Valley Metal Puzzles" (red box). (CVR) Box cover depicts eleven puzzles and says "Full directions included in each box," but I don't have the directions sheet.

Eleven puzzles on the box cover but space for 12:

  • Two Rings (aka Dee Rings) F017
  • Spring
  • Two Link - Claws F016
  • Post & Twirls - F024
  • V and Rings F027
  • Horseshoes
  • Maze - ring on plate
  • Two Nails
  • Three Twists - Triple Clips F014
  • ABC
  • Devil's Keys - flattened style
  • I included Pig Tails since there's room for 12 puzzles.

"Super Puzzles" set SP1 by Sherm's of Bridgeport, CT. (SP1). Includes an instruction sheet, but it says it "explains others besides those in your set."
The instructions include the solution to the Doggie (Dog and Collar) puzzle.

The instruction sheet covers the following:

  • The Pretzel Puzzle - aka Two Rings
    (aka Dee Rings) F017
  • Two Nails
  • Two Twist - aka Link & Twist - F020
  • The Question - aka Pig Tail F002
  • Spider Web - ring in plate - sheet tin
  • Doggie Puzzle (sitting dog and
    collar - missing)
  • Heart Puzzle - sheet tin heart with string
  • Cover the Spot (missing)
  • Triangle Puzzle - a sheet tin
    triangle with small hole - "catch puzzle" to "push a large
    coin through the small hole."
  • Spring
  • Horseshoes - sheet tin
  • The Boo-Boogy Man Puzzle (river crossing)
    is described, but there are no physical pieces

Casse Tete Chinois Jeux Spear No. 430007, distributed by Waldi. A French set of 24 puzzles.
The puzzles are shown on the box bottom, and solutions are shown on the inside of the cover.


  • Two Nails
  • Over the Top - two rings linked by a twist
  • Claws F016
  • ring and two clips
  • Two Rings (aka Dee Rings) F017
  • F002 Pig Tail
  • Link & Twist - F020
  • large ring w/ break, two U's, small ring
  • F025 Three Snakes (wire, not cast)
  • Heart on Trapeze
  • F008 long-stemmed rings
  • Post & Twirls - F024
  • F026 offset keys
  • F030 C and U
  • F029 triangle and key
  • Horseshoes
  • E013 chain on spiral
  • Patience - 5 rings
  • large wire version of Tango
  • E002 Stilts
  • Spring
  • triangle/ heart in spiral
  • Egg-Beater - simple single-level version
  • double trapeze

The Uncle Sam Puzzles sets were issued by the J.L. Sommer Mfg. Co. of Newark, NJ. According to Slocum and Botermans in Puzzles Old and New page 99, there were four sets with two puzzles in each and they appeared in 1920.
I found all four sets in a larger box, called the Big 4 Set, Uncle Sam Puzzles , which is stamped "E.G. Billings Toy Shop, Providence RI" on the back.
Set No. 1 contains: Pig Tails (F002), and the Ring on Spring (F023).
Set No. 2 contains: Mutt and Jeff (F003), Over the Top (F079).
Set No. 3 contains: Horseshoes (D001), Three Rings (F010).
Set No. 4 contains: plate heart with string, Double-G (F017).

Zenith set - I obtained a set of loose puzzles and an instruction sheet copyright 1950 by Zenith Toy Co., Brooklyn NY. Several puzzles are described, many of which aren't metal tanglements. The tanglements described include: Double Twist F020, Bar Circle F017, Double Links and Ring (two clips and ring), Double Prong F008, Ring and Coil aka Spring, Double Question Mark aka Pig Tail F002, Double Loop F015, Triple Links F014, Double Ring and Loop F018 with another ring, Double Hook (Claws F016), Double Triangle F012, Nails F001.


Hard Wire Sets - Modern

Parlor Puzzles (website defunct) sold some nice sets. The sets contain many of the same designs I already have, and all of them contain the basic F001 Bent Nails. I have Sets #2 and #3.

Set 1
Ring on Spring, Claws, Double Rings with Straight Handles, and Double Twists with U Handles.

Set 2
Includes the Link (leftmost) and the Latch (rightmost). The Latch is actually the opposite effect of Nail Biter / Bent Again - it enforces the points-through solution.

Set 3
Sets 1 and 2 combined (only one copy of the bent nails), for a lower price.

Metal Mayhem Difficult Range Metal Mayhem Difficult Range
Metal Mayhem Difficult Range - issued by Professor Puzzle (in the UK), Recent Toys (in the US)
A set of four robust tanglement puzzles, including Boomerang, Last Nail in the Coffin, Dead Ringer, and Claws.

Hanayama Animals Tangle Set

Hanayama Wire Puzzles Set 2
From PuzzleMaster.

Palm Puzzles - MindWare Palm Puzzles - MindWare Palm Puzzles - MindWare
Palm Puzzles - Hand, Dog, Duck - MindWare

Studio Mercantile tanglement puzzles set

Four sets of "Baffling" tanglement puzzles:


Here are some other wire puzzle sets I've obtained.

Sets from Wal-Mart

Sets from Target











Sets from Dayton Hudson

Miscellaneous Tanglement Sets

(No Box)

JAL promo sets

Kawada Make Puzzle Set B
Purchased in Japan

Kawada Make Puzzle Set E
Purchased in Japan

UMX set - Stumpy Originals
Tangle Set - Green Box - Taiwan Tangle Set - Green Box - Taiwan
Tangle Set - Green Box - Taiwan Tangle Set - Green Box - Taiwan Tangle Set - Green Box - Taiwan
Tangle Set - Green Box - Taiwan
A set of vintage tanglement puzzles from Japan:

Hard Wire - Individual Puzzles

The following are from various sets, including those shown above. Many are small miscellaneous items I've had for a long time, by Famus (Magic Metal Puzzles) and Nasta (Mr. Magician Metal Magic Puzzles). I have many loose clips, rings, and triangles, not shown. I've replaced the group shots with the individual pics in the table below, and I have listed the Hess ID and his name for each of them. These are in Hess' section F, Hard Wire Puzzles.



Double Rings w/ Handles
aka "Pig Tail" or "The Eastern Question"
Not shown:
F003 = dbl rings w/ lg handles
F004 = dbl rings w/ short handles

Double rings with bent handles
small from Gilbert set
large from Dayton Hudson 1999 set

Triple rings with handles
First is "Well Spent Cash", next is Gilbert's "Vampire"
Not shown:
F007 = quad rings w/ handles

Long-stemmed Rings

Double Rings
F010 Triple Rings
F011 Quadruple Rings

Double Triangles

Double Clips
F014 Triple Clips

Double Twists

Double Bends aka Claws
Hess p.45
and F073 p.46
U.S. Patent 399146 - Jacobs 1889

Double G aka Two Rings aka Dee Rings aka Bar Circle aka The Pretzel Puzzle, aka Conjuring Rings

Parlor Puzzles Rings
Compare with U.S. Patent 788048 - Jensen 1905

Professor Puzzle's The Enigma
in the U.S. included in the Metal Madness set from Cardinal

Twister in the IQ Buster series
This is a large robust version of F017
I wanted a copy that would rule out any forcing/bending!
Each ring is about 65mm in outer diameter, and 8mm thick.

Twist and Ring
Not shown:
F019 dbl rings and twist

Double Twist with Twist
U.S. Patent 718323 - Deck 1903

Offset Triangles

double V's

ring and spring
(Hess p.45)
U.S. Patent 742397 - Day 1903

ring on spring twice

Post and Twirls

Wire Snakes

Offset Keys

Ring and V

Wheels and Ring(s)

Triangle and Key

C and U
Large version by Constantin, purchased from Oy Sloyd Ab.
U.S. Patent 584857 - Dennis 1897

Wire Monkey
NOTE: F032 - F050 were omitted from Hess because they are cast, enlarged, or include flexible parts

Japanese Nails
Not shown:
F052 triangle and 2 circles
F053 circle and triangle w/ lock
F054 two circles w/ lock
F055 circle, square, and triangle

Triple Twists
see Kawada GR.04 Devil

triangle with 2 twists
(I don't have this.)

Wheels with 2 rings
see Kawada GR.06 Loop
contrast this with F028 - in F058 one of the rings is permanently attached and links the two wheels.

Japanese Hairpins

Cup and locked ring
see Kawada GR.05 Pot
Not shown:
F061 - F068
F070 - F074
F075, F076, F082, and F084-F103 omitted from compendium
F077 - F078
F080 - F111

Double Rings with Straight Handles

twist and two rings
aka "Over the Top"

Open Hearts

double twists with handles
Twisted Twins by Binary Arts
Not shown:
F113 dbl rings w/ threaded handles

Israeli Nails
aka Trumpets
Not shown:
F115 mini-ring w/ clip

Sao Paulo Puzzle
aka Twin Tangle by Binary Arts

Double Twists with U Handles

lg bent tip nails
(I don't have this.)

Double twists with curved handles
aka Nines
Smithsonian set
Not shown:
F120 Naughty Nines
F121 "The Wire Puzzle"

Bent Again
Mr. Puzzle Australia

Hard As Nails by Puzzlingpuzzles
eq. to Nail Jail by Professor Puzzle
Not shown:
F124 Totally Nailed

Totally Hard
(I don't have this.)

Get Hooked
Mr. Puzzle Australia
NOTE: F126 is the last item in section F.

Prior to section F, Hess covers several other categories of wire puzzle:

I have included some items from those sections in the next table.


simple trapeze

entangled hearts p.2

p.23 Spiral with Heart
Casse Tete Chinois set

p.27 Horseshoes
many sets include this classic

Le Bon Geolier

Japanese horseshoes
WalMart SM186 green set

Two-way Stilts
from the Casse Tete Chinois boxed set

Triple Twist

p.37 Entangled double loops
I got the long-handled CADABRA at a DAC.
smaller is from Target 2002 set
U.S. Patent 1168987 - Wixom 1916
and U.S. Patent 478668 - Walker 1892

p.38 Quadruple Loop With Chain (a2)
from small blue French box SM186

Airplane on Mt. Fuji

Additional hard wire puzzles I have not found in the Hess Compendium...

Large twists with U handles
Target 2002 set

Smithsonian set

P and G Clips
WalMart WM7494 gold box w/ red string on cover

Twists - Target 2004 set

Triple Twists - Target 2000 set

Parlor Puzzles Triangle

Wal-Mart WM9036 set of 4

Wal-Mart - twists w/ J handles

Wal-Mart - bent nines

Target 2006 links

Stumpy Originals "X"
aka Lotus Flower Blooming

Dayton Hudson 1998 set


Paper Clips - Luc de Smet IPP19
U.S. Patent 442511 - Church 1890

Professor Puzzle's The Sting
in the U.S. included in the Metal Madness set from Cardinal

originally designed by Rick Irby

Another kind of Ampersands.
Gift from Brett's Mom and Dad - thanks!


IPG - triangles


IPG - hooks

Gift from Brett's Mom & Dad - thanks!

uPuzzled Puzzled Presidents series -
a series of re-branded large metal two-piece tanglements
I got: Taylor's Linked Metal Puzzle, Tyler's Warped Metal Puzzle, and Van Buren's Crooked Loops.
(The entire series comprises more than the three shown here.)
Dr. Richard Hess has created several "hybrid" puzzles based on combining elements from different puzzles offered by Professor Puzzle:

Claw-Pinch Hybrid

Claw-Nail Hybrid

Nail-Menace Hybrid #15
Purchased from Dick at IPP28 in Prague

Hybrid #55
IPP31 Berlin

Here is a fairly simple tanglement, but in a fairly large size, called Troika.

The Hanayama Cast Series and Other Modern Cast Tanglements

Hanayama makes a wonderful line of "CAST" puzzles - a series "edited" by the late famous Japanese puzzle expert Nobuyuki ("Nob") Yoshigahara (1936-2004).

Hanayama has done a nice job of bringing new puzzle designs to the mass market (such as the Sunflower/O'Gear, Enigma, and Radix), and also mining old designs (such as the Keys, Flag, and Cricket). I've cited patents for some of the designs when I could find them.

The Hanayama Cast series puzzles are rated within difficulty levels 1 through 6. (Recent revisions at the Hanayama site may rank various puzzles slightly differently than when I captured the rankings below.) Almost all of them are sturdy two-piece tanglements. Some might be better classified as route-finding puzzles - especially many of the creations by Oskar van Deventer. However, I have grouped them all here together.

Similar puzzles also have appeared under the "Eureka" and "Kawada" brands.

   In some cases, another puzzle is equivalent to the Hanayama version.

   I have highlighted my favorites in this color.

Level 1
ABC, Keys, Bike, Flag, Loop, Hook, Diamond, Love

British Registry Number 577846 - 1911

U.S. Patent 488974 - Davis 1892

U.S. Patent 609941 -
Lejeune 1898

U.S. Patent 596633 -
Shortt 1898

Designed by Vesa Timonen
But take a look at U.S. Patent 984803 - Dinuccio 1911

Designed by Vesa Timonen

Diamond - designed by Scott Elliott

Hanayama Cast Love - designed by Scott Elliott

Level 2
Keyring, Cricket, Disks, Violin, Horseshoes, Plate, Key 2, Medal, Box, Harmony, DOT, Snow

Key Ring
Designed by Oskar van Deventer
NOTE: In the solved state, the words "Key" and "Ring" are in the same quadrant.

U.S. Patent 609081 - Collins 1898

Designed by Oskar van Deventer

U.S. Patent 3168316 - Lytle 1965



Key 2
Designed by Otake & Wong

This is a commercial version of Dalgety's St. Mungo's Fish

St. Mungo's Fish
from James Dalgety

Cast Box - Designed by Akira Yuta.
Navigate the ring from the "Start" edge, free of the box (then back again). Of the 12 edges of the hollow cube frame, only 7 have various slots that allow the tooth in the ring's slot to pass.

Harmony, designed by Dmitry Pevnitskiy and Kirill Grebnev.
Hanayama Cast Dot Hanayama Cast Dot
DOT - designed by Akio Yamamoto

Snow - designed by Kyoo Wong
Level 3
S and S, O'Gear, Cage, Snake and Star, W-U, Dolce, Cuby, Coil, Delta, G & G, Galaxy, Shift, Arrows, Slider, Die, Cross, Hex

S and S
Based on the Devil's Keys
U.S. Patent 732954 - Mowry 1903

Designed by Oskar van Deventer

(George miller)
Equiv. to "O'Gear"

A variation of the "national puzzle" of the Czech Republic.

U.S. Patent 3383113 - McCandless 1968


Designed by Akio Yamamoto

Designed by Oskar van Deventer

Designed by Edi Nagata


G & G - designed by Jin-Hoo Ahn

Galaxy - designed by Bram Cohen
Winner of a Jury Honorable Mention in the 2013 IPP Design Competition
Hanayama Cast Shift Hanayama Cast Shift
Shift - designed by Kirill Grebnev

Arrows - designed by Andrei Ivanov

Slider - designed by Vesa Timonen

Hanayama Cast Die - designed by Timothy Collins

Hanayama Cast Cross - designed by Edi Nagata

Hanayama Cast Hex - designed by Masui Ohno
Level 4
Devil, Heart, Baroq, Ring, L'Oeuf, Radix , Coaster, Marble, Rattle, Donuts, Twist, Cylinder, U & U, Keyhole, Hexagon, Moebius, Cake, Dial, UFO, Valve, Planet

Twin Tangle - see Hess F116 p.46
Equiv. to "Devil"


Designed by Akio Yamamoto


Designed by Oskar van Deventer

Designed by Akio Yamamoto

Designed by Serhiy Grabarchuk

Designed by Bram Cohen and Oskar van Deventer

Designed by Bram Cohen

designed by Vesa Timonen

designed by Oskar van Deventer.
Separate the two donuts - each has a series of engraved
spiraling and criss-crossing grooves, and a pin that rides in the grooves of the other donut.

Cylinder - designed by Vesa Timonen

U & U - designed by Kyoo Wong
The nuts screw up and down but do not come off.
A gift from Brett - thanks!

designed by Vesa Timonen.

Hexagon designed by Mineyuki Uyematsu
Adapted from "Claws of Satan"
winner of a Jury Honorable Mention in the 2014 IPP Design Competition.

Moebius - designed by Oskar van Deventer

Cake - designed by Bram Cohen
Hanayama Cast Dial Hanayama Cast Dial
Cast Dial - Hanayama
Level 4
designed by Vesa Timonen

UFO - designed by Vesa Timonen.

Valve - designed by Vesa Timonen.

Planet - designed by Masumi Ohno.
Level 5
Amour, Spiral, Laby, Ring 2, Duet, Vortex, Equa, Helix, H&H, Padlock, Cyclone, Tube

Designed by Akio Yamamoto

Designed by Kennet Walker

U.S. Patent 598855 - Carter 1898

16 to 1
Issued by Bits & Pieces Equiv. to "Laby"

Ring 2
Based on a design by Jose Grant

Designed by Oskar van Deventer

Vortex (2008)
Designed by Akio Yamamoto

Designed by Oskar van Deventer

Designed by Akio Yamamoto

designed by Oskar van Deventer

Padlock - designed by Jinhoo Ahn.

Cyclone - designed by Kyoo Wong, level 5.

Tube - designed by Vesa Timonen.
Level 6
Elk, Chain, NEWS, Enigma, Nut Case, Quartet, Square, Infinity, Trinity, Hourglass, Rotor


Designed by Oskar van Deventer

GGG Special
from James Dalgety; Designed by Oskar van Deventer. A more difficult version of Chain!

Designed by Nob Yoshigahara

Designed by Eldon Vaughn

I got an original ELJO Enigma
with magnetic stand
a while ago from Puzzletts
U.S. Patent 3885793 - Vaughn 1975

and a plastic Enigma
more recently from
Games People Play
in Cambridge, Mass.
The plastic version was issued by ELJO Games. Their website is defunct. There is not much information at the Internet Archive capture of the defunct ELJO Games website dated January 2011.

Nut Case
Designed by Oskar van Deventer

Designed by "Mine"
(Mineyuki Uyematsu)

Designed by Vesa Timonen

Infinity - designed by Vesa Timonen

Trinity - designed by Kyoo Wong

Hourglass - designed by JinHoo Ahn
Two each of two different pieces.

Rotor - Designed by Kyoo Wong. Level 6 (very difficult)

Hanayama also produced a bespoke puzzle for Canadian Magician and YouTuber Chris Ramsay:

[81] + [7]

Hanayama also issued a set of six "Marine" puzzles - first in keychain format, then in full size. These were all designed by Akio Yamamoto.


Seabream (1), Shark (1), Starfish (2), Claw (2), Seahorse (3), Reef (3)


Hanayama also issued a set of four Disney-themed puzzles based on existing designs.

Mickey Keys





Hanayama also issued a set of four Ultraman-themed puzzles based on existing designs.

Hanayama Ultra 7 Ultra Eye Hanayama Ultra 7 Ultra Eye
Ultra 7 Ultra Eye - Hanayama
Hanayama Ultraman Emblem Hanayama Ultraman Emblem
Ultraman Emblem - Hanayama
Hanayama Ultraman Meteor Hanayama Ultraman Meteor
Ultraman Meteor - Hanayama
Hanayama Ultraman Capsule Hanayama Ultraman Capsule
Ultraman Capsule - Hanayama


The Hanayama Cast Hex designed by Masui Ohno is a great little route-finding puzzle in a style I enjoy analyzing by hand. If you hold the frame with the engraved word "HEX" facing you and upwards, then the puzzle has 24 states, each defined by the position of the arrow engraved on one of the legs of the "traveler" piece - it can appear on the North, South, East, West, Front, or Back spar, and on the Front, Back, Left, Right, Up, or Down face of the spar (each spar has only four sensible faces, and for the Back spar Left and Right are defined as viewed through the front). So a state can be labeled as "Spar"."Face" using two letters. At each position, up to four moves are possible - a rotation of the front spar Right, Left, Up, or Down - and some are prevented by the notching. The Start position requires the arrow to point to the word HEX (i.e. state N.F), and the state where the traveler can be removed is E.U. Here is a graph of the puzzle - it has a dead end and an infinite loop:

Here is my analysis of the Hanayama Cast H & H puzzle designed by Oskar van Deventer. The puzzle comprises two H-shaped pieces. One is labeled "H&H (C) Hanayama" - I'll call this piece A and the other piece B.

Hold A "flat" so that its openings are at left and right, and its logo is downwards and towards you. A will remain stationary in this position throughout. We'll use the Left-hand and Right-hand gaps between A's legs when we label states. We'll also use A to define the X (left-right), Y (front-back), and Z (up-down) axes when we describe moves of piece B.

The position of piece B at this point will depend on the current state of your puzzle. For purposes of identifying its orientation, examine the openings between its pairs of "feet." One end will have a symmetric opening with a narrow toe opposing a wide toe. The other end has a pair of asymmetric feet opposing each other. Number piece B's four feet as follows: The wide-toed foot is #1, the narrow-toed foot is #2, the foot opposite #2 and on the same side is #3 and the last (opposite and on the same side as #1) is #4.

There are an infinitude of relative orientations of A and B, since even if A is held fixed, B is free to move in many ways around it, by fractions of a degree - this is what puts H&H on the continuum between a maze and a tanglement puzzle, rather than making it strictly a step maze. Tanglements are characterized by a difficulty in explicitly identifying only those distinct states that are important to the solution. The relative orientations of the pieces will change as you move them from a state to an adjacent state, but not every snapshot along the way needs to be considered a new distinct state. Think of this in terms of a more traditional tanglement puzzle with a wire frame and a loop of cord to be removed - it wouldn't be useful to count every possible twist, turn, looping, and mistaken knotting of the cord as a distinct state - many moves accomplish nothing useful.

With this in mind, I contend that the puzzle has sixteen useful distinct states (seventeen if you count the separated or free state). I label them by identifying whether the feet of B are inside either the Left or Right gap of A, which foot is upwards, and whether the other end of B is pointing Left or Right. The state is encoded with three characters: a letter L or R telling which gap in A, a number 1-4 telling the B foot on top, and a letter L or R telling which side of A the other B feet are on: L1L, L1R, L2L, L2R, L3L, L3R, L4L, L4R, R1R, R1L, R2R, R2L, R3R, R3L, R4R, R4L (and the free state).

In the diagram, states are nodes labeled with the state code. Moves of B are described using sequences of one or more letters. Edges are moves and are annotated with the sequence. Be sure to apply the moves in the order corresponding to the direction in which you are traversing an edge, and reverse a helicopter move if you're traversing an edge from right to left.

The meanings of the move letters are as follows:

For convenience, in places I've noted whether the "free" feet of B move in front of or in back of A as a sequence is performed.

The starting (or "docked") state is in the upper left at R2L. The free state is reached at the lower left, from R2R, by a simple sideways translation move of B.

Here is a state diagram for the related Hanayama Cast Key Ring puzzle, also designed by Oskar van Deventer. The Key Ring puzzle can be analyzed using a similar scheme and the same state space, but it is not just a simpler version of H&H.

Hold the gold piece fixed flat with the tab on the left and the logo down and towards you. The silver piece moves - the tab foot is #1, the foot above 1 is #2, opposite 2 is #3, and opposite 1 is #4. I've shortened the state codes by only giving the number of the foot on top (also giving the bottom is actually redundant).

Moves are different for the Key Ring - S still means translate B along the X axis - but you'll note that at states L4R and R1L you can move either Left or Right. There won't be any vertical (V) translations. Rotations of piece B are now in increments of 180 degrees, around either the Y or Z axis but never the X axis. Whether clockwise or counterclockwise will be constrained by the tabs and grooves.

Takara Toys Co. of Japan (now with Tomy) offered a line of four puzzles in their "The Puzzle Museum" collection based on an animated detective story starring a character named "Lupin the 3rd." Each puzzle features Lupin trapped in some way along with another character. You must find a way to separate them.


Vol. 1 with Fujiko Mine

Vol. 2 with Inspector Zenigata

Vol. 3 with Daisuke Jigen

Vol. 4 with Goemon Ishikawa

I bought most of them from Thierry Borne's Japan Goods Shop (which now seems to focus only on pre-paid cards).

Other modern cast puzzles...

This is really a maze, with a figure of Mickey Mouse in the center.
Remove the C-shaped shuttle by navigating
the notches around the perimeter and on the spokes.

Disney Horseshoes Tangle

It's not cast metal - nowadays 3D printing has become a good way to create attainable puzzles having complex shapes...

Wavelinks - designed by Rod Bogart
A 3D print from Rod's Shapeways shop RGB Puzzles.
Four pieces - two each of two slightly different types.
Fit them together to form two complete interlinked rings.
One of the top-ten vote getters in the IPP 2018 Design Competition.

This hefty metal version of Wavelinks by Rod Bogart was offered by Craighill
via Kickstarter

Vintage Cast Metal Tanglement Puzzles

This is known as the "Fire Irons." It is described on page 94 of Slocum and Botermans' 1987 "Puzzles Old and New." It contains a poker, shovel, and tongs. The objective is to free the tongs piece, which is not too difficult. A nice vintage piece with cast elements.

Lucky Star
Horseshoe/ Heart/ Star


Three Nags

Salmon and Grid

Two Hearts

These are the Devil's Keys, also known as "Loop the Loop" -
described on page 95 of Slocum and Botermans' 1987 "Puzzles Old and New."
U.S. Patent 732954 - Mowry 1903


Strafe der Kaiser

Strong Man
(aka Jolly Ni**er)

Here is an alternative version of the Strong Man.

Here is another alternative version of the Strong Man (I don't have).

The Snake Puzzle

Maze - Ring and Plate

thick rings

The Hello Puzzle
U.S. Patent 896344 - Akin 1908

Snake and Scissors


Faith, Hope, & Charity, aka Heart and Anchor

Star and Garter
The lower copy is an unusual advertising version, for the Minneapolis Times.


vintage cast ABC and Keys

This is similar to the ABC puzzle - you have to navigate the horseshoe piece around the frame and off.

Another maze-type puzzle similar to the ABC puzzle.

A group shot of several versions of the Elk puzzle. The smaller examples in the center are the older ones, from vintage sets. The larger examples on the top and bottom are versions issued by Hanayama - they're marked "NOB" on one of the tabs. The other large versions are made in Taiwan.

Queen's Jubilee / Waterbury Watch

A version of the vintage Queen's Jubilee puzzle, called Uncle Sam's Divorce

Jerry Slocum put together a spiral-bound "Compendium of Mechanical Puzzles from Catalogs 1785 to 1946."
It lists several vintage cast tanglement puzzles from the 1929 Johnson Smith catalogue, all shown above.

  • Star and Garter
  • Lucky Star (horseshoe/ heart/ star)
  • Tango
  • Snake and Scissors
  • Salmon and Grid
  • Three Snakes
  • Ring and Plate aka Maze
  • Keys
  • Loop the Loop (Devil's Keys)
  • Faith, Hope & Charity (cross/ heart/ anchor)
  • Elk
  • Hearts
  • Three Nags
  • Aeroplanes
  • ABC
  • Fire Irons
  • Anchor (lg. anchor/ ring/ sm. anchor)
  • Sandow

Several of these older cast puzzles have a British Registry Number on them, by which they can be dated.
I have not yet found an online site where the registry documents can be found, nor more information about them.

The numbers I know of are:
  • Waterbury 3 U (shown under Vintage Wire below) -
    111469 - 1888 or 1889
    Much older than I had thought,
    but this number is stamped clearly.
  • Lucky Horseshoes - 371445 - 1901
  • ABC - 577846 - 1911
  • CWS - 789052 - 1934
    Seems to be a cluster around 6319xx in 1914...

  • Tango - 631907 - 1914
  • Three Snakes - 631909 - 1914
  • Fire Irons - 631910 - 1914
  • Anchors - 6319xx (maybe 12)
  • Sandow - 63191x (maybe 5)
  • Salmon and Grid - 6319xx
  • Aeroplanes - 637925 - 1914

Vintage Plate Metal Tanglement Puzzles

An early ring-in-plate maze/tanglement, Gilbert's No. 893 Spider Web puzzle. The 18-step solution is in the booklet that came with the Gilbert set.

Dog and Collar, or "The Doggie Puzzle."
Described in Slocum and Botermans' 1987 "Puzzles Old and New" on page 93. Two versions - sitting and standing.

The Bootlegger and His Flask, mfd by the Gardner Screw Corp. MA. Described in Slocum and Botermans' 1994 "The Book of Ingenious and Diabolical Puzzles" on page 103. I have another marked "W.R. Maxwell 88 Lafayette Ave. Brooklyn N.Y. Patent Apld"
See U.S. Patent 1635022 - Allen 1927

I found a second vintage Ryede Puzzle (on the left) - this one is complete
and even came with its paper package/instructions in pristine condition.
Also shown: Ryede patent - 787796 - Rydquist 1905
and a listing for the Ryede Keyring Puzzle in an early 1900's vintage catalog from the Western Puzzle Works in Minnesota.

Ryede Perfection
This is an alternate configuration from that in the Rydquist 1905 patent,
but using the same characteristic shuttle piece stamped "Ryede."
I actually found these first, and two of them, so it's not a fluke.
I found a reference to this puzzle in a Western Puzzle Works catalog from the early 1900's,
where it is called the Ryede Perfection (they mis-spell Ryede "Ryde").

A vintage metal advertising puzzle, in the ring-in-plate maze category - two entangled keys to be separated, from the Waterbury Watch Company.
I show them here in vintage plate tanglements, as well as in the route-finding ring-in-plate maze section.

Heart and String

Stars and String

Ox Yokes

Horseshoes (alt.)

U.S. Patent 1484849 - Stoppel 1924

Stars and Crescent
See patent D0035115 - Forster 1901


A vintage Trio puzzle.
See U.S. Patent # 2162278 Galeazzo, June 1939.

Compare to the Trio.
(I don't have this.)

Bootlegger aka Boot and Hand - a vintage plate metal tanglement puzzle,
patented in the U.S. in 1924 by Preuss, No. 1519702.
But also see the earlier US295665 - Mount 1884.

On May 1, 1906, Benjamin Dorstrom of Rhode Island received US Patent number 819345
for a tanglement puzzle which came to be known as the Dorstrom Hub.
It comprises three rotating pieces held by a riveted hub, and a removable loop.

I am very happy to have found an original example, albeit missing the loop.

One can see from the patent drawing that the vanes of the pieces are notched,
and they ride the hub axis along an S-shaped channel.
Those features allow the pieces to be offset from each other and maneuvered to free the loop.

I had earlier acquired an example of a related puzzle called the Tango Shoe, which is inscribed "PAT 1906."

At the 2018 IPP, Allard Walker used a recreation of the Dorstrom Hub as his exchange puzzle.
The reproduction, larger than the original and made from lasercut plywood rather than metal,
was envisioned by Michel van Ipenburg and executed by Robrecht Louage.

A generous gift from Allard. Thanks!
Michel reports, "I stumbled on it while browsing Rob Stegmann's website some five years or so ago. Having teamed up with Robrecht [Louage] provided the much needed tools to actually see this puzzle being made. After the prototyping in 2016 I offered this to Allard as a possible future IPP exchange puzzle. I'm very happy he took the opportunity and am delighted another vintage puzzle has gotten a new audience! The object of the puzzle is to remove the ring from the gears. Some delicate movement of the pieces is needed to succeed... once off the second challenge is to get the puzzle to its original state again... and that might even be harder."


Gilbert Turtle

Milwaukee Key Maze
A 2.75" square brass plate, with a brass wire "key" including a trapped ring. Remove the key from the plate - the ring gets in the way. Clever but not difficult. Stamped "MILW. WIS. F.J.O. 1939" - maybe this was homemade?

Peter Wiltshire crafted from aluminum this reproduction of the
Stanley puzzle found in Hoffmann (Chapter VIII, No. 12)

Panama Lock - this is a modern repro by Allen Rolfs of a vintage puzzle - See U.S. patent 994694 - Sievers 1911.

Traveling Salesman tangle - Allen Rolfs - IPP31
Not vintage, but based on a vintage design.

USA - another nice repro by Allen Rolfs of a vintage tanglement

Leprechaun's Dilemma - another nice repro by Allen Rolfs of a vintage tanglement

The Old Anchor Puzzle - Allen Rolfs IPP38

A rare vintage Boodle Alderman Puzzle - enameled tin plate.
Said by Slocum to have been made in 1891 by "Strait Manufacturing, Hatter & Glover."
Based on the idea of a corrupt politician of the times in shackles.
My copy is in fairly good shape but is incomplete - some of the shackle pieces are missing.
Both James Dalgety and Jerry Slocum have this puzzle -
it is described in Slocum's Puzzles Old and New on page 93.
Both admit, however, (as do I) to lacking a clear understanding of the puzzle's objective and solution.
If anyone out there has any information about this puzzle, especially a solution sheet, please contact me!

Vintage Wire Tanglement Puzzles

Waterbury 3 U

Cup and Ring (Hess C084)

The "Psycho Cycle" (Hess E009 p.37) was produced in 1976 by A. J. Koveleski. Get the handlebars piece off. You're in for confusion when you reach the back wheels.

Here is the Trickie (sic) Trike. The box says Copyright 1954, Made in Japan. So, I guess this predates the Psycho Cycle. Vinyl covered wire, and no seat. U.S. Patent USD173360S - Kerner & Huffine 1954

various thin wire,
including Maltese Cross, Comb

Not sure of the name. I call it "Libra." The ring does come off, with a modicum of force. Looks like Hess E130 p.39 (also see variant E138)
I found a reference to this puzzle in a Western Puzzle Works catalog from the early 1900's, where it is called the Ring Off.

Kross Keys
Jerry Slocum told me Kross Keys was advertised in "The Novelty News" March and May 1915 issues.

vintage Spring

The "Chilian" (sic) Puzzle.

A pair of the Chilean Puzzle.
U.S. Patent 962039 962039 - McFarland 1910
See also 1649054 1649054 - Barket 1927
See also 828880 828880 - Falkner 1906

ABC set - Hong Kong
mentioned in Slocum and Botermans' 1987 Puzzles Old and New on page 88.

Buster Brown
Hess F003 Double rings with large handles
aka Mutt and Jeff

Red Goose Shoes promo

Vintage Card and String Tanglement Puzzles

Edison Mazda Lamp tanglement puzzle - a vintage advertising puzzle issued by the General Electric Company of Harrison NJ.
It is made of celluloid - an interesting material that feels like plastic, but is more fragile.
I had been after one of these since seeing it in Slocum and Botermans' 1994 book The Book of Ingenious and Diabolical Puzzles (page 94) and I finally found one in great shape!
The book says this was issued circa 1912-13.

Pilsbury Flour

Worcester Salt

Van Houten's Cocoa Spider Web

Tennessee Jed - a vintage card tanglement puzzle advertising Tip Top Bread.

B.F. Goodrich Tag
Remove the string without tearing anything or bending the round green end tags.

Magic Skull
Remove the skull from the string.

U-Haul Tag
Remove the string without tearing anything or bending the round end tags.

Aunt Jemima

Cannon & Cord
A turned wooden Cannon.
See Hoffmann Chap. II No. X.

Butter Nut Bread

Van Houten's Violin

Jayne's Expectorant

Fairmont Creamery Puzzle

Adams' Rastus

National Oats Girl vintage advertising tanglement puzzle

Rabbit in Hat - a modern repro by Allen Rolfs using plasticized card of a vintage design

London Underground - Allen Rolfs
A plasticized card repro of a vintage metal design.
US Patent 486141 - deVirgile 1892

Champion Spark Plug tangle

Michelin Bibendum and Tire tangle

Red Goose Shoes tangle - a group of vintage advertising puzzles.

Other Tanglement Puzzles

Houdini designed by Nicholas Cravotta and Rebecca Bleau
produced by Thinkfun
A tanglement puzzle kit with 40 challenges.

This is Brainstring - a difficult puzzle to classify. Here, the goal is to prevent a tangle from ever occurring. Move the colored buttons around in the grooves to create various patterns, but avoid tangling the strings inside the cube.

Brainstring Advanced

Brainstring R

This example was a handout at IPP28 in Prague, commemorating RGee Watkins. See the European Patent database: BE393637 - Friedrich Carl Schmidt 1933

Moebius and Trinity Infinity, purchased from Bits & Pieces, both designed by Doug Engel.

I obtained this vintage advertising puzzle - the card urges readers to place a classified ad in the Pittsburgh, PA Dispatch. The puzzle objective is to remove the key from the card without damaging anything. The card refers to U.S. Patent 695059 - Kellogg - Mar. 11 1902, but also see U.S. Patent 295665 - Mount - 1884

Loopy Ladder - IQ Products

Free-the-trapped-object are kind of a distinct sub-category. Here, there will be a subtle orientation you have to find in order to get the target piece free, or a sequence of moves.

Man the Torpedo, Pop-Earth, and Trilby
These are examples of a puzzle known as the Hedgehog Puzzle. The Hedgehog Puzzle has an interesting history in the Czech Republic, where it was popularized in a book and a film featuring one with a secret map hidden inside the hedgehog. See jezcivkleci.cz and Wikipedia.
The Pop-Earth design was patented: U.S. Patent D0280430 - Holman 1985; but see also 558009 - Worrall 1896
Axis Hedgehog - Rademic
Axis Hedgehog - Rademic
Light in the Lantern - Shokcz
Light in the Lantern - designed and made by Czech craftsman Vaclav Skopek
See his Etsy store SHOKCZ
A very steampunk instance of the Hedgehog - the Czech national puzzle

Hexahog and Hexacage - from Radek Micopulos at Rademic Puzzles.
An unusual take on the Hedgehog puzzle, with a secondary external put-together cage.

Pandemic Puzzle - by Bad Astronaut.

Sputnik - Bits and Pieces

5 Keys - Bits and Pieces

Sunglasses - designed by Yoshiyuki Kotani
Free the 4 glasses from the frame.

Arrows - Metallofactura

This design is called Bilateral by Mad Cow; I made my own copy from some rings and nylon cord. Each ring has one cord permanently looped through it. Neither cord loop is big enough to fit around either ring. The trick, of course, is to unlink the two cords. The solution is a cool maneuver.

Handcuffs - from Teddy Sakamoto - is a version using rigid metal loops instead of string.
Entered in the IPP 2008 Design Competition.

IPP31 - rings with red cord
This version is half-string, half-rigid

There is also a design by Jan D. de Ruiter with two rings of different size, joined by three cord loops, called "Duplo."
Here is a solution for Duplo.
Duplo is produced by Eureka - they call it Double O**. Gemani also had it and called it "Bi-O."

I have seen (but haven't made or acquired) similar designs with three, four, and five rings, called "Trilateral," "Quadrilateral" or "Not So Quick," and "Pentalateral" respectively.

The four-ring version called "Quattro" was invented by Erik Johansson of Sweden.

Read Matthew Horak's analysis of the Quadrilateral puzzle using knot theory.