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Tavern Puzzle Collection Review by Heather Jackowitz

Tucker-Jones House, Inc.
One Enterprise Drive
East Setauket, NY 11733

The Tavern Puzzle Collection is produced by a family-owned business operated by Dennis and Donna Sucilsky. Dennis is a museum-trained blacksmith who creates beautiful, high-quality mechanical puzzles made of mild steel, which is similar to iron. Some have wooden beads as well. The object of these puzzles is to remove one piece without using force or tricks. However, each puzzle is really two puzzles in one; first you must remove the piece, and then you must put it back together!

The Tavern Puzzle Collection includes original as well as historical designs. Many are reproductions traditionally forged by blacksmiths to amuse family and friends at country taverns and inns. The puzzles are available in four levels of complexity: basic, intermediate, difficult, and complex. Simpler puzzles require fewer steps, but be forewarned--simple does not necessarily mean easy!

Tavern Puzzles are handcrafted in the United States and are individually assembled. They will rust if stored under damp conditions, so keep them dry or apply a little furniture polish for protection. They will develop a beautiful patina through use and handling. Most of the puzzles weigh about one pound and are packed in a drawstring cloth bag.

Solutions are not included, but illustrated print solutions are available at the Tavern Puzzles website, and video solutions are also available on YouTube. Accessories are available for storing and displaying your puzzles. Puzzles may also be personalized for an extra charge.

I reviewed four puzzles, one from each level of complexity. The first was the Iron Heart from Group 1, a basic puzzle. These are reproductions of antique designs with only a few steps. The Iron Heart is a simple puzzle often made by blacksmiths' apprentices. The object of this puzzle is to remove the heart. A few members of our family were able to solve it immediately, but I confess that I got frustrated and looked online at the solution after a few minutes. Then I felt embarrassed that I hadn't been able to solve it myself! This is a great beginner puzzle that would be fun to bring out when you have company.

The next puzzle was Lyon's Loops, an intermediate puzzle from Group 3. These puzzles are more complex and require multi-step solutions. Lyon's Loops was named after a famous nineteenth-century blacksmith, Patrick Lyon. The original is in a private collection in Philadelphia. The object of this puzzle is to remove the large ring. My puzzle lovers were able to solve this puzzle after about half an hour of thinking and fiddling.

Next came the Dirty Dog. This is a difficult puzzle from Group 4. This group is also multi-step, but the moves are more interactive. The object of this puzzle is to remove the shuttle. A mechanical engineer friend sat and fiddled with it for several hours one day while his family was visiting ours, and he finally managed to solve it. My puzzle lovers are still working on this one.

The last puzzle was the Long Island Catch. This is a complex puzzle from Group 7. The puzzles in this group require a lot of concentration to master the large number of moves and handle the flexible chains. The object of this puzzle is to remove the heavy ring. My puzzle lovers got this one right away because they had done one just like it several years ago. They like to demonstrate how it's done after someone has made a good attempt at it.

My husband and daughter--my puzzle lovers--are so excited about these puzzles! They like that the puzzles do not come with the solutions, so no one can be tempted to peek before he has a good try. But they also appreciate that solutions are available. My husband is very impressed with the high-quality workmanship of these puzzles and just keeps raving about them. He is not a man who is easily impressed, so I offer these remarks as the highest praise for Tavern Puzzles.

Product review by Heather Jackowitz, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2011