Category Archives: Tangram

The anchor puzzles


Starting in 1890, the German firm Richter produced a series of Tangram puzzles which were widely distributed during the First World War, or The Great War as it was then called, as a pastime for the troops in the trenches. With the pieces consisting of stone, they could survive in the horrible environment. They were used by both German and British troops.
The puzzles came together with sheets with exercises, which have been compiled by Jerry Slocum, one of the worlds greatest puzzle collectors. He published the exercises in a book, which you can order here. The firm stated that some of the problems have been contributed by the troops.
The anchor factories are now owned by Goki.

I recently purchased a series of anchor stone puzzles at internet-toys.com (Another supplier is http://www.padilly.com/brainteasers.html). Their delivery was speedy and accurate, and they have low prices. The puzzles arrived within a few days, though of course I can not vouch for delivery times in the rest of the world.
The puzzles are still made of stone, and below you find pictures of the once I obtained. Currently they do not offer the full range. The ones they do offer are in bright green, yellow, blue and red. The back of the cardboard boxes do mention Anker Steinbaukasten GmbH. There are no names of the individual cardboard boxes. Some of the boxes carry a number of puzzles on the inside of the box, some don’t. None had a solution, and the drawings on the cover do not match the inside arrangement of the pieces. This, the boxes state, is on purpose: no clue is given away. You did want to puzzle, did you?

There are 3 historical puzzles, which in “Puzzles old and new” by Jack Boterman and Jerry Slocums are called Zornbrecher, Wunderei / Ei des Columbus (I don’t see much difference between these two in their book) Herzratsel and Kreisratsel. These are the ones that come with the 10 exercises on the inside of the box.

The big surprise for me are the other puzzles: The do not seem to match any of the traditional Anker puzzles. At internet toys they are labelled maan, dennenboom, ster en kruis in Dutch, which translates into English as moon, pine, star, and cross.

Expect some exercises in the future with these new puzzles, though the usage of non rectangular shapes may cause some troubles in this endeavor. For the moment, here are the puzzles:

dsc_3676-anker-kreisratsel dsc_3678-anker-ei-columbus dsc_3682-anker-zornbrecher
dsc_3683-anker-herzratsel dsc_3675-anker-pine dsc_3679-anker-cross
dsc_3680-anker-moon dsc_3681-anker-star

New puzzles are published at least twice a month on Fridays. Solutions are published after one or more weeks. You are welcome to remark on the difficulty level of the puzzles, discuss alternate solutions, and so on. Puzzles are rated on a scale of 1 to three stars.

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Japanese tangram


A few weeks ago I wrote about a Japanese Tangram from 1742, pre-dating the well known Chinese Tangram, and gave some classical figures with the 7 pieces. This week I’d like to present some figures wit the theme: In and around the water.

Japanese tangram post 2 image 1 exercise

Japanese tangram post 2 image 2 exercise

Japanese tangram post 2 image 3 exercise

Again I’d like to thank my wife Jos and our daughter Margreet for coming up with these figures.

You can check your solutions here

A new puzzle is published every Friday. Solutions are published after one or more weeks. You are welcome to discuss the puzzles, their difficulty level, originality and much more.

The ingenious pieces of Sei Shonagon


Tangram is one of the best known puzzles in the world, and went through at least two fads: one in the early nineteenth century, and once more when American puzzlist Sam Loydd published a booklet about it. The oldest known tangram dates back to about 1800.

In 1742, a little book about a Japanese seven-piece puzzle was published under the pseudonym Ganreiken. The real name of the author is unknown. The title was “Sei Shonagon Chie-no-ita”, or the ingenious pieces of Sei Shonagon. Sei Shonagon was a court lady who lived approximately 966 – 1017. There is no clear reason why Ganreiken named his 32 page booklet after her. The booklet has 42 patterns with answers, but the shapes are inaccurate. A copy of the booklet has been distributed at one of the International Puzzle Parties, but as I’m not in contact with anyone in higher puzzle circles I don’t have access to it. A year later Ganreiken published another book with more exercises. In about 1780, Takahiro Nakada wrote a manuscript entitled “Narabemono 110 (110 Patterns of an Arrangement Pattern),” and Edo Chie-kata (Ingenious Patterns in Edo) was published in 1837. Alas I was unable to find these figures on the internet.

There are surprisingly few publications in the west about this puzzle. Jerry Slocum devotes half a page of it in his book “The history of Chinese Tangram”, and Jerry Slocumn and Jack Botermans describe it in their “Zelf puzzels maken en oplossen”.

The Sei Shonagon consists of 7 pieces, like Chinese Tangram, which make up a square. Unlike Tangram, they can be fitted together to make up a square in two different ways.
sei shonagon square 1


I will leave the other square as an exercise for you.

They can also form a square with a whole in the middle:
sei shonagon square with hole in centre


The figure with the hole in the middle is one of the original puzzles.

Where the Chinese tangram has 13 convex shapes, Philip Moutou showed that Chie no-ita has 16 possible convex shapes. In geometry, a shape is called convex if any two points of the figure can be connected by a straight line which is entirely within the figure. I intend to publish about them in a subsequent post.

Presented here are 28 of the original problems.

japanese tangram blogpost 1-1 exercises

japanese tangram blogpost 1-2 exercises

japanese tangram blogpost 1-3 exercises

japanese tangram blogpost 1-4 exercises

japanese tangram blogpost 1-5 exercises

japanese tangram blogpost 1-6 exercises

japanese tangram blogpost 1-7 exercise

You can check your solutions here

A new puzzle is published every Friday. Solutions are published after one or more weeks. You are welcome to discuss the puzzles, their difficulty level, originality and much more.