Not Your Grandma's Jigsaw Puzzle

Curiosity Box - Inq's Calibron 12 Puzzle

Inq’s Calibron 12 from the Spring Curiosity Box brings back one of the greatest puzzles ever created! In 1933, Theodore “Ted” Edison, youngest child of Thomas, created a difficult and addictive puzzle to promote his Calibron company. Crafting it out of Bakelite, the very first synthetic plastic, Edison made less than 200 copies and sent them out into the world. Over the years, many copies have been made, but Inq’s is the very first made with precisely the same measurements as the original, boxed in a package that’s an homage to the Edison’s 1930’s version, and as icing on the cake, we even made it out of Bakelite, just like the original! The Calibron 12 is literally hundreds of puzzles in one little box, and because it’s Inq, we made some slight improvements as well… 

Ted Edison was a brilliant guy. The only member of the Edison family to graduate from college, he completed a degree in physics from M.I.T. created over 80 patents, and started his own major laboratory, and founded the Calibron engineering consulting firm. As his dad once said, “Theodore is a good boy, but his forte is mathematics. I am a little afraid he may go flying off into the clouds with that fellow Einstein.” Not many fathers are worried that their kid will be hanging out with Einstein.

And Ted’s puzzle is similarly brilliant. The name comes from the 12 rectangular pieces that he included; the goal is to find a way to arrange them on a flat surface with no overlaps, so that they form a perfect square, with no gaps.  Since Edison didn’t want to give away the solution, the puzzle arrived in a rectangular box with a 13th piece, a small black rectangle that made the other 12 pieces fit in the box exactly – and gave no clue as to how to solve the puzzle.

 Now, if you’ve got your Calibron nearby, you might be looking at the package and saying “wait – I can count pretty well, and there are actually 15 pieces in here, not 13. What gives?” Well, in 2015, Spanish puzzle collector Primitivo Familiar Ramos got his hands on multiple copies of the original, and found out that Edison actually made three different versions of the Calibron! Sort of. The puzzle itself was the same, the difference was that black 13th piece: each of the three versions had one that was a slightly different size and shape. And here’s where Inq gives you a bonus that even Theodore Edison didn’t: we included all three of the black spacer pieces. 

See, the neat part is that the Calibron is actually two puzzles in one: you can solve it with just the red pieces, making the square that Edison intended. But there’s also an entirely different way to play: try to fit all 12 red pieces into the box, along with one of the black spacer pieces.  Now, while there’s only one way to form that square, the second puzzle is slightly easier; there are many ways you can fit the 12 red pieces and one of the black pieces into the rectangular box.

In fact, each of the black spacer pieces gives you a different number of solutions!  There are 32 ways to pack the red pieces in with the small, black rectangular black piece; 72 solutions with the longer, thinner black spacer, and if you’re using the really long, really thin one, an astounding 104 different assemblies (a puzzler word for solutions) you can make. That means you’ve got 209 different puzzle solutions to find with the pieces in your box. 

We’re proud to revive the Calibron in this incredible form, and happy to bring it back to you in Bakelite, a historic material you don’t often find anymore. Considered a miracle when it first burst on the scene (in 1924 Time magazine called it “the material of a thousand uses” and predicted the future would be full of the stuff), Bakelite is now a collector’s item, mostly found in antique jewelry.  

So enjoy your Calibron! As for the solution?  Well, in 1933 Edison had an address you could write to in order to get it.  We’re pretty sure nobody is responding there anymore, but we know you’ve got this! Good luck!