1988: Compounding complexity

This page was prepared for the 25th anniversary of the products we introduced in 1988, part of Kadon's history notes. Click on the links for full descriptions. (Links open in new window.)

Having introduced so many new products in 1987, we had to catch our breath a bit and add fewer, if more complicated, designs in 1988. Each of these had greater complexity than where we had gone before and involved companion activities. Here are their start-ups:

Len Gordon, dean of spherical close packing, after developing unique-solution ball pyramids, proposed a four-way puzzle that would use the same 8 pieces to fill two differently shaped pyramids and two differently proportioned boxes. The 8 pieces he threw into this mix happened to be parts he had left over from his other three pyramid puzzles.

On a lark, Len asked Kate to present a copy of this puzzle, named "Life Begins at 30" (because it contained 30 spheres), to the grand opening celebration of the Eugène Strens Recreational Mathematics section of the University of Calgary library in Edmonton, Canada, in 1986. Kate was quite interested in adding this puzzle to the growing Kadon product line, as well.

And then, for reasons of his own, Len decided to change the mold that made some of the puzzle pieces, thereby discontinuing one of the shapes needed for "Life Begins at 30". Kate pleaded whether some other mix of pieces could work equally well, and Len suggested a group that still existed. After much effort, Kate found that those 8 pieces would, indeed, solve all 4 packings. With Len's blessing, Warp-30 was born in 1988.

After 25 years, some of the pieces needed for Warp-30 have themselves become endangered species. As of 2015, only 2 Warp-30's and less than a dozen of the Perplexing and Giant pyramid can still be made.

Hexmozaix IITM
One year after we introduced the original Hexmozaix set, its inventor, Charles Butler, showed us a companion set of 18 new tile patterns, where the inlaid mosaic pieces divide the 3 colors in a slightly different way. The new group was beautifully compatible with the original dozen and made even more gorgeous and intricate matched-path figures. This expansion set was offered in matching colors, as a supplement to an already owned set or as a new combo to acquire as a matched pair. Our tribute to this awesome set's silver anniversary is the addition of silver and frosted metallic colors, including the aqua that is Hexmozaix's signature color. It just gets better and better!

Tan Tricks I and IITM
We dragged our feet introducing this set because we deemed it too difficult for the world at large. As a bonafide member of the polyform family, however, polytans deserved to see the light of day. We published it initially without a book; that was added in 2009. Tan Tricks lives in two trays, though all the pieces combined are the series of 1 through 5 tans—shapes formed of isosceles right triangles (a square cut in half diagonally). The name of this family honors its ancient relative, the classic Tangrams, meaning shapes. It just happened that sizes 1, 2 and 4—the monotan, ditans and tetratans—can fom a little square (actually, a diamond), and sizes 3 and 5—the tritans and pentatans—fill a larger square. They are sold as a combo only. Somewhat later we added the hexatans, Tan Tricks III, but that's a story for another year.

We met an intense young man, David Hutchings, at a philosophy conference in Buffalo, NY, in 1988. He had accidentally wandered into the hotel lobby, curious about the commotion there, and saw Kate's display of puzzles. Turned out he was not a conference attendee but a puzzle designer himself. He lived in Buffalo with his mother and invited Kate over to look at his puzzles. Kate got especially excited by a 3D icosahedral interlocking model made of wings in four colors, where each color pair could be unique and each concave triangle of the ball they formed could have three different colors.

Before the evening ended, the decision was made to add this puzzle to the Kadon line. Dave had built the molds himself and had a good supply of parts that just needed assembly. After naming the puzzle Icosa-Triad and putting an activities booklet together, Kate offered it initially to puzzle collectors only and then to the world at large.

There was more to this puzzle than just the ball, however, whose shape is also called a "great dodecahedron". Dave had made an additional "cage" formed of 4 differently notched hexagonal rings that could be assembled around the completed ball. Having from two to six notches let the rings interlock in precise ways. In fact, it was fun to build it just by itself, without the enclosed ball. Sadly, we ran out of parts in 2014 and now this fine invention has passed into history, at least until 3D printing becomes feasible.

Footnote:  In 1988 we had built a custom-order model of Quintachex as a 20" inlaid wood chessboard. It was a thing of beauty though a huge amount of work to make. For 2013, we made just one special commemorative edition in wood. If there is irresistible demand for more in the future, we can make more.

By 1988 we had won many ribbons in shows, a good number of "Games 100" selections, and had become a self-confident small company. That came with the insight that we had to keep up the good work, the customer service, the fascinating new research as well as the care and feeding of our established products, and the growing requirements of red tape and paperwork. Kate could no longer do it all alone, and we needed to bring helpers on board. Division of labor conquers overload, and more heads are better than one. Luckily, our friends provided. In the face of the growing complexity of products and administrative burdens, having and keeping good people became our seventh rule.

  • A Quarter-Century Retrospective  (1980-2005)
  • 1982-2007:   The first wave of growth
  • 1983-2008:   The lesson of quality
  • 1984-2009:   Some things old, some things new
  • 1985-2010:   Guests and clones
  • 1986-2011:   Thinking big... and bigger
  • 1987-2012:   Growing three ways

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  • 1988-2013:   Compounding complexity


  • 1989-2014:   Grand visions
  • 1990-2015:   Herculean heights
  • 1991-2016:   Happy marriages
  • 1992-2017:   Diamonds forever

  • To Index page Chronology of Publication

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