Ball Pyramid puzzles—a farewell

The ball pyramid puzzles sold by Kadon since 1982 were invented by Len Gordon and produced in 1972 by Gordon Bros. in injection-molded polystyrene in various colors on black plastic bases. Len supplied us with all assembled and vacuum-packed sets in red, blue, green and crystal, and in three sizes: Perplexing (20-ball order-4 tetrahedron, 6 pieces), Big (30-ball square-base pyramid, 8 pieces), and Giant (9 pieces, 35-ball order-5 tetrahedron). The most difficult was the Giant. It was recommended for determined teens to adults.

Eventually we ran out of colors and really preferred the beautiful crystal version, so purchased only the crystal balls from Len and made our own bases when his ran out. The pyramids were among our top hottest sellers in the company's first 25 years.

For their 25th anniversary in 2009, we added silver trim to the bases. For the Maryland Renaissance Festival's 35th Anniversary in 2011, we made a special version of the Giant on a jade-and-silver inscribed base. You can read more about the Giant in the historical notes. For a full, technical analysis of spherical packing, see Len Gordon's notes on George Bell's great puzzle site.

In the mid-80s, Len sold his puzzle business and the molds for making pyramid pieces to Gerry Gonsalves, a furniture maker in Chico, CA, and retired to Arizona. Gerry kept us supplied with crystal parts for as long as they lasted and even had more made until the molds wore out. In 2016 Gerry also retired, the molds were scrapped, and the puzzle pieces ran out. As of March 2017, the Giant was no more. It was beautiful while it lasted and tantalized thousands of puzzlers. An enterprising soul solved it and made a diagram of the solution to post online.

By the end of 2017, we had only random spare parts left, not enough to make any of the standard models. What to do? How about concocting pyramids out of whatever pieces would work, a potluck mix. We were able to create a couple of Perplexing-size tetrahedra and just three Giant-size tetrahedra we called "Franken-5" constructions, each a different combo of odds and ends in mixed colors. We also managed to use up all the rest of the left-overs in making a dozen or so square-base pyramids, like the nice old extinct Big pyramid. They all had a mixture of different parts, hence the Potluck moniker. They were all guaranteed to have at least one solution! We don't know how many other ways there are to put any of them together. We leave the challenge of finding them to their puzzlers.

When we were done with these improvisations, exactly one unused piece remained: an L. How sweet that it's Len's initial. It has found a permanent home on our yuletide tree.

Many ball pyramid puzzles have come on the market since Len Gordon's heyday, especially since the 3D printing technique was developed. Whether our models will see a rebirth is an open question.

Postscript: As of January 1, 2018, we have exactly 2 sets left of a
related puzzle, Warp-30. An elegant collector's item.

1986 Historical Notes

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