Grand Tans:  the full story

We first encountered this set of 7 tiles at a puzzle party in 1983, where Dick Hess showed a set he had made in wood.

At first glance they looked like the classic tangrams, but no, the proportions were subtly different. Where tangrams have parallelograms, this one has rhombuses. And the tricky pie-shaped piece has short sides whose length is the difference between the side and the hypotenuse of the triangle.

The puzzle had originally been designed and made by a German company, F. A. Richter, in 1891, with the unwieldy (for Americans) name of Grillentöter, meaning something like headbreaker or mindkiller. It was #5 of 18 puzzles in their First Series of anchor stone puzzles, beginning in 1891. The Second Series, #19-36, was designed and began being made during World War II.

Richter also made some other stone puzzles that were not part of either series.

You can find more information about the Richter puzzles in Jerry Slocum's excellent book, listed here and available through Amazon, Puzzles Old & New (1986, with Jack Botermans).

When Kadon decided to produce this puzzle, a somewhat easier name was chosen, "Grand Tans," being a playful reverse of the sound of tangrams. We solved all the randomly sized puzzle shapes that came with the original set and created clean new drawings to scale for the booklet. We also developed some new puzzle figures to bring the total number of challenges to 101.

In August 1991, Games Magazine independently ran a contest for new designs for the set and even included a set of pieces in die-cut paper. Winners were announced in the December 1991 issue. We picked our own favorite among their winners and bestowed a set of our Grand Tans on the creative solver. Here is Lisa di Palma's winning design, "Stork Bringing Baby":


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