This column is a tribute to Ivan Moscovich, a puzzle legend who passed away last week at the age of 96. Ivan was a prolific inventor of toys and games, a pioneer of interactive science museums, and a best-selling puzzle book author. The following queries are derived from his best-selling book, The Big Book of Brain Games, which sold approximately 500,000 copies.

(Further information about Ivan’s extraordinary existence is provided below.)

Chicken and egg

Which came first, the egg or the chicken?

The final male

Here is the opening line to a science fiction tale:

“The final human sat alone in his chamber. Suddenly, someone knocked on the door!”

Can you alter one word in the preceding sentence to make the man’s isolation before the doorbell ring more pronounced?

Several buildings

How can one construct a home with windows on all four walls that all face south?

The Columbus Egg

Several years ago, Ivan observed an inventive egg-shaped play that was inspired by the legend that Christopher Columbus balanced an egg on its pointed end. Ivan could not make the egg object stand on its end. Shaking the egg uncovered no movable components.

Following the instructions on the package was the only method for balancing the egg on its pointed end. Hold the egg with the pointed end facing upward for at least thirty seconds. 2.

Flip the egg, wait ten seconds, and then position it on its pointed end. The egg would then be perfectly balanced and remain stable for approximately 15 seconds, at which point it would collapse and anyone attempting to balance it again would fail unless the instructions were repeated. Can you identify the egg’s interior structure?

Carrara marble and glass

Can a marble be removed from a table using only a wine glass? (It is prohibited to strike the marble in any manner, as this could cause the glass to shatter.)

Penny collapses

The image above depicts a shot glass full of water and myself clutching a penny. How many pennies can I place into the glass before it overflows with water?

I will return at 5pm UK time with the answers. In the interim, PLEASE NO SPOILERS. Instead, discuss your favorite puzzle toys; there’s a good possibility that Ivan Moscovich invented or at least inspired them.

Now, more information about the man and his remarkable life. During World War II, Ivan, who was born in 1926 in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia, was incarcerated in two Nazi labor camps and four concentration camps (including Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen). He always claimed that his ability to think creatively was what saved him, and that his insatiable desire to generate new ideas was a result of his wartime trauma.

Ivan emigrated to Israel following his emancipation. He never turned back after meeting the Hungarian mathematician Paul Erds, who inspired him to create his first puzzle toy. He licensed over one hundred toys and games and continued to release new products well into his nineties, the most recent being 30 Cube. In 2020, he was awarded the lifetime achievement award by the United States toy and game industry.

In Israel, he conceived the concept for a novel type of science museum where visitors could interact with exhibits. He was the founder and director of the Museum of Science and Technology, which opened in 1964 in Tel Aviv and featured numerous objects he designed. Frank Oppenheimer was inspired by the museum, and he used many of Ivan’s ideas when he established the Exploratorium in San Francisco, arguably the most well-known hands-on science museum in the world.

Ivan also popularized the harmonograph, a drawing device comprised of two pendulums that produces beautiful spiraling loops. The “harmonograms” created by his machine have been displayed in galleries and museums in the United States and Europe.

Ivan later moved to the Netherlands, where he wrote scores of puzzle books, with his Big Book of Brain Games being the most well-known. Since Ivan was such a master at creating amusing objects, I chose puzzles that favored the physical.

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