The sheer volume of our productions, the great number of new and different ideas we had developed through 1991, finally caught up with us. For 1992 we managed to introduce only two new models. Only one other year, 2015, has had so slim an output. In our 13th year it was time to consolidate what we already had in our growing catalog. This was, mind you, before websites were even dreamed of for our little business. We were still printing expensive paper catalogs and mailing them out via the post office. The two new arrivals were gems, however, both based on rhombuses, more simply called diamonds. Here are their start-ups:
Around 1991, at an art show in Illinois, a distinguished-looking gentleman approached our booth and introduced himself as Bill Perk, a former associate of Buckminster Fuller. He wanted to show us a puzzle set that he was promoting for a friend of his, the renowned mathematician Alan Schoen. Upon seeing the Rombix concept, Kate was immediately interested, and a long-time friendship formed. Bill was passionate about many causes in the world, as had been Fuller, especially about working for world peace. A man after Kate's own heart. Fascinating fact: for many years Bill owned Buckminster Fuller's geodesic dome house!
Alan at the time was in China, so any consultations about the mathematical complexities of the set that Kate did not understand went by message from Kate to Bill to Alan and back again. The most exciting aspect of the set was Alan's discovery that dissecting any even-sided polygon into rhombuses (or rhombi) would produce tiles which, when joined into twins in every possible different concave way, would produce a set of tiles that could reconstitute the original polygon. It was a combinatorial marvel! With only 16 tiles to fill an octagonal tray in tens of thousands of ways, Rombix fit right into our philosophy, and into our boxes.
Getting Alan's 250 pages of esoteric math into simple language for the general public was a challenge. Kate managed to pull it all together, and Rombix was born.
Alan had dreams of selling millions of copies as McDonald's premiums and flooding toy stores; sadly that did not pan out. After attempts with other outlets, Kadon with its modest size, beautiful presentation and appeals to intelligence was the only one left standing.
Later on, we developed a genuine children's version of the Rombix concept, our phenomenally popular Rombix Jr., but that's a story for another day. We also went in the opposite direction, of making a 24-sided embodiment of the Rombix concept as a large art piece, Rainbow Rombix, but that story, too, must wait.
It was wonderful when Games Magazine in 1993 named Rombix one of the 100 best games on the market.
One of our early hits was Hexmozaix, a set of 12 tiles inlaid with chevrons and diamonds that form wonderful mosaic patterns. When three of these tiles meet, they form a miniature hexagon of three diamonds. One day it occurred to Kate that a junior version of such a pattern would make a fine little puzzle set in its own right. Using four colors in every combination would make 24 unique tiles, and 24 is a kind of magic number
for how many pieces a good puzzle should contain. And the hand-inlaid colors make it a fine little art piece, as well.
Since this set was essentially the baby of Hexmozaix, Kate got permission from Hexmozaix's inventor and trademark owner, Charles Butler, to borrow the name and add a "Jr." to it. While Hexmozaix does not use a tray, the junior set made a fine rounded triangle as its main figure and offered endless pretty challenges both inside and outside the tray. And ever after, for a quarter century, Hexmozaix Jr. has remained one of our bestsellers. For its anniversary, we'll do something silvery.
In the year 1992 we learned to let up a bit, and that it's OK to bring out fewer releases. It intrigued us that the two releases for 1992 both contained diamonds, and in fact Hexmozaix Jr. is the smallest polygon that can divide into rhombs according to Alan Schoen's technique for Rombix.
[To be continued in 2018.]
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
1988-2013: Compounding complexity
1989-2014: Grand visions
1990-2015: Herculean heights
1991-2016: Happy marriages
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1992-2017: Diamonds forever