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Larry D. Nichols

by Serhiy Grabarchuk
Larry D. Nichols

Larry D. Nichols
Dr. Larry D. Nichols, a lifelong puzzle enthusiast and inventor, grew up in Xenia, Ohio, and studied chemistry at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, before moving to Massachusetts to attend Harvard Graduate School. He has lived with his wife Karen in Arlington, Massachusetts, for the last forty years, and is now retired. Their two sons live in Burlington, Vermont, and San Jose, California.
Larry D. Nichols' Cube

Larry Nichols' Cube
as it appeared in his
U.S. patent 3,655,201.

The Nichols Cube Puzzle

In 1957, seventeen years before Dr. Rubik’s invention, Dr. Nichols conceived of a twist cube puzzle with six colored faces. It was a 2 x 2 x 2 cube assembled from eight unit cubes with magnets on their inside faces, allowing the cubes to rotate in groups of four about three axes. The object of the puzzle was to mix the colors on the faces of the cube and then restore them.

After making many preliminary models, in 1968 a working prototype was constructed, and on April 11, 1972, U.S. patent 3,655,201 was issued covering the Nichols' Cube. The patent focused on the 2 x 2 x 2 puzzle but mentioned the possibility of larger versions.

In 1985 a U.S. District Court ruled that Rubik’s Cube infringed the Nichols patent, but in 1986 the Court of Appeals ruled that only the smaller 2 x 2 x 2 Rubik’s Pocket Cube was guilty of infringement, and not the extremely popular 3 x 3 x 3 Rubik's Cube.
Larry D. Nichols and his cube.

Larry D. Nichols with his twist cube.
Leapin' Lizards by Larry D. Nichols

Leapin' Lizards by Larry D. Nichols.

Leapin' Lizards

Another puzzle invented by Dr. Nichols was developed in collaboration with Serhiy Grabarchuk, who created all the challenges for the puzzle.

It is a "restricted route" puzzle that makes a clever, one-player game that is ideal for older kids and adults. The puzzle contains a circular board with 6 pegs; 40 circular challenge cards, each with a different pathway, rated beginner to expert; 5 adorable chameleons in different colors; and a solution booklet.

Select a challenge card and put it on the board over the pegs. Then set up the five chameleons as indicated, and move them one by one along the lines until each gets back to its matching colored rock. Just be sure to follow the pathways on your trip back home!

Leapin' Lizards was manufactured and sold by Binary Arts Corp. (now ThinkFun®, Inc.) for several years.
Double Play by Larry D. Nichols

The Double Play puzzle by Larry D. Nichols.

Double Play

Dr. Nichols has never lost his fascination with puzzles, particularly those descended from the ever-popular 15 Puzzle, which for a hundred years remained the most widely played manipulative puzzle in the World until the advent of Rubik’s Cube.

Years ago Dr. Nichols set himself the task of developing a new puzzle which looked just as simple as the 15 Puzzle but offered far more challenge and entertainment. The result, Double Play, is a beautiful new kind of sliding block puzzle.

Double Play resembles the 15 Puzzle, with square tiles numbered 1 through 12 contained in a 4 x 4 frame along with four empty cells. It has just one new rule: The tiles can only slide in pairs, with one tile pushing another.

The object is to move the tiles from any given or random position back to the Home pattern, which is a cross-like square shape with empty corners, with the numbers arranged in ascending order from top to bottom and left to right as shown in the diagram.

Give it a try here, but bear in mind that all of the Double Play challenges are quite difficult. Happy Puzzling!
To be continued.
Last Updated: July 5, 2009
Posted: July 5, 2009
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