Sunday, 26 March 2017

Hey Bud! It's Time to Be N-ary

The title of this blog post is a little play on words to introduce a couple of puzzles I have played with over the last month or so. Late last year a few of the guys who got to go to the Dutch Puzzle Party managed to come back (as usual) with lots of new toys and the B-Nary puzzle by Jean-Claude Constantin particularly caught my eye. Several people were very enthusiastic about it but unfortunately there were none left for me! Sob! It was a particularly big birthday for me when the DPP was on and I could not attend - I could not risk the wrath of she who must be feared and obeyed. I did ask Mr Strijbos about obtaining a copy of the B-Nary puzzle and he worked his magic on JCC. My copy arrived about 4 weeks ago.

I love these puzzles! Not only are they N-ary puzzles based on Gray code but they also smell nice - I lurve the laser burnt wood smell that arises when you open the package. This puzzle may be called B-Nary because of the shape (B on the front and N-A-R-Y etched on the sliders) but I discovered straight away that there are 3 positions for each of the sliders and hence it is not binary, it is ternary as confirmed by Goetz' list.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Even More Turning Madness!

Tronc Commun 3
At the beginning of January I waxed lyrical about a wonderful design by Gregory Benedetti which had been made by Brian Menold, the Tronc Commun 4 was what I consider to be the very best "Turning Interlocking Cube" ever designed. When Brian announced a new update was imminent I had an inkling that there might be another in the series available. I spent a fair amount of time hitting the refresh button on my browser to load and reload his site. His service provider was having problems at the time and it took a while before anything was showing up. Luckily I got there pretty quickly and picked up a beautiful cube - Tronc Commun 3 made from Wenge and Zebrawood.

My parcel then got held up by British customs and I was tortured by reports from my friend Ali who had also picked up a copy and thought it was fabulous. I had actually solved it in the past when Bernhard had made me a prototype version from Maple which was fun but functional. As is usual, I have forgotten absolutely everything about it apart from that I own it and that it was good and having gotten a copy of number 4 from Brian I really did have to get the number 3 in exotic woods as well - after all it is a collection and you cannot have too much wood!

Sunday, 12 March 2017

A Twisty Candidate for My Top Ten of the Year

Oskar's Crazy Comet
Last week I wrote at the end of my post that I was working on the Crazy Comet which had been mass produced by Lan Lan. My copy had been bought from my friend Marty but is also available from the various Chinese vendors if you live closer to them. I was originally attracted to it because it had quite a similarity to the Bermuda Megaminx puzzle series that I have begun to work through. However when I got my copy I realised straight away that whilst they are dodecahedra (like the Bermudaminxes) and also have some diamond centres that is where the similarities end. The Bermudaminxes ultimately require you to find a way to carry out at least a partial Megaminx solve where possible and this requires a few pentahedral centres. The Megaminx solve is actually pretty easy as it is effectively the same process as a standard 3x3 cube.

So having realised that the puzzle was neither Bermuda like or Megaminx like, I was a bit stumped. After that I was tempted to just scramble it and throw caution to the wind but after reading on Facebook that someone had tried a simple block building approach which was what I would have to do and had failed when they got to the top half. It was time to THINK© which was not something I am particularly good at. It took a while but I had an epiphany quite early on....the temptation with this puzzle is to orient it like the picture above BUT that's not the best way to look at it:

Curvy copter (an old pic)
A better way to look at the comet
Looking at the comet each face on the top is equivalent to an edge of the copter

Sunday, 5 March 2017

More Stupendous Pelikan Success

Involute Ball
I would appear to have been extremely successful in my reviewing process! As I write, all the puzzles apart from one on the Pelikan puzzle website are sold out apart from the Trirods ball (also well worth purchasing). After my last review all the rest went very quickly - well done to Jakub and Jaroslav for such a tremendous success. I have been asked for my thoughts on the last few that I bought from their recent batch and have just now managed to find time.

Involute ball and Brian Menold's wonderful cube version
Convolution ball
Starting with the Involute ball, Stewart Coffin designed the involute cube as an improvement of the original convolution cube and it became another of my favourite puzzle designs. Of course Pelikan made a delightful spherical version of Convolution cube which I adore and keep on show in my living room – I even have permission from Mrs S because it is so beautiful. When Jakub gave me a copy of the involute ball as a Christmas gift I was absolutely delighted! The woods are beautiful and the wood turning is perfect. The disassembly is just like the original cube and a wonderful sequence which can prove to be quite a challenge if you are new to interlocking wooden puzzles due to the combined coordinate motion and rotational move that is required (I have had some correspondence from a relative newcomer who got stuck which required me to make a video to help him).

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Graduating from the New Old School

The final 3 in the New Old School Series
In the UK secondary school starts at age 11 and continues through 7 years to age 18 depending on whether one continues to A level. Needless to say I went "all the way" with my education and with Gregory Benedetti's New Old School Puzzles I again had to go all the way through all 7 of them until I could say that I have graduated!

Eric produced the first four at the beginning of last year and with their very special coordinate moves hidden inside what looked like normal 6 piece burrs I just couldn't resist them at all and bought them immediately. I even said to "she who must be lied to" at that time that:
"These are something TOTALLY NEW! They might be a completely new puzzle category."
The first 4 made my top ten of 2016 and I was very worried at the time that Eric did not think at that time last year that he could possibly produce the final 3 in the series because the stick shapes were so crazy. A large number of us encouraged him to have a try and after he had seen some 3D printed versions he decided to give it a go. I am delighted to have a fabulous series of 7 apparently innocuous 6 piece burrs with a helluva bite to them:

Don't look like much do they? Apart from the beautiful wood they are marvelous puzzles.
When the update to his site went live, I had placed my order within a couple of minutes! The price was a little higher than expected but we had been warned that might be the case due to the huge amount of work involved. Needless to say I didn't hesitate but it did stop me buying any of the other wonderful toys he had produced.


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