Sunday, 12 November 2017

Not Jingly But Still Worthy of a Whack! Ouch!

Numlock
I think that many puzzlers tend to consider most of the N-ary puzzles as more of a curiosity than as a puzzle and I can certainly see why they might think that way. I have to say that I absolutely adore this group of puzzles but new ones tend not to come up for sale very often. The last time I wrote about any of them was back in March when I showed off a fantastic variety from plastic to wood (including hand made and laser cut). One of the fascinations for me is that they can be made as a series of puzzles in one giving plenty of value for money. Are they puzzles? Well it is for better bwains than mine to decide that - I certainly find them puzzling because it is not usually a simple sequence of moves, it often takes (me at least) a good while before the pattern of the movement sequence has been fathomed out. I personally don't like dexterity puzzles and barely consider them puzzles because no thought is required usually, just careful movement and indeed, a LOT of concentration. My N-ary puzzles also take a LOT of concentration - just a tiny lapse can lead one to move along a path all the way back to the beginning and can add hours on to the solve process.

The Numlock puzzle began in the tremendous brain of Goh Pit Khiam (as so many puzzles do) and was an entry in the IPP Design competition in 2014. The version in the competition was beautifully made by Tom Lensch and reviewed by Jerry Loo here. That version only had ternary pieces and only 4 of them to boot - at 143 moves most of us hardcore N-ary lovers would consider that just a beginner puzzle but still a bit of fun. It didn't stay on my radar for long until at an MPP a couple of years ago, Big Steve 3D printed a nice big one with more sliders and over a period of months people borrowed it and spent many hours solving it - a true show of hardcore puzzling strength. I was on the verge of asking to borrow it myself when my South African friend Johan Heyns got permission to make a copy and with help from the incredible Jack Krijnen managed to improve the design with extra pieces of higher 'arity. Kits could be ordered with different pieces. The price for the mega huge kit was too steep for me and I chose the intermediate set.

Numlock at back right
Pic is a little distorted as it was taken as a panarama
I was not disappointed! It is a fantastically beautiful puzzle which screams to be on display - It currently lives on my dining room sideboard as you can see above. The puzzles were made with a mixture of Cherry, Tulipwood and Kiaat (aka African Teak). Having chosen my kit to have both Ternary and Quinary pieces, I was informed that there would be 30 different combinations available to me - who could resist that? When it arrived I was delighted with the look and as always with Johan's puzzles, pleased to have a stand. But where were the extra pieces? He's a genius, that Johan! The stand had a double purpose:

A closer look at the stand was helpful
Quinary pieces held in place.
The puzzle had been sent out with the 8 ternary sliders and one start piece which I was informed would require 34,991 moves to complete. I have only this week had time to play with the long solution and I am ashamed to say that my powers of concentration were found to be inadequate! I probably had to perform well over 1000 more than that due to getting lost and back-tracking quite a long way before realising it. I did this over several evenings in front of the TV with Mrs S. Let us just say that there were plenty of Whack! Ouch!s given but I persisted with the solution despite the terrible fear of reprisals. I eventually had this:

OMG! If the puzzle didn't kill me then "she" nearly did!
Now, a hardcore puzzler would then do the whole thing in reverse to get back to the beginning. Did I do that? I thought about it for just a few moments and received another Whack! Ouch! when she caught me having such thoughts. I backed away and used the very nicely hidden setup/reset mechanism that Johan had designed:

Pull the leftmost piece and the magnets release.
This allows an easy reset
From the left: Quinary end, Ternary end,
Quinary main, Ternary main, Start piece

I have set it up with other shorter puzzles and have definitely had a lot of fun! I just dare not try any more really long ones otherwise she will either murder me or divorce me - none of which sound very pleasant!

Mixed Ternary and Quinary using only 5 sliders.
The above mixed puzzle still took me over an hour to solve! Thank you so much Johan (and Jack).



I Have Several Brains!

The plastic ones are fabulous but my own is NOT terribly bright

I have few brains - but here are some of them!
Having seen one at an MPP, in 2014, with the help of my good friend Michel van Ipenburg, I managed to obtain one of The Brain puzzles produced in 1979 by Mag-nif. I got mine for a brilliant £9.95 on Ebay and have actually taken it out and solved it quite a few times. I find it a rather soothing thing to play with. If you want one now then they do come up occasionally but are now reaching the dizzy heights of nearly £40! I think that is a bit over the top but I guess supply and demand controls the price.

I was contacted a few weeks ago by another good friend from the Far East and told about David Guo who had designed versions of the Brain but with Ternary and Quaternary mechanisms. Yes! I know! I should control myself better but......it's N-ary and I could control myself. A few emails and some PayPal and I waited for a little package. David had 3D printed his own versions and made me a lovely set of 3. Mrs S was distinctly unimpressed as I crowed over them and, after photos, set to. The mechanism is beautifully smooth and exactly as logical as one would expect. After a couple of hours (yes, I did get lost during the solution of the Quaternary version) I had this little photogenic set:

All solved!
I did decide to reset them by working back through the solution process and received another Whack! Ouch! for counting my moves aloud. Having marvelled at the beauty of the set, I couldn't resist dismantling them to see how they worked. This sort of thing really makes me want to buy a 3D printer but at the moment I have no time to play with one and no room to store one. Maybe someday?

Binary:
Lid off
Plates revealed
Ternary:
Lid off
Plates revealed
Quaternary:
Lid off
Plates revealed
It is fun to go through the solution of these puzzles with the lids off to see how the plates interact. I am delighted to add these to my collection. David Guo does have a puzzle website of his own - it is in Chinese so most of you will rely heavily on Google translate but it's worth a look here. Thank you David for the opportunity to own something new and special.



Sunday, 5 November 2017

Diniar Goes Hardcore

All the pieces of the Sliding Tetris (Hardcore version)
Today's post may be even less coherent than my usual drivel! I am stuffed with a cold and drugged to the eyeballs with all sorts of medication intended to stop me dribbling nasal goo all over my keyboard. An unfortunate side effect of this is that my bwain is fairly foggy just now. This doesn't help me with my puzzling and definitely doesn't improve my ability to write interesting articles. Bear with me if you can.

Remove the ball
Today I feel the urge to talk about one of the best value puzzles ever! The Sliding Tetris puzzle was Diniar Namdarian's entry into the 2017 IPP puzzle design competition. Brian seemed to like it in his roundup of all the competition puzzles. I remember playing with it a little bit during my time at the IPP and finding it somewhat challenging but I was very easily distracted by all the wood around and bits of shiny metal (I am a very shallow puzzler) and after solving a couple of the challenges I moved on. A few weeks Diniar let it be known to a bunch of previous customers that he had some of these for sale and also had created a "collectors edition" with an additional 11 pieces and a "Hardcore version" with a total of 25 pieces and a huge number of challenges. How could I resist? Well I couldn't and a quick FB message placed my order for the full Hardcore set.

The clips that hold the lid onto the frame get quite a lot of use and Diniar provided a whole envelope full of spares just in case one snapped. I had forgotten how chunky everything was and when they arrived I realised that I might have an extra packing puzzle of where to put them all. Mrs S hid her irritation and provided me with a nice big Tupperware box (she seems to collect them as they are everywhere!) and I had a nice little container to put next to my living room chair whilst I worked on an assembled puzzle:

Very convenient - maybe I need a nice wooden box for them?
Over the few days after it arrived Diniar sent me various iterations of the puzzle booklet as a pdf which got bigger and bigger each time. Eventually the final version had 125 sliding piece challenges and 18 packing challenges (which I had not expected). For a fab price of 67€ plus postage this is tremendous value for money. During my conversation with him I exclaimed that it would take me months! He seems to think that a weekend is adequate but then he is a genius at sliding puzzles. The puzzles range from 25 up to 46 moves and, for me, even the easier ones are a decent challenge.

The size is perfect so as not to be too fiddly and to allow fingers to poke through the sides to manipulate the pieces or the ball. Gravity can be helpful at times but often a nuisance as things keep sliding where they are not wanted. The first few puzzles seemed to be a lot of random movements to me but after that I did get the hang of the idea and was able to make more calculated attempts. After the third or fourth challenge I attempted, I seemed to get stuck for a bit. At that point, I discovered a very ingenious extra twist to the design. The square hole for removal of the blue ball was just the right size to allow this to happen:

A piece pokes out
For some reason it had not occurred to me to let the pieces slip through the exit hole. For a number of the puzzles doing this is essential to create enough space for the ball or other pieces to move into an appropriate position. I have to say that this adds a whole new dimension to the challenge and makes it even more interesting for me.

Having done about 20 so far and before writing this blog post, I decided to have a go at one of the packing puzzles. I am sure that most of you have owned a Soma cube and if not, why not? It's an essential puzzle for every collector. I got mine made from Rubberwood from Creative crafthouse and I recently bought the Restricted soma reborn set from Brian Menold. The soma cube uses a set of very simple shapes to make a 3x3 and Brian and C. M. Huang used an ingenious way to restrict the ability to assemble the cube by adding a lid with a cutout (a finger hole is required in the box to allow sliding and rotation of the pieces after they have been inserted through the lid. So far I have singularly failed to solve any of the 3 challenges in this one.

Rubberwood Soma cube
Restricted Soma reborn
Another fun variation on this theme is Coffin's Half hour puzzle which I bought as part of a set from Brian as well as a cheap version from Village games in Camden.

A lovely set of three (including a half hour puzzle)
Now let me say that I am just terrible at these "make a cube" puzzles! They are supposed to be relatively straight forward and after my initial success within 5 minutes at the half hour puzzle being due to a fault, it took me a LOT longer than the proposed 30 minutes. The Soma cube also takes me ages to solve. The packing challenges that Diniar created with his set require far fewer pieces but they tend to be much more complex in shape - I gave it a go!

Only 5 shapes but.....
I always end up like this!
Blush!!! I somehow find these incredibly tough! Just the first challenge alone took me 45 minutes:

Proof that I did solve one of them
This 67€ set will definitely keep me busy for a VERY long time (not just the weekend that Diniar suggested) and is fabulous value for money! I love it - definitely worth every penny/cent. Diniar is great to deal with and as these are 3D printed by him they may still be available if you ask.

Thank you my friend!

Now I need to lie down in my deathbed and feel sorry for myself - this bubonic plague is very unpleasant. Mrs S really hates all the coughing, wheezing and snortering noises that I cannot seem to control. She has several times asked me to "stop breathing" which I think is not very nice!


Sunday, 29 October 2017

When in France One Should Buy French

Or...... Jean-Baptiste Pushes Me Over the Edge!

A trio of caged 6 piece burrs - one of these is new to the collection
From the left: Nickel box, Congestion and Chrysalide
The IPP this year was held in Paris and was my chance to catch up with friends old and new. Two friends that I did not know were members and whom I was delighted to finally meet after many years of knowing each other, were Jean-Baptiste Jacquin who is the proprietor of the wonderful Arteludes puzzle store, one of the two puzzle bloggers in France with his "Jeu-et-casse-tete" site (for completeness, the other French blogger is Guy Brette at Cassetete.org). The other French puzzler I met for the first time in years was Guillaume Largounez who is one of the greatest burr puzzlers and analysers in the world - he writes on the puzzle-place forum as Pio2001.

It was fabulous catching up with them and, for some reason, I did not expect them to set up a store at the main puzzle party on Sunday - yes, I know..... I am not very bright! The day of the party, I shot down to the main hall armed with what I thought was enough cash for the day (again, not very bright) and promptly ran out of money in under an hour! Don't tell Mrs S! After that I had to resort to PayPal and thanked the stars for the iPhone app. Having spent a fortune already, I suddenly came across my two friends with a fantastic table full of the wooden wares that I frequently drool over on the store and also some new ones not seen before. They caught me already feeling rather guilty at how much I had spent and then tempted me with more. The table looked so good that I stopped to admire all the new toys and that was my downfall! First of all Jean-Baptiste gave me a lovely bag of nutty sweeties which he said were for Mrs S as an apology for all the puzzling that had come from him over the years (let me say that I DID give them to her and she has NOT forgiven him for littering her house with new toys). After receiving the little gift/bribe, I felt it would have been rude not to add a French puzzle (or 2....or 3) to my collection. One thing I should add is that all of the puzzles in the Arteludes store are made by the amazing Maurice Vigouroux and are always beautifully made.

Chrysalide
The first puzzle that I HAD to buy was to complete a collection - I am actually not sure whether I will ever solve it! The Chrysalide puzzle, designed by the incredible Stéphane Chomine, is a standard 6 piece burr in a frame made from Ebony and Padauk with Beech dowels to give an orientation and ensure a single solution. This puzzle is the 3rd in the series that began many years ago with Nickel Box and which took me 2 weeks of work despite being rated as only an 8/10 difficulty. It was followed a couple of years later by the incredibly tough Congestion puzzle which is still available and which I have yet to solve despite trying it on and off for 3 years! Chrysalide is supposed to be halfway between them in difficulty and maybe will help me bridge the gap. They certainly look wonderful together on display as the top photo shows. Chrysalide is next on my to be attempted list and is currently sitting on my armchair in the living room calling to me now.

I have bought several burr puzzles over the years with animals (or other objects) inside which contribute to the puzzling - Goetz has called these the puzzle zoo and I absolutely love this idea. Several were made by Alfons Eyckmans, a couple by Stephan Baumegger and even one by Eric Fuller.  A couple of these made it to the Arteludes store but I had already bought them from Alfons years ago. I was astounded to see some new ones on Jean-Baptiste's table which were not on the store and I HAD to have them. Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear!

Rhino
Bull
They do look identical but they have different animals inside and have a very different solve process each. These have been on my "to be played with" pile for a couple of months and only recently did I manage to spend a decent amount of time working on them. I had been idly fiddling on and off in the evenings but with my back and forth approach to this type of puzzle, I did not really make any progress other than to find a few interesting moves.

I had got to the point of being stuck on each and unable to make any headway so I needed a decent amount of time to sit and think and experiment. This week I have had some annual leave - at this time of year I usually use the leave to do the chores I haven't done during the year like tax return, optician, visit doctor etc). I actually had not been terribly well during the week and was forced to take it easy for a couple of days and so I started on the Rhino. The puzzle is beautifully made by Maurice as always and slides smoothly. Back and forth to the dead end was getting me nowhere and now I was forced to just sit and think and experiment. The Aha! moment was wonderful when it arrived. After about a couple of hours of solid play I had the Rhino released:

Rhino - The back 7 pieces are identical
I had managed to dismantle almost all of it and keep the process in my head quite well when the customary sleeping cat turned over on my lap and I dropped the remaining precariously held pieces thus any chance of a reassembly by brain power was lost! Oh well, Burrtools to the rescue! The reassembly is fun and doesn't require 4 pairs of hands and double jointed fingers. I am amazed that the puzzle has 7 identical pieces. I love it and will do it again soon to prove that it wasn't a fluke!

Moving on to Bull, the disassembly was much harder for me. It seemed less rhythmic and intuitive. There were some very well hidden moves before the first 2 pieces came out and after I removed a 3rd and 4th I was hopelessly lost. No chance at all of a reassembly from scratch with this - I lined everything up for a photo and made my BT file.

Bull - brilliant fun!
If these two do get put up for sale then I can heartily recommend them (in either case you should certainly try the Free the Monkeys 2 and Save the Gorilla which are available just now). All of these puzzle have the characteristic 'MV' stamp from Maurice which I have been unable to photograph in a way that shows up.

Even if Mrs S is not impressed with the cost of my IPP splurge, I am delighted to have added yet another few french puzzles to my collection (Don't forget the Stand by cubes by Gregory Benedetti which I wrote about here). My current French puzzle photo will need to be updated:

French puzzles - completely out of date now!

Sunday, 22 October 2017

When Ali Says Don't put Your Finger In It.....

Just DON'T!!!!!

The Louvre from Brian Young
I stuck my finger in here too!
I have had this puzzle for a few months now and have been stuck for a rather embarrassingly long time. The reason for being stuck? I didn't do what Ali told me! I have already learned that occasionally sticking my finger in a puzzle can cause pain - I still vividly recall what happened when I tried to solve the Viper puzzle made by the amazing Shane Hales. With the Viper it caused physical pain and really made me jump (embarrassingly many times). With Brian Young's latest sequential discovery masterpiece, putting your finger in it will cause mental anguish instead. My advice is to BUY IT! Then follow Ali's advice and stick no digits inside—only stick your brain in it....figuratively. Who is Ali? and why should you take his advice? I have known Ali since the beginning of my puzzling fetish, he was one of the revomaze support forum torturers who kept me going on the revomazes and provided just enough encouragement to get me through them. He's a big bloke (although not as big as BIG Steve) who runs a team of guys undertaking major building works in London. Generally people do what he says because he knows his stuff and if they don't they usually come to regret it. He is also one of the best puzzlers in the world - very few puzzles stump him for long! So with those words said you can imagine how sorry for myself I have been feeling having not taken his sage advice!

I bought The Louvre puzzle at the MPP before heading off to Paris for the IPP in August. I cannot resist sequential discovery puzzles and no matter how much they have cost, I have never baulked at the price and never regretted it. At AU$130 ($102 US) this puzzle is a bargain. The story is that you need to find and use tools to allow the lost Mona Lisa to be found and the French flag raised to full mast.

Instructions - no "undue" force but hitting is allowed.
It is made from Papua New Guinean Rosewood with lovely honey brown tones and inside there are many machined brass parts and some small magnets. It is a nice size and weight—145 x 45 x 65mm in size. With the laser engraved front face really does look like the front façade of the Louvre:

The Louvre looks just like the puzzle! Amazing!
Photo courtesy of Jean-Pierre Dalbéra on Wikimedia
I did not get much time to play until after returning from IPP. I do distinctly recall Ali telling me that putting a finger in the puzzle was a distinctly bad idea but in my stupidity I ignored his advice. There are several locks here which need to be opened. Initially there is only a single mm of play in the sliding door in the base and it is locked very tight with absolutely nothing happening as I do all the usual tapping, spinning, blowing and submerging in gin. Eventually after about a ½ hour the first lock succumbed and I had a whole cm visible inside. AHA!!! The flag was there but no way to get to it. I opened and closed and locked and unlocked that cm several times without really understanding how (that will come back to haunt me later). Rule number one with Brian's puzzles are to use your eyes and rule two is to use your brain.....here is where I have problems! Eventually I remembered to use my eyes and noticing something through a little hole I was able to open the door further and retrieve the first tool. This also gave me the flag but only after another 10 minutes before I remembered to use my eyes again.

At this point quite a lot of the mechanism inside is visible but this does not make it obvious what to do. The next step, to my shame, took me several more days to work out and I had made my next discovery. Here is where it all went horribly wrong. You see it's all so inviting inside! There are several thingummyjigs that you want to play with and see what they will do. In my excitement I forgot Ali's excellent advice and I put my finger in! It didn't help me at all! Nothing would move or happen and here I remained......for 2 months! Sob! I am not terribly bright! Downright dim according to "She who frightens the Bejeeezus out of me".

When I finally recalled the words "don't put your finger inside" and realised that I had committed a cardinal sin, I took a proper look inside.....with decent light.....and my reading glasses on! Yes not only am I rather stupid but I am also getting old and my close up vision is rapidly worsening. I need reading glasses for the fine work I do in the hospital (I had noticed that putting in cannulae and threading arterial and central lines over wires was getting harder as I needed longer and longer arms). Having donned my reading glasses I noticed something absolutely critical inside and could not utilise my finding at all. NOTHING would work - I even resorted to poking with things other than my finger but nope! Nada! After a panicked email to Brian and Sue, I had to wait a bit because they were still travelling around Europe. After a month (ish) I was able to communicate properly and receive their wise advice.

YES! By not following Ali's instructions I had completely buggered my chance of solving it in the normal accepted fashion. I actually did more or less understand what was required (although not why it was) but physically couldn't do it. I actually worried that it would need to go back to Oz. Luckily, Brian sent me a photo of a tool I could make to overcome the stupidity. A large hospital paperclip was duly unfurled and bent to a nice shape and with just a little bit of manipulation in the appropriate direction I had undone the finger damage. Just 15 minutes later I was the hero of France:

Flag unfurled and a rather large Mona Lisa recovered
Of course that is not the whole puzzle. Having saved a major work of art it was important to put her (and everything else) back inside. Most of this I was able to do having finally understood the last locking mechanism properly. BUT remember that I had not really understood the initial lock? Yet again I was stumped for a bit. I knew where everything went but having placed the pieces, the sliding door wouldn't close completely. I am ashamed to admit that it took me another ½ hour before I remembered to put my blasted reading glasses on and peer inside. Another AHA! At last I understood the whole puzzle and it was all set back to the beginning. I can now do the whole thing from beginning to end in just a few minutes but that first time must have taken me many many hours!

It's a genius piece of work by Brian and with all those steps, it is well worth your investment. Just remember to ALWAYS pay attention to Ali:

DO NOT PUT YOUR FINGER IN IT!


Sunday, 15 October 2017

Back to the Beginning Plus a Bit More

Locked Domino Tower
I'm a bit knackered today having spent 10 hours yesterday and 2 more hours today writing the Dec/Jan rotas for my department and also being on call for 24 hours today. So this post will be a quickie.....but hopefully as high quality as the puzzle I will write about.

Die Doolhof
This time I couldn't resist something that takes me back to the beginning. My puzzling began just about 7 years ago back in October 2010 (after a horrific occurrence at work) and I began blogging my crazy progress in March 2011. For me the puzzle that started off my "obsession" was the Revomaze, a hidden maze inside a cylinder. Those first puzzles were made of metal and very finely engineered. After I went through months and months and more months of effort solving the series - Blue, Green, Bronze, Silver, the defective Gold (which I did not write about) and also the fabulous Orange, I ended up stopping because the company wasn't able to fulfil the orders that people had made - this issue has apparently improved a bit now. But my habit now tends more towards wood (although I do love some seriously good metal like that from Wil Strijbos) so how great is it to get a similar hidden maze puzzle made just as finely in wood? Thanks to my South African friend, Johan Heyns, I have a Die Doolhof made from Wild Olive and a copy of Oskar's Domino Tower with a locking central piece which is also a hidden maze which must be navigated before the coordinate motion puzzle can be unlocked. It is beautifully made from Silky Oak and Sugarbush. Johan makes puzzles as his sole means of income and I always try to buy something from his offerings each time he makes them.

The mark of a Johan Heyns puzzle.....there is a special stand
My puzzle was held up by customs for several weeks and Johan was worried that his stand was the cause. One of the features of a Johan Heyns puzzle is that if they are not naturally flat or are best displayed at an angle then he ALWAYS makes an interesting display stand for them. This particular puzzle has a Warthog tooth as the stand. It is stunning and full of character but he did worry that the customs men had a problem with an animal tooth being sent in the post to the UK. Luckily when it finally arrived (after I had paid a ransom for the pleasure) there was no sign that they had even opened the box.

When I finally got some time to play one evening, I decided to start with the Domino tower (I will save the Die Doolhof until I am on leave in a week or so). I knew there was a locking puzzle but only when I initially investigated did I realise that it was a mini revomaze:

It's a mini revomaze!!! But not fully hidden.
It is not quite a revomaze as the maze here is far less complex, the maze becomes visible during the solve and there are no traps or resets inside. But it was a very pleasant experience to work my way through it and then remove the lock from the tower:

Perfection!
I then moved onto the Domino tower which I do have a similar type of puzzle from My friend Neil - the Hex stair:


I was familiar with how these puzzles work and it was just a matter of finding which bits to push in which direction. It is remarkably stable right until the very very end of the travel:

Perfectly stable
Just an extra mm of pushing and it breaks apart into 2 pieces and then another 2 after a further push. The quality and accuracy of the craftsmanship now becomes apparent!

Fabulous!
The reassembly is also fun and being able to finish it off with the reverse solve of the maze is a nice icing on the cake for me. Well I have just finished in the nick of time - I will need to go in to the hospital in the next 30 minutes for a motorcycle crash victim......perfect timing. Enjoy the rest of your weekend everybody.



Sunday, 8 October 2017

Juno's Tribute to Yavuz

Pseudo Ovolo
Just a short post today as I really haven't had much time for solving much recently. A did manage to solve the second of the burrs that I bought from Junichi Yananose at the IPP in Paris and thought I should tell you about it. As you can see from the picture above it is a combination of a board and a stick burr (with some very odd sticks) and at Juno's table, it looked so gorgeous that I couldn't resist it even though I knew almost nothing about it. The name immediately makes you question it as it is a "pseudo" Ovolo when I did not even know what a real Ovolo was! Apparently the whole thing is down to my good friend Yavuz Demirhan who is one of the most prolific and talented puzzle designers in the world (over 500 published designs) and also a craftsman of considerable skill. Yavuz' Etsy store is well worth a visit. The Ovolo puzzle was designed by Yavuz in 2015 and was considered good enough that one of the world's foremost puzzlers, Brian Young, actually made this in wood and acrylic and used it as his exchange puzzle at the Kyoto IPP in 2016 - it is still for sale on Brian and Sue's store, MrPuzzle. I should probably pick up a copy soon!

Apparently the first time Juno saw the Ovolo design, he really liked the concept of the puzzle and thought that the shape of the puzzle was also attractive so he set out to design a similar puzzle with some alterations. Here is what he said he wanted to do:
"He didn’t want to copy the shape of the puzzle and made a slight modification to the assembled shape. Now, what is the difference in the shape of the two puzzles? Both puzzles, Ovolo and Pseudo Ovolo consist of six sticks. Comparing the orientation of those six sticks in the assembled shape, the difference is obvious. Two sets of three sticks are used for Ovolo and those two pieces don’t touch each other. Three sets of two sticks are used for Pseudo Ovolo and the three pieces touch each other and make a loop shape."

The original Ovolo is a level 5 solution but the Pseudo Ovolo was designed as a level 13 which to me is just the right difficulty level to be enjoyable (I can do tougher puzzles but I find that above level 20 they suddenly change from being fun to being work and I only choose puzzles of that difficulty if there is something really special about them). Juno made some modifications to the pieces to increase the structural strength whilst not changing the level of the puzzle (he added small blocks to the joins  of the stick pieces to increase the gluing area).

The store site claims:
"Pseudo Ovolo is a very difficult puzzle because of its unusual transformation of the shape when it is assembled or disassembled. There are also lots of false movements to be disassembled."
How could I possibly resist that? Plus I am a Magpie and I love puzzles of beauty - made from Karry and Silver Ash with reinforcing Splines on the board burr pieces, it is truly gorgeous and I knew it would look great on display.

Picking it up to play with it, I realised that it is the perfect size too (87.5mm on each side) - it is easy to manipulate and to see what is happening inside. The level 13 did not particularly frighten me but what did was the huge amount of movement in the puzzle. It really slides apart a long way in several orientations without becoming unstable and without showing an easy solution. Unlike many board burrs there is no rotational shortcut because the pieces are held very captive.

One of the fascinating things with this is that the design allows the inside and the interactions of the pieces to be seen with ease and theoretically it should make planning the moves rather easy. That's the theory but for me it did not meet that theory! I spent a good hour moving everything around before I noticed a very well disguised move. It should have been obvious (and maybe it would be to you) but I must have moved past that position dozens and dozens of times. Having taken that particular move the pathway becomes more and more obvious but it doesn't fall apart. It still needs a bit more thought before suddenly 2 pieces come out together. From this point the remaining disassembly is a very pleasant sequence (which can be done in 2 different orders) and a bunch of beautifully made sticks and boards were arranged on the customary sleeping cat on my lap:

Just look at how beautifully made those pieces are and notice the branded mark!
There is the customary branded mark that I mentioned on a previous blog post and the making of which was described fully by Juno on his own blog. We have 3 identical boards, a pair of identical boards and 2 identical sticks. The quality is stunning!

The reassembly would be completely impossible for me from scratch but I had spent enough time on the disassembly that I had a reasonable memory and, more importantly, had a fairly good understanding of the structure. I managed most of the reassembly with relative ease until the last pair of pieces and realised that I hadn't paid enough attention to the orientation of all the pieces......Aaaargh! - it wouldn't fully go together. After an initial minor panic (I knew that I would be making a Burrtools file in any case), I persevered and actually had a very pleasant time working my way back to see where I had made my error. This was a really fun puzzle. It is also so tactile that over the next few days I enjoyed just taking it apart, scrambling the pieces and putting it back together again.

I realised that I quite enjoyed this challenge and especially the fact that I could see inside and try to plan my moves/attack. I enjoyed it so much that I bought another puzzle with a similar premise: The Visible Framed Burr also is supposed to be very tricky yet after a few moves it is possible to see all the pieces and how they can interact by peering inside - these puzzles are also good value with the conversion of the Australian Dollar to GBP being quite good.

Visible Framed Burr
I can heartily recommend these puzzles - Juno is a great craftsman and Yukari, who runs the shop, is lovely to deal with. They have also just released a new new 6 piece burr "with a difference", the AMazing burr which looks great fun. I will definitely need to order one of those when my wallet has recovered from the dual shock of Eric Fuller and Brian Menold's recent dual releases.

I hope you all enjoyed your weekend? Mine has been full of gym (at my advanced age I have to work to maintain my fitness!!) and chores, with no puzzling yet at all. Sob! Maybe this evening if I am lucky?


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