Sunday, 20 April 2014

And the winner is.....

A very fancy bit of code - produces a winner
So 2 weeks ago I set a contest to win a Buzzle Ball. Entry to the contest required only that you make a comment under the blog post and follow up with an email using my Contact page to allow me to contact you again.

There were only a few entries. I had planned to use a rather complex system using an excel spreadsheet and a random number generator. A friend at work who is a bit of a whizz with Javascript gave me the following code which will take all the comments and exclude me and then randomly generate a winner.

function getCommentAuthors(from, selector){ var authorEls = from.querySelectorAll(selector), authorNames = []; [].forEach.call(authorEls, function(a){ authorNames.push(a.textContent); }); return authorNames.sort(); } var authors = getCommentAuthors(document.getElementById('comments'), 'cite.user:not(.blog-author) a'), randomisedAuthor = authors[Math.floor(Math.random() * authors.length)]; console.log(randomisedAuthor);
So a while ago I ran the code on that page using Chrome's javascript console and it produced the winner.

The winner is:
Michel van Ipenburg

Congratulations!
My commiserations to those who didn't win but the Buzzle ball will be available on-line soon.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

An N-ary puzzle to N'd all other N-ary puzzles!

So exciting - N more N-ary puzzles!
Over the last 2 years I have developed a bit of an addiction to N-ary puzzles. Yes I know I have developed an addiction to ALL puzzles but I really am trying to narrow down my interests a little bit. I'm struggling but promise that I'm trying really hard. Certainly one group that I am particularly keen to get more of, is the group that are mathematically based - i.e. they are based on Gray binary code.

Ternary Burr
I have written about a few of them before - One of my all time favourites is the Hexadecimal puzzle which is still available and beautifully reproduced by Dave Janelle of Creative Crafthouse - I wrote about it here. It is particularly fun because it has several challenges to keep you going over a long time.  Here I wrote about the Binary burr, recreated by Eric Fuller from Bill Cutler's original design and along with Goh Pit Khiam's amazing Ternary burr which Eric also reproduced a few months later - these were also amongst my favourite N-ary puzzles, partly for the craftsmanship, but especially because they combined my love of burr puzzles with N-ary puzzles. So you see, I am particularly keen when one of these beautiful logical puzzles also combines aspects of another subtype too. I did mention a while ago that I had received another small [sic!] batch from Wil Strijbos - they were the latest designs from the amazing Jean Claude Constantin and I am really pleased to say that some of them are also available from Puzzle Master too.

Of course, some of the puzzles in this group are boxes, but many of my puzzle friends know that I don't collect boxes and so would never have one of the magnificent Kcubes in my collection! Would I? Of course not - I have 2 of them! ;-)
The KCubes MMMDXLVI box has such a small cavity that I decided that it wasn't a box and thus I was allowed to own one. It requires 3,546 moves and is made of Kingwood, Tulip wood, Mun Ebony, and brass inlay with Tulip wood. It usually takes me about 90 minutes to open it because I invariably get lost during the process. Mrs S has admitted that it (and it's smaller brother the K419) are so gorgeous that they can remain on show in our living room on the central coffee table.

I am not the only one to have a huge addiction to N-ary puzzles - my very good friends Michel and Goetz often communicate with me about these particular puzzles and I do get informed of new ones often before they hit the market and then we discuss them a little without giving too much away. For more information about this fascinating group, you really should visit Goetz' Compendium of N-ary puzzles - he has analysed many of them in great detail and also have a look at his treatise on the Kugellager puzzles here - these pages are a tremendous resource for us all.

Having received so many at once I did ask for advice about the order to start them in and I started working my way through them. The first one that I played with was probably the most attractive of all.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

EZ Atom

EZ Atom
I'm afraid this will be a fairly quick blog post today - I've had very little time for puzzling recently due to my oldest boy cat becoming extremely ill a few days ago. His usual treatment hasn't helped and the inevitable is happening. This meant I could not attend the Midlands Puzzle Party as expected yesterday and certainly have had very little time and concentration for puzzles. Luckily he seems quietly content and he sat on my knee whilst I played with the EZ Atom and typed this post.

I am partial to all puzzles fairly indiscriminately but really luuurrve anything shiny. For that reason I own quite a lot of the lovely Hanayama puzzles but I'm always on the look out for others. I had seen this puzzle reviewed by Gabriel here and saw that it really was lovely - in fact I had seen that there were others in the EZ series so, of course, I had to try a few! This puzzle was designed by Doug Engel who has his own site called PuzzleAtomic - I've only just found this and may have to buy some of his toys soon - don't tell Mrs S!!! It was manufactured for Puzzle Master under their own puzzle label. They can be found in the "Other wire/metal" category - always worth a look for many hidden gems in there. It is shaped like an atom with a nucleus and 3 orbiting electrons in bronze, silver & gold and, like the scientists of the last century, the aim is to "split the atom" - hopefully as a level 6 (Tricky) on their scale of 5-10, it should be a tad easier - certainly easy enough to do with a cat lying on my lap and with no enormous release of energy! Gabriel thought it should be a level 7 and I think I probably agree.

It arrived in Puzzle Master's own packaging and looks great. The shiny metal is not quite as perfect as the photos show on the site but it certainly still looks very nice - it is a nice metal and a decent weight to it. Each electron orbit is 83mm across. The reviews on the page are mixed - I read them after I had solved it and agree up to a point - they are critical of the puzzle because a certain amount of force is required. However, if it was made in such a way that no force was required at all then it would just fall apart. I did not think the force required was excessive and it did not detract from my pleasure when I worked it out. No solution is supplied but you can download it from here if you need it.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Plastic puzzles can be fun too

Something old, something older and something brand new for you to win!

The Orb or Orb-it
Many of you will have noticed that I have a bit of an addiction!
"No!" I hear you cry, "never!"
It's funny how I hear so many voices!

Well I'm afraid to admit that it's true - I seem to have a bit of a wood habit. My study looks absolutely gorgeous because every wall is covered in wooden puzzles made by fantastic craftsmen. I have a single shelf devoted to Wil's glass and metal beauties and a half shelf devoted to Traiphum's hand made twisties. I do have quite a lot of mass produced twisties but not on show! Erm - "quite a lot" means 146 unique puzzles! I have been chastised for only writing about expensive puzzles and gently berated by a good friend for ignoring a whole group of puzzles that are absolutely fascinating and, by and large, very affordable. This group tend to be made of plastic and probably broadly fall into the puzzle classification as "Sequential movement" puzzles if one uses the Dalgetty-Hordern system, these can be sub-divided nicely if you use Rob's system - I have taken a screenshot of the relevant section.

From Rob's fabulous site
I had ignored this group for a long time but had gradually noticed that my good friends Michel and Goetz had frequently published about obtaining many new ones in this group and really enjoyed them. Another friend to whom I am most grateful has gifted me with several puzzles from this section over the last 2 years and every single one has proved to be a tremendous challenge and an awful lot of fun. Some have been so difficult that I have so far singularly failed to solve them despite many many hours of effort. The important thing about these is that they are often 30+ years old and consequently only available on Ebay or other auction sites. They also tend to be much cheaper than the newer puzzles and thus great value for money.

At the top of the post is a fantastic puzzle that was one of the first that I was given. It is The Orb (US name) or Orb-it (UK name) and was first patented in 1981 UK and 1982 US. It consists of 4 tracks - those at the poles containing 8 beads and those next to the equator contain 20. The puzzle is split from pole to pole and can be rotated on itself to move the tracks into different positions - one position creates a single huge spiralling track and another position creates 2 separate tracks rather like the lines on a tennis ball.

1 continuous track
Scrambled - looks awful
It is thus possible to scramble the beads up enormously - Jaap calculated the number of positions as:


which seems fairly horrific to me.
In terms of solving it - I would think that most puzzlers will work it out within a few hours or days and it is great fun to hand a scrambled one to your non-puzzling friends to watch the bewilderment on their faces. Now if you are a real connoisseur or sucker for punishment then you can buy a special version with more tracks in it from Shapeways. They were designed by Jason Smith aka Puzzle Forge and made truly stunning by having them electroplated!

Drool!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Livewire puzzles part 11 and helping a hero

Roller Coaster
Incredible! An 11th post devoted to just one puzzle type and manufacturer. In January I began to update my Livewire puzzles sojourn with a look at the most recent ones added to their site. I am very sad to see that they have discontinued several of my absolute favourites from my previous posts. They have a huge range and some are absolute blinders! Have a look here for some of the older puzzles.

So the next one in the series that I picked up was the Roller Coaster - this is the very latest addition to their catalogue and I was very lucky to be offered the chance to buy it before it actually came on the market. It has a striking similarity to the Ringleader that I reviewed last time, with the big beautiful spiral. This spiral really complicates the solving process and gives you the dreaded opportunity to not only tie the string in knots but also to have it wound around and around the spiral. Livewire have rated this one as "Very Difficult" and hell yeah! it certainly is.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Cast Cylinder

Hanayama Cast Cylinder
Not so long ago, I appeared to have finished all of my last hoard of Puzzle Master deliveries. Very quickly suffering from withdrawal symptoms, I decided that it was definitely time for some more - and spent a very happy half hour or so rampaging through their emporium of goodies for more toys to play with and of course even more to write about for you. I really do like to have a few mass-produced puzzles to write about to ensure that I am not only writing about things that are unobtainable for many of you.

What I try to do is make an occasional large order because Canadian post is sooooo expensive that I try to get the package weight to the point where it is worthwhile buying and before it doesn't get really exorbitant! So during the week, I received another big box of new goodies to keep me occupied.

One of the first that I grabbed to try was the Cast Cylinder from Hanayama - this was released in August 2013 and has been raved about by friends of mine and by other bloggers. It just took me a while to get around to adding it to my collection. However, the wait was definitely worth it - it is a really clever puzzle with some very interesting challenges. As usual, the packaging is delightful and everything nicely held in place - no chance of breakages or it solving itself in the box as has happened to me with other company's puzzles. The instructions on the box are simply to dismantle it and put it back together again. They are so confidant in the difficulty that they actually show the pieces on the box. Rated as a level 4/6 by Hanayama and 8 (Demanding) on the 5-10 point scale by Puzzle Master, it should be a nice challenge to most puzzlers. Having been designed by the very prolific Vesa Timonen who had designed the Cast Donuts (one of my absolute favourites), I had high hopes for this one.

It has been reviewed before by Jerry on his blog here, and by Gabriel here (both of them failed to manage the puzzle reassembly without help). The customer reviews on the product page have been very positive. No solution is given with it but if you need one then it can be downloaded from here although, to be honest, I'm not sure how much help it will be for the reassembly.

Out of the box - it is made of shiny chrome (really hard to photograph!) and I think would have been nicer as an anodised black but either way it's very enticing to pick up. It is 3.6cm diameter and 3.5 cm high - it is a nice solid feel in the hands

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Another milestone passed!


Incredible!
I appear to have passed the 300,000 page view mark and am very grateful to you all for continuing to read my drivel! It constantly amazes me that I get 400-1000 page views per day and I guess that not all of them can be my mother!

I will try to keep it up for you - I'm having too much fun to give up now and a large part of the fun is the writing and communicating with you. I still consider myself an amateur puzzle solver and hopefully with all this practice I might improve!!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

It gets easier - so I thought!

Box Packing
Last week I highlighted a few of my recent purchases from my friend Jakub, the co-owner of the New Pelikan Workshop. The puzzles I showed were fabulous interlocking solids which were a really nice little challenge and a packing puzzle that even I was able to solve in a reasonable period of time despite being rubbish at them (that puzzle is now in the hands of a true lover of packing puzzles who will really appreciate it - a birthday gift for a friend).

This time, I wanted to showcase the rest of the puzzles I bought in that series. The picture at the top is Box Packing designed by William Hu and it initially confused me because I thought that was the wrong name. I actually thought that the All tetra stick was the Box Packing but Jakub's pictures put me right as did Ishino's site. As soon as I saw the picture I knew I had to have it - it is so different to everything I have seen before.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Interlocked and even packed successfully!

What's the collective noun for a group of Pelikans?
A gorgeousness?
Recently I received another rather large delivery from my friend Jakub. Every few months he whispers sweet somethings in my ear and my brain falls out along with the contents of my bank account! My last purchase consisted of 7 gorgeous puzzles which I have shown above. I initially thought they were all either interlocking puzzles or burrs - little did I know it but one of them was a packing puzzle! I try never to buy packing puzzles because I can't do them but Jakub bewitched me and I just bought them all! I haven't told Mrs S about the cost of my collection and it's on a need to know basis......She doesn't! Luckily Jakub's work doesn't break the bank.

Over the last few years you know that I have a trouble with getting wood! Stop that!!!! I just can't get enough - now, stop that thought again!!! I am a sucker for most puzzles but particularly when they are made by a good craftsman in fabulous exotic woods. I have been buying from Jakub for a couple of years now and can only say that the quality of his workmanship just gets better and better - at the last Midlands Puzzle Party both Allard and myself came to the conclusion that Jakub was now up to Cubic standards. Luckily for me (and the rest of the community) they seem to focus on different puzzles. Jakub has also been very successful in getting his work stocked bu puzzle sellers from all over the world.

In Europe they are available at good prices from Bernhard Schweitzer at his Puzzlewood site, in N America they all seem to be stocked by Puzzle Master here and Brian & Sue Young stock them at MrPuzzle for those of you in Australasia.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Cast Coaster

Hanayama Cast Coaster - hard to photograph!
Todays blog post will be a short one - I am on call yet again and may be called in at any moment! I am definitely getting too old for all this working in the middle of the night business - last Tuesday was horrendous and it took me until Friday to recover!!!

I am finally coming to the end of my last Puzzle Master delivery and I have to say it has really been fun. I got a whole load of toys that have been marvelous fun to solve and have kept me in torture equipment for my friends and work colleagues for ages! In fact seeing the bottom of my Puzzle Master stash is a bit depressing and I think I might have to order a whole lot more - I will explain to the present Mrs S that I have to get more for the sake of my loyal readers! OUCH! My that burns!

As you all know, I am a big fan of shiny things and that very very mad bad girl, Roxanne, has been trying to entice me into buying some Berrocal puzzle statues. She's even gone so far as to give me some links of auctions that are starting soon! Help me - they are soooo shiny and soooooo gorgeous!! I really would love to get some but unfortunately my budget is blown just now! In the absence of being able to own any Berrocals I will have to limit myself to slightly more affordable shiny things. This time I am discussing the Hanayama Cast Coaster and it definitely is very nice and shiny.

It was designed originally by a member of one the very famous puzzling families, Serhiy Grabarchuk. As a little aside, the Grabarchuk family have been trying to set up a Puzzle social network based around one of their apps, Puzzlium, which may be worth a look if you are that way inclined.

Hanayama have packaged it beautifully and decided that it is a level 4 on their 6 point scale or level 8 (Demanding) on Puzzle Master's 6-10 scale. I personally think that it may be slightly easier than that but Gabriel thought slightly higher in his review. Brian reviewed it here and enjoyed it - he certainly thought it is unlikely to be solved by chance. Jerry's review found it extremely challenging and required him to find a solution after a couple of hours of fiddling! On the Puzzle Master item page the user reviews are all 4 or 5 stars and very positive descriptions.

It is flat and looks very like a cup coaster and a very nice weight to it. Dimensions 6.4cm diameter and 0.5cm thick and have I said that it is very shiny? There is a blurb on the box about coiffure which can be completely ignored and all you need to know is that you need to take it apart and put it back together again! No solution is provided but it is easily available from here.

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