Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Pentagon - Hales Puzzle Number 4

Four Hales Puzzles - each very different
Earlier this week I left you all in suspense having announced the arrival of Shane’s 4th puzzle, the Pentagon. The letter that came with it informed me that this was a prop, a themed puzzle. It would appear that there had been an explosive device which needed to be defused. Shane declared that he himself had defused the timer but there were other parts including an electronic and a magnetic fuse that needed to be deactivated before the device could be fully opened and the contents revealed. Finally the code within needed to be sent back to Hales Puzzles HQ.

I left you with a picture of the special case that the device was sent in. Obviously Royal Mail could not be entrusted entirely with safe delivery of an explosive wrapped in bubble wrap (as most puzzles seem to) - this required a special case! All very exciting and my first task was to open the case to get to the device/puzzle itself. Undo the clips on each side…. easy! But the lock held it firmly shut and now the chase was on! How to open it? Was the lock a fake? Was there another way in? Be observant is the watchword here! It took me an embarrassingly long time to find a tool. It looked helpful but proved impossible to use - hmmm! Embarrassingly, after an even longer time period, I finally used my observational skills elsewhere, followed some rather subtle instructions and eventually I had a tool that I could use. The case was open:

It took me quite some time to reach this point! I've barely started!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Shane's Greatest Achievement Yet?

There is something top secret in here
Many times over the last few years I have gushed over the creations of a good friend of mine - Mr Shane Hales is a Master Craftsman and has a certificate or two from the Institute Of Carpenters to prove it, he is also a Master of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters and a Master of the Worshipful Company of Joiners & Ceilers as well as The City & Guilds of London Institute too - in fact this young man has as many qualifications and letters after his name as me!

His puzzles so far include:
  1. The Block (reviewed here, here & here)
  2. The Circle (reviewed here & here)
  3. The parallelogram (reviewed here & here)
Each puzzle has got better and better and he promised me some time ago that the next in the series, The Pentagon (he has a shape fetish) would be the best yet. Today, I picked up a package from the post office and was rather shocked at the sheer size and weight of it!

Both cats could fit in this!
Opening it up as soon as I got home was a delight! It was beautifully wrapped and there was a surprise waiting inside - a locked metal case and an envelope with instructions:

Real attention to detail!
This is a sequential discovery puzzle with a set of instructions and tools to be found! Fantastic! Lord knows where I will be keeping this - it is HUGE. The instructions are particularly exciting:

Awesome!
To find out a bit more about Shane and his puzzles - he has a website here. Don't try and wheedle a puzzle out of him - he ONLY makes them for friends and people who have helped him in his puzzling journey - he will not make them for sale and his terms and conditions state that these puzzles, once given away, cannot EVER be sold or given to someone else! They are personal gifts to the recipient and not for redistribution.

I am eternally grateful to Shane that I am the only person other than the man himself to have all 4 of his productions (I have the serial number 001). They all take pride of place in my living room.

Now when I have finished my paperwork.... it's puzzling time!

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Wedding Vows

Wedding Vows
I'm not sure that Mrs S wants our wedding vows likened to a disentanglement puzzle! I have to say that she (as are all women) is a puzzle far harder to solve than anything that Puzzle Master has to offer! I'm reaching the end of my stash from them now and am going to have to order some more - there's a few I have my eye on. I can't allow myself to run out of things to blog about can I?

You all know how I love my disentanglement puzzles and I took this with me to London to visit my mother. I needed one that would not take up too much space in my bag and which (hopefully) would not take me too long to solve and write about. She gets rather upset by my habit/hobby - she thinks it's all rather childish and really doesn't approve! Luckily I'm a boy who never really listens to his mother!

This time it was to be the Wedding Vows puzzle. So out it came from the nice clamshell box and the diagram on the back makes it clear that the aim is to move one of the rings on the string to join up with its partner on the other loop. There's a lot of guff about things old, new, borrowed and blue which you can just ignore. I guess you can also ignore the stuff about not giving it to babies aged 0-3 because who would be that stupid? The photo was duly taken on my mum's dining table using my iPhone, edited on the phone using Snapseed, and made ready for upload. Then Google had me stymied - there appears to be no way to upload photos to picasa (where the blog photos are held) - for a web based company they really don't make it easy! In the end I ended up buying an app for 99p - see how much I spend for your pleasure! The picture uploaded, I was ready for puzzle solving.

I was kind of hoping that I'd chosen one that I could manage in a fairly short time and not disturb anyone or at least upset my mother! This particular one was just a level 8 on Puzzle Master's scale of 5-10 so should not be too difficult! It folds up quite small but when opened out it has dimensions of 17.8 cm x 22.9 cm. no solution is provided and I very much doubt that you will need one but if it proves to be too tough for you then download the solution from here.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Another Milestone - It Seems to Have Passed so Quickly!

OMG! Look at that!
Well, it would appear that my mother has been really busy! Just today I would appear to have passed the 500,000 pageview mark on this little blog of mine and I'm sure that most of those views must have been her keeping an eye on me! I very much doubt that anyone else could possibly be reading my drivel! It certainly wasn't Mrs S - she has absolutely no interest in what I have to say at all!

500k in just over 4 years! Here's hoping that I can keep it up for another 500k! With your help and support, I'll give it my best shot!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

A Cube with a Twist - Like Something from Hellraiser

The Dreidel 3x3 - looks harmless enough!
I was all set to write a post on one of my last few Puzzle Master puzzles when I had a sudden breakthrough towards the end of the week and just had to write about something truly brilliant. Pictured above is a rather innocent looking twisty puzzle called the Dreidel 3x3 produced by limCubes. I have been working on this amazing puzzle for the last three weeks and finally managed to solve it in a repeatable manner.

Disappointing!
The puzzle was announced in September last year and released to the world a month or so ago. The immediate response on the Twisty Puzzle forum was of rapture - it looked so cool and the early videos from people who first received it looked fantastic. We had all been really excited and then really disappointed by another recent release (the 2x2 Megaminx) which turned out to be almost non-functional - mine has been sitting in my work bag for months and barely been turned because it is so awful. The Dreidel 3x3 is a combination of 2 mechanisms - it is a standard 3x3 cube but it also has corner turns as well which produces those curved cuts on the surfaces that you can see above. Here's a picture of the basic movement:

Dreidel corner turns.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Holey 6 Board Burr - suitably special for post 301!

Holey 6 Board Burr
Two posts in two days - amazing! My 300th post yesterday was about a puzzle made by a superb craftsman (Eric Fuller) and I think that this post (number 301) should also be about a really special puzzle from another superb craftsman (Brian Young). Luckily she who must be obeyed let me come inside from my public holiday chores to finish off this post for you.

I have to own up and admit that I have been extremely remiss and I really do apologise! I have owned my dream set of burrs for over a year and not yet completed the task of solving them, let alone reviewing them! Brian Young (aka MrPuzzle) has brought out his limited edition puzzles almost every year for the last 20 years and I have been only too happy to chuck my cash at him and his lovely wife for the privilege of owning some of the most amazing toys the puzzle world has ever seen!

The gorgeous 5 - even now I can't help drooling when I see them!
At the end of 2012 I made a Xmas wish that I could manage to get a copy of Brian’s limited edition series of 5 burrs and amazingly after a few months - the wish came true! See kids, if you wish hard enough for something then Santa actually does listen - especially if you have been particularly good like I have been! Thank goodness Santa obviously doesn’t read my posts where I admit having been very bad or even really really bad! I gradually worked my way through these burrs and would appear to have stopped at the final one. In retrospect, I realise that Brian had produced burrs which each have something unique to them and involved different thought processes - one was coordinate motion, one involved rotational moves, one forms a box and is more of an assembly puzzle and the last one I reviewed was the Woven burr which is a board burr with a deceptively simple woven structure which was horrifically difficult to assemble after taking it apart!

I had intended to solve and review the final one - the Holey 6 board burr a month or so after the last review in December 2013 but I failed to do so. I actually blame Brian for it because he seems to have produced several other limited editions since then and even a very special exchange puzzle - all of which have kept me puzzling and writing about other things. A few weeks ago when “she” forced me to clean (and in the process to reorganise) the tip that was my study and during that process I had to dust the shelves. This meant removing many lovely toys from the shelves and I realised when I took down the Holey board burr that I had still not solved it - I had to fix this soon.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Not too chicken to pull its' legs off!

Yes! It's a wooden chicken
I didn't realise until after I had posted but this is my 300th blog post since I began 4 years ago in March 2011! What a journey! What a lot of puzzling experience! What a lot of cash gone! Luckily this commemorative post (and the next) are about the work of truly fabulous craftsmen.

Eric Fuller recently put up an update on his Cubic dissection and I was caught by surprise! I had known it was coming up some time soon but couldn’t afford to upset the wrath of the present Mrs S (she’s doing OK for a first wife!) by putting our evening meal on hold until the update occurred. I think she might have stuffed both hot dinner and various puzzles with sticky out bits into a place where the sun don’t shine - and that’s making me ill at the very thought!

The end result was that I missed out on the Oskar’s Matchboxes that came out. BUT there were 2 absolutely gorgeous pieces that I did manage to get my eager mitts on. The Chicken puzzle designed by a relatively new designer Olexandre Kapkan and the rather historic Visible burr designed by the incredible Bill Cutler which was offered in the disassembled state or fully assembled for an extra $10.

The chicken was the one that I went for first - because there had been some chat on FaceBook about how there may be an extra surprise inside. The other reason for doing that first was that the Visible burr was just too intimidating for a weekday night! I had visions of it getting partially solved and collapsing in a heap of pieces just as I wanted to go to bed! (Oh how I got that wrong!!)

Sunday, 26 April 2015

When Bi-Nary is not Binary

Bi-Nary Puzzle
Many months ago (it was sometime last year) Wil Strijbos released his last update and many of us in the puzzle world jumped into our bank balances and sent as much as we could to Wil. I know I did! One of the puzzles in his last selection was the Bi-Nary puzzle which was a new N-Ary design by the great Jean Claude Constantin. Everyone in the world knows now how addicted I am to this group of puzzles and one of them (Labynary) even made it to number 5 in my top puzzles of 2014. So of course, I couldn't resist it and it (along with a few others) was quickly winging its way from The Netherlands to me in the Midlands of the UK.

My original arrived and I was a little disappointed that a piece of the primary slider had been snapped off in transit. However it looked very delicate and was relatively easy to fix with a bit of wood glue and some small clamps. You can see the amateurish repair in the bottom right of the photo below. This stopped me playing for the first few days.

The original Bi-Nary
I can't remember why (I suspect I got distracted by another toy in the package) but I didn't dive into it straight away after I had repaired it. Another reason for not playing immediately was that it scared me to death! There seemed to be so many parts that moved and interacted with each other. In a way I was lucky I didn't start quickly - I was part of a 3 way email conversation with Allard and Goetz who were complaining that it seemed more difficult than it should be and that they suspected there was an error in its' manufacture. I am not really qualified to be able to analyse a puzzle of this complexity to discover whether it can be solved or not so I kept an eye on the analysis that Goetz did. There is probably no one in the world apart from JCC himself other than Goetz who is better qualified to carry out an analysis of these sort of puzzles. Once Goetz had pronounced it insoluble, I just put it aside to wait for a fix.

It took a month but JCC agreed with the analysis and worked out a fix to make it solvable. This involved pulling out a metal knob and seemed to me to be an ugly solution but I was reassured by a communication from JCC (via Wil) that a new version was being produced that functioned correctly and would be provided to all those who bought the faulty one. So we all waited and at the last MPP Wil attended and handed over the replacement puzzles - you can see from the picture below that JCC used the time as an excuse to make it more sturdy and more colourful as well as to fix the mazes to allow it to work.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The puzzle geniuses do it again!

Three Helical burrs - Helical, W(h)orl(e)d and HELLical!
Not long ago I posted a review of the second (tougher version) of a new type of puzzle - that is a 4 piece burr which has been rotated into a double (?quadruple?) helix shape. The original was the Helical burr  designed by the amazing Derek Bosch and (my version at least) 3D printed by Shapeways before the terrible "PriceApocalypse" which effectively killed much puzzle design. There have also been a few copies made on his Threedy printer by my good friend Steve Nicholls. I absolutely adored the first Helical burr and was not at all surprised when it won the Jury grand prize at the IPP design competition in 2013.

Earlier this year I was chatting to Derek and he told me about his design for a significantly harder version of the Helical burr which he named the HELLical burr and was delighted to be able to get a copy from Steve. This was by first experience of a home 3D printed version and was very pleased to see how fabulously smooth the version was. I gushed about that one here and even went so far as to post videos of the disassembly and assembly to help people who were truly stumped they can be found here and here. The HELLical burr was really was extremely tough and, having practiced it so much for the video, Steve decided that he would use my skills at the last MPP! He forced me to disassemble and assemble a fair number of the ones that he had made to work out which had acceptable tolerances! Since then I think he has made and sold a considerable quantity all over the world.

I was aware that Derek had been working on another design with Steve but did not realise how far along they had got until about a month ago I realised that I had missed an announcement on Facebook that the third design, the W(h)orl(e)d Burr, was complete and actually being produced for sale! Unluckily for me the whole lot had sold out within a single evening! I tried not to send a whinging email to Steve that I had missed it because I knew that he was really busy with his new job as well as starting the massive task of printing his exchange puzzle for this years IPP. My friend Jamie did manage to obtain one of the new ones and posted on his FB page that he was finding it quite tough - this didn't surprise me initially. But I was surprised that even after a week or so he had not managed to assemble his copy. I know Jamie is now quite an accomplished puzzler and if he struggled that much then I really needed to try for myself - I was expecting a horrendous task. I was really pleased when after just a few weeks Steve put up another batch for sale on Paradise and I nabbed one straight away. It arrived (with a nice note) a few days later.
"Happy twisting and here's hoping you are soon on top of the w(h)orl(e)d"
4 rather similar looking plastic helices - how on earth to put these together?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Down Under Updated

Having read my post about the fantastic packing/sliding piece puzzle, Down Under that I reviewed last Sunday, I was emailed by the "puzzle solving machine" that is Louis Coolen from the Netherlands. He apparently had also enjoyed solving this puzzle (this shows how good it is) and was surprised to read about my solution that had one piece flipped over (he wondered whether there are any more variants like that - I haven't been able to find any) but told me that he had found a third solution which I should hunt for. What great value for money is that???

He did give a little clue by saying the solution agreed with the puzzle name. I had a little play during a break at work and managed to find his third solution after a short while which, I must say, required quite a bit more planning and sliding to produce than the previous solutions. Really quite a nice idea and good to get yet another interesting aspect to this puzzle. If you are interested or need the solution then click on the button below:

Down under solution that agrees with the name!

So if this interests you then it can be bought at the usual stores - including Puzzle Master here.

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