Sunday, 24 October 2021

Plastic Fantastic!

 Or...Perpetual Plastic Puzzlement is Positively Propitious

Switch cube pieces
Switch cube failed yet again
You may remember the suffering of the poor puzzler from last week? He had foolishly ordered a plastic interlocking puzzle from the rather clever Richard Gain and decided to take the advice of another rather clever puzzler that it would be a really great fun challenge to accept this in pieces as an assembly puzzle. This advice and decision was simultaneously absolutely brilliant and, paradoxically, also a powerfully preposterous preference!

Ok! Ok! Even I am getting fed up with the P words and it's getting tough to find new ones that make sense.

I was left after last weeks' blog post with a bunch of vibrantly red pieces that were supposed to make up a 5x5x5 cube. I had worked out where they all were supposed to go but, for the life of me, I was unable to find a sequence that would lead to an assembly. No matter what I did, I always had one or other piece that I could not insert. On Facebook it was suggested that Burrtools might help but I was loathe to try that and cheat. Dammit! I wanted to be a good successful puzzler for once and actually solve something myself. Richard, chimed in to that conversation to say what I had already worked out - BT would not easily solve the puzzle - it was a TIC (Turning Interlocking Cube). I had noticed that one pair of pieces could only be interlocked with a rotation but I was worried that there might be a whole load of them. Richard said there was only the one rotation - Phew!

I persisted at it. Every evening this week until Thursday, I worked at it. I tried every possible starting sequence and wasn't getting anywhere. Finally on Thursday evening whilst watching TV I realised the source of my was me! I had got fixated on which piece was going to be the last one to be inserted and that simple insertion would complete the cube. To be honest, I don't know where the fixation began. It did seem like a perfect end to the puzzle as it slid the piece into the cube very nicely but, after days and days of failure, I forced myself to reset my methods and expectations. I began to place this piece earlier amongst the others and kept the blue piece out to be the last one. This still failed me but led to a realisation that there was a fabulous sequential locking movement involving multiple pieces. I couldn't put the blue piece in last but this spurred me to find a way to insert it earlier without blocking the locking sequence. On Thursday evening I thoroughly pissed off Mrs S with a shout:


OMG! It is absolutely incredible!
The closing sequence meets the "switch cube" name perfectly 
I have subsequently dismantled and solved this cube dozens of times and absolutely adore it! An amazing design - the TIC element is a nice touch to prevent a puzzler just giving in and resorting to Burrtools but really the puzzle is almost a pure linear assembly puzzle but with multiple steps. The disassembly is level which doesn't sound like much but for a puzzler of poor prowess it was a humongous (and very rewarding) challenge. I have made a BT file which solves it using groups but that is just for the fun of it and because making these files is part of the fun. All that I need now is for someone to make this in wood and I will throw money at them! If you get a chance to add this to your collection then don't it and ask for it to be sent in pieces.

Sweeney Todd - complete with stand
Oh yesssss! I never thought I would be typing such a thing but again I have perfect plastic puzzling on my kitchen granite to play with! The genius that is Derek Bosch has done it again  - he has designed another helical burr puzzle but one with a real difference. The last one I absolutely raved was so difficult that Allard surprisingly failed at it and of course, who could resist yet another one which was supposed to be the "highest difficulty level yet".

The name is spot on - it has been 3D printed to look like a classical barber's pole and I guess that because it might just kill you to solve it, the murderous barber of Seville is appropriate. I hadn't properly realised until I picked it up (yes I bought it without even looking properly) that it has been designed differently to all the other helical burr type puzzles. Yes, it has 4 pieces like most of the others (the Vapors and Pole Dancers have 3 pieces) but instead of 2 inner and 2 outer pieces, it has a single central pole and 3 outer helical pieces. This monster apparently needs 43 moves to remove the first piece! How could I resist? 

Mrs S was not particularly amused when yet another puzzle delivery interfered with her day - I did reassure her that one of those deliveries was her birthday present to me but she seemed unmoved by it. Following my enormous (but slow) success with the Switch cube, I decided I had to jump straight in with another plastic puzzle. This has been printed by the ThreeBrassMonkeys a bit differently to the others. The inner pole seems to be a different material to their usual - it has silver flecks in the grey plastic and is textured as well. It makes for a surprisingly pleasant tactile experience and something quite nice to look at. The stand stops any of the outer pieces sliding whilst stored upright as well as making it stable for storage on a shelf.

The previous puzzle (Polar Burr) was a wonderful sequence with only a few blind ends and was a very nice discovery puzzle as the correct path needed to be found. This monster, on the other hand, has multiple blind ends right from the beginning and several loops in which you miraculously find yourself back towards the beginning of the puzzle without realising how one achieved that. 

I did my usual to and fro approach and explored the blind ends and back-tracked each time before advancing further. The "maze" has been printed on a smaller scale than most of the other puzzles and so you will require smaller moves each time as part of your exploration. Some of the moves are unexpected and complex which definitely justifies using the to and fro method and at times some of the moves are of the central pole and the interactions with the outer pieces are hidden. At one point about 15 moves in there is a way to remove a piece using an illegal move. It is quite clearly a cheat so I resisted the urge and put it back to continue with the proper solution.

On several occasions I got stuck - I could not back-track and I could not advance. This frightened me to death and really annoyed Mrs S because apparently when this occurs I start to heavy breathe and mutter to myself about being lost! There is nothing more annoying to a wife of 27+ years than a husband who still breathes so I tried my best (unsuccessfully) to do it quietly. Each time I got stuck, after a frantic 10-20 minutes of trying everything I could, I managed to get back to a place that I could remember...

Until I couldn't!
Probably about 25 moves in I did something that I couldn't undo! Not because it got jammed, not because something went wrong with the puzzle. It was my own stupid fault - I do most of my puzzling in the evenings after dinner whilst watching TV with Mrs S. Now I am a bloke which means several things:
  1. I snore sleeping on my back (little clue to all you girls - you do this too! I have a huge experience of sleeping women - it's my job!)
  2. I enjoy watching violent crap on TV
  3. I cannot multi-task! Well we sort of can but it doesn't end well (as we will see)
I was watching TV and doing an extremely complex multi move puzzle! This was one task too many and something happened - I reached yet another place where I could not backtrack. I spent all Friday evening trying to work my way backwards and a fair bit of Saturday as well. Nope! That was not happening. Time to try just to advance only - except I was in a loop. For a couple of hours I went round and round in a circle getting more and more desperate. Suddenly, whilst explaining to Mrs S that the heavy breathing was necessary, I was out of the loop and had no idea how. OMG!

Interestingly, at this point the pieces all had reversed their order on the pole and started to dance in the opposite direction - I was having fun again. I had given up all attempts at keeping track of my path - there was no way in hell that I was going to reassemble this without help. I know Ali had managed it but it had taken him 6 hours and he is a savant! Apparently these things can be modeled in BT as well (I have never managed it).

It's very pretty like this which is just as well
I suspect it is going to stay like this!
After about 6 or 7 hours of fiddling, swearing (and being sworn at), the 3 outer pieces slid off one after another. Photos taken this morning and I now have to contemplate asking Big Steve or Derek for a solution file to help me reassemble it. After that I will have to do it again, and again and again. Until I can say that I actually understand the solution.

This is a fabulous addition to the series - I have a lot of these now and I think this plus the Polar burr are the very best yet. The series has been progressing nicely over the years in difficulty and fun factor. You definitely should add one of these to your collection whilst they are available (Polar burr is available whilst you are there). Steve and Ali sell the plastic puzzles via Puzzle Paradise and keep the TwoBrassMonkeys store for their metal marvels. If you are in North America then you may prefer to use PuzzleMaster for purchasing.

Stay safe guys and gals! It is still taking huge measures to keep things under control around the world. As you can tell, in places where mask use and vaccination levels are low the virus is running amok. Even here, where our idiot government won't do what they are advised, our numbers are going through the roof and our hospitals (including mine) are filling up. This is making the work extremely difficult. It is a really simple thing to do - keep socially distanced as much as possible, where a mask when in public places, get your vaccination (and booster if offered and eligible) and this will keep you and your loved ones as safe as they can possibly be. Unfortunately Coronaviruses don't behave the same way as other viruses and transmission can still occur after vaccination but it is decreased and the level of illness suffered is hugely diminished.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

False Sense of Security

Let this be a lesson to me! 

Dig Ears
Only level 9?
I received a bunch of wire puzzles at the beginning of September from Aaron and thought to myself that I might manage to solve a few at least. I started on the Dig Ears puzzle which was "only" a level 9 on Aaron's Richter scale which goes up to 10+. How hard can it be? It would be a lovely gentle reintroduction to this sort of puzzle and might give me some confidence. 


I worked on it for over a week and managed to move the shuttle around and about but never even close to coming off. I was obviously missing something and tried all sorts of shenanigans which often seemed to be instinctively wrong. Aaron offered me a little hint and this was a big help. I had actually tried what he had suggested on quite a few occasions but it felt wrong and I back-tracked every time for fear of doing something silly. Now with new confidence, I was able to persevere and finally after 2 weeks on a single puzzle I had my long sought after Aha! moment. Phew - I was beginning to think that puzzles weren't my strong point!

Thank goodness!
At least there is one that is not going onto my list of shame:
List of shame!

I have had very little time for puzzling this week but I have had yet another go at a rather wonderful challenge from Rich Gain (Microcubology). This one is called the Switch cube - Rich had shown off a few copies that he had printed on Facebook and I realised that despite having bought loads of cubes from him over the years, I had never even heard of this one. Some bright spark chimed in that this was a really fun challenge as an assembly puzzle so like a fool I requested it be sent to me in pieces! Doh!

Oh dear - a little more complex than I had expected
The aim is to make a 5x5x5 cube - how hard can it be? There had been no mention of rotational moves or that it was a TIC so I set to. Oh boy! This has beaten me - my success with the wire puzzle had given me a false sense of security - I should have realised because I have failed ALL of the other wire puzzles that I bought at the same time and have not managed to solve this one! I have gotten somewhat close but never quite manage to get the last piece in place. The puzzle has so far been a fun challenge but it is terribly frustrating to always get it all assembles with one piece sticking out.

Close but no cigar
I have so far resisted the lure of Burrtools but I'm not sure how much longer I can stand it. I love interlocking puzzles and it is only recently with the arrival of lots of TICs on the market that I have dared to try them as assembly puzzles. Maybe I should go back to easier ones?

Sunday, 10 October 2021

Painful But Very Worthwhile

I'm Not Talking About Mrs S! I Mean The Butterflower Cube

The Butterflower Cube by LanLan
Yes, two twisty blog posts in a row! I have really not had a lot of time for puzzling since I went back to work after my time off and I figured that it was time to finally play with something that I had been carrying around with me since it arrived back in July. I had immediately worked on and solved the Skewb puzzles which were a fun challenge - just the right difficulty level for someone who had not been solving twisties for a while. I had not worked on it because it sort of frightened me as there seemed to be so many parts to scramble and solve and my twisty prowess was at a low ebb. I showed it to several colleagues who just shuddered and shook their heads at me. 

I had thought when I bought it that it was a combination of a Clover cube (a cornerless Curvy copter) and a Dino cube. I have always adored edge turning cube - starting with the Curvy Copter and moving up to the incredibly difficult Skewby Copter Plus. I was sure that this would be a lot of fun and hopefully not too difficult - I was right after a little pain and a little thought (some of which was painful).

Independently edge turning and corner turning
The Butterflower cube turns very nicely and has corner and edge turning properties which includes the usual edge turning jumbling moves. Luckily for me the corner turning and jumbling moves cannot work together otherwise the puzzle would have gotten much too deformed and complex for me to be able to follow. 

Last week, whilst waiting for an intensive care bed for a patient to be made available, I had a little time. I scrambled the little bugger in front of people at work. They looked on with almost as much horror as I did. Stupidly I went straight for a full jumbling scramble and quickly had a dreadful mess:

Believe me, it is properly scrambled - you cannot separate every coloured piece from all their neighbours.
To jeers of disbelief, I set to work and initially just returned it to cube shape - it was less difficult than I remember the Curvy copter being. Then it was time to Think© - I realised the diamond shaped central pieces were more or less fixed and could only rotate through 180º so I assembled what were effectively edges. Then it became clear that the true edges were split in half and spread all around the place - next job to move them into place by intuition and the puzzler's favourite algorithm ("up, up, down, down") with twists of whole edges in between. It took a while and appeared fascinating to my audience that I could achieve such a thing but was not very difficult. When I explained what I was doing, they looked at me like I was some sort of magician but it really is not that tough - I would go as far as to say that a standard Rubik cube is harder than what I had been doing thus far. 

Having recreated inner edges and outer edges it was time to work on the oval "petals". These are split into a large segment and a small triangle which needed to be combined before being put into their correct position. Again, I worked on this entirely using intuition and the 4 move algorithm. Basically, the petals can be moved around using Curvy copter moves until the ones that you want are arranged around a cube corner. Then the corner is rotated to connect the parts of the petal and the formed part then moved away for use elsewhere before turning the corner back and recreating the edges as they had been. Each completed petal could be moved into place and I worked my way from the white face up the cube. Over the space of a day, I managed to do the whole lot until I was left with 4 or 5 incomplete petals and I was stuck. I could not seem to complete them without breaking other things. 

Time for a Think© again! Maybe I had been going about it wrongly? I was fairly certain that my general approach was fine but maybe the last part was doing too much at once? Probably reforming the petals at the same time as moving them into their places on the cube was just too much to do at once? My problem was that I gradually placed myself into a position where there was no room to manoeuvre and then I was unable to complete either of the remaining processes. As is usual, thinking told me to separate the processes. I re-scrambled and did my early sections again. This time I decided to just recreate the petals and store them somewhere safe rather than try to actually place them in their final places. This was much easier and still almost entirely intuition. Once I got to the last 2 or 3 petals it was just a matter of moving them around into appropriate places around a corner, turning the corner to make the petals whole and moving them out. If I replaced them with 3 petal of the same colour then I could turn the corner and realign the outer edges without breaking any petals up again. Yesssss!

I just had a Curvy copter to solve, complete with jumbled moves that had taken them out of their proper orbits which, as I have stated many times is one of my favourite puzzles to solve. It had taken me 2 days and a fair bit of pain but I had conquered the Butterflower cube.

Why painful? For once, it was not down to a Whack! Ouch! from Mrs S (even if she had accused me of looking like Plug again). Well, my very small brain hurt quite a bit but also this puzzle can be lethal on your thumb nails - I think the sharp corners must have nearly torn them off nearly 50 times in the first solve:

See that pointy corner at the back left and right?
Imagine getting that under your thumbnail many many times!
Apart from the pain the Butterflower cube is a wonderful puzzle for anyone who has mastered the basics of the beginners twisty puzzles and wants to go beyond the simple edge turners. This would be another puzzle that would be added to my advice to a beginner twisty puzzler. Once the alternative puzzles have been mastered then this would be an ideal next step up.

Remember to get your vaccines (either first doses or boosters if you are eligible) - they are a LOT better than getting Covid - believe me because I have had Covid and looked after people with it in hospital). They do provide a significant protection from death and significant illness - plus it is everyone's duty to protect the members of society who cannot protect themselves. No, the vaccines are not perfect but they are up to 93% effective for at least 6 months. The only way out of this dreadful pandemic is for people to get vaccinated. Do it! They do NOT affect your DNA! Anyone with knowledge of physiology and genetics knows that is a bloody ridiculous claim. They do NOT affect fertility (also utterly stupid). They are not injecting microchips! Have you seen the size of the needles used to put microchips in pets? They are ENORMOUS! Also most of you carry a phone with you everywhere you go - tracking is pretty easy with that and remember that in your homes Alexa, Siri or Bixby are listening to everything you say anyway!

Sunday, 3 October 2021

Twistytex' 3x5x7 Masterpiece Gives Me a Hell Of a Challenge

But Using Basic Techniques Got Me Through

Twistytex' 3x5x7
That was really silly!
I have been chatting to my friend Casey Weaver, a wonderful generous Texan, for a couple of years. He had seen that I had a copy of SuperAntonioVivaldi's amazing version of the 3x5x7 cuboid and wondered whether I would swap my original copy for one that he had made by 3D printing extensions and hand finishing to a very fine polished surface. SAV had classified this puzzle as an "ultimate shapeshifter" - you can see why from the picture above. It was a collaboration between SAV and the incredible Gregoire Pfennig to create something truly wonderful and ground-breaking. I had solved it way back in 2013 and had incorporated it as one of the ways that a new twisty puzzler could go if they wanted to expand their puzzling skills in a logical progression. I had really enjoyed the approach to the various types of cuboids but very seldom solved them because this one as a Shapeways puzzle still dropped black powder from inside every time I played with it. This completely drove Mrs S crackers and so I had put it aside for a rather long time and when the opportunity came from Casey to obtain a still very limited edition version which I could actually use without threats of violence, I jumped at the chance. I had managed to obtain a couple of others in the interim period:

Ultimate cuboid family (3x5x7 by SAV, 5x7x9 by Traiphum and 4x6x8 by Jeremy)  
and we even had a mass produced version made by Calvin's puzzles after a design by Hunter Palshook. I was lucky enough to get the hand-made prototype and after giving it back so that the puzzle could be mass produced I was one of the first to receive the actual puzzle:

Calvin's 2x4x6
It has been several years since I had played with any of these puzzles - in fact I have not done a twisty for several months! I thought to myself that I should still be able to manage it despite the time gone by - so I scrambled it and admired the chaotic beauty that I had. Then, having scrambled it, I realised that I had forgotten every single one of my cuboid algorithms! I also had not even solved a 3x3 or 4x4 for many months.

It was going to be back to the basics for this one. I have refreshed my abilities with basic cubes and decided that I would try and use a technique that did not require any special algorithms at all. Yes, it "should" be possible to do this using nothing more than techniques used for a 3x3 and 4x4 cube and a bit of block building to reduce the puzzle to a rather beautiful but misshapen 3x3x3. The technique is reminiscent of the 4x4x4 AI cube that took the twisty world by storm:
Original AI cube
GRcubed AI Megamorphinx mod
These very difficult puzzles are solved by organising the 2x2x2 blocks onto the top two layers and manipulating these layers to recreate the correct piece positions. It actually is mostly done by intuition apart from the last few pieces. If a similar thing is done for a standard 4x4x4 cube then the fancy algorithm can be skipped because there are so many pieces in the last layer with the same colour and if really struggling the centres can be easily placed alone using standard 4x4x4 methods.

Obviously the 3x5x7 was going to be slightly difficult - I was going to have to make it into a 3x3x3. First thing to do is to recreate the edges:

Here we have longer edges - you can see where the 2 central edge pieces need to be moved to align with the green and red true edge. All edges of the correct length need to be moved onto the top half - this is easy and then the corners placed to allow the 2nd and 3rd layers to turn:

A corner is placed alongside the edges and if not oriented correctly then using just beginners 3x3 method (Ri, Di, R, D repeated ad nauseum until correct). This needs to be done until all the to corners are oriented to allow movements and then the central edge pieces are moved into place. Easy peasy...sort of! It definitely works but takes a lot of thought and planning:

All edges done - placing them like this is just for the photo
Once all the edges have been recreated then the same thing needs to be done for the compound corners. First create the outer 3x1 column and then the inner one. Then line them up and stash them in the bottom half for safety whilst continuing to use the top half for work:
OYB outer column formed
Outer column combined with inner
All Yellow corners done - start on white
Getting the final corners recreated is quite a logic challenge - it requires multiple movements of corners to different places and then rotation using the standard 3x3 algorithm and then rinse and repeat...many many many times. After several days of swearing and huffing and puffing (Mrs S said it sounded like I was doing a very painful workout and it certainly hurt my bwain), I had a 3x3x3 to solve:
Layer 1 solved
Layer 2 solved - top to go
After 3 or 4 days of blood, sweat, tears and threats of violence (again!) I finally had solved the 3x5x7 using nothing more than 3x3 and 4x4 techniques and a lot of thought. It is definitely not the most efficient way to do it but requires minimal specialist algorithm knowledge and is very rewarding!

Solved in front of a Cactus
Probably a lot smaller than the ones that Casey has near his home.
I always recommend to newbie puzzlers that they should seriously consider incorporating twisty puzzles into their repertoire. They are fabulous fun, a huge challenge and very repeatable. They are also collectible and can be worth a lot of money if solved later (so not a bad investment in terms of time or money). There are loads of really challenging puzzles out there for us all to play with and learn from. It is not necessary to memorise lots of algorithms for the vast majority. If you wish to try an Ultimate Shapeshifter then a few of the 2x4x6 cuboids are still available and they can be solved in this way (although reducing to a 2x2 cube instead will be much less arduous) and maybe I will give that a go next.

Thank you so much Casey for making such a wonderful challenge for me and reminding me of the fabulous puzzling that can be had from twisty puzzles. Amazing quality!

I got my booster jab a few days ago and, apart from a sore arm for a day, I had absolutely no adverse effects at all. This will help the world get out of this pandemic so if you have the chance to get your vaccine then please do so - it may save your life, it has an even higher chance of saving someone else's life - do it, the science says so. Reading a few crackpots on Google, Facebook and YouTube is NOT "doing research" - if you want to do research properly then get a research degree and then start reading all the scientific literature before joining a PROPER research institution and doing it well and publish your data in a journal not on the web!

Sunday, 26 September 2021

An Advantage Of A Frightening Wife...

Is that she might make me find something I had forgotten!

Mrs S was very fed up with this!
The puzzles that I reviewed last week have been released by the New Pelikan workshop - they are seriously good!! Go get them now whilst they last.

I have mentioned on several occasions that I have a rather frightening Scottish wife who also happens to have had many years of training and experience as a nurse - this has a number of connotations:
  1. The violence genes are very prominent in the Scots (especially when considering the English)
  2. The violence genes are "X-linked" which means that the female of the species has double copies
  3. 1 & 2 combined leave me cowering under the table or bed or behind the sofa quite a lot of the time
  4. Nurse training teaches the violently inclined Scottish female many specialist techniques in the infliction of pain (both mental and physical) with the leaving of marks/evidence as "optional"
  5. 3 & 3 combined means that I get very little sleep as I keep an eye open all night to see the Whack! Ouch! coming (luckily my years as a junior doctor in the 90s prepared me well for little sleep)
  6. 1-4 & 5 leave me very susceptible to suggestion by "she who frightens the Northern hemisphere".
The end result of all the above is that I have 10 days of annual leave and my plan to spend it lazing around and playing with my rather frightening backlog of unsolved puzzles was not going to happen (thank you to Michael Q for pointing out to me that I maybe have more unsolved than solved). She said that the desk was beyond a joke and even the cats were unhappy! The cats like to watch out the window but struggle to get up and down from there when there is no space on the desk for them to use as a launchpad/landing area. She said that the basket under the window was looking very unsightly. Unfortunately I sort of had to sheepishly agree.

She then had the temerity/bravery to open one of the cupboards in the study and told me that things had to be sorted:

This is a couple of years out of date - it is MUCH worse now!
Finally she twisted my arm behind my back, frogmarched me into the porch where we had a pine chest of drawers. I had taken over almost all of it with metal and wire puzzles and she wanted the space back! In fact, the weight of the puzzles had been so great that two of the drawer handles had snapped when I tried to open them to stuff even more toys inside. 

The weekend of my annual leave saw Mrs S snap and threaten me with extremes of violence that even she had never dreamed of before. I cowered in the corner (because I could not slide under the chest of drawers and first thing on Monday morning I worked out on the rower (heaven help me if I get fat as well as untidy!) and went straight to work in the porch.

Oh Lord! I have a LOT of puzzles! One thing I was surprised to see, as I transferred them from draw to storage container, was that I had actually solved almost all of them. It was a really time consuming task as I had to identify everything and then catalogue where they were going to be stored - I have a database of what I own but it doesn't (yet) have a field for location). 
My Hanayama basket was transferred en-masse up to my upstairs puzzle room (into the Billy bookcases that are so ubiquitous amongst us puzzlers), then the hundreds and hundreds of disentanglement puzzles needed to be identified and placed in appropriate boxes in the correct grouping. 

After clearing the chest of drawers I could replace the handles and move on to the twisty cupboard. The twisties are going to stay in there but spread out a bit and the overspill of wire and vintage packing/movement puzzles taken into storage.

I expected to have to fill 2 or 3 storage boxes filled when I had finished and for it to take me just a day or two. Oh boy! I am seriously not very bright! I had no idea that it would take me 4 whole days of 6 or 7 hours each to do it! I ended up with the desk still looking like a shithole although the corner basket was cleared and the cupboard ready for rearrangement:

Much better....sort of!
Much better....nearly!
That's as far as I have got and I now have the prospect of finding space for this in the garage:


They don't look organised but everything is listed and the boxes numbered. Almost every single puzzle has been solved (part of the reason for the slow pace was that I might have gotten side-tracked into playing for a while on numerous several occasions. I have a little basket of "recent toys" and toys I never got around to playing with and as a result I got playing with a lovely pair of puzzles that I bought from Wil Strijbos quite some time ago when I last met him at an MPP. They are both sequential movement puzzles which I am usually terrible at but these come with an extra twist to them. Turn Over pentomino and Flying Tetra both by Naoyuki Iwase (aka Osho) 

These are lovely little portable puzzles with a serious challenge to them. The former comes with 34 challenges and the latter with 24. They should keep me busy for quite a while! In fact I expect Mrs S to make me do more tidying before I have finished! What are the rules?

In "Turn over pentomino" there is a start position for all the pieces and in each move you are allowed to Slide, jump, rotate or turn over one of the pieces. The aim is to finish with every piece in the tray flipped 180º horizontally. The challenges range from requiring from 10 to 22 moves to achieve the aim and so far I have completed about 10 of the easier challenges and sheepishly I have to own up that not a single one has been solved in the correct number of moves! I am just happy that they have been solved at all!

For Flying Tetra the aim is to place the pieces in a start position and slide, jump, rotate or turn over one of the pieces in turn until you end up at a set ending position. I find this one much more satisfying because the end point is easier to discern and the goal is always there in front of you. There are only 4 simple pieces but it is still a significant challenge. I have only completed the first 12 of the puzzles in the list.

I have also been desperately working in the evenings on a wonderful new Twisty puzzle. I received a fabulous gift from Twistytex of his special version of the 3x5x7 "Ultimate shapeshifter" cuboid. This was the very first one of this type to be produced many years ago and set me firmly on the path of enjoying more complex twisty puzzles. Whilst checking it out, I might have "inadvertently" scrambled it:

Twistytex' 3x5x7
That was really silly!
Having scrambled it, I realised that I had forgotten every single one of my cuboid algorithms! I also had not even solved a 3x3 or 4x4 for many months. It was back to the basics for this one. I have refreshed my abilities with basic cubes and am desperately trying to work out how to solve the cuboid without algorithms. I am trying to use a block method but am having trouble getting to grips with the movemnts. It might take me some time!       If she will let me!

Whatever you do, don't let Mrs S see this list of puzzles from Aaron! I am rather ashamed at how few of them I have managed to solve! I have kept the unsolved ones out for me to work on (and no doubt fail).

Dear lord! I am rubbish at disentanglement puzzles!

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Some Seriously Wonderful Puzzles Coming From Pelikan

The pressure has been on me this week! I received the latest batch from Jakub and knew that he really wanted to put them up for sale this weekend. This little fact was dropped by Ivan Danik who runs the Puzzle Guy YouTube channel. Ivan also received the puzzles so that he can film them and do the product photography for the Pelikan store. Ivan let slip that the puzzles should go on sale in a week and so I had better get a move on and get working! Gulp! I'm a rubbish puzzler at best and solving 7 gorgeously precise puzzles that fast was going to be a huge challenge!

Play-girl 2

Play-girl 2 by Alexander Magyarics

How can anyone resist yet another wonderful packing puzzle designed on a triangular grid by Alexander Magyarics? Play-girl 2 has been beautifully made with such supreme precision that the corners are sharp enough to break skin! The lovely diamond-shaped box, made from pink oak has identical, rather wide openings on each side which allow entry of the Wenge pieces but then must be left filled at the end. Working outside of the box reveals through simple logic how the pieces should be oriented - this process alone is quite a nice challenge and then there is the much harder problem of assembling inside the box. This has to be done by working out how to disassemble them through where the holes should be. It’s quite a dexterity puzzle as well as a logic problem as the triangular pieces want to spring apart in certain configurations. The disassembly sequence is a level 11.3.3 which is pretty tough to remember to do then in reverse. It took me 3 days and I loved every moment of it!

A lovely challenge
It is also huge fun entering the puzzle into Burrtools as I am not used to working with the triangular grid but you should definitely do this for practice as I’m sure there will be more puzzles like this coming from Alexander and Pelikan.

Get Trunk 1

Get Trunk 1 by Alexander Magyarics
I adored the Bugs packing puzzle which could be hung on a wall as a piece of art and this is another along similar lines - it is very large at 21cm square, it has a clear acrylic cover and has been drilled so that it can be hung on a wall for display. It’s almost as if this puzzle was designed by Alexander and made by Pelikan specifically for me. With my family history of elephant collecting which I inherited from my late mum, I would never be able to resist another fun challenge with the same theme. This time we have an Oak and Maple frame and 6 different elephant shapes made from Acacia, Padauk, Wenge, Cherry and Zebrano (2 pieces). 

I started playing with this before I knew the instructions. I was trying to place all 6 pieces in the frame for quite a while before Alexander contacted me to tell me that there are 3 challenges. Each one is to place "just" 5 elephants inside. The first 2 challenges are to use just one of the Zebrano elephants alone with the other 4 pieces and then a more difficult supplementary challenge is to use both the Zebrano pieces and fit another 3 of the others inside the frame (but which pieces?). The shapes only differ in the position of the trunks and the complexity of their shape makes this a much tougher challenge than expected. 

So far I have only found one of the solutions…I blame my failure on the others on the cat on my lap who won’t lie still whilst I balance this on top of him. I cannot show a picture here because you don't want to cheat and see a solution do you? Get this puzzle - you really won't be disappointed. It is seriously tough.

Octopus 33

Octopus 33 by Osanori Yamamoto
Osanori Yamamoto and Pelikan have made yet another sequential movement puzzle in which 4 pieces are held in a maze and can slide and move in very restricted ways - the aim is to remove those pieces by carefully navigating the maze and orienting the pieces in such a way that they can be slid out through the single hole that will allow it. The last one of this type was the Waffle which I really struggled with. The Octopus 33 is made with a Bubinga and Wenge frame with 4 identical yellow Garapa L-shaped pieces providing a lovely contrast in colours. This seems to be probably the most restricted of this type of puzzle that Osanori-San has created. It’s quite obvious early on where the exit point is and obviously rotations will be required to get all the pieces out of the frame. However, the obvious moves that you want to do are apparently impossible. The 8 “tentacles” of the Octopus make the movements that you want to do really quite hard to achieve. 

A significant challenge
It’s a nice series of discoveries to find how to manoeuvre the pieces and the Aha! moment has a very unexpected aspect to it which actually made my jaw drop when I realised what Osanori-san had managed to design.

Hidden Curry no 90

Hidden curry no 90 by Dr Volker Latussek
When I received this batch from Jakub, I was rather surprised at the name of this puzzle. It doesn’t look much like an Indian meal. Dr Latussek, a master of the unusual packing puzzle (I have still not managed to solve Fermat or the Euklid for Nick puzzles!) has informed me that this puzzle has been designed and named for Paul Curry, magician and apparent inventor of the missing square puzzle. The Garapa pieces fit into the square Acacia compartment rather like a tangram (it’s not quite the same shapes as a tangram). 

Quite a deep lip to get the pieces under
The aim is to tip them out and fit them in the frame on the other side. This is extremely difficult due to the overhanging lip. I failed initially and decided to put the pieces back in the top frame for storage…this proved tougher than expected. There is definitely something odd going on with the dimensions of the pieces as they were rather harder to put back than they should be and some orientations won’t work. Have a really good look at the pieces before trying to solve it and then it will become a much nicer challenge. I didn’t properly look until I’d spent a couple of hours failing! I think I got lucky with this one - I suspect that it is really quite difficult. Of course I am not going to post the solution for you - that would spoil it for you.

Half Soma

Half Soma by Dr Volker Latussek
This puzzle remains unsolved for me. It is another of those anti-slide puzzles that Dr Latussek has created where the pieces fit easily into the box but that is not the challenge. The Zebrano pieces are Soma cube pieces where every single cubie in each piece has been cut in half before being put together. It arrives with all but one placed and a nice smooth surface on show. The aim, very like the previous Shrinking Soma, is to assemble all the pieces into the Pink oak box so that the smooth surface is flush with the top and, despite there being many gaps underneath, none of the pieces will slide at all or drop down to a lower level.

Really interesting pieces
I am just about able to assemble shapes but creating assemblies that won’t allow pieces to move is a logical arena that I just cannot seem to comprehend. I have actually struggled to assemble the Soma cube with the pieces cut down like this and got nowhere near solving it. This is a puzzle for someone seeking a seriously difficult challenge. If anyone has any idea about how to go about this type of puzzle then I’d be very grateful for some assistance in technique.


Turtle by Alfons Eyckmans
Alfons Eyckmans designs wonderful burrs…many shapes and many different piece numbers but amongst my favourites are the hidden piece burrs with a contained animal inside (Goetz refers to this as the Burr zoo). This one, Turtle, is a significantly difficult challenge at level 46 ( It has been beautifully made by Pelikan using Pink Oak, Jatoba, Acacia & Oak and all the pieces slide perfectly despite the rather humid conditions we have here just now. I did not expect to manage to solve this in time for the release of these puzzles but had a thoroughly fun time exploring and not too long getting lost (maybe I was lucky?) There are quite a few blind ends and a number of choices to make during the disassembly which makes it a pretty challenging solve but not impossibly so. It took me all day on Saturday before the magnificently decorated turtle could be removed.

Simple burr sticks and a very large turtle
The turtle is unexpectedly really big, taking up a huge amount of the interior of the puzzle. This will explain why there is so much movement possible during the solution because to make space for such a large central figure the burr sticks prove to be quite shallow and simply designed. The reassembly will definitely require Burrtools. If you are into burrs at all then this will be an essential purchase - it is stunning!


Dragster by Stephan Baumegger
Another hidden piece burr with a motor vehicle theme from Stephan Baumegger. This puzzle looks stunning made from Jatoba, American Walnut, Maple and Wenge. It has a very unusual shape and little glimpses of the Dragster inside can be seen if you peek between the burr sticks. 

The original by Stephan
I actually own an original copy of this bought from Stephan back in 2015 and have never managed to solve it! I was quite a lot better at burrs back then which gives a hint at the difficulty of this puzzle. It may be that I can solve it this time but with my deadline to post reviews by this weekend, I’ve not had time to try yet. Puzzlewillbeplayed tells me that this burr has a disassemble level of so you can be certain that this will be a fantastic challenge ending with the removal of a wonderful little car hidden inside.

So which should you get? That's a terribly hard thing to tell. I personally cannot resist the elephants and the special packing puzzles by Alexander. But the incredibly tough challenges by Dr Latussek are brilliant too. I really wish that I had the knowledge of the logic required to solve anti-slide puzzles but until someone explains them to me, I will never be able to solve them. The wooden disentanglement/sliding piece puzzles by Osanori-san are very addictive to me because everything is visible and yet working out what to move where is still a huge challenge. Then there are the burrs with hidden pieces inside. Almost no-one else makes complex burrs as good as Jakub and Jaroslav and so for me these are an essential purchase. Keep an eye on their store as they will be going up for sale quite soon.

Don't forget that Peter Hajek's book is already up for sale - it is a Tour de force production with beautiful pictures and the definitive history and analysis of all the puzzle world has to offer on the subject of puzzle boxes. It covers puzzles both old and new, European, American and traditional Japanese as well as the wonderful creations by the Karakuri Group. There are even puzzles discussed which I can justify owning as not traditionally thought of as boxes. 

Take care everyone - the Pandemic has not gone away - go get your vaccine as soon as you can to help protect yourself as well as others in your family or those in society who are more vulnerable. With the hundreds of millions of doses administered we can definitively say that the vaccines are safe (especially compared to getting the illness) with a very low chance of temporary side effects and no real long term effects to speak of apart from the intended immunity.


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