Sunday, 18 June 2017

Falling behind

Is it just me? Have those wonderful (and pesky) craftsmen suddenly increased their puzzle production rate recently? Just when I have quite a lot of expense at home with builders in doing "stuff" around the house (NO! She won't let me build a puzzle room extension!),  the craftsmen suddenly hit me with a whole lot of new toys which are "essential" to purchase. In order to pay for all this stuff I seem to be working far too much and hence I am falling behind in my solving. I now have a huge backlog of unsolved puzzles, most of which I have not even had time to look at let alone attempt a solve. I have even failed to take photos of a few solved puzzles.

It doesn't help that a certain Chinese designer whose puzzles I showed off last week has made some N-ary puzzles which require an ENORMOUS number of moves - I have been working on the easiest of the Chinese ring variants, Corn on the cob I for a few evenings and have managed to get just over half way.....this has required several hundred (if not over a thousand) moves without counting the getting lost and having to backtrack a few times! I think Goetz who is the Streetwise puzzles official Logarithmic analyser might actually know the correct number of moves - I cannot work it out because I am too dim for that sort of thing and I cannot count past 20!

Looks so close but I think this is just over half way!

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Time and Strijbos has Defeated me! What About Aaron?

The Revenge Lock aka the Wanderer
It's time to produce my own write up of Wil Strijbos' latest marvel, "Revenge Lock" aka "the Wanderer" which I introduced and described a couple of weekends ago here. Allard has already published a fantabulous review of this brilliant puzzle here so go and read it first. You can then marvel at how good a puzzler he really is....because he managed to solve the damn thing despite being lead astray initially by the puzzle pusher's prototype. I, on the other hand, have had the benefit of more time with it as well as never having seen a prototype and have still failed to complete the puzzle!

No clues on the back
So what is my excuse? Firstly I have to emphasize (as I often do) that despite what I do for a living (you would imagine that being a doctor I would need to be clever), I am really not terribly bright (Mrs S says I am often really quite dense) and my wonderful puzzle pusher has had me beaten for a good 2 weeks! My second excuse is time!!!! For some reason I have been working my arse off (for you Americans that would be ass). I never seem to get a break at work (even for lunch) and the caseload I carry is too complex to take my eye off the ball/patient/monitors/ventilator for even a moment and think about a puzzle! I am sure that many potential patients are greatly relieved to read that!! My days have been very long and in order to preserve my health, when I get home in the evenings I do have to spend some time with "she who frightens me to death" lest she follow her full name through to its' final conclusion. With last weekend having been her birthday there was no puzzling allowed and yesterday was yet another day to write the on call rotas for my department - after 8½ hours on the damned rotas, puzzling proved impossible. Yes yes yes, I can hear you now....that is a feeble excuse! I agree which is why I put my lack of brain power first!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

The Curvy Copter Taken to Extremes - It's Still Great Fun!

Very Puzzle's Clover Cube
I've had a nother really busy week and just not had enough time to get fully to grips with the Revenge Lock from Wil Strijbos that I showed off last week. Luckily for all of you Allard has reviewed it for you here and I will hopefully get to write something next week. But I still have something very interesting to show off today. Yes, I know that it's a twisty puzzle and I know that half of you puzzlers switch off when you see one but with this one you really shouldn't! Today I am going to discuss the next iteration of one of my favourite group of twisty puzzles - the edge turners.

A long long long time ago I went crazy over Tom Z's curvy copter - it was my first ever mass produced edge turning puzzle and going along with that it had the special ability to "jumble" which effectively means that different piece types can be interchanged and then they start to block each other. A side effect of this is that the puzzle becomes ferociously misshapen when scrambled which adds hugely to the "fear factor". BUT and it is a very big BUT, whilst the edge turners look horrific, they are actually very nice logical puzzles which seem not to require lots and lots of algorithms to be committed to memory. They are so so good because they can be solved by intuition and understanding and only a very simple single algorithm is required for the final stage of shifting and turning corners. So let me emphasize:
The edge turning twisty puzzles are NOT hugely complex - they are nice intuitive puzzles
S o don't switch off/go away - these are definitely puzzles to be considered for any puzzler who can think© and who can think logically - at most a simple 4 move algorithm might be needed.

Those dastardly designers continued to work on the edge turning puzzles and produced further versions that were either deeper cut or allowed the blocking pieces (during jumbling) to be split and this made for the Curvy Copter 3 and Curvy Copter plus respectively:

Above we have the Curvy Copter 3 with deeper cuts giving us extra pieces

This is the Curvy Copter Plus with petal pieces that are split in half to allow further mixing

Apart from the inevitable move to other Platonic solids (the curvy dodecahedron was a wonderful extension of the series) we all thought that the only other way to give us more fun challenges (remembering that all of these puzzles were pretty intuitive in their solution) would be to go higher order. This has not been mass produced as yet but one of my "pride and joy" puzzles which I must admit is not quite as intuitive as all the others is the Master curvy copter designed and produced by the incredible Eitan Cher. This was effectively a 4x4 version and was one of my puzzles of the year in 2013.

I have to admit that this one is a bit less intuitive than the others!

I honestly did not expect to see any more edge turners produced but was truly delighted when one of the most innovative puzzle designers and manufacturers, Leslie Le, of the Very Puzzle company announced last year the imminent production of totally new edge turning puzzle, the Clover Cube which is pictured at the top of the post. I bought mine from my good friend Marty who has a fabulous store based in the UK but it is also available from other stores including Puzzle Master in North America. This puzzle is very reasonably priced considering the amazing complexity of the construction.

The clover cube looked like something truly special - it was still an edge turner but instead of going deeper cut or higher level, Leslie had chosen to make the cube a bit bigger (it's a huge 9cm cube!) and used that space to have 2 overlapping edge segments that can turn:

One edge turned - it doesn't align fully!
3 edges turned - jumbling!!!!
It's my puzzling look!
The jumbling that can occur with all the other edge turners still happens and it shape shifts in a truly fascinating way! Of course I HAD to buy it but was just a teensy bit worried that it might not be as intuitive and easy as the other edge turners. After all, I am not terribly bright and if it gets really difficult then I would be in trouble!
Despite what Allard said about me here in his write up of the 26th MPP, I don't usually solve lots of puzzles in a short space of time with ease. I spend a lot of my time making the lots of annoying noises and also amusing Mrs S by looking like Plug from the Bash Street Kids.

I just scrambled it without any exploration!
After my initial horror at the sheer size of it, I threw caution to the wind and just scrambled it! There was no exploration or anything....I figured that it should be very like the other edge turners and would be pretty easy! I did get a bit of a shock when I looked at the final result and this was carried around with me for several months. I tried what I had done with the original Curvy Copter and I was getting nowhere fast. It remained in my bag for ages and taunted me until Derek also started to taunt me about it.

Intuition will get you back to cube shape as that is just a matter of playing with it. After that you need to take a leaf from Allard's book and truly THINK© Playing with just one side of the cube and adjacent edges, I realised that there was just a 4 move algorithm that could be used very creatively to cycle 3 pieces. With setup arrangements it became very obvious that you could use the same 3 cycle to swap edges about or to to move the petals with attached corners. The Aha! moment was fantastic and all of a sudden I was on my way!!! Yessssss!

I knew the corners were going to be awkward but hopefully I could rapidly work my way through the other pieces. There are quite a lot of pieces to this puzzle so it took a while to work through. I was really enjoying myself for 2 or 3 evenings and Mrs S continued to laugh at "Plug" but I was a happy puzzler. It took me 2 evenings alone to work out how to get the last 4 edges pieces into place - not being very bright, I had forgotten that I could use four separate 3cycles to cycle 4 pieces around. After that the petals were a dream to move once I had worked out the setup moves.

I was left with the corners and looking at them it became clear that there was a very simple intuitive method to just swap 3 of them around and that would rotate them clockwise too. It was just a matter of thinking again! After 3 months of hesitation and nearly 2 weeks of proper play it was solved. THIS IS A BRILLIANT PUZZLE!

Of course the advantage of the twisty puzzles is the replay value - there's often a new nuance to be found in subsequent solves. After a short discussion with Derek who had also solved his, I scrambled it again but this time I used my solving techniques to scramble it really really well!! I started again with glee and all was going well when.......Nooooo! Something impossible occurred! I had been moving the edges about again and was expecting to get my previous 4 pieces left to place at the end of that section. I sat back with a look of disbelief on my face when I realised that I had just 2 edges left to swap....... this is NOT possible! The "law of the cube" means that a 2 piece swap is never something that is required. I was missing something. I was completely stumped and actually frozen into immobility. Sometimes I would just rescramble a puzzle when this happens in the hope that I can get out of it in the next solve. But here I didn't want to solve this by chance, I needed to understand it.

So how can a 2 cycle be changed to a 3 cycle? I am sure that all you clever puzzlers out there can just look at the puzzle and scream the solution at me! What I need is to find something else that I can interchange with the edge pieces and then put back somewhere else. It took me a further 2 evenings to realise that there are 4 petals of each colour. The petals can be swapped with the edges temporarily and hence I eventually realised that this was the solution - I just needed to do four 3 cycles involving petals and edges and I would have fixed my conundrum. Again the aha! moment was truly awesome! I repeat:
THIS IS A BRILLIANT PUZZLE!!! You really should buy it! 
I still need to solve it a few more times to finally say that I have mastered it but it is yet another candidate for my end of year top 10. There is much about it that is just intuitive as it relies almost entirely on a single 4 move sequence with setup moves. It requires thought rather than memory of algorithms which is the reason I love edge turners. I have been a bit sidetracked this last week by the wonderful new toy from Wil Strijbos that I mentioned here.

Of course, Leslie has not rested on his laurels there! He has produced a whole series of these wonderful new edge turners! I have the Clover dodecahedron and Icosahedron waiting for me and hopefully Marty will get the 2 Octahedra in stock soon as well.

Looks ferocious
But it should just be like the cube but MORE!
This should be a very similar solve to the cube (I hope) but I haven't had the courage to scramble it yet! The Dodecahedron is available from Puzzle Master here or from Marty here.

Holy Crap!
2 adjacent edges turn
The corners turn too
The Icosahedron has an awful lot of pieces but also has the added "twist" that the corners rotate as well as the edges - the design skills in these puzzles are incredible.

It is available from Marty here and I am sure that Puzzle Master will be getting them in stock soon.

Don't be frightened of twisty puzzles - the edge turners are very logical and need thought rather than algorithms. You CAN remember 4 moves!!!

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Bounty from the Midlands

Yesterday I attended the 26th Midlands puzzle party and caught up on puzzling, gossiping and the general teasing that always occurs when the bunch of us get together. Someone actually was hoping to meet the present Mrs S which I thought was particularly brave of them! They couldn't believe that I got away with what I write about her most weeks. I informed them that she never reads my drivel and that they were welcome to take her off my hands whenever they wanted! She even comes with her own shoe and handbag collection.

Having spent so much time puzzling yesterday, I feel that I ought to spend a little time with "the frightening one" today and will postpone the post I was planning on until next weekend. Instead here is a little summary of my purchases from the MPP.

The two highlights of the meetup was getting to see Laurie Brokenshire and Ethel again who was looking rather well considering all he has been through recently and also getting to meet the most famous puzzle pusher in the world, Wil Strijbos. I did purchase a few things from him (how could I resist?) the most important of which was his newest creation, the Revenge lock aka the Wanderer. Here's what he said about it:

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Christoph's Burrlock is Amazing!

Burrlock E
The last update from Eric (aka the Doctor of wood) on Cubic Dissection caught me a bit by surprise - not the timing but the sheer number of absolutely ESSENTIAL purchases! I try (for financial reasons and to prevent discord with she who frightens the living Bejeezus out of me) to keep the number of puzzles arriving at once down as much as possible because I have sort of run out of space and she is getting fed up with the mess!!! Things are so bad that my desk is currently strewn with puzzles that I don't have anywhere to put away! Here's a quick snap:

Lord help me! Where am I going to put these?
When Eric did open his store I absolutely HAD to buy 4 puzzles - the voices told me to and they drowned out the buzzing disapproval from Mrs S. One of the puzzles that I really couldn't resist was the Burrlock E by Christoph Lohe - he makes absolutely fantastic designs that are not hugely high in level or enormously difficult but are just plain fun to play with and solve. He seems to pay special attention to the playability. I reviewed his Mimicry puzzle from Jakub's New Pelikan Workshop puzzles here - it was not a tremendously high level but was a fabulous challenge and great fun to solve. The Closed box was also a fantastic puzzle also produced by Jakub. So not only do I lurve the puzzles designed by Christoph, I also really like burrs that have an interesting shape - this one in the shape (and with the function) of a padlock particularly appealed to me. I had also enjoyed the Padlock burr from Eric and designed by Tim Alkema, so how could I possibly resist another one?


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