Sunday, 1 August 2021

Juno Sequentially Discovers a Cube

Sequential Discovery Cubed Box
I am unfortunately at work again today and have rushed to solve something and have posted this in advance to keep you amused. My backlog seems to be getting bigger and I may be looking for someone to let me sleep in a spare room soon because Mrs S might well chuck me out the house when the bunch of puzzles that Mine has posted arrives!

Previous puzzles in the series
We have all known that Juno has been planning something big, something special, something to continue the puzzling line of the Sequential discovery burred boxes (reviewed here, here and here). The anticipation has been rising and many puzzlers have been worried that the puzzle flippers would get hold of it quickly to make a quick buck. True puzzlers absolutely hate those people and none more than Juno (and Yukari) who has written a blog post about how he plans to prevent it from happening - I really hope that he was successful. He will in the future choose not to sell to people who he discovers flip his creations for a quick profit. I whole-heartedly agree with him. I am aware that I am privileged to have a good job and can afford to buy but selling within days is just a sign of disrespect to the creator. At some point I may have to sell some puzzles either to make space or to downsize my house or, more likely, to prevent a murder in my home but at the moment my collection is my pride and joy and I love owning and displaying them as well as solving them.

Ages - still not solved!
The sequential discovery cubed box went on sale and sold out completely in 4 minutes (all 140 copies) - I got a warning from a friend that it was about to happen (thanks so much Jay) and was logged in and ready when the site loaded with the puzzle and boom...in and out with my preciousssss. Postage from the other side of the world was remarkably fast considering the pandemic has trashed world wide flights and post, I got my mitts on it on Thursday night and set to work. Turning it over and over to admire the beautiful workmanship revealed a rattling noise inside - what could it be? It is an absolutely lovely object - Fijian Mahogany is used for the main part of the puzzle, and the wood used for the internal parts is mainly Iroko, Jarrah and sapwood of Bubinga, with Jarrah being used especially for the parts that require durability and wear resistance. The base is not part of the puzzle, it is there to display the puzzle - it is made from Spotted Gum.

You might be wondering why I started work on this puzzle when my most recent additions have also been wonderful sequential discovery puzzles from Brian Young and Joe Turner? Lets just say that one has been solved without understanding how it works (I'll get there before long) and the other has me stumped at the moment - in fact I am still stumped on the third move of Brian's Ages puzzle bought way back in November 2019. I also could not resist starting on the Cube because as soon as I picked it up I could feel something moving...just a few mm but definitely moving.

This something moved and stopped and then moved back. It felt "odd". It's a bit like having something painful on you - you just can't stop yourself prodding at it. Each time nothing would happen and it would return to the original position but one time it went clack when I wasn't really looking and I had a really big hole. OMG what had I done? It wouldn't return to the start position and I realised I was committed to working on it properly. I managed to take the photo at the top of the post with the puzzle in the moved position and the changes were carefully hidden from view. We had to have dinner and then it was time to play with a customary cat on my lap and the TV on. Having made that first inadvertent move that I couldn't reverse, the puzzle started to move in ways that a lot of interlocking cubes do. I have hidden the later pictures behind spoiler buttons - I have tried to avoid showing off too much but don't look if you don't want even a small chance of a clue.



After some of this movement we see Juno's classic hand made tools - one is available for the picking and others are stuck in place ready for later. The first tool is now available and easily used (it's just asking for it) and I have the opportunity to return to the beginning. I have a huge grin on my face because the way that first move works is now understood and it's delightful. I put it all back together and have my nice springy area again and OMG! cannot do that first move again! Lord! I am rubbish at puzzles. It is at this point that I recall looking inside and noticing something that didn't really impinge on my consciousness at the time. What if I??? Oh yes that is delightful. A really nice touch to the first move that happened accidentally the first time but should be done with thought.

Couldn't do it without him!
Time to continue the journey. I do my first few moves again and get to further configurations before coming to a halt. Stuck again and time to Think© which seldom works for me. I then get reduced to randomly trying stuff before realising that metal has a very interesting property. He's a very clever devious man is Juno. More progress but only momentarily as it suddenly undoes itself. Stuck again, I look at the cat for assistance and he suggests something. Should I listen to a cat? Well, this cat did manage to solve my disentanglement puzzles recently so I took not of his suggestion and I tried something new. Yet another Aha! moment and the whole puzzle became rather unstable. Gulp! Time to backtrack...except, yet again, I couldn't! One of the moves seems to have been irreversible! Stupid cat! At this point it is time for bed and I carefully put it down in such a way as to not let it fall apart. Another day at the hospital and I was ready to continue my assault.

The next evening, I am back and listening to the cat. I refuse to continue until I understand what has happened and am able to reverse my current position. It takes a while and a bit of deduction. I have a plan and manage to carry it out in both forward and backward directions although I cannot seem to do it every time I try. Time to move on I think to myself. At this point we see that it will come apart (like most interlocking cube puzzles) but there are still compartments to open. Again...if you are awaiting this puzzle or just don't like spoilers then stay away from the next image (don't press the button).


I now have a number of pieces and only my original tool. Now what? I need more tools. Coming right up said Juno and the cat. Actually it took me quite a long time to find the next tool and then another long time to work out how to use it. It continues along like this and then we reach the final compartment - oh that is a clever locking mechanism. I now have found the source of the rattling noise - at least this time it is not bread!  

One cube inside another cube! Solved it.
Reassembly is a nice process with only the difficulty of the quirky move that I struggled to understand the first time. With a bit of practice, I can solve this puzzle at will. I am delighted - it is not the most difficult of puzzles but is truly delightful. I really hope that Juno has more ideas for puzzles in the series - I will definitely be wanting to continue adding these to my collection. Now I need to get back to Free Me 7 and Abraham's Well and maybe play with Derek's latest dastardly creation made by Big Steve, Polar Burr

Remember to stay safe guys - our numbers are rocketing up and the younger unvaccinated population are the ones who are now being admitted to hospital and our ICU. If you haven't yet, go get a vaccine as soon as you can!



Sunday, 25 July 2021

The Good, The Bad and the Very Beautiful

Obscure burr
I am very grateful that Jerry McFarland keeps in touch with me! He is a truly lovely man and always pleased to have feedback on his new creations. Pictured above we have a lovely cuboidal puzzle that is immediately obvious as Jerry's work. He has called it the obscure burr. I was allowed to buy a copy at a very reduced price as it is just a prototype - even his prototypes are beautiful.

I am the third person to receive a copy and I hope that I am the one that Jerry is pleased with the outcome. The whole point of this is that the solution is based on an obscure mathematical idea - at least that was the description given by Jerry's brother after he described it to him.

Jerry had sent this to both Brent (of FiveSinatras fame) and also Bill Cutler (who is a proper mathematician having been a maths professor) and both had solved it but...

they cheated!!!!! 😜

The aim, as usual is to dismantle the interlocking cube (obviously by removing the central key piece which, here, stands out as a vibrant Padauk). Yes I can hear your gasp of horror! They cheated? Well, sort of. Some of you may recall some of Jerry's much earlier puzzles - the Quadlocks were stunning works of art that had multiple moving pieces in several dimensions that literally had to be solved like picking a lock. It has been quite some time since I played with them but they were quite a challenge for me.

Quadlock 1 (way back in 2011)
Quadlock 4 (from 2012)
So, the main aim of the Obscure burr from Jerry's point of view is to solve it using the mathematical technique that he wants you to find. This should be a "good" puzzle but I am really "bad" at solving mathematical puzzles (although I am pretty good at Sudoku, Kakuro etc). I could see that Jerry was really quite disappointed that both Bill and Brent had succumbed to the urge to get the solution quickly and they lock-picked it open. Despite that, I do think they both enjoyed the puzzle even if it wasn't terribly hard to do.

I promised Jerry that I would not give up so easily (he said that as soon as I pick it up then I will see the strange feature and use that to help me. After my initial photos, I could see that there were a whole lot of magnets in there - the light brown burr sticks can move freely in each direction and snap into place at each position thanks to these rather powerful magnets. The white burr sticks were fixed and would not move. Lord! The temptation was there to put pressure on the central key piece and move the sticks around to feel what was happening in side...but nope! I was going to be a "good" boy! 

The strange feature that Jerry had promised was a 3 digit number stamped into the end surface - in my case it was the number 177. What on earth did that mean? I had no idea. There are 5 sticks that can move but only 3 positions for each one - each of those sticks is also stamped on one end with a number (1 to 5 from the bottom) - did this matter? I tried to make 177 up using various combinations of the 1-5 and 3 positions. Nothing really worked. 

Off to Google to find any interesting theorems or combinatorics that involved the number 177.  Well there were some really interesting features to that number but none of them helped. Jerry insisted that it was very solvable but that he was working on having a clue built into the puzzle but covered by a magnetic plate. After 2 weeks, I had to ask for the clue and Jerry replied with just a single English word and a number:
AHA!
With that clue, I had some definite ideas and within a couple of minutes I had the key piece removed I have put the next picture behind a button because there potentially might be a spoiler there and I don't want anyone to work out how it was supposed to be solved from my picture:


It was a "good" feeling to finally understand the obscure mathematics behind it and I felt "bad" for not having worked it out. But...I actually don't think that it would ever have been possible for me to work it out myself. I don't think there is enough on the puzzle for the maths to be visible.

The next step is to take it apart and that also was not trivial. It doesn't just dismantle after removing the key piece. There is a particular trick that Jerry has used before and it took me a little while to spot the trick and remember what he had done before - I soon had a nicely arranged set of pieces and some seriously strong magnets which keep clamping them together when you let go.

So we have "the good" aka me
"the bad" aka Brent and Bill (plus a rather obscure puzzle idea)
AND the beautiful - nothing Jerry has ever done is ugly
Having solved it the "good" way, I decided to assemble it again and see what it was like to solve the "bad" way and lock-pick it. Placing pressure on the key piece and moving pieces around in various orders left me with a solved puzzle in just a matter of minutes - it is pretty easy to cheat with this puzzle - almost trivial for anyone with any experience. Jerry had already thought about it and designed a mitigating mechanism which he thought might require too many hands to solve by cheating but in my opinion that will not work.

Jerry has had quite a lot of requests to purchase copies of this puzzle and he really wanted my opinion about the viability of this as a puzzle - what should I say? I obviously don't want to upset a very good friend but also feel that you all as potential purchasers need honest feedback and Jerry should know whether it is actually a "good" puzzle. Here is part of what I wrote to him:
"Your clue was just what I needed. It took a bit of experimenting to work out but I worked that out and managed to take the key piece out and dismantle the puzzle. Very nicely made and nice idea. Having taken the key out, I did like your signature well hidden next step. It took me another 15 minutes to find that move.

I then went back and lock picked it instead and that is almost trivial to do. I definitely don’t think your suggested locking mechanism will prevent lock picking. The only way to prevent that is to deliberately create several "false set" positions. That will throw off all but the best lock pickers and will mean it has to be solved mathematically or by huge amounts of trial and error which would not be fun.

Do I think it is a great puzzle? That is difficult to say. It is a fabulous idea but I think only a tiny minority of  puzzlers are mathematicians and almost none of us would get it without a clue. Why would we choose this mechanism? Without the clue, I would never have known to try what I did. As you have seen with Bill and Brent, most puzzlers will not try and figure out a mathematical puzzle. They will just lock pick it and maybe be a bit dissatisfied because doing that is pretty easy. On the other hand, your puzzles are extremely collectable and many people would buy it just so that they could have another of your puzzles in their collection. 

Whilst this would earn you some money, I don’t think that you would be happy knowing that you had a puzzle that people wanted to buy purely for who made it rather than for the solution process. I myself am delighted to have another of your puzzles and it took a supreme amount of self control to stop myself lock picking it from the beginning.

I really hope this helps you decide what to do."

In the end Jerry has decided that the idea and the tactile feel of the puzzle is too good to leave on a shelf and will make a bunch for interested puzzlers. I have to agree with him - it is a really lovely thing and a clever idea. If you lock pick it then it will literally only take you a few minutes and then you will just have the more minor challenge of dismantling and reassembly. If you try to use the methematical solution then maybe you will work it out - I am sure that you all are a lot brighter than me but Jerry will put a clue in the puzzle to help you. 

Of course, I am only too delighted to have another of his puzzles in my collection and I am positive that you will be too (the Burrlephant remains in pride of place on my mantlepiece).

Elephants to remind me of my mother (she grew up in Kenya)


Sunday, 18 July 2021

Seriously Tough Challenges from Pelikan

Waffle

Waffle by Osanori Yamamoto
After my week off in which I had managed to solve 5 of the 9 puzzles about to be released by Jakub and Jaroslav's New Pelikan Workshop, I had to return to work. Amidst the beginning of a third wave of Covid that seems to be hitting the UK, I got a bit of a shock at how suddenly things can change and suddenly had much less time than I wanted to play with my new toys. I am only too aware that Jakub is waiting for me to solve and write something - the pressure is on and I had left the most difficult ones until last.

Waffle by Oasnori Yamamoto was actually one of the first that I actually tried from the new arrivals but I got a bit of a shock the very first evening. This consists of 4 bright yellow mini burrsticks made from Garapa which have been arranged into an attractive cross shape on a Jatoba frame and the obvious aim is to remove them. Itis immediately clear that Burrtools is not helpful here because as soon as the pieces start to move the requirement for rotations becomes very apparent. I began moving them about and trying to make space for the required rotation to happen and quite quickly lost track of what I had done - I suddenly couldn't reset the puzzle! OMG! A lot of swearing during an episode of Grey's Anatomy had Mrs S looking at me with anger and me sweating under that gaze as well as worrying about the puzzle. After a fraught ½ hour I got it back to the beginning and drew a little diagram of the start positions. I went back to work on the others and only this last week did I start to play again. This time I actually made plans of what I needed to do and always made sure that I could reset. Still no joy - the pieces always seem to block the required rotation and I could not find a way to make space. I moved on to the next one - Camel ride.

I failed on Camel ride for a couple of days and in desperation returned. Again whilst watching TV I idly fiddled and did something without realising it. I looked down in surprise and couldn't believe it. Moving back and forth, it is apparent that the arrangement and movement on this one is critically accurate. Having found that amazingly accurate move, I quickly had the puzzle solved.

Oh boy that was tough to find!

Camel Ride

Camel Ride by Stephan Baumegger
This beautifully made 12(13) piece burr design by Stephan is yet another that belongs in Goetz' Burr zoo. I had bought this and solved it way back in 2014 after I had bought it direct from the designer. Obviously Stephan has allowed Pelikan to reproduce some of his more fun burrs. Having solved this way way back, I had absolutely no recollection of the solution. I have gotten a bit rusty with burrs over the last couple of years and this caused me quite some difficulty. The level is 16.8.9.2.2.3.4.2.1.2 so not too high a level but the fun part here is that to make some of the moves the camel inside needs to be moved around to make space for the other pieces to move. I managed to remove the first two pieces after 3 days of fiddling about with my usual to and fro approach. Removing the next piece was a real challenge - finding the required moves requires looking and experimenting and is very enjoyable. Even after almost all the pieces have been removed it remains stable and does not collapse on itself at all. Fabulous! 

Stunning design and beautifully made
I have not yet reassembled it as I will definitely need Burrtools for this.

Fermat

Fermat by Dr Volker Latussek
Using the usual box that we are by now all rather familiar with, Dr Latussek has branched out into the use of not rectilinear shapes. Named after the great French mathematician, this puzzle takes 3 triangular prisms of slightly different dimensions made from Maple and asks that they be "solved" into the beautiful Acacia box. I have been playing with this on and off since they all arrived and have gotten absolutely nowhere! I can get 2 pieces inside and this can be any combination of the pieces but I have not even come close to getting the third in with them. I think that just possibly, maybe, if I am not delusional that I might have worked out where they all need to go for the final solution but there is just no way that I can achieve it. I hope that maybe someone can send me a clue once others have managed to solve it.

Lutz

Lutz by Dr Volker Latussek
Is there no end to Dr Latussek's talents? I have not had time to play with this at all and am awaiting being told what the challenge is. A tray packing puzzle? Probably not as there is a gap in the side of the tray. I assume that the aim is to insert all the pieces into the tray through the gap? As always, Pelikan has made it beautiful and I hope to play in the near future.

I would estimate that these will all be released quite soon - maybe early next week - keep an eye out on the Pelikan site or later this year on the PuzzleMaster site.


Take care out there people! The pandemic is far from over - don't become complacent. Just because you have been vaccinated, does not mean that you cannot catch it and infect others even if you don't get sick yourself. We also do not know whether the vaccine prevents the development of Long Covid which is an extremely debilitating condition.


Sunday, 11 July 2021

I Have Worked As Fast As I Can!

Coming soon from the New Pelikan Workshop
I showed off on my New Additions page that I had just received another huge batch of puzzles from Jakub and Jaroslav that they were hoping to release soon. I know that you all want to know about them as soons as possible and they want to sell them soon as well. I know that they like for me to write a bit of a spiel about them for their site and hence I start work as quickly as I can. Luckily I had a week of annual leave this week and did get a bit more time to play than I usually would BUT Mrs S is still a woman to fear if I don't do all the chores and duties that she has decided I must do and hence I did not have quite as much time as I needed. Plus...I am only human and my very feeble brain can only solve so many puzzles in a short period of time without feeling like it is going to explode. There are 9 in this release and I have managed to solve 5 of them so far. I will work on the remainder as quickly as I can.

I have no idea when these will be put up for sale so keep an eye out on the Pelikan puzzles site for updates or (if you are North America based) then keep an eye on the Pelikan section of PuzzleMaster for them appearing there (this normally happens a few weeks after the initial release).

I will start with the 2 puzzles from my friend Alexander Magyarics - right up front I have to shout out that HE IS ON FIRE!!! The puzzles that Alex has been designing recently have been not ownly beautiful in their design but absolutely astonishingly fun designs to play with and solve. He has got just the right difficulty level and play experience recently and these are the very best he has produced.

Colliding Galaxies 2

 Colliding Galaxies 2 by Alexander Magyarics 
Let me say from the beginning that for me this was the pick of the bunch - it may not be for everyone but I seriously struggled with this and the Aha! moment when I managed it was something truly special. Yet again this is another 3x3x3 cubic packing puzzle with a fancy box and a complex restricted entry which must be completely closed once solved. The title comes from the rather nice 3 armed hole on opposite poles of the box - the one pictured above is made from Cherry and Wenge and of course, like all of Jakub's work it is superbly made. The 4 pieces are quite restricted in the way they can be inserted into the box but so much that there is only one choice. Alex is not going to make it too easy by restricting too heavily.

Solving this was an unusual experience for me - I did my usual of trying to solve it outside the box and got only so far before having to change my approach - this may because I am stupid I guess. I found a few ways to construct a cube and felt this part was quite fun. Finding which orientations would fill the entry gaps was rewarding too and I had narrowed my assemblies down to only one or two. My next step is to seat the box on my lap (or the sleeping cat on my lap) and alongside it put the assembled shape I thought might be correct and then work through the possible disassembly. The problem for me was that these shapes and the holes in the box were too complex for me to keep visualised and held in place during the process. I tried this each evening for several days and just could not do it. Eventually I abandoned that approach and did something I have almost never managed before - I actually tried to assemble it within the box without having worked out what order or sequence to use first. What a challenge! Which pieces to put in first etc? Eventually I managed to get 3 of the pieces assembled inside but the 4th was a problem. I could do this with several combinations of 3 different pieces, Aaaargh! I spent 3 evenings desperately trying to get this together and always found that the crucial move that I needed was blocked until I noticed something special. A few slides later and:

At last! Fabulous!
I had not tried a particular set of positions before (I don't know why but I just had a mental block and couldn't see it) and suddenly I found the setup position I needed and AHA! It went together like a dream - this is a STUNNING challenge. You may find it easy but for me, I just could not seem to visualise the sequence. It forced me to work in a different way to my usual.

Play-boy 2

 Play-boy 2 by Alexander Magyarics 
It arrived like this
Yet again, we have another puzzle based on a non-rectilinear grid. Only Pelikan seem to have the courage to do these sorts of puzzles - probably because they must have a way to create the necessary jigs cheaply and easily. This puzzle has been made from Pink Oak and Padauk. Taking the pieces out of the box as it had been packed for transport, I could see just how accurately these had been made - the pieces had sharp corners and I had to be careful not to stab myself. I am sure that you can see it straight away but for me it took a few days for me to realise that this one is also "just" a 3x3x3 cube to be fitted into a box with a complex entry hole. The special feature is that this box and the pieces have been sheared along the x-axis to make a shape that is also quite difficult to visualise in your head (of course, YOUR head is probably more capable than mine).

I had taken this to work because I knew that I had a vascular case down in our angiography suite which was going to be a very easy anaesthetic and a VERY long procedure. I needed something to keep me out of mischief (I get up to all sorts of pranks if I am not kept properly occupied) - this puzzle was going to save the staff from being annoyed by an anaesthetist with the mind of a 12 year old and a low boredom threshold!

I worked on this in my usual fashion - assemble the correct shape outside the box and then work out whether and then how it can be placed inside. I am not good with a non-rectilinear grid and just finding the shape took me a little while. There are some big clues as to what is needed in looking at the shapes. The restricted entry is very helpful in limiting the possible assemblies and I was pretty sure that I had the correct one settled on fairly early. Time to work through the disassembly first outside the box and the skewed shape made it hard for me. After about ½ an hour I had it worked out - solved in about an hour? Not so fast! Actually doing the assembly proved an extra fun challenge - gravity has to be utilised just right and a good bit of dexterity - it was almost like a non-rotational version of the Rollercoaster puzzle which I reviewed here. The nursing staff and my ODP had watched me working on it with fascination and were almost as delighted as I was when I stood up and showed them this:

That was FUN!
Yet again Alex and Pelikan have produced something wonderful and requiring a different thought process to usual.

No Pelikan release seems to be complete without something from Osanori Yamamoto - the next two were his challenges.

All Tetra Pod

All Tetra Pod by Osanori Yamamoto
This puzzle has been beautifully made from wenge and Padauk. This was the first one I tried from the current batch - I thought I might manage to do it fairly quickly because the pieces are relatively simple being just the complete set of tetrominoes and also because I distinctly remembered having solved a very similar challenge from my good friend from South Africa, Johan Heyns. He had produced the Tetro puzzle from Ishino's site complete with a frame and a stand - I had written about it here and had enjoyed it a lot.

Tetro pieces - see the similarity?
Assembled in the stand
And there was my first mistake - the similarity was only superficial - Johan's puzzle was relatively easy because there are 63 possible assemblies into that corner shape and whilst finding one of them was not trivial, it was not too many hours of work. The new design from Osanori-san has a much more restricted entry (in fact, it is a corner shaped box with only a slot for entry). I think I had made about 6 different corner shapes which would not go inside the frame before I realised quite how much more of a challenge this was. I needed to think in terms of the restrictions as well and that really added to the challenge! Over an afternoon I think I lost most of the rest of my hair from this puzzle - it is a massive challenge and it transpires there is only a single assembly out of the 63 which is assemblable inside the box. It requires a lot of thought and a LOT of trial and error - fabulous!

That took me a very long time!
Palace

Palace by Osanori Yamamoto
Palace has been made from Pink Oak and Wenge. I know...it's yet another packing puzzle! Yet another of those 3x3x3 cubes that need to be inserted in a box so that they fill all the entry holes! Over the last few years I have bought dozens and dozens of these puzzles and I never ever get fed up with them! They are all very similar in idea yet all very different in challenge. I absolutely adore them because they require several different trains of thought and then some fun manipulation of pieces and even some dexterity too. Osanori (and Alexander) are the absolute masters of this subtype of the packing puzzle group (I consider it a mixture of packing and interlocking along with some dexterity).

Palace looks pretty simple because there are only 3 relatively small pieces and they don't look terribly complex but there is the challenge - such compact pieces still need to fill some very big gaps in the box. It is quite easy to make a few shapes outside the box which will fill the gaps so maybe the challenge will be small? Unfortunately the entry is really not very restricted at all and therefore it requires a lot of trial of different orientations and assemblies before the appropriate thoughts begin to percolate my dense noggin. Like most of Osanori-san's designs, the pieces need to dance around each other quite a bit - in this case there is one particular move that I really struggled to find at first. The Aha! is tremendous when it hits you and everything finally slots into place.

Palace solved - magnificent!
I would be interested how all of you store these puzzles? Do you leave them in the solved state? Do you put them on display in pieces or just assemble into an incorrect shape for the shelf?

Web 3

Web 3 by Dan Fast
Finally today, a new design from a man we have not heard much from in a long time...Dan Fast (he used to be called the CrazyBadCuber but has given up that moniker now) has designed a few puzzles over the years (both Twisty and interlocking/burr) which I have had the opportunity to review and enjoy a few times on the blog. Dan got into Burrtools a few years ago and has recently been playing with it again. He sent me a few BT files a month or so back to ask my opinion and I was fairly positive about them. Jakub also got to see them and was enthusiastic enough to make a quick prototype (really really quick!) and made the decision to produce one of the easier of the designs. Web 3 is the result. This has been gorgeously made from Garapa and Ovangkol (stunning grain on it). Dan has designed a whole bunch of these up to 8x8 but I think jakub wanted something more approachable for all puzzlers.

The aim here is to slot the pieces into the frame to create a lattice that sits flush with the base. My first attempt at this had it solved in about 5 minutes and I was left with a feeling that I was missing something. I took it apart and gave it to a coworker and they really struggled - I must have got lucky. They eventually put it together and were very pleased with themselves so I tried again. My second attempt was less straight-forward. It requires a little trial and error but mostly, after the first few attempts, a definite plan and logical approach. It is still not hugely difficult (I think that a 4x4 version might be really really tough - too tough for me) and they final assembly gives a nice satisfied feeling. This is definitely suitable for beginners and experienced puzzlers alike. Dan has commissioned Alfons Eyckmans to make a full set for him up to 8x8 - now that will be a wonderful puzzle set for his collection!

Fun challenge and looks great on display


I am continuing to work on the rest of the puzzles and will hopefully have reviews up for you all soon. 




Sunday, 4 July 2021

Aaron Extends Some Classic Puzzles

And Gives a Huge Challenge (which I even solve for once)

Axes and Hammer
At the beginning of the year my friend, Aaron Wang, showed off his latest creation on Facebook (it had quietly been shown off in the IPP design competition in 2020 for the IPP which had not happened due to this blasted pandemic). It was a very exciting announcement because he had clearly gotten very big ideas - not only was he making new disentanglement puzzles but he had branched out from simple hand made wire puzzles (which you will have seen a lot on this blog) into making beautiful versions out of stainless steel. Of course, I am addicted to his puzzles (I think I have bought almost everything he has produced) but how could I resist when he moves into a new medium? An order was placed and then it all went rather badly wrong! The Pandemic has really hammered the international postal service from China to the rest of the world.

Several of us in the UK had ordered these at the same time in March 2021 and  the tracking reached the airport and stopped... they stayed at the airport for weeks and weeks. Of course, I trust Aaron and he was just as exasperated as I was but we decided to just keep on waiting and after 3 months (just when Aaron was contemplating absorbing the cost and sending another package out with a different courier) the packages suddenly started to travel around the world. Phew! Once they had left China they arrived here pretty quickly and I was delighted to receive my fabulous puzzle - in fact there were 2 in there (he had made me a gift of another great design).

The star of the show (pictured at the top) is the Axes and Hammer puzzle. As soon as I saw it I recognised the type of design - I have featured this at least twice before much earlier in my adventure. The very basic versions are the Scorpion (available frome Puzzlemaster here) or the Smuggler's revenge which seems to be no longer available.

Scorpion
Smuggler's Revenge
These are functionally identical with a classic solving method but are not quite the same as Axes and Hammer in that the string/chain loop only feeds through once. For this more complex version then you should look at Scorpion's Sting from Puzzlemaster or the Wedge from the sadly no longer with us, Livewire Puzzles - you will notice that these have a double loop through the puzzle:

Scorpion's Sting
The Wedge
It won't fit
The solution for all these puzzles involve moving the ring to various positions and then feeding one end of the string/chain through the puzzle before continuing to manipulate the ring further. It is actually not a particularly difficult one (Scorpion is level only 8 (Demanding) out of Puzzlemaster's scale of 5 to 10 whilst Scorpion's sting is level 10 - I would put it down at level 9 at most). The key feature is the ability to move the ends through the puzzle. I quickly set to playing with Aaron's version and quickly discovered that Houston has a problem! As you can see in the picture to the left, the axe heads will not go through. It can only pass through at the very end and this is impossible with the ring in the way as pictured which is an essential position for the solution of the more basic versions. Oh yesssss! This is why I buy puzzles from Aaron - he does make his own designs but he also takes other designs and makes them MUCH more fun.

I worked on this for a couple of days and really had to Think© and make some more interesting discoveries before I had it solved. The tolerances on this are absolutely perfect...if you don't get the plan and the positioning just right then this will not solve. Aaron could have made this one easier by only having a single loop like this:

The equivalent of the Scorpion rather than the Scorpion's Sting
Too easy for Aaron 
The weight of the Axe heads also adds to the challenge as they pull down and make the accurate positioning more awkward - I would suggest that it is almost vital that you have the help of a cat to solve this - if you are not working at a table then you need something to lean on:

He is essential - couldn't have done it without him
Wonderful challenge - a great variant on a classic
The next puzzle was a delightful surprise which took me down the puzzler's path of frustration - elation - frustration and tears! Aaron was very kind and included a gift to me of a new puzzle called the The Bodies:

Three bodies
I instantly recognised this puzzle on two levels! This had been made by cannibalising the All Cuffed Up puzzle (from the same range as the Smuggler's revenge). It is a version of the Classic ball and chain puzzle which I have written about at length before (especially here). It is interesting for me that the All cuffed up version was the one that Aaron used. The Ball and Chain puzzle has a very specific sequence of moves with the puzzle held in exact orientation to solve or else produce an ever more complex loop or knot. EXCEPT the All cuffed up had a fatal flaw - the "ball part" which was a triangle on the end of the chain was able to fit through the hole in the end of the circle and this would allow the ring to slip off easily, avoiding the main solution method. Aaron had taken the flawed puzzle and removed the reason for the flaw by chaining three of the circles together ensuring that nothing could fit through where it shouldn't. This meant that the Three bodies was a Ball and chain on steroids - the same idea but much MORE!

Aaron has done similar dreadful things to these puzzles before and kept me occupied for days, weeks and months before:

Classic Ball and Chain puzzle

2 layer variant
3 layer variant 
Yet again it was time to Think© and again utilise the help of a cat to hold the pieces in place. There is no chance of a cheat here and I definitely needed to be careful - many of Aaron's more complex constructions have a quick release mechanism to help after creating a horrendous knot. The Three bodies had no quick release and if I made a mess then that was the end of the puzzle. Luckily my trusty Burmese boy made short work of the puzzle and after a couple of evenings of play the ring was removed:

Now put it back!
The reverse process was not a huge challenge because I had properly mastered the sequence having had to do it several times.

As usual, this success lulls me into a false sense of security and I then move on to puzzles which are well above my skill level. Aaron has made a whole bunch of Ball and chain variants over the last year  or so and I have dutifully bought them all and singularly failed with almost all of them (apart from the 2 and 3 level variants above). I was flushed with success and confidence and quickly moved back through my collection to puzzles that have been lying in my work bag for nearly a year:

Maze B&C
Wholly B&C
I really thought that I might have managed to develop some real skillz with these classic puzzles and all I can say is "thank heaven for the quick release mechanisms"! I managed to get quite close with one - but as you all know - close is not solved so no cigar for me:

So near and yet still not there!
I never managed much better than that with this puzzle despite hours and hours of trying. Interestingly, if I start with the solved puzzle and work in reverse then I can usually reassemble to the unsolved state but at no point can I go the other way!

The Wholly B&C looks simpler but has proved to be a complete nightmare for me - I cannot assemble or disassemble it and in either direction end up with a complete mess. I repeat...thank heavens for the quick release:

Not even close! An horrific knot
Aaron has created other B&C based puzzles and yep, you guessed it, I can't solve them either! I will keep trying but suspect it might take me years. Great value for money of course. You should all keep an eye out for even more puzzles being released later this year - he has been teasing us on Facebook for a few weeks now.

Thank you for reading my drivel guys! I seem to have somehow passed the 2 million pageview mark! Amazing

My goodness you are suckers for punishment!








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