Sunday, 23 November 2014

New Modders of the Cube (or new kids on the block)

A new cuboid
Recently Shapeways has implemented what we are all calling the "Price-apocalypse" by increasing their prices for multipart prints by 3-4 fold. This has effectively made 3D printed twisty puzzles a more or less unaffordable prospect for the foreseeable future and this means that we need to consider alternative methods of obtaining new toys to play with. The present method is to take an existing puzzle and use saws, knives and filling material to create something new. Over the last year or so I have managed to obtain a few quite modifications of twisty puzzles from various people foremost of whom is Traiphum (the ultimate puzzle modder). I think it is time to inform you who those geniuses are and encourage you to try and get puzzles from them!

Above we have a new cuboid (a 5x5x2) which was hand made from a 5x5x5 cube by an young Australian craftsman called Nathan Wilson. He posted on the Puzzle photography Facebook group that he was going to make some 5x5x3 and 5x5x2 cuboids and asked whether anyone would like to buy one. Of course I jumped at the chance and a month or so later it arrived! This is a masterpiece of cutting and filling. When turned, you can see how much has been shaved off and it is amazing that it is still stable.

When scrambled it looks like this:

Much easier than you would think!
Being of the form N x N x (N + O) where O is any odd number it is part of the Domino group of cuboids and the easiest of all to solve. It probably only took me about 1/2 an hour to solve (partly because my first solution produced an edge reformation parity which I took a while to recognise and beat. This is a wonderful puzzle and I look forward to seeing more of his work.

My next puzzle modder has been around for quite some time - Rex Rossano Perez who lives in the Philippines and is part of a group of puzzle modders there. He is a prolific collector, solver and puzzle modder and over a year ago made a Halfminx for me in return for me providing him with a few other puzzles.

This is literally just a megaminx cut down and filled at the base until there are just 3 moving faces. It was initially described by Aleh Hladzilin in 2009 and I am ashamed to say that this is one of my twisty puzzle nemeses! I have managed to solve monsters like Eitan's star and the Master curvy copter but even with the apparent simplicity of the Halfminx, I just cannot do it. I suspect that the simplicity is the problem - I am just too limited in possible algorithms! Luckily, it is quite pretty when scrambled as that is the way that it has to remain:

Beautiful colours!
Finally amongst this golden group of talented craftsmen is a craftswoman from the Netherlands! Her online name is Katten Vriendin which she uses on both Facebook and on the Twisty Puzzles forum where she is particularly active. We have been friends quite a long time on line and met for the first time at the last Midlands Puzzle Party. Whilst there, I was amazed by and finally solved her beautiful Deceptive Siamese Cubes:

Looks like Siamese cubes? Looks can be deceiving!
After having such a wonderful response from me, she decided to make one for my own collection and it sits next to me as I write taking pride of place amongst my bespoke twisties. It effectively is just a 3x3 supercube but is incredibly confusing to solve and the workmanship is just stunning! If you ask her really really nicely she might (only might) make one for you too!

OMG! The workmanship is stunning!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Lucky Clover

Lucky Clover
Looking at the picture above you could be forgiven for thinking that it is another Hanayama puzzle - but it is not! This is the last puzzle I have left from my previous Puzzle Master delivery and luckily, as I have just published in my New additions page, I have this very week had another consignment delivered to regale you with.

This one had interested me for some time because of the extreme difficulty level - 10 (Mind Boggling) on Puzzle Master's odd 5-10 scale and also because it is nice and shiny for the magpie in me. The designer is the great master Oskar van Deventer and was entered into the Design competition of the 24th International Puzzle Party in 2004. Apparently it was mass produced by Bits and Pieces but you cannot tell this from the packaging which only has Puzzle Master's own branding on it. It is nicely packaged and explains that the aim is to take it apart and put it back together again. There is no solution provided with it but it can be downloaded for free from here.

It is not as nicely made as the Hanayama puzzles and the surface of the puzzle is easily scratched. Gabriel reviewed it here and seemed to enjoy the challenge. There has been one complaint by a reviewer on the product page that their copy broke. I am surprised by that because it does seem very robust to me. Another reviewer mentioned an alternative solution using force and I would suspect that this might cause a breakage. There is absolutely no need for force - everything just slides apart!

Not so pretty now!!
The packaging holds it into shape very well and it is important to be careful initially as just picking it up causes a jingling noise and a horrible mess!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

It's good to have puzzle friends!

It has nearly killed me!
I don't know whether you have noticed but I have really lost my puzzle mojo recently! The present Mrs S (and even the postman) had noticed! Postie had realised that the constant stream of parcels Chez moi had definitely decreased and seemed to be pretty much limited to clothes and other "stuff" for the first wife and definitely no new puzzles for me!

Even "she who must be feared" actually commented that I seemed to have stopped playing with any toys recently - I usually annoy the hell out of her by constantly fiddling with something during our quiet time together in an evening. To my shame, I can confirm that I have barely solved anything in ages and yep, hardly picked anything up and fiddled either! The only toys I have picked up have been those I have solved already and needed to remind myself of in order to assist people who have contacted me for help. I really seem to have run out of steam! Why? Well work has been frenetic and some health issues which have been a cause of concern have combined with the chronic changes in the NHS to make me feel pretty low recently. When I have added this to worsening of my insomnia (currently at 3 hours sleep a night instead of the usual 4) I have just not felt the urge to puzzle at all!

Wurmm - it should be easy!!! But I'm not very bright!
I was alerted to something very cheap on eBay by my friend Michel and it has been my only purchase in 2 months - The Wurmm puzzle pictured above is a fun and cheap little thing that can be found on eBay and is available from Puzzle Master too if you feel that way inclined for a meagre $8.

The rationale is to wiggle the wurmm through the apple and at certain points inside it is possible to rotate the wurmm to a different direction and then continue. The aim is to remove the wurmm from the apple to make it edible. I got mine with the wurmm at the exit point and promptly wound it on and rotated a few times. Movement is fairly slick and I expected that it would be pretty easy - after all, it is only a level 7 (Challenging). I'm not convinced of that difficulty level at all - because I have totalled about 4-5 hours on this thing so far and managed nothing more than going round and round in circles but never getting to the exit point!! My mojo seemed to have deserted me completely! Sob!!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Alles Schiebung and keeping track of the collection

Alles Schiebung
I was rather shocked this morning when I logged on to my usual Sunday morning puzzle surfing to see that Jerry had reviewed the very puzzle that I was going to just yesterday. Here is his review if you want to read something short and succinct. I decided not to let this put me off and carried on reviewing it as planned because the puzzle is just THAT GOOD!

Hendrik Haak is one of the doyens of the European puzzle scene, having participated for many years at IPP and feeling the need to burden his already busy life running his own business with the need to run a ver successful online puzzle store - The Alles Schiebung (transl All Shift) was his exchange gift at the London IPP this year. I was assisting the amazing Goetz Schwandtner in the exchange and when I saw Hendrick give his puzzle away I made a particularly big circle around his name on my record sheet to remind me that I would need to add this to my puzzle bounty before leaving the IPP.

It was designed by Jean Claude Constantin and has the classic great look of Jean Claude's N-ary puzzles EXCEPT that nothing is lined up in a row (all the sliders are rotated around a central point), you can't see the inner workings to help you know what moves to do because they are stacked on top of each other into 3 layers and there's a hidden ball bearing inside which stops the sliders moving if the puzzle is not held the right way up for each move! If this wasn't enough, the ball bearing falls out about 3/4 of the way through the solve and leaves you wondering where it came from and at what point to put it back! So basically this is an N-ary puzzle that is like no other I have ever seen! Yet another reason for everyone to try and get one! If you want to buy it then it can be bought direct from Hendrik at this link and is probably also available from Wil Strijbos if he is your usual supplier. At €40 this is a very good deal.

I have had this lying around my living room ever since the IPP in August and keep picking it up - not because I cannot solve it but because the movement and process is so different from all other N-ary puzzles that it makes a great worry bead to solve and resolve multiple times. It is also attractive enough that "she who must be feared" doesn't object to it lying around in sight.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Cubic loveliness - a great investment?

My last 2 cubic lovelies!
Eric Fuller has, over the last few years, managed to obtain a fairly large part of my savings! He can be found at 2 places on the internet - his puzzle shop & his own hosted auction site (next auction due in Feb 2015). He's one of very few full time puzzle makers in the world and seems to make a pretty decent living at it. In fact he's done such good business (not all from me) that he has managed to employ an assistant to help in the workshop. Over the last year or so, prices have risen (due to the increased cost of wood and cost of living) but I still keep coming back and buying more. The only thing that has changed is that I only buy 2 or 3 puzzles each time instead of the usual 5 or 6! I attempted to buy 3 items last time and lost one by having it snatched from my basket just as I was entering my purchase details so ended up with just the 2 lovely puzzles above.

But having watched the last auction at which quite a few of his older puzzles were sold from his own personal collection for absolutely staggering sums of money, I am beginning to wonder whether I should just buy everything that comes for sale straight away as an investment! The increase in value on most of his puzzles has been amazing and certainly would have made better returns than almost all of my other savings! The only problem with that approach (pointed out by my wife, I might add) is that in order to cash in on my collection, I'd need to actually sell something! This is a something that leaves me in a cold sweat at just the mere thought of it!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cast Ring II

Cast Ring II
Having recovered from yesterday's horrendous rota writing episode and completed today's DIY chores, it is now time for a puzzle review - again, one of the more affordable puzzles. Today it is another from my Hanayama stash, the Cast ring II. I do not own the Cast Ring I and chose this one because of the high difficulty rating - it is level 9 (Gruelling) on the Puzzle Master scale and a 5 out of 6 from Hanayama.

As with all the others, it arrived in the lovely black Hanayama packaging and when I picked it up I realised that "ring" is a bit of a misnomer! I had not really looked at the full description on the product page and did not see the size. This is only a ring in terms of shape - you are NEVER going to be wearing this on your finger! It is enormous! The dimensions are 4.4 x 3.9 x 1.5 cm making this even bigger than your thumb but not big enough to be worn by a girl as a bracelet (Rox wore a fabulous huge Oskar 3D printed puzzle ring as a bracelet at the IPP - to the right is a photo of it on Oskar's table at IPP). I noticed that as soon as I took it off the backing card that this puzzle is extremely unstable - it just wants to spring apart. I therefore kept one of the wire ties on it for storage and photography purposes.

Quite a size disparity!
This is the 3rd puzzle ring in my collection. I have a 6 band gold one which I seldom wear but play with intermittently to keep my memory up to date. Many puzzle rings on the market are based on a similar mechanism of interlocking and it is useful to be able to do them for the occasional time when confronted by exasperated friends and colleagues who have a similar ring but cannot reassemble it. Over the years I must have done 15 or so for people! The other is a jigsaw ring in 3 colours of gold designed by the amazing Danish Jeweller, Georg Jensen. It is not in any way puzzling but I have been told many times by colleagues that it is wholly appropriate that I should wear it. This is my preferred ring to wear because it was bought for me by the present Mrs S (doing OK for a first wife!) for our 10th anniversary - she received something equivalent with diamonds in!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Thank you thank you thank you!

Incredible numbers!
I am supposed to be writing the consultant on call rota today - this one includes Xmas and the New Year and is a bit of a nightmare! I am very easily distracted so I thought I would take a small break and post this screenshot from my phone!

I cannot believe that so many of you read my rubbish and keep coming back! I don't think that it is all due to my mother as she really doesn't approve of my puzzle fetish!

Yesterday I passed the 400,000 page view mark! Thank you everyone for visiting and keeping me going!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Traiphum's Tetrahedral Terror plus Torturing the Mother-in-law!

Three tetrahedra from Traiphum
This will need to be a fairly short blog post this week - my in-laws arrived on Thursday and I have had very little time to myself for writing or puzzling and if I try then I get the evil eye/laser-burning stare from the present ogre erm wife! The girls have just gone out for coffee and shopping (God help me!!) and left the boys at home. The "old boy" has felt the need for a lie down in the afternoon so I have some time for a quickee!

This post is another post about a special twisty puzzle which I have owned for quite a few months and as yet have singularly failed to solve since receiving it in March this year! Traiphum is a master twisty puzzle modder (probably the best in the world) and I have bought quite a few puzzles from him over the last few years and love them all! They are not cheap but the quality is truly amazing - if you do choose to buy from him then you will not be disappointed. He can be easily contacted via his Facebook page or through the Twisty Puzzles forum private messaging service. His specialty is to convert one particular shape of puzzle into another. In the picture at the top of the post are 3 cubes which he has carved and smoothed into perfectly formed Reuleaux tetrahedra. On the left is a 4x4 cube (Megamorphinx) and on the right is a 5x5 (Ultramorphinx) and I hope one day to be able to get a Hexamorphinx too. In the middle is my nemesis!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Cast Heart

Cast Heart
Back to review another less expensive puzzle from my collection. My hoard from Puzzle Master is getting really small now and I guess it might be time to place another order again soon! I can't possibly allow myself to run out of small shiny things to play with and with which to taunt my colleagues!

This time we have the Cast Heart from Hanayama which is quite different from the other fun heart-shaped puzzle they make (the Cast Amour) which I reviewed here. This is another very attractive one in shiny silver and gold coloured metals with a gold linked chain wound through the various parts. The aim is simply to separate the 2 hearts and like all good things to do with "the heart" this should not be easy. The difficulty rating for this one is 4 in the Hanayama 6 point scale or 8 (Demanding) in Puzzle Master's 5-10 point scale. It looks absolutely stunning in the classic Hanayama black box with the twisty ties holding everything in place against a card backing plate. Unfortunately when released from the packaging it does tend to slop about quite a lot and not look quite so nice. Plus these shiny metal finishes show off fingerprints rather badly (I had to polish it a fair bit before taking the photos). It is a decent size (quite a bit bigger that the Cast Amour) at 6.3 x 6.3 x 0.5cm. It does look quite nice from the back too so here's a pic:

Cast Heart rear face
This puzzle has received three 4 and 5 star reviews on the Puzzle Master product page and it has also been favourably reviewed by Gabriel here - he found it quite challenging and by Brian here - he found it a small challenge at that early stage in his puzzling career.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Not a box! A sequential discovery puzzle with a cavity!

It's a sequential discovery puzzle!
It is a standing joke amongst the puzzling community (mostly MPP guys but now some of the IPP guys too) that for someone who doesn't collect puzzle boxes, I do seem to have some absolutely stunning examples in my collection! My excuse is that they must always have some other puzzling aspect too and so I can classify them some other way! Why do I do this? It's to save my sanity and my bank account from total annihilation! I really have collected quite hard the last few years and upset Mrs S considerably with the sheer extent of my madness. If I was to completely give in and properly collect puzzle boxes like some others I know, then I might also have to pay for a divorce or, even worse, end up being murdered or buried alive! You and I (and more importantly "SHE") knows that starting a puzzlebox collection would end up with a massive expansion in my collection and I already have no space or money left!

Still not open!
Having said that I don't collect puzzle boxes unless there is another aspect to them, I can categorically say that I have learned from Allard and Neil - that when the Stickman (aka Robert Yarger) offers me something then the answer is an emphatic YES! I bought my first Stickman from a fellow puzzler 3 years ago - he needed cash fast and I had never tried a Stickman box so I resolved both situations without telling the present wife and the Perpetual Hinge entered my custody! It is stunning and sits above me as I write and to this day I have not managed to solve it! I'm pretty crap at puzzle boxes because I don't collect them - I do have the instructions for it but have refused so far to look at them! It remains one of the longest unsolved puzzles in my collection - at least it looks gorgeous sitting on the shelf taunting me! Last year I was offered the Constellation Puzzle Box and immediately said yes. Mine was one of only 2 made from Bloodwood and not only is it stunning but I actually managed to solve it! It only took me a week of hard work and I still don't understand how it actually works!!! I'm definitely not very good at this particular category of puzzle but I do try to practice as many as I can at the MPPs.

Stickman Constellation box in Bloodwood
Neil has taken to reproducing one or 2 of the Stickman puzzles and has adopted the nom de guerre of "Stickboy" - unfortunately at the last MPP, at which Neil was present, I was only able to afford to buy one Stickboy puzzle - I managed to finally obtain a stunning craftsman version of Iwahiro's ODD Puzzle and it is another of the very few puzzles that is allowed to sit in my living room. I look forward to more from him in the future!

The Stickboy's version of the ODD puzzle!
I had a minor heart attack when the latest Stickman was released! They are very limited edition and I heard the other collectors receiving theirs and Allard wrote a review. I assumed that I was not being offered one this time but I did contact Robert and was told that I had been offered one but had not replied yet. Hmmm! I might be getting old and senile but I am sure I would have remembered an offer for one of these! A quick visit to my spam folder and Aaaargh! there it was. Luckily Robert had not released mine to the public yet and a quick email back and an exchange of cash occurred and I was to be the proud owner of the latest Stickman puzzle - "The Pirate's Wallet Sequential Discovery Puzzle Box". Another reason to buy it...... not only is it sequential discovery but it also includes a puzzle lock! All made of wood! Now I DO collect puzzle locks and this is a puzzle in it's own right. In fact several of these went up for sale at the last Cubic Dissection auction and fetched a serious amount of money!

A wooden puzzle lock as a bonus with the puzzle
It had been sold separately


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