Wednesday, 6 April 2011
The mother of all puzzles! The silver revomaze
So far I have described my progress through the first 3 revomazes. The 4th in the series should be a tough challenge but just a progression in my puzzle solving skills. Or so I thought! Oh my goodness, how wrong could I have been! This puzzle can only be described as a BASTARD! It is an order of magnitude harder than the already very tough bronze. The website claims that, so far, this is probably the hardest puzzle in the world. I suspect this is correct. They state that the average time to solve it is 160 hours - I'm not sure this is correct because out of the several hundred they have sold only 35 people have actually successfully opened the maze and registered the fact with the forums. I was number 34!
I personally took over 330 hours to do it! Other better puzzlers than I have described their exploits and experiences solving it - one of the best descriptions is by Brian Pletcher and also by Allard on his blog
I had a short break of a few weeks to give my hands a rest - to let the calluses heal and the joint pain settle. So I then started afresh. You can tell straight away that there is something new and special about this puzzle - when you shake it you can hear things rattling around. The revomaze website states that the silver is a dynamic structure (things can change inside) rather like the bronze. But! A very big BUT! The silver is dynamic in multiple ways there are features which come and go, paths which vary depending on orientation and sometimes not depending on orientation! The difficulty is working out what you did to get somewhere when you can't do it again!
The first challenge to hit you is to get further than the first path in! Almost straight away you fall into a trap which winds into the maze and stops dead - no reset, no path onwards. After a short while you pass this hurdle and very quickly hit a blind end - there is a solution to this mentioned on the website: "gravity pins"! Immediately you are in another trap (a big one) and no obvious way out. Over a period of about 3 weeks I worked my way around the first half of the maze. It is a really lovely voyage with little challenges throughout - you really learn what dynamic means! Or at least you think you do. Nothing has prepared you for what comes next!
The "not-a-canyon", as it is referred to on the forums, is a hurdle which took me a month to solve. It feels like a trap that runs circumferentially around the shaft with no exit point apart from back to the beginning. You end up trying every hare-brained idea you can think of to get past it - usually to no avail. The best idea is to think simple and then it will work. During this process you end up going through the first half dozens and dozens of times and it HURTS!
Eventually it becomes clear and you get across. Some have gotten across without understanding how but not many. Your next thoughts are that it is all going to be easy from now on. But, I'm afraid that a shock is in store! The next section is called the swamp. It feels like a very large multiple-roomed trap with no apparent exit. Eventually you get out and have a small panic because it feels like you are back in the canyon. Luckily it is not the same - there is no way to reset. Within the swamp, the description "dynamic" is taken to the extreme. There are 'gators in the swamp - obstructions which come and go with no obvious rhyme nor reason. They also seem to be in some very odd places.
I got stuck here and ended up putting the puzzle down for 3 or 4 weeks, just idly fiddling with it occasionally as I passed. It taunted me - I had no idea what was going on!! Eventually my wife shamed me into picking it up again and I spent another month before the solution to the swamp became apparent to me. This is an amazing idea! How Chris managed to invent this mechanism never ceases to astound me - it is a beautiful idea! Unfortunately, even knowing what to do is not a guarantee of success. It is actually very difficult to implement the techniques required to get past the swamp.
Once past it you have a huge buzz as all of a sudden the dot on the shaft which is to be lined up becomes visible and rapidly closes in on the one on the collar. Then about 5mm away you come to a stop - it is a blind end! So near and yet so far. After back-tracking, the inevitable occurs, you end up falling back into the swamp! Aaargh! My advice to anyone just now is to take a deep breath, pause for a while and then try it again. The hands are usually shaking a lot by then and the break helps. When the dots finally align, do NOT just take it apart immediately - there are 11 pieces that may fall out and you don't want to lose any!
As the makers of Carlsberg would say "probably the best puzzle in the world"! It is almost certainly the hardest puzzle I have ever done! The gold one is due out any time now and is supposed to be even harder still. God help me!!!!