I was very disappointed that at the last BaxterWeb auction one of his original Quadlock puzzles went for rather a lot more than I could afford. He told me that he was retooling his jig to make them again using smaller stock. I asked if I could have one when it became available and he, like the gentleman he is, was true to his word and let me know about a month later when one was finished. It arrived this week and despite being pretty ill with a very virulent bout of food poisoning, I couldn't resist picking it up and having a go!! Jerry describes it as "a 19 piece difficult to take apart flattened cube." The previous version was 3.5" x 3.5" x 2.6" and the new one is 2.9" x 2.9" x 2.2" so it is still a nicely substantial puzzle and made from Walnut, Mahogany and Maple all polished to a beautiful sheen as always. The fit of all the pieces is fabulous. When I showed it to the missus even she admired how beautiful it looked!
When you first pick it up there is no clue at all how it will open. The 4 walnut central pieces are the only moving parts and they each can move in either direction and don't seem to interact with each other. I was fairly mystified for about 10 minutes whilst trying as many possible combinations of positions and pushing everything else I could. Apart from the occasional very slight movement there was nothing shifting significantly. At this point I decided to read the leaflet he sent with it!! Jerry always sends very nice puzzle documentation. I didn't want to read the solution so I kept my eyes off the pictures and just read a few sentences. On page 3 he describes "using a lock-picking technique" and I stopped reading there.
Now, as a card carrying physician, I can honestly say that I have never picked a lock before! But locks fascinate me, so I have learned just enough about them to know what Jerry means. I went back to the puzzle and had a small play about. After another 3 or 4 minutes I had a breakthrough and something moved. This allowed the removal of the first 3 pieces. It was made harder by the fact that one of the squares is a false piece made to match the others - it is just a thin tile rather that a whole stick and the grain even matches the other pieces!! Sneaky that!! Once those 3 pieces were out, I struggled to find the next piece removal but on sliding sticks back and forth it soon became clear where the next pair came out. After this it came apart into 2 separate assemblies and then rapidly to pieces.
|Quadlock 1 pieces - notice the fake end caps with grain!|
Jerry doesn't have time to make Burrtools files for all his puzzles so I promised that I would make one for him. I absolutely love this aspect of puzzling so didn't mind doing this for him. It really took some doing, though!! Initially I worked on a 16x16x12 grid because I thought that he had made ¼ piece notches. This was fairly time consuming and, of course, when I reached the last 2 pieces to be entered I discovered that these had ⅛ notches!! OMG!! For a horrible moment I thought I was going to have to start again!! Luckily Burrtools has a button to double up the pieces in every dimension. So I ended up with a 32x32x24 grid which was real fun to add the colours to(!) but at least I could get these last 2 pieces done. After colouring and double and triple checking I set it to extract a solution and...
Burrtools crashed on me!!!!
I tried on a different computer. There was no warning, it just died on me! I got the standard Mac OS error report which is gibberish to the non-programmer (I have not programmed since my days of BBC Basic or 6809 Assembly language in 1983!) Jerry tried the file on his computer and it also failed. I sent off an email to Andreas Röver just to let him know and he responded within 2 hours!! Amazing! Apparently it fails due to the shear size of the puzzle and I didn't have enough memory - with 4Gb and shutting down all other apps he produced a file with the solution(s). If you want a copy of the file then just let me know and I can email it to you. Unbeknownst to Jerry there are 12 other solutions - they are only slightly different from the original but require different lock-picking positions.
In summary this is not a particularly difficult puzzle but it is absolutely beautiful (as well as beautifully made) and involves a very different opening technique to everything else I have seen. Jerry is starting to make a few of these and they should be available from his site in July. Buy them - you will not be disappointed!