Wednesday 31 August 2011


The Annihilator Puzzle
The Annihilator puzzle is the first disentanglement puzzle I have tried from Puzzle Master. It is pretty cheap at $9.95 (Canadian) and I thought I would start towards the difficult end of their collection. This one is rated 9 out of 10 (Gruelling) - remember their scale starts at 5! I agree with this rating - I am now pretty good at this sort of puzzle, having completed all the LiveWire puzzles apart from 1 and these do get unbelievably difficult.

The Annihilator is manufactured for/by Puzzle Master and is branded by them. It arrived in a plastic clamshell pack with an information card and instructions to remove the handle. Size is 14.5 x 9.0cm. It consists of a frame of anodised wire and a string completing the circle. This string is fed through multiple wire rings in what looks like an impossibly complex tangle - when you shake it out and let it dangle freely then it looks a little less horrific. The handle is initially looped over the wire frame and at first it looks an impossible task to disentangle it from all that string. No solution is supplied but one can be downloaded from here.

My experience with the other wire/string puzzles has given me quite a few tricks to play with so immediately I could tell what my first approach should be and on which side of the "monster" I should start. The hardest part of string puzzles, I find, is to keep track of what you have done so you can backtrack when you get stuck. I found this one fairly easy to keep track of progress but it is possible that my previous experience had prevented me from doing anything too ridiculous! I know this because I took it to work one day and gave it to a friend - she was very flushed with her success at having completed the Cast Elk. She took it away for half an hour during her lunch break and despite dire warnings from me about not getting it in a horrible knot, it was returned to me in such an awful state that I thought I was going to have to cut it to undo what she had done! It took me 20 minutes just to undo her tangle and I have sort of vowed never to give string puzzles to novices again! I gave it to another friend later that day and he failed to solve it despite being pretty experienced at the LiveWire puzzles. I think I may torture him a bit longer with it!

My own solution to this took me no more than 15 minutes and there was also no difficulty with re-assembly. Only watching others fail at this has really convinced me that Puzzle Master's rating is correct. It is actually quite a nice one to do repeatedly - there is an element of the chinese rings type puzzle about it but not quite so grueling!

Possible without disturbing the string!
A reviewer on the Puzzle Master site had singularly failed and decided that these sort of puzzles were too tough for him! To some extent I agree - this should NOT be your first disentanglement puzzle. They have a whole lot of easier ones to try first, so start with these. I would also advise that you only try puzzles involving string once you are much more familiar with the techniques you need to use from wire only versions. If you are an experienced puzzler then go for it - it is good value for money.

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