Sunday, 18 September 2011

Livewire puzzles part 7

Slingshot
Yes yet another disentanglement puzzle review! Livewire have a massive selection and I have the lot so there will be a lot of reviews and so far only one has disappointed me (see my previous group of reviews). Continuing with my remaining level 10 puzzles I decided to brave another string puzzle, the Slingshot - named for it's similarity to a catapult. I chose this one next mainly because the description said:
"The beauty of Slingshot is that, unlike most string puzzles, it does not tend to tie up in knots. This is a real bonus, especially when more than one person is working on it at one time.
Having spent quite some time in knots with the last ones and even having to actually dismantle them I welcomed a chance to puzzle without fear!!!

The aim here is to remove the large metal ring and after a short while of fiddling about I had worked out where the exit point had to be (there can only be 2!) but each time I tried it the ring came close but got a single loop of string around it preventing release. I put it down for a few minutes to think when I had a brainwave (not bad for a bear of little brain!) and within another minute the ring was in my hand and my friend who was watching me dropped his jaw!!! Unlike other puzzles from Livewire I actually remembered what I had done and apart a momentary confusion even managed to reassemble it in a short time too. The whole thing took me about 20 minutes. I have been contacted by the original designer of this puzzle (Ton Delsing). He designed this in 1982 and on his site he claims it is "easy" - apparently he has designed some variants which are much harder; I may just have to get hold of these to pit my meagre skills against.

This puzzle relies on a rather clever little idea rather than a massively complex set of moves and thus, I found it more enjoyable than the last few I tried. I am not sure it should be level 10 (probably a level 9). The aha moment was much more evident requiring a flash of inspiration rather than a brute force approach of trying lots of different possible movements.

I have given this to a few friends (none of whom have come close to solving it) and the newbie got absolutely nowhere whilst the more practiced ones got close but so far have failed to make the sudden jump of discovery for the final step. Update since my initial write-up - 1 friend whom I have been torturing for months has managed to do this with only a very tiny nudge in the right direction - I was very impressed!
My advice? If you want just one level 10 to try and also to hand around to friends then this is a really good one.

Quadrangle
This puzzle continues my level 10 expedition and I chose it because I needed a rest from the very grueling string puzzles. This one is a very simple construction of 4 sides and a ring which needs to be removed. I was very slightly disappointed to see that the plating of the metal was not quite as well done as the rest of the puzzles I have received - I hope that mine was just a one-off. The puzzle quite similar to the Pentangle puzzle which I absolutely loved. Because of the simpler construction I would have thought it would be easier to solve but the website and my subsequent experience revealed that it is quite alot tougher.

Everyone I have given this to has failed to solve this - including someone who seen the Pentangle solution! They all quickly realised that the ring could only come from one of two possible places but no-one was able to set it up to get the ring to the correct place. Everyone ends up going round and round the contraption without any sense of progress. Despite having solved Pentangle fairly recently and thus being fairly certain of the general approach, I struggled to find the exact set of moves required. It appears that the moves required need to be very precise to fit and if not exactly lined up it will not work. I did eventually get it done after about 30-45 minutes. This is a very good puzzle and well worth purchasing - I think Pentangle is more fun and the solution more unexpected.

Chinese Rings
The Chinese Ring Puzzle is next - this is a classic puzzle going back many years, in fact it is believed to be one of the oldest puzzles known, dating back to China over 2000 years ago. The website states that:
"We believe that what makes it so popular is that it cleverly combines both logic and creative thinking. Solving this puzzle is not a simple matter. Many of our customers have reported that after many weeks of working on the puzzle, they felt no closer to the solution than when they started."

This is certainly a very complicated construction with multiple pieces intertwined. It looks initially as if it won't be too bad when the first two bits just fall off. Unfortunately it rapidly gets very difficult. I had seen something like this before somewhere so was aware of the binary maths phenomenon that is required to solve this. It is a real nightmare of moves - it must be about 70 moves to complete this and I found that I kept getting lost and winding back toward the beginning before realising and starting all over again! Overall it tool me about 45 minutes to take it apart and (oddly, seeing as it is the exact reverse) only 5 minutes to return it to one piece. I have let a couple o others loose on it - the newbie got all excited as the first rings fell off and then hot hopelessly stuck. The other more experienced person did work out the approach but after about 45 minutes were only about half way through!

This puzzle is a classic so should be in everyone's collection but I feel is less fun than the others it is just plain gruelling!

Squaring Off
Finally for this set of four is the Squaring Off puzzle. This is a classic which was originally published in "Creative Puzzles of The World" by Peter van Delft and Jack Botermans. If you live in the UK and want a copy of this tough puzzle then a version can be bought from Puzzleguru in the Professor Puzzle boxed wire series - they call it the Gridlock. Their version is also very well made.

Squaring Off looks like a fairly simple construction compared to a lot of the other level 10 puzzles. It is a spiral with only 4 blocking rings on it. It initially gives the impression that it should be solved in a simlar logical progression, rather like the Chinese Rings and having only four rings, one would expect this to be less laborious than the others. Unfortunately this one works in a completely different manner. It is NOT a logical ladder type solution. It requires only four steps but apart from the first and last ones this is really not obvious what to do. The central steps have numerous options and it will take you some time to work out which ones are the correct ones.

The Livewire site states:
"Based on feedback we've received over the last decade and a half, no particular type of person does better at it than any other. If it is any indication, it ranks #2 in the "request for solution" department (after Pentangle)."
I had received a version from Puzzleguru a few months before and so had already spent some time on this one - although this one was a freebie which had 1 less ring (their usual one is identical). This was quite early on in my puzzling journey and so it did take me some time (about a week if I remember correctly!! Blush!!)

I personally feel this is a level 9 puzzle - it should only be really tough if you have not done any of the others in the series first. Customer testimonials on the Livewire site seem to make out that it has taken 100s of hours to solve. Having given it to friends, they have all failed but not really had the opportunity to play for any real time.
It is a classic so should be in your collection.

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