Sunday 11 March 2012

The Whale

The Whale
Yet another wire puzzle from Puzzle Master! When I struggled with the Yak puzzle, I surfed about to see what other bloggers had thought of it and I noticed in the comments on Brian Pletcher's post about "his nemesis" that there was a suggestion from another of my puzzle friends, George Bell (also a truly professional puzzler compared to me!) - he also seems to struggle with wire puzzles and thought that it would be a really good idea for Brian to practice on another of Dick Hess' designs, The Whale.

It comes in the usual Puzzle Master plastic clamshell packaging with the simple instructions to separate the rings. It is 8.5 x 7cm in size and really nicely made of shiny wire (again, no sign of the residue I found on my first puzzle in the batch), the gold diamond-shaped pieces are also nice with no tarnish showing. Just like the Yak puzzle this is a variant on the Boromean Rings. In fact it looks so similar to the Yak that I thought it would be quite easy for me to solve - Oh how wrong I was!!! It has been rated by Puzzle Master as level 9 out of 10 (Gruelling) and I reckon this is about right! No solution is in the package, but if you need one then it can be downloaded from here.

It is quite clear when looking at it that the exit point is EXACTLY the same as the Yak. But that is as far as it goes. The difficulty comes, not in finding the exit, but in reaching it. I immediately went for the exit with a wry smile on my face whilst at work. A colleague who was with me noticed my anguished look at the point when I realised that I couldn't reach the exit! Unlike the Yak there is no way to achieve it with an improper move. Due to the different shape of the shuttle piece this puzzle has a completely different solution and it took me nearly an hour to find it! Thank goodness it wasn't the 2 weeks that the Yak took me!!!

It is fairly obvious what you need to do to solve this puzzle (although if you haven't done the Yak before then it may not be quite so easy), unfortunately how to actually achieve it, is really difficult to visualise. On top of this, the tolerances on this puzzle are very exact - if things are not lined up just perfectly then you cannot do the required moves, giving the impression that you are barking up the wrong tree. Having worked out how to do it, I still find that it can be quite awkward to solve unless I am very careful with lining up of the pieces. After a sequence of about 6 or 7 moves you will end up with the 3 pieces of the Boromean rings:

The Whale separated from his spout!
I really found this one very enjoyable - it was considerably less difficult than the Yak but still a real challenge to anyone - in fact, none of my friends or colleagues has managed to solve it yet. Therefore, this is definitely worth buying by itself as a fairly tough puzzle but also as part of a set of Dick Hess puzzles.  I would say it is an essential purchase! Not bad for $12!!

Update on a previous puzzle - the G factor

Since I last reviewed it I have given the G factor to a lot of friends and colleagues and absolutely no-one has managed it. My main torture victim/friend who has solved the original heart-shaped version was unable to do it and neither could one of my orthopaedic colleagues. He specialises in Ilizarov frames and thus must have truly superb 3D visio-spatial ability - after half an hour whilst I anaesthetised his next patient, he completely failed to get even the first move (and this despite having also solved the original). I must maintain that this is an absolutely essential one for your collection too.

Therefore you most definitely should buy it!!! Probably at the same time as buying the Whale and the Yak and.......

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