Monday 9 April 2012

Flabber Floovers - Pulley

Flabber Floovers - Pulley
Continuing my theme of disentanglement puzzles, I had decided that it might be nice to try some that are not made of wire. I do love wooden puzzles and so when I saw that the disentanglement puzzles from Family Games of America are made of wood and string, I couldn't resist it. Well you know that I actually can't resist any puzzle but I'm going to stick to my story! This series of puzzles is grouped under the name "Flabber floovers" and Puzzle Master stock them all. If you are feeling like torturing yourself properly then the whole lot are sold with a batch discount. I decided to dip my toe in gently and just got the middle of the range Pulley (actually I got this because it didn't look too horrific - some of them have lots and lots of loops of string!)

It is level 8 (Gruelling) on the Puzzle Master scale (from 5 up to a max of 10) and I have mixed feelings about whether this is correct or not (read on to see why). Packaged in a nice blue box with a solution booklet (be careful not to look at this too soon), it is a decent size - 9.4 x 8.6 x 2.8cm and seems to be made from a very nice smooth wood. It is actually quite attractive, unlike the wire puzzles. The biggest advantage in the Puzzlemad home is that not being made of metal, it doesn't jingle when being played with!! This may well increase my life expectancy!

The solution is provided in the box but if you have thrown it away - then it can also be downloaded from here. It would appear that none of my fellow puzzle bloggers have reviewed any of these before.

The aim is obviously to remove the ring from the puzzle - how difficult can it be? Remember that it is level 9 so the appearance is quite deceptive. There is actually very little movement possible - the ring can pass through the slots in both pieces and it can also pass over the outside of the horizontal piece. The ball prevents the two wooden parts from separating.

I settled down to playing with this and couldn't really spot an obvious exit point. Continued fiddling did reveal some possibilities but each time I tried to get to them I ended up either looped in a tangle or miraculously back at the beginning. My usual mantra of everything is there for a reason paid off and after about an hour of play I had the 2 pieces separated:

I think that an hour to solve should make it a 7 or 8 on the difficulty scale and not 9/10. Putting it back together is really pretty easy - it can only be done in one way. BUT! The puzzling doesn't end here. I came back to it later the same day and could not for the life of me remember what I had done and this time it took me another 3 hours before it was apart! I must be going senile (please don't contact me to agree with that statement). So maybe the grade 9 is correct after all. After that scare, I then spent another 10-15 minutes watching the exact play of the pieces to understand why I had struggled to repeat my success. It transpires that the positioning has to be just right and the looping of the string in just the right position for it to work.

Now for me a significant part of the fun of puzzling is to watch other people struggle and eventually solve them. During a lunch break in our vascular radiology department (one of my specialities is vascular anaesthesia) I got out a handful of my toys and a whole bunch of us sat down and played for a while. It was quite comical to see all these grown men and women with serious professions all drooling whilst trying to solve various puzzles!! One of our senior radiologists solved the Pulley puzzle within 15 minutes - I couldn't believe it!!! Maybe it should be level 5??

Another of my beliefs is that a puzzle is never truly solved until it has been done, then reset and done a second time! Only at this point can you claim that you really understand a puzzle! So, much to his disappointment, I told him to do it again. I did let him do it straight away whilst his memory was fresh and lo and behold - he was completely unable to remove the ring a second time! Yesss!!!! In fact he got into one of those horrible knots that make me hesitate to give the string puzzles out. He insisted he could untangle it so I let him continue.

When he and another surgical colleague handed it back, I saw, to my horror that somehow they had actually removed the ball through the slot. Each denied having done it but I could see the guilty looks on their faces. I could not get it back in place easily - whilst desperately trying, there was a nasty cracking noise and it broke in two! Damn!!! Luckily it had just split along the wood grain and with a bit of super glue it is as good as new and no sign of the break is visible!

Should you get one? I would say that yes you should - these are rather attractive and deceptively difficult - I guess that after all that the level 9 is probably about right. Just don't hand one to a surgeon or a radiologist! For $12 they are really good value for money! I think I may well be getting some more from the series.

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