This one is the Butterfly’s Revenge made specially for Puzzle Master and it is at the top end of the difficulty range - they have rated it as Level 10 out of 10 (Mind Boggling) and I must agree with that. It is packaged in the standard clamshell packaging and has a diagram pointing to the shuttle piece intimating that this should be removed. It consists of rather a large number of rings and wires as well as a ball and a very large button - all of which must have a purpose. There is no need to be frightened of the string aspect of this because the string is quite short and coupled with the ball, button and rings, there is limited capacity for tangling it into an unsolvable knot. It is nicely anodised and the brass rings are good quality. Dimensions are 15.9 x 10.5 cm when opened out. No solution is provided and it is quite possible you may need it - even if you are an experienced puzzler, this one WILL give you some difficulty! The solution can be downloaded from here.
This one had been languishing in a drawer for a couple of months, partly because of my current fascination for twisty puzzles and their many, yes many, interesting variations and challenges but also because I had been given pause by a review of it on the product page - John claimed that the solution was not particularly elegant and he needed some force. I got it because he also claimed it was one of the most difficult out there. First of all, let me say that the solution IS quite elegant - it requires multiple stages and is effectively 2 or 3 puzzles in one. It can be solved using force but if you do it the correct way then NO force is required at all.
When I finally got up the courage to try it, I was really quite staggered at the complexity of the structure. Often wire puzzles are very complex but have very ordered structure underlying it - for example the chinese rings group of puzzles like the Tree puzzle. But this particular puzzle has very little order to it’s structure and I was worried that if I did start to tangle it up, not only would I be unable to disentangle it, but I wouldn’t be able to remember what it was supposed to look like! For this reason I kept the product card with me at all times (you may recall that if I stop halfway up I often have difficulty remembering whether I am going up or down stairs!)
I have carried this one around with me for nearly a month now and have singularly failed to find a solution until yesterday! I have said several times before on this blog:
“pay attention to any peculiarities of the design. If something is odd or seems unnecessary then it is probably there for a reason”
This really led me astray - very early on I noticed that a particular move was possible due to the length of the shuttle piece and I insisted in my head that this was the secret to the solution! I suspect that the force that John had used may have been using this move. If you have done the first sequence then it is possible to use force to finish the puzzle. I didn’t see the first set of moves for a considerable time (because I am not terribly bright!) and so my use of force was unsuccessful. I later tried the shortcut and, whilst possible, the amount of force required clearly indicates that it is not correct.
So I spent over 3 weeks barking up the wrong tree!!! Finally yesterday I was just sitting staring at it and contemplating downloading the solution when I had a little brainwave (to go with my little brain!) Suddenly, I had the shuttle partially released from one side. The next step was again very tough to see - I had tried the forceful version and abandoned it. I had to put it down to do some stuff around the house. The present Mrs S (she’s doing OK for a first wife) was a bit grumpy with me because I kept stopping what I was doing to go and stare at the partially completed puzzle. I didn’t dare touch it because she hates me jingling when I am supposed to be working!! Later on that day I just started trying new things and I seemed to have completed a second stage. Although not sure whether what I had done was a step forward, I persevered with it and after another 15 minutes the shuttle was free. This puzzle requires three very distinct and very difficult to visualise stages - a real challenge! It is also made challenging by the fact that the string is only just the right length to allow the moves to be done.
So, now it’s verdict time! I disagree with John that it is not very elegant - this is a very very tough 3 stage solution with very tight tolerances. Once you have understood what is required, it is rather beautiful. It is certainly one of the tougher ones. I like it a lot because it is made difficult by the techniques required and the complexity of the structure without having to worry about knotting it all up. For $13.95 this is a bargain - it kept me occupied for a month! I would definitely say it is NOT for beginners. But for you hardcore puzzlers reading my blog - don't think twice, just buy it! I now intend to torture my friends with this for quite a while now that I have solved it!!