Many of my friends who are not hardcore puzzlers often are delighted when I give them a new puzzle to play with especially when the premise seems easy (like wire puzzles) or the puzzle seems really pretty. They wander off muttering to themselves that it can’t be that difficult and jingle away. Many of them come back with broad grins on their faces saying:
“I’ve solved it, and it only took me x minutes! See I must be a master puzzler like you!”.
They then proceed to hand me the pieces of the puzzle and look upset when I say that they haven’t solved it yet - they now have to put it back to the initial state and then do it again.
“But I solved it”, they say, “you can see that!!”
So when is a puzzle truly solved?
My response to them all has been the same thing for over a year of torturing now:
"A puzzle is only truly solved when you can open/disassemble it and then put it back together again… And then, you have to do it a second time quicker than the first! This proves to me that the puzzle hasn’t just been opened by blind luck - it has been understood and truly mastered!"
(My exception to this would be jigsaws, where the time limit can be physically finding the pieces and dexterity puzzles where luck does play a significant part - but I NEVER play with those sorts of puzzle).
So what has this got to do with the Gordian Knot wire puzzle from Puzzle Master? I think that this puzzle may well be the first puzzle that is the exception to the rule. Here I will discuss this and decide whether this is a bad thing or not.
Continuing my recent batch of wire puzzles from the Puzzle Master collection, I couldn’t resist one that looked rather like a “Cat’s cradle” - this is the Gordian Knot (not to be confused with the plastic board burr puzzle holding the same name). I chose it because it looked oddly complex yet, having just a single loop of string also looked weirdly simple. BUT, note that this has been rated as a 9 out of 10 (Gruelling) on the Puzzle Master difficulty scale and hence must be a real challenge! Plus it was designed by Alan Stein himself, one of the brothers who own and run Puzzle Master and my previous experience of one of his puzzles was astonishingly good.
This puzzle arrived in the usual clamshell box with the simple instructions just to remove the loop of string. It consists of 4 loops of wire and a single strand connected together into a complex mesh with a string looped through the centre - it is 15 x 6.6 x 2.5cm in size and is fairly pricey for a wire puzzle at $20. Quality is great and the loop of string has been heat sealed and doesn’t fray with use. No solution is provided and you may well need one - if so it can be downloaded from here. More about that later!
Now usually I am frightened of string puzzles, which is really why I had left it aside for so long (I received this last batch in february!) but eventually I could stand it’s lonely cries no longer and I put it in my bag one day and have been playing with it for the last month!! For three weeks of intermittent fiddling I failed dismally! It is not due to fear of getting it too tangled up - this is one of the few string puzzles that doesn’t really get knotted too much without it becoming really obvious and it is easy to undo. I kept trying and trying and either reached so far before accidentally back-tracking or not being able to see what else was possible.
Finally when it seemed like I would have to get the solution out, I downloaded it and studied it carefully. The first step - no problem! I had managed it perfectly myself! After that the solution was completely undecipherable!! I could not understand what on earth I was being directed to do. So I seemed to have been stymied at the 2nd out of 9 moves in the sequence. OMG!!! So I put the instructions away and was resigned to the fact that this might be the 2nd wire puzzle I might have to give a really negative review (the other was the coathanger puzzle from Livewire puzzles). But this wasn’t as bad as that one - at least I didn’t have to take it to pieces to reset it and start again! In fact it was doing what it should do - I was stumped by it and by now I think I am pretty good at wire puzzles!!!
I kept it with me for the next few days and played with it at every opportunity and without realising what I had done, I had 2 pieces in my hands!
|I still don't really know how I did it!|
So my criteria for solving a puzzle have NOT been reached! Yet I can solve this puzzle every single time - I can’t explain to anyone how I do it and my time varies each attempt! Does this mean that I don’t rate it highly? Absolutely not! The puzzle creator should be very proud - he created a difficult puzzle which kept me going for over a month and which is effectively a new puzzle for me every time I attempt it. I hope that one day I will be able to make a set of photos showing the sequence more clearly than the solution file.
Should you buy this one? Absolutely yes!! It is pretty tough but not impossible and has more repeatability than most. It’s resistance to tangling means that it can be handed to friends without fear. This has become one of my favourites and I intend to keep it with me to torture my friends and colleagues for some considerable time! The $20 asking price is very reasonable!