Thursday 1 November 2012

It's a little Gem!

4 Dayan Gems. Think they all look very similar? Not so!
This time it's back to some twisty puzzles again! I know that the majority of you aren't particularly twisty puzzle fans but you should be! We are living in a golden age of advances in design and manufacture - there have never been so many fabulous twisty puzzles available as there are now (and there are lots more coming too!)

This time we are looking at the Dayan Gem puzzles. My journey with these began with Rline on the Twisty Puzzles forum - having bought a few puzzles from him at the beginning of this year, we started up a conversation (which still continues) and seeing as, like me, he was a man of an age who should know better, I asked him for advice about which puzzles I should try to take it up a gear and challenge myself. He sent me a fairly extensive list and high up on it was the Dayan Gem 4 - he said:
"great solving experience, similar to the 4x4x4"
Seeing as he is one of the TP masters and the author of the tremendous Rubik's Ultimate solution site, who was I to refuse such advice? ....and so it began!!
I will talk about these in the order that I did them:

Gem 4
So I took Rline's advice and bought a Dayan Gem 4. Now the title of this blog post is "little gem" but I was rather surprised when this arrived - it is a BIG puzzle - 9cm in diameter and about 250g in weight. I got mine from the HKNowstore in Hong Kong but if you want to get it from North America then Puzzle Master also sell it here. It is the shape of a truncated octahedron with 14 sides. It looks horrific doesn't it? Looking at the picture it's not even clear how it turns. This one is a pure face turner - but it is similar to a 4x4 cube in that it has a deep cut too:

Face Turn
Deep turn
When scrambled it really turns into a bit of a mess! Now I know that many of the TP members spend a lot of time working on the solved puzzle to find out what different movements do before they scramble it - some even use the Gelatin Brain simulator! Well, I have absolutely no idea how to do this sort of thing so I just scramble the bloody things (after taking my photos!) and then explore! My first exploration was not particularly helpful - the present Mrs S came running into the kitchen when I shouted and the cats went running out! I had a minor no very major explosion! Whilst it's all very interesting to see how these are constructed, it wasn't what I had in mind and it took me over an hour to work out how to reassemble it! I then discovered that this whole thing can be solved with just intuition by pairing up the edges and using the edge piece series from Rline's "Ultimate solution". After just a few days of experimenting I actually solved it ALL BY MYSELF! There is one complicating feature (you knew there would be!) I think that about 1 in 3 solves there seems to be a parity - it's not hard to solve but I did need to get help with that bit! It is a fantastic puzzle and a great introduction to the series! Buy it - you won't regret it!

A few months later, I got into another conversation with yet another Australian TP member, Burgo. Oddly, he is also a man of a certain age who should know better! We were discussing the way my twisty puzzle solving odyssey should go - he was possibly trying to entice me into buying a Shapeways puzzle! The conversation moved to the remaining Gem puzzles and he was able to describe the way they moved - I was hooked! Actually it's not really Burgo's fault - we all know that it is Rox who really got me into this! I blame her completely!!!

Gem 1
The Gem 1 (this one was available in plastic with no stickers) is an edge turning puzzle and this means that it jumbles! What the heck is jumbling? It is when a turn or 2 of adjacent edges moves the pieces such that some are bandaged together and they block subsequent movement of other parts of the puzzle. Sounds horrific? Well my first experience of this type of twisty came quite early on - the Helicopter cube and TomZ's Curvy copter are cubic examples of this and as I said in my blog post about it - they are fantastic! Again this one is a 14 sided truncated octahedron about 9.5cm diameter and the all plastic version is a little lighter at 195g.
Edge turning
and jumbling
When fully scrambled, because of the jumbling and shape-shifting it looks absolutely horrendous! Yes, even worse than the one above!! The first issue is to return it to the original shape and all that is needed is to just fiddle with it for a while and eventually you manage to return it back! It's actually far less of a job than returning the curvy copter back to a cube. Then breathing a huge sigh of relief, you can then work at solving it! Like all edge turners, it's actually really quite easy! You don't need any algorithms - it's just a matter of moving pieces around in their orbits and when required using the jumbling moves to swap orbits! Just like the Dayan Gem 4 I solved it entirely without aid and it felt great!! Occasionally you do get a rather interesting final problem which requires a 4 way orbit swap but again, not too much of an issue once you realise the nature of it. It did take me several hours of chasing my tail before the penny finally dropped - but then I'm not very bright! Plus, despite owning over 75 twisties now, I still think I'm a beginner!!

Gem 2
Not more? Oh yes! The Gem 2 adds an interesting twist to the puzzle. It is the only one of the series which is a different shape - its' shape is something between a truncated octahedron and a cuboctahedron  and is slightly smaller than the others at 80mm across and 170g weight. They come unstickered! Have I said before how much I hate stickering twisties? I never seem to get it right - you can see above that mine is not perfectly even! How else can this be different from the others? The movement is fascinating - it is a hybrid puzzle, Face turning AND edge turning!
Face turning
And edge turning!!
Holy Sh!!
The edge turning means that it also jumbles and also has orbits to move pieces around in. BUT when you add the face turning to the edge turning you end up with all sorts of small pieces which can be moved in and out of their orbits! It is unbelievably stable despite being able to move so easily in so many directions! It also turns into an unholy mess when fully scrambled! This one did take me a little while to get my head around! Mainly because there are so many possible ways to move the pieces and the symmetry of the smaller triangles makes it easy to miss where they are supposed to go! BUT despite all this, it can be solved entirely without algorithms - fully based on intuitive moves! I find this so rewarding because for me, it is not about trying to memorise hundreds of different algorithms for every eventuality! I want to learn a few basic techniques and then use them with strategies to solve as many different puzzles as I can! If I can actually solve one just by trial and error and planning alone then that really gives a buzz!

Gem 3
Finally (I can hear you breathing a sigh of relief! You didn't have to read this far!!!) we have the Gem 3 - this was the last one I solved. Note that Puzzle Master only have the limited edition clear blue version, if you prefer it in black then the HKNowStore has it here. This is back to the old shape and size and weight. In fact to view it, it is totally indistinguishable from the Gem 4 and has the same shape but different sticker pattern to the Gem 1! So how does it differ? This is just a face turner like the Gem 4 but differs in that there is no deep cut and both the hexagonal and square faces will turn.

Hexagonal face turn
Square face turn
Very attractive?
It does actually take quite a while to adequately scramble it and makes for a rather attractive puzzle when scrambled! This is just as well because this was the first one in the series which I genuinely thought I would not be able to solve and would have to leave it in the scrambled shape! It took me a couple of days to work out my initial strategy and again the vast majority of this puzzle can be solved again using nothing more than intuition. I was then left with the top hexagon 3 top squares unsolved. I was stuck here for quite some time and then figured out that I could ignore the hexagon and just solve for the squares. The first 2 are really fairly easy but a little arduous. The final square beat me! Nothing I could do would let me orient those final 4 little pieces (with intermingled triangles) - I did manage it once or twice after rescrambling but that was just luck! In the end I had to turn to my great puzzle friend Jon (SuperAntonivivaldi) for a little hint! His introductory video was all that I needed! There are just 3 variants of one simple algorithm required - I could kick myself for not seeing it. For all you twisty puzzlers out there I have to say just one word - SUNE! Doing this, with a couple of variants is all that is required to solve that last square!

Do I advise you to get these puzzles? Absolutely!
If you are a true twisty puzzle freak then these are an essential part of your collection! But what about the majority of you who are just general puzzlers? I would certainly suggest that all general puzzlers should master the basic cube 3x3x3 and 4x4x4 but if you want to play with a twisty that looks interesting and looks truly horrific to your non-puzzling friends then absolutely get this series of puzzles (not too expensive at about $40 each). They can mostly be solved without algorithms and just a lot of thought, they are a mixture of face turning and edge turning (or a combination) moves and as a group look fantastic on your puzzle shelves!


  1. Hey now! Rox only tells you where to find them, not to buy.... And FYI, I've found an online source with even bigger savings.....but I'm not telling because that first wife of yours will kill me before we even meet. I'm terrified by just the thought of coming within 1000 yards of her eyes!

    Next on your list should be the Mf8 stars (I know that's not the right term but...check my blog tomorrow). I think there are only three of those...cheaper outlay!

  2. But Rox also knows that when she points at a puzzle and says it's good then I immediately buy!

    So where are the bigger savings? I NEED to know!
    I also NEED to know the name of the next series NOW!!!

  3. Told you already,it's in there at least 4 times...just listen! :) The puzzle puzzle! Tiny hint: it's a DaYan/Mf8 combo coming soon!

    1. I've watched that vid at least a dozen times - I have learned to hate that song now!

      I'm crap at word games - guess I'll have to wait for tomorrows blog post from you or for the official announcement!