Wednesday 26 June 2013

The worst cut is the deepest

First of all let me apologise on 3 counts:
  1. This post is a bit late because I attended the 11th Midlands puzzle party on my usual day of posting and seeing as each post can take many hours it was never going to be possible on that day.
  2. I then could not post on the Sunday because I had to work. Dreadful, I know!! But the on-call rota needed to be written and unfortunately it's down to me!! Took 8 hours and after that and the required booze to recover, it was also never going to happen.
  3. My final apology is that this post may be more than my usual amount of garbage! I was up almost all night last night on-call and my vocabulary and grammar skills are a little jaded. In fact if there's a long pause during this article it's because I have fallen asleep on my keyboardddddddddd ZZZzzzzzz!
So Cat Stevens wrote in 1965 and sang in 1967 The worst (or was it first?) cut is the deepest - followed also in 1967 by PP Arnold and then Keith Arnold in 1973 and Rod Stewart in 1977. Finally the great Sheryl Crow did it in 2003. Now what the hell is he on about? He's lost the plot! Can that really all be blamed on lack of sleep? Probably not! The combination of a great puzzle party, a night up on-call and a rather large supply of great puzzles have gone straight to my head!

Well, all of these great singers complaining about a deep cut as well as spending last night anaesthetising for an emergency Laparotomy (yes it's safe to follow that link!) brought to the front of my tiny mind that I have many puzzles which share a common theme of geometry, axis of turning and size yet their solve process seems to vary considerably and can become extremely tough with the "deepest" cuts. Now before you all run away screaming "Aaaargh! Not another twisty puzzle!", bear with me - I'm not going to get too much into how they are solved.

Corner turning cubes showing different depths of cut
In the beginning God created the heaven and the no! scratch that! He created the Rubik cube and all was good in the world at least for those who could solve it. Later on the Devil came along and invented other puzzles to entice us to the twisty side and man began to party (puzzle party)! Yes definitely not enough sleep. Having created a few variants of the cube, giving us more layers etc, some bright spark suggested having different parts that rotate. One of the most interesting groups is the corner turning cubes pictured above. They weren't developed as a progression from simplest on but for a beginner to twisties or someone wanting to move on from the basic face turning cubes then this might be a nice avenue to explore.

Saturday 15 June 2013

6 Piece burrs don't have to be boring!

Arch Burr
First of all let me make an apology in advance - a large part of this post was written at 4am on my phone - for some reason I was absolutely wide awake! Actually, when I say for some reason, it may well have something to do with Mrs S sleeping flat on her back in a star shaped configuration at about 90 decibels, leaving me a very narrow strip of bed! Plus I also had a very large clump of cats noisily purring on my chest. So lack of sleep and inability to breathe may cause more than the usual amount of nonsense today!

I have been topping up my now rather extensive collection of wire and string disentanglement puzzles recently from Puzzle Master's huge selection. But I'm aware that not all of you like to do the really complex ones and many don't really like disentanglements so now I'll review a rather unusual burr puzzle that I found in their Metal puzzle collection. I don't often review burrs because apart from the workmanship and how many moves, there is little to say about them. But here I have something rather different!

I have seen this brought along to a Midlands Puzzle Party a few times and each time I've watched a success and a rather nice grin on someone's face. I have never had a chance to try it so ordered it from Puzzle Master. It is certainly very different from most burrs you will see more commonly (even if it is "just" another 6 piece burr). It doesn't seem to be available just now on the Puzzle Master site but I'm sure you can find it online somewhere. Unfortunately because it no longer appears on their site I can't tell you how they rated its difficulty - the Puzzle Master Amazon web store says that it is an 8 on their 5-10 point scale. I would suggest that is more of a 7. I think that it is about $14 when they get it back in stock.

It was designed by the amazing Oskar van Deventer and manufactured by Bits and Pieces. I have heard a huge number of complaints about the dreadful quality of puzzles from them both in terms of the puzzle fit but also the look being very poorly finished. This image begins very early with the packaging - it is just a plain white cardboard box and the puzzle is shrink wrapped inside - not the most enticing of packages! Taking it out of the wrapping reveals a black and silver puzzle with quite a few marks on it - also disappointing. Dimensions are: 8 x 6.5 x 5.4 cm - it feels nice and solid. The object of this puzzle, once taken apart, is to assemble the silver and black arches into a complete selt-standing burr. The solution is provided as a leaflet in the box but I would hope you don't need it - it can also been downloaded from here.

Now let me say that despite all the initial negatives, this is a really great puzzle! Well worthy of Oskar's name and certainly good value for money!

Saturday 8 June 2013

It's an 'L' of a Burr

The L Burr
A few weeks ago I posted that my Christmas wish had come true and a series of really beautiful burrs had arrived Chez Sadler. This blog post is going to describe my struggles with the gorgeous 'L Burr'. Why such a delay? Well, I have been busy at work and those of you who are friends with me on Facebook will have seen from my steady stream of photos posted that I have had quite a lot of new toys delivered recently! I have been going hell for leather with the N-ary puzzles and was pleased to read Allard's recent post about them and hopefully between the 2 of us we can get you hooked on them too. So it took me a little while to get around to writing about this one!

Recent deliveries have included:

Some N-ary and sequential movement puzzles
My puzzle pusher managed to get these for me. Here we have the amazing Kugellager 7 (a 7-ary version requiring 4082 moves to open and again to close - or even more after you get lost half-way through!) The 250 move N-ary lock by Jean-Claude Constantin and a small lock puzzle. The bottom puzzle is the IPP31 "Lager" but not as in beer! I haven't managed to come even close to solving that yet! All great fun!

Master Curvy Copter
This is a 4x4 version of the Curvy copter. The curvy copter was one of the first twisties I reviewed on this blog and it managed to get me completely hooked on twisty puzzles (in fact on my recommendation it has gotten quite a lot of people hooked on twisties). As I have gotten better at twisties, I have started to lust after the more complex challenges. This was designed by the amazing Eitan Cher and is available from his Shapeways shop. A discussion on the Twisty puzzle forum revealed that a friend, Burgo, who is a puzzle solving wizard considers it one of the hardest puzzles he has ever solved! This sort of tells me that I might have met my match!!! Gulp!

Oh Eric! What have you done to me!!!
After finally bribing HMRC to return these to me, I have taken delivery of a few more from Eric Fuller. Here we have 4 constrained burrs, a very nice copy of Kevin's burr - yes, named after me and designed by the amazing Jose W Diaz. Plus.... yes, more N-ary puzzles - by another fabulous designer, Goh Pit Khiam, we have the Tern key II and Binary key.

Houston, I think I have a problem!!!!!

So with the new deliveries and quite a lot going on at work recently, I have actually managed to control my urge to dive into doing Brian's masterpieces all at once! One of the puzzles I was really pleased to receive was the L Burr. It was originally designed by Junichi Yananose (one of the most prolific puzzle designers ever).

Sunday 2 June 2013


No, I am not getting all philosophical on you! This puzzle is the Infinity because of its shape. It is part of Puzzle Master's series of wire and string disentanglement puzzles. You know I can't resist them! They are pretty cheap, they're shiny, very portable and perfect for torturing friends without worrying too much about damage - well as long as the string isn't too long! In my last order from Puzzle Master I deliberately chose some of the more difficult ones and also ventured into the string series which really frighten me.

Oddly, this one is a level 9 (Gruelling) in Puzzle Master's scale going from 5 to 10 and it got me wondering how such a complex contraption including string wasn't a level 10, hence it ended up in my delivery and on my "puzzles to do" shelf. I have been spending like there's no tomorrow (much to the disgust of the present Mrs S!) and my puzzles to do shelf is bursting with even more toys in the mail to me as we speak!!! Don't tell her please? Pretty please! Ouch!!!!

It arrives in the usual plastic clamshell package which for me at least goes straight in the bin - I don't have the space to keep any packaging and I believe all puzzles should be played with and not just kept for show. It is a pretty large puzzle at 8.4 x 9.5 cm and very nicely made. It is very good value at $12. The instructions are simply to remove the string loop which has been doubly wound though the loop of the infinity symbol. This is a level 9 puzzle and so you might well need a solution for it - It isn't supplied with it but can be downloaded from here.