Just "N" more!Today I want to tell you about some of my all time favourite puzzles - they combine maths, beautiful wood and puzzling. I want to start with a classic puzzle which has recently become available again and I think you should really consider picking up a copy. Following that I'll show you a few others in my collection.
Here you can see a brand new production of the Hexadecimal puzzle. The puzzle was originally made for one year only in 1986 by Binary Arts (now called Thinkfun). In that year 7500 were produced and only about 750 are estimated to still exist, most firmly in the hands of puzzle enthusiasts/collectors. They seldom come up for sale and command very silly prices. My good friend Michel has been searching for one for years and only recently managed to get hold of one.
It was designed and patented by William Keister (1907–1997) in 1986. William was an engineer in the famous Bell Laboratories and one day he raided the Bell Labs’ stock room, gathering up pushbuttons, electronic relays, and light bulbs to build an electronic version of the Chinese Ring Puzzle. After a few hours work, he realized he had wired it up wrong, but studying what he had done he also realized he had stumbled upon a whole series of binary code sequence puzzles, of which the famous Chinese Rings Puzzle was just one variation. He went on to sketch out a whole series of logic puzzles and show how they could be solved mathematically with Boolean algebra, a precursor to today’s computer languages.
It consists of a sliding carriage and a stationary base. The carriage is fitted with 8 rectangular switching bars which can pivot on their centres to angle in either of two directions. The base, which holds the carriage during the puzzle’s operation, is fitted with an assembly containing 4 blocking keys. These keys can be present into any one of 16 positions. The object is to remove the carriage which contains the 8 switching bars. By setting the 4 the blocking keys in various initial configurations, there are 16 puzzles to solve ranging from fairly easy (8 moves for position 1111) to extraordinarily difficult (170 moves for position 1110). It has been analysed (just like most mathematically based puzzles by Jaap here. Let me say that whilst I love Gray code puzzles and find most of them fairly easy, this is really taxing me! I have only done the first 6 so far and am very much enjoying it - you should really consider getting a copy because once this run is over, it is highly unlikely that they will ever be made again!
Here is Dave introducing this puzzle:
If you do own an original or buy one of Dave's excellent copies then it would be a great idea to enter your name onto the Hexadecimal hall of fame which is being kept for the world by Richard Whiting. See the list of owners here and toward the bottom of the page he has a link to email him to inform him of your acquisition. Richard also has an info page about these puzzles here.
Are there any other N-ary puzzles I can recommend whilst I am writing about the Hexadecimal? Indeed there are lots and many are available easily - read on: