Thursday, 4 July 2013

Cast S & S

Cast S & S
This will be the last of my current batch of Hanayama puzzles that I got from Puzzle Master - Sigh! There have been a few new ones recently which I am definitely going to have to order because I just can't resist their shininess as well as the really really high quality puzzling they provide. This time I'm reviewing the Cast S&S, a really great puzzle designed by the amazingly prolific Nob Yoshigahara.

I had tried this at work many months ago when a friend whom I have infected with the puzzling habit showed it to me. I did manage to solve his copy eventually but didn't really understand what I had done and certainly did not spend enough time to understand its subtleties. I do remember that it was one of the most attractive I had seen and was very tactile - so of course, it had to be added to my collection! As usual, it arrived beautifully displayed in the black Hanayama box with the puzzle tied to card to stop it rattling around. After extrication you are presented with a really lovely pair of pinky copperish metal S shapes which are interlinked. One of which has the name Hanayama on it - pay attention to that because you are going to need to use the lettering to keep track of the movements. It is a level 3 out of 6 on the Hanayama scale and 7 (Challenging) on Puzzle Master's scale. I initially thought this was too high but revised that after watching a few others attempt it. The box gives a bit of blurb about originating in 19th century Britain but ultimately the important instructions are simply to take it apart and then put it back together again.

It is nicely made with no surface scratches and is smooth and cool to touch. Dimensions are 11.1 x 2.9 x 2.9 cm. It has been reviewed favourable before by Gabriel here and Brian here and on the webpage for the puzzle on the Puzzle Master site it has received pretty much universal good reports (apart from someone who thought it was too easy). No solution is provided but it can be downloaded from here.

On opening this it would appear that the 2 pieces are identical and rotationally symmetrical. This is definitely not the case so it would be important to pay attention to what pieces are where and the orientation of the lettering and the different knobs. There would appear to be lots of possible movement and if you think it comes apart like one of those simple wire disentanglements you had when you were a kid then you would need to think again. I very rapidly had an Aha! moment and thought I was well on my way but then found myself stuck. I had made a very interesting move and thten could move no further! In fact I couldn't undo the move either - mainly because whilst turning it over and over I had lost track of what the move was. I finally managed to backtrack to the beginning and then explored further. Finally another Aha! moment and the puzzle was in yet another configuration. Now the interesting thing here is that there would appear to be a dead end in the solution of this puzzle. That's quite mean for a supposedly easyish one! After another 15 minutes I knew what to do and had my 2 pieces! Very rewarding moment!

S & S
I scrambled up the pieces and was gratified that I was able to interlink them fairly easily - there's only so many ways they can be combined. Returning to the beginning is quite tough for 2 reasons. Firstly because reversing the process is pretty hard due to difficulties lining pieces up correctly for the reverse moves and secondly because unless you have really been paying attention, you will not be able to remember where you started!

I have given this to quite a few puzzlers at work and been gratified that not a single one of them have solved it (despite some trying for several hours) and this includes at least one moderately experienced puzzler (well, moderately in that I have tortured him with these things for a year or so!) - he found the dead end but did not realise what it was and then couldn't put it back to the beginning. It would also appear to be possible to get the pieces locked into a very unfair postion which takes some serious effort to get out of. I have no idea how my 2 colleagues managed it (and neither do they) but in this position it is quite resistant to returning to the beginning. I had a rather sweaty moment thinking that my puzzle had been killed but I then freed it up without knowing how.

Can I recommend this puzzle? Most definitely! It is absolutely lovely to look at, very tactile to play with and is a fun solve. The presence of a dead end is a real positive as it prolongs the puzzling. Despite this it is still reasonable for people relatively new to the genre. And at $13 you can't really lose!

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