Sunday 25 August 2013

200 posts - I have been VERY bad!

I really cannot believe it! This is my 200th post and, looking at my analytics data, I should achieve 200,000 page views in the next week or two! Is this a cue for a torrent of mushy nonsense from me? No! Yes! Alright - just a little bit. It hardly seems long ago that I passed the 100 post mark - this time I'm going to be:
"Wondering about wood,
being 'Fuller' it,
admiring the Pelikan,
being amazed at a burl
and finally, going CraaaazyBad with Traiphum"
I've not lost my marbles yet again - it will all make sense soon! Recently I have been buying new toys like there was no tomorrow so basically, to mark this occasion, I thought I would show off a few of the most beautiful and challenging puzzles that have arrived recently and describe my experiences with them. Many are still available for you to add to your collection. Hopefully this catharsis will make me feel better and help Mrs S forgive me!!!

Wood Wonders

Brian Menold is the head honcho at Wood Wonders (actually he's the only honcho) and I have been buying from him for 2 years now - his workmanship has developed during that period until it rivals some of the best in the business and like most (if not all) puzzle people he is a delight to communicate and do business with. During the penultimate sale, due to a quirk with the sales system on his site, I had all the puzzles in my basket snatched from me whilst I used my 2 factor authentication with PayPal - yes Nigel, I hope you feel guilty! As a result of this, he held the one puzzle I had managed to keep and when the next batch came out he contacted me to assure me that I would be able to get those I lost this time. Amongst a decent batch I obtained 3 particularly interesting puzzles from him:

Pyramidal Pile
4 Piece Pyramid
The first 2 are classic designs by Stewart Coffin and are beautifully made. It must be hard enough to make puzzles which are based on a cubic piece, but to make puzzles out of all sorts of other shapes just blows my mind! The pyramidal pile is, gulp, a sort of packing puzzle/construction puzzle. The lovely pyramid (made from Bocote with a Yellowheart tray) can be tipped out to reveal the pieces!

Sunday 18 August 2013

Cast G&G

Cast G&G - sorry it's really hard to photograph!
This may well be a little less lucid than my usual and may be a bit shorter due to fatigue - I spent all day yesterday on-call and writing several rotas too during the day. Unfortunately literally seconds after putting the light out at night, I got called in and had to work half the night. I slept late but an elderly man like me takes a very long time to recover!

Look a wood version!
Back in July I wrote about one of my Puzzle Master acquisitions, I mentioned my dwindling supply. Well I was very bad and placed an order for a whole bunch more so I would have some more reasonably priced puzzles to write about. This one, the Hanayama Cast G&G had been of particular interest to me since it had fascinated me when it won the Jury Grand Prize at the 2012 International Puzzle Party (IPP) in Washington DC for the designer Jin-Hoo Ahn. Firstly, the fact that it had won such a prestigious award really made it stand out and also the fact that it was a member of my beloved disentanglement group (from which you have seen me write so many reviews). Another reason for my fascination is that after discussing it with a friend from across the world, he made a copy for me in wood and sent it to me to play with long before the Hanayama version came available. Solving the wooden version confirmed to me what a great puzzle it is and that I would need to get the metal version too when it came out. He also made me a spare version which I gave to a great friend who organises the Midlands Puzzle Parties - I hope you have enjoyed it Nigel?

As puzzles go, and surprisingly for a Jury grand prize winner, it is not rated as terribly difficult - Hanayama rate it as a level 3 out of 6 and Puzzle Master as 7 (Challenging) in their scale of  5 to 10. Certainly, it is much less difficult than many of their wire and string disentanglements. As with all the Hanayama puzzles, it is beautifully packaged and the puzzle is firmly held onto supporting card to stop it jingling and getting scratched in transit. It is a perfectly portable size at 6  x 4.2  x 2.5 cm and feels nice and solid in the hand. It is a very reasonable $13 in price. Like all the puzzles made by Hanayama, it is beautifully plated in silver and gold metal and the gold piece also seems to be coated in a lacquer. I am not sure of the reason for the lacquer but it is not terribly robust and as you can see from my photos it very quickly chips somewhat spoiling the look (if not the puzzle experience). The instructions are to take it apart and put it back together again (obviously)! There is no solution supplied but it can be downloaded from Puzzle Master here.

Thursday 15 August 2013

A bonus for me - and so for you too!

Jerry's Ball in Cylinder II
I've been trying to keep my blog posting to just one a week so as not to overload you all. But today I received a nice little packet from Allard after his return from the IPP in Japan. It would appear that he had a great time and his exchange puzzle was well received. I know I am eagerly awaiting his and Rox's reviews of the exchange puzzles? This packet contained 2 wonderful goodies: Jerry's Ball in Cylinder II and Allard's own Magic suitcase puzzles.
A few days before the IPP was held, I received an email from Jerry Loo informing me that he had version 2 of his ball in cylinder finished and would appreciate my opinion of it. To save on postage across the world he proposed giving it to Allard who he would be meeting at the IPP so Allard could bring it back in his luggage. After a short humorous exchange about luggage allowance during which it would appear that either he had paid for many Kg of extra weight or, more likely, he had forgone any change of clothing and just taken empty suitcases! Can anyone report on how Allard smelled after several days of puzzling?

Sunday 11 August 2013

Eric Fuller! You are N times a genius!

Truly beautiful! From Eric Fuller

Idiot Alert!

I humbly stand corrected by my friend and fellow puzzle blogger, Tom Cutrofello! In my breathless delight at the genius craftsmanship of Eric I really did not adequately attribute the brilliant designers. Here is what Tom wrote:

"Go Pit and Bill are the design genii, Eric is the master craftsman! Amazing collaboration that would have been almost impossible before the IPP and the Internet. The puzzles are going to become even more elegant. We live on the golden age of mechanical puzzle world!"

Thanks for reminding me of my foolishness! Where would we be without the designers? I maintain that Eric is also a genius but I mustn't forget who enabled his genius. Apology over! Can I put my flagellation device (whip) away now?

Now those of you who are friends on Facebook will have seen that I have been making a very good attempt at bankrupting myself over the last few months! There just seems to have been a constant stream of absolutely fabulous puzzles coming out from all the puzzle designers and craftsmen. This is not just the wonderful wood workers but also the fantastic Chinese twisty puzzle makers who have made loads and loads of new twisties that are "absolutely essential" for my puzzling health!

Double Drool!!!
It doesn't stop there either - there's also the fantastic twisty modders and Shapeways designers also keeping me sane .....! Yeah! really!
My original 3x5x7. New 5x7x9 (Traiphum) and 4x6x8 (Jeremy)
But despite all this, I have really been getting in to the N-ary group of puzzles and have been adding lots and lots of them to my collection. I established in my last blog post about them that there can never be too many of them in your collection and my aim would be to get a set as good as that of Dr Goetz Schwandtner. I am still a long way away from that but am certainly adding to my collection at an alarming rate - please don't anyone tell the present Mrs S how much they cost! No-one would even find my body!

Sunday 4 August 2013

Yin Yang Disentanglement

Helical burr

I've been a bit delayed recently due to work commitments and Mrs S going off up to Edinburgh to visit her parents meaning more chores for me to do! I've also not wanted to put out too much stuff when the deluge from the IPP is going to be out soon! First of all may I give my hearty congratulations to Derek Bosch for winning the Jury Grand prize in the design competition with his marvellous Helical burr which I gushed about here.

Jean Claude Constantin - Yin Yang
This week's post is about a disentanglement puzzle that I had thought was particularly attractive and involving string, I thought it would be a real challenge. I also would like to get more puzzles by the amazing and prolific Jean-Claude Constantin. This is the Yin Yang disentanglement puzzle (not to be confused with the puzzle of the same name made by Puzzlemaster that I reviewed here). It was originally rated as a level 8 on their difficulty scale of 5-10 and that was a major attraction for me - I was really hoping for a string puzzle that wouldn't hurt my head too much! Subsequent feedback from me has led to it being re-rated as a 5 (Easy) and is certainly good for beginners to this type of puzzle.

It is made from a nice quality anodised wire and a decent string with a bead on the end and arrived in just a small plastic bag with the name of the puzzle typed on a label. Certainly a decent quality and in size it is 6.2 cm in diameter and the bead makes it about 2cm thick. It is extremely cheap for such nice quality at only $5. The name is obviously related to the soothing Yin yang symbol it forms and it's not difficult enough to upset your inner peace! I haven't seen any other reviews of it anywhere and no one has commented on the PuzzleMaster page. Interestingly there is no downloadable solution on the solution site either but don't let this put you off! You really will not be needing it!