Monday 25 November 2013

Cast Cricket

Cast Cricket
I know! I know! I'm late and it's not good enough! Yes I've even had an email from an expectant friend. He'd come back from Sunday lunch and was settling down for a rest and a read of my latest post. He was most disappointed to see that I had failed to provide but I reassured him that it would be coming soon and here it is.

I'm late because of this!
So why am I a day late? Well last week, having freed my angel, I said that I'd need her help to solve Eitan's star, the 1st ever icosahedral and the hardest mass-produced twisty puzzle ever produced. Having scrambled it last Sunday, I'd been working at it all week and only just managed to complete it late on Sunday afternoon and much too late to write this post. Certainly it was too late if I didn't want to get in trouble with Mrs S! How do you go about such a horrific twisty? First I knew that the Eitan's star is the geometric dual of the Bauhinia dodecahedron (a vertex turning 12 sided puzzle) with the turning vertices coincident with the faces of the icosahedral puzzle. So starting at one corner, I was able to solve half of it using intuitive moves alone, then the thin internal triangles of the top half were solvable from the equator up using nothing more than the 4 move edge piece series.
Can you see the similarity?
Neither can I but it is there!
At this point it started to get challenging - with the vertices requiring a 3cycle but lots of setup moves to match the 5 colours up. The 2colour edges were next - there are 60 but I had 32 to solve and these require a much more complex series of moves just to cycle 3 of them and place just 1 at a time. My own algorithm was too difficult to translate so I borrowed a nice 20 move sequence from my friend Rline's video series. This section of the solve is really arduous and took hours and hours. There's no room for error and you have to pray that you remember all the setup moves! A small rest was required to calm my nerves and finally a simple set of corner piece series were required to place the large triangular centres! As of this moment, I am the 11th name in the list of solvers on the Twisty Puzzles hall of fame. If you want a cheaper but still pretty tough twisty puzzle then definitely try the Bauhinia dodecahedron - it is a tremendously fun puzzle and will set you up nicely for the Star's challenge.

So you see I do have a good excuse. I was therefore needing a fairly quick puzzle to solve and write about for you. In my last batch from Puzzle Master, I had ordered a couple of the easier Hanayama cast puzzles, so I fetched one to solve as quickly as possible for this blog post. This one is the level 2 out of 6 (or 6 - Tricky, on the Puzzle Master 5-10 point scale) which I think is a reasonable assessment. Opening the usual beautiful packaging reveals a really lovely metal puzzle in an antique brass finish. It is 6.7 x 6.7 x 2.5 cm in size and seems rather finely made. The name Cast Cricket obviously comes from the fact that it is formed from the major parts of the game of Cricket. It consists of 6 cricket bats joined at the handles in an odd star-shape and linked into a wicket structure complete with Bails preventing it lifting out the top. For the Americans amongst you, see this article for a description of cricket. The aim is to find a way to remove the 6 bats from the wicket. Preventing it are a number of knobbles on one side or other of each bat (one of the bats looks like a skateboard with wheels on it at both ends) but to help you there is a gap in the central wicket and a notch in the centre one. Like all the Hanayama puzzles, it does not come with a solution and if you want one then it can be downloaded from here.

This puzzle only has an average rating on puzzle master of 2 out of 5 stars but I think this is due to one particularly scathing (and unfair) review of 0 stars from one person who felt it was too easy and fragile. The other reviews were much more favourable. This is an easy puzzle but not everyone wants something that takes months and if you don't want an easyish puzzle then why are you looking at a Hanayama level 2? Gabriel reviewed it back in 2012 and really enjoyed it whilst acknowledging the difficulty level.

Sunday 17 November 2013

I freed my angel and I need her help!

Help me! I'm trapped in this prison.
There's a man out there in puzzle world and he's a verrrry bad man! His name is Strijbos, Wil Strijbos! You all know of him as my puzzle pusher! He is the facilitator, the enabler of my addiction and I love him for it! He also is the kind of man who would take a cute little angel and lock her tightly in a metal prison and then leave it to his unfortunate customers to try and work out how to free her!

I look forward to meeting Wil at the Midlands puzzle parties that he occasionally attends and unfortunately I missed out on meeting him at the recent Dutch Cube day! Most of all, however, I love it when he sends me his emails! Every 2-4 months a note drops into my Inbox telling me of his upcoming designs and what he has newly available - and he knows full well that I cannot resist his wares! In fact an email arrived this weekend and he has separated me from yet another large chunk of my money!

Back at the end of August one of these emails arrived with news of something we all knew he had been working on for a considerable time. He finally had it finished and was ready to take orders for the first 27 that were available. We all read with great eagerness about it and all of us then took a huge GULP! when we saw that it was to be €390 plus P&P. But did this faze us at all? Heck no! Within 5 minutes I had responded with a resounding YES and apparently within a few hours another 26 suckers ahem puzzlers had also signed up and Wil had a waiting list of another 22 within days! This shows how good a pusher he really is! There will only ever be 99 of these which you might say will make them an investment, but a few of us discussed the likelihood of this being something that will make a profit in the future and the consensus is that it is not likely at this price to be something that will appreciate in value much! So therefore you can conclude that this is a puzzle for the truly addicted or as I like to put it - "The Connoisseur". And this really is a truly fabulous piece of engineering and puzzling.

Those of us who bought it then received an email with basic instructions - the aims and then the do's and don'ts. Basically it is like most "sequential discovery" puzzles - you need to discover what is possible and find tools along the way that can be used at later times in various places. As with many others the important rules are "NO Banging, No Shaking/spinning, No external tools". The aim in the very first email was:
Challenge: Take my HEART 
Mine arrived just a few days later and the excitement was palpable in the puzzle world as we all scrabbled to open them at the same time - emails were shooting back and forth like wildfire! Wil always packs things very well and this time was no exception - it requires good knife skills to get into the cardboard box and then through the lovely gift box it had been sent in. Lifting the puzzle out came as a bit of a shock and did explain why the price was so high - it is HUGE and VERY heavy!!! Dimensions are 16 x 7.5 x 11 cm and the weight a staggering 1.89Kg (that's 4lb 2.25oz for you Americans!) - even just picking it up now to weigh it I get a shock. This huge weight plus the fact that it is all metal (steel and aluminium) means that you do NOT want to drop it - if it lands on a foot then you will be needing an operation (trust me! I have seen lots of these operations and they are not very nice!) If it lands on your wooden desk then you are going to have a very big dent - the puzzle, on the other hand, will be fine!

Sunday 10 November 2013

Cast News

Hanayama Cast News
Phew! I'm running late! The trouble with weekends at this time of year is that there are just so many "end of year chores" to be done. I've spent all day in the garden, clearing up and doing an end of year prune of many of the shrubs. At the end of the day, I suddenly remembered that I haven't published my customary blog post! But, never one to disappoint, I have managed to produce a quick review of yet another Hanayama Puzzle from my latest batch from Puzzle Master. This time it's the Hanayama Cast News - I had saved this for a while because it is a level 6 on the Hanayama 6 point scale and was, therefore, supposed to be a real challenge (on the Puzzle Master scale it is said to be a level 10 - Mind Boggling). The puzzles at this level are supposed to be a tremendous challenge to newbies and even pretty tough for wizened old puzzlers like me - I can't believe I am calling myself that after just 4 years as a puzzle fiend!

The reviews on the Puzzle Master product page for this are quite mixed with a few complaining that it was actually very easy! But the majority of reviews have been 3 stars and above (with an average of 4) and that was good enough for me to choose it. Plus I got it because this is it is the last one in the group of level 10 puzzles in my collection. Gabriel reviewed it here and really enjoyed it.

This one arrived in the usual immaculate Hanayama box and was nicely wrapped. The instructions are simply to take it apart and put it back together again. The box gives a little spiel from Nob Yashigara who designed it and quite a few other puzzles from Hanayama. Apparently the key word is "Needle"! I have no idea why they put that on the box because no-one pays any attention and it is not in the least bit helpful. There is no solution provided but if you find you need one then it can be downloaded from here.

Sunday 3 November 2013

I'm a puzzler on the edge!

The Master Curvy Copter
"HELP! I need someone!!"


It has been quite a while since I have posted anything about twisty puzzles and I have recently managed something REALLY special so I thought I would discuss it and also try to give enough information about the process to hopefully entice a few more of you into the wonderful world of twisties! My aim is to talk about edge turning puzzles, a bit about jumbling and then give away "the secret" to twisty success!! Read on!

I started it!
The fearsome looking puzzle pictured at the top is the Master Curvy Copter - it was designed by one of the great twisty puzzle designers, Eitan Cher. It was first announced in June 2010 when Eitan posted about it on the Twisty puzzles - "New puzzles" forum and even though it did not turn very well in version 1, there was a lot of interest in it and then it all quietened down. Subsequently he produced a version 2 which solved all the initial problems and put it up for sale on his Shapeways store where it is now available for a very reasonable €180 in Black. Now mine cost a bit more because I got mine ready made from Eitan (I'm not allowed to dye plastic in my new kitchen on pain of torture!) I chose it because I had absolutely adored (and still do) the original Curvy Copter (pictured left) which I wrote about almost at the beginning of my Twisty puzzling career. I still maintain that it is a fantastic puzzle even for people who are not into twisties. Obviously when you have finished the 3x3 cube then the next step is a 4x4 - so I figured that the step up from the Curvy Copter would be the master version.

This gorgeous puzzle arrived in May this year and I fiddled with it a little and marvelled at how complex it was and yet how well it moved - even the jumbling moves were really easy! I then put it on the shelf next to me where it stayed for a month or so. Yes! it's the "puzzles to be done" shelf and it has quite a few on it! It screamed obscenities at me for weeks but I was far too frightened of it to scramble it and try a solve - partly because I seriously doubted that I had the necessary skills to solve it and also because it is so rare in the wild that no-one has posted anything on-line at all about how to go about solving it - meaning that I would not even be able to look at a tutorial if I got stuck! I believed I was on my own!

Yeah! I can hear you all screaming at me that I'm a puzzle wimp and I freely admit it! Strange that I keep hearing these voices! But..... Just look at it! It's horrendous!

It looks so innocent like this!
So nearly 4 months ago, I finally succumbed and decided to do what I had done with it's daddy (the Curvy Copter) and did a scramble without any jumbling or shapeshifting and did not take any pieces out of their orbits. I recalled when I did the same thing to the Curvy Copter and that I actually managed to solve all but the last corners by intuition alone and then, using some very simple series of moves, I managed to solve them too. I remember how great it felt and what a phenomenal puzzle it was - it ended up as my second ever twisty blog post. If you don't have the Curvy Copter yet, then BUY it.... NOW!

Having done the most basic of scrambles on my new monster,  I set to work and........
I couldn't do it! I spent a week trying everything I could but nope, I didn't have the skills. I couldn't, to my shame, even do the first face. I tried reducing it to a standard curvy copter and failed at that too. So I put it back on the shelf where it looked quite pretty in the scrambled form but every time I looked up it made me feel guilty. I would take it off the shelf and try again every week or two and fail again!