Saturday, 27 April 2013

I own "The Block" number 001.....

The Block - Look at the attention to detail!
and you could have one too! More about that later.

This little hobby of mine which has come to take up so much of my spare time and almost all of my spare cash has brought me together with a lot of fascinating people from all over the world. Puzzle solvers, collectors, craftsmen, designers, sellers and even book publishers! I enjoy every aspect of these communications and have kept every single email. Yep! Every one - a total of 1.4GB of emails! This interaction has expanded into Facebook too and I'm sure that Mark Z does not really intend that I use his baby that way. Despite all these conversations through many routes - with many occurring simultaneously I actually only get to meet a tiny proportion of these treasured friends face to face.

Many months ago, Shane, whom I now consider a very good friend, emailed me via my contact page and initially we discussed his puzzling journey with some tiny hints for a couple of puzzles he was stuck on and then suggestions for future purchases and other things to try. I've put him in touch with another friend who was able to help him with another of those blasted non-functioning Sonic Warp puzzles which seem to be all over the place.

Now it turns out that he has trained as a Master wood craftsman and subsequently owns his own business building everything from small home improvements to enormous grand designs specialising in, but not limited to, beautiful wood work. It did not take very much encouragement from me to get him moving from a few ideas he had in his head to an attempt to produce a prototype. We have emailed back and forth over several months sometimes about his creation and sometimes about other puzzles and at one point I put out an email to several other famous puzzle craftsmen asking how they like to finish their wooden puzzles and whilst everyone is different, Shane was able to take their ideas and formulate one that fitted with his puzzle.

The Block is this prototype and I have to say that it is the most beautiful prototype I have ever seen! Despite all the emails, he still kept from me the actual design of the puzzle and so I had no idea what it was like until it arrived on my doorstep 2 weeks ago. I got home from work and, like a small kid, immediately tore into the packaging to find a very nice little surprise:

I love a puzzle with a series of instructions!
The instructions on the Welcome letter said:
CAN YOU BEAT "THE BLOCK"?
001 (Kevin Sadler) 
The Object of the puzzle is to separate the two halves.
Absolutely no or force or banging required 
This is a prototype puzzle, Please handle with care
Good Luck and Enjoy!
April 2013

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Eagle

The Eagle
I apologise that this is a day later than expected but yesterday was the 10th Midlands puzzle party and I was far too busy solving stuff that I can't afford to write a new blog post - but today I am almost recovered and ready to review something new from Puzzle Master.

After my last success with the Cupid's dart puzzle, I thought I would continue my sojourn through Puzzle Master's Wire puzzle collection and take it up a level! I love wire puzzles and seem to have gotten a reputation for being quite good at them, so I thought it was time for another hard one. This one is The Eagle - it is a level 10/10 (Mind Boggling) AND it has string! So can it be time for a failure? But, I'm on a roll, so maybe it can't be as bad as I think it might be!

As usual it is well packaged in a plastic clamshell - I must have filled a landfill site with these by now as I never keep my boxes. I just don't have the storage space for the boxes. The instructions say just to remove the string. It is well anodised and is a fairly complex continuous loop of wire with dimensions 11.2 x 9.8 x 3cm and the loop of orange string is just big enough to fit over the "head and legs" of the eagle. I chose it because it has a fair similarity to the Destroyer puzzle which I enjoyed too and having only a short loop of string, I thought that knotting up was not going to be too much of an issue. None of my fellow bloggers have reviewed this one as yet but the single review on the Puzzle Master page said that the owner really enjoyed it and it took him several months to solve. I was hoping I would not take quite that long! The other big advantage to it was that there are no moving metal parts so no jingling and so no terrible pain in the back of my head from her! No solution is provided but if you want one the n download it from here.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Why Puzzle?

First let me give a small warning! This blog post is rather different to my previous ones. It is a book review and a gratuitous series of photos of some new acquisitions. Read on only if you are really interested and please do Contact me with your thoughts on this subject.


At work (Attending/Consultant anaesthetist in a major teaching hospital) I am well known as the complete nutter that always has some kind of toys on him, always doing or attempting to do something that looks impossible! Plus if I do an operation with a nerve block or spinal anaesthetic then my awake patient can be easily distracted with a puzzle or two. One patient even complained to a colleague when it wasn't going to be me and he wanted a new puzzle to play with during his operation!

Of course, I'm also always handing out my toys to colleagues and friends to challenge them to solve them. Now if I was seen spending my entire time doing Killer Sudoku puzzles then no-one would think anything of it but I am constantly asked why do I do it? Why torture myself so? Why do I continually attempt to do things which look completely impossible? The twisty puzzles like my 3x5x7 cuboid really seem to upset people.

3 of these bottles remain unsolved!!!
Well interestingly, my initial reason for starting to puzzle was to distract my mind from a very nasty event at work more than 2 years ago. The several months with the Revomaze satisfactorily wiped out all my nasty imagery and set me on the straight and narrow but after that, my contact with Rox, Neil, Allard, Oli and the rest of the guys from the Midlands Puzzle Party, ensured that I had gotten thoroughly hooked. From then on, I have continually tried to push myself to collect and solve more and more ridiculously difficult puzzles - you all know this because you have been along for the ride! I must always point out to people that despite owning some beautiful works of craftsmanship from Eric Fuller, Brian Young, Jerry McFarland and Wil Strijbos, some of which have cost me an arm, a leg and a kidney (no-one would take my liver for some reason!) I always want my puzzles to be played with. They are not just for display and collecting, a puzzle is there to be solved - it may take days or months or longer but the aim is to solve them. Some have been on my shelves unsolved for over 2 years!

When questioned about this habit, I began to say to people that Alzheimers runs in my family and I was trying to stave it off! Now to some extent, that is true, it does run in my family but only in the elderly (78+ year old) females on my mother's side. So I'm probably safe for the time being! But this claim did get me thinking - will doing all these puzzles make any difference to the onset of dementia? I really did not know. About a month or so ago a PR agent from Souvenir press contacted me out of the blue via my Contact page and offered to send me a book to review which I thought might just answer this very question. So here is my review of the book - I did not promise the PR agent any particular outome, I just said I'd read it and if suitable post something. Read on if this subject might be of interest to you.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Cupid's Dart

Cupid's Dart
You've probably noticed that I am trying to mix up my expensive craftsman puzzle reviews with the puzzles that everyone can afford. I am doing this in response to the occasional comment I receive that complains that I spend too much time reviewing very expensive puzzles only. I apologise for that and in response I should point out that the puzzles that I am reviewing from Puzzle Master are just as much fun to solve as those from the craftsmen.

Having done a few of the newer Hanayama puzzles, I thought that it was time to go back to some of my beloved wire puzzles. It has been a while since I tried any of these and it was with some trepidation that I rummaged around in my "puzzles to be played with" drawer and pulled out one of the Level 9/10 (Gruelling) wire puzzles. This one is the Cupid's dart and is so called for pretty obvious reasons! I always take a very deep breath to calm my nerves whenever I attempt a wire puzzle that includes a piece of string. My track record of having to cut it or spend hours unraveling knots is not great! I really hesitate to give them to friends to play with because the outcome is almost inevitable!

This one arrives in the usual plastic clamshell with just the instructions to "remove the string". It is nicely anodised and the string is a complete ring which has been heat sealed onto itself which would make it really interesting if you ever decide to cut it to untangle and reform the ring. The ball on the string serves the sole purpose of preventing you feeding it through the tail of the dart. Size is decent at 12.7 x 6.7cm. No solution is provided but if you want one (and at level 9 you might!) the solution can be downloaded from here. It has been reviewed before by Gabriel here. He agreed with the difficulty rating and even felt it might have warranted a 10!!

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