Thursday, 25 July 2013

How many more N-ary puzzles do you need?

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 The puzzle was originally made for one year only in 1986 by Binary Arts (now called Thinkfun).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. 

Presented beautifully!
He informed me that Dave Janelle of Creative Crafthouse has obtained permission to produce a limited run (max 190 copies) of this fantastic puzzle for us dedicated puzzlers. He has made them beautifully in Cherry and they are pretty much identical to the original. They are engraved, numbered and presented beautifully in a lined presentation box. The documentation includes that which came with the original puzzle. I managed to get number 6 which is the first to go to the public and can absolutely vouch for the quality and the puzzle enjoyment. They are available here for a very reasonable price.

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:

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Man Of War

Man of War
Time again to review one of my dwindling supply of puzzles from Puzzle Master - I am going to have to order some more very soon. This time it is a nice, rather complex looking, wire disentanglement from their own brand disentanglement selection. They have an enormous selection of these and it is my aim to work my way through the whole lot if possible just as I did with the set I got a few years ago from Livewire puzzles. Puzzle Master's set is rather more extensive and so this will take some time but, never fear for your intrepid blogger's sanity, that went a very long time ago and there's nothing further to be lost! So I will keep plugging away at them as a public service for you.

The Man of War puzzle was given it's name because of it's resemblance to a Jelly fish and that it is supposed to have a sting in its tail! The puzzle arrived as is usual in the standard Puzzle Master clamshell plastic packaging and the picture on the cardboard insert said simply to try and remove the string loop from the bottom of the Jellyfish (i.e. take the sting out of the tail). The loop of string has a large ball on it to stop it from being fed completely through the loops in the wire. It is rated as a 10 (Mind Boggling) on the Puzzle Master 5-10 scale. This is the hardest level and so you should be afraid (very afraid)! .....Or should you? I actually would not rate this one quite that high - I reckon it's a 9! There's no solution supplied with it but it can be downloaded from their website here. Anyone who is well practiced at this type of puzzle should not need the solution but any newbie foolish enough to try may well find themselves requiring it. As far as I can tell none of the other bloggers have reviewed it and there is only a single review on the product page giving it 5 stars and saying how challenging they found it. I also would give this a 5 star review.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Is it a "H"eavenly burr?

Improved H burr aka H Box burr from MrPuzzle
About a month ago I reviewed one of Brian Young's 2012 limited editions the L burr! I started with that one because a friend had suggested that the way it interlocks and the rotations in it are very counterintuitive and difficult to find. I am also a sucker for contrasting woods so the L burr was the start of my journey and what a way to start!

Now I'm going to write a little about the continuation of my journey - I have been pacing myself with this set because they were so much money that I really don't want to rush through the whole lot in one go! The next beauty for me to try was the Improved H burr which could also be called the H box.

Now before all of you who know me whinge to me that:
"You don't collect boxes so you shouldn't have bought this one and therefore you must give it to me!"
I must tell you all that this is a burr and NOT a box and I feel I need to own just a few boxes so I can understand other puzzlers. I am happy to get the majority of my fix on boxes at the Midlands puzzle parties but there are one or two boxes that I just have to own! Just for "completeness"!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

A public service announcement


Please show some support to a good puzzling friend.

I have only been twisty puzzling for about a year now and am finally getting confidant enough to approach new and really tough puzzles myself without help. One of the essential sites that I visit regularly for help is owned by Rline from the Twisty Puzzles forum. Recently after a crisis of confidence, he came very close to stopping everything and removing all his invaluable information from the Internet. I am glad to say that myself and another TP member talked him out of this drastic move and have provided motivation to continue.

His site is not about speed cubing! He's a man about my age and is far too old to be memorising hundreds of algorithms and doing a cube in 15 seconds! His site and YouTube channel is about twisty puzzles in general including reviews and unboxings, horror stories of mammoth solves (you really must read it!) and, most importantly, techniques. What he really does specialise in is teaching how to solve many different puzzles from the simplest to the most difficult in the world using only a small handful of very simple techniques. Originally he used ONLY the 2 algorithms from Marshall's Ultimate Solution but latterly has expanded this just a bit which I think is a huge improvement.

So I would suggest you all:

  1. visit his site, Twistypuzzling, and subscribe by RSS or email
  2. Subscribe to his YouTube channel
  3. Follow him by "liking" his Facebook page
Please show some him some support, we don't want to lose one of the best puzzle resources on the Internet and if you're not currently into twisties despite my beginners suggestions then maybe he can convince you!


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.


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