Sunday 23 February 2014

The circle, the MPP and the Aftermath!

My MPP display
I need a small catharsis here! I do apologise, but it's necessary for me to get it off my chest! Recently you have read a fair bit about Shane's latest puzzle 'The Circle'. I mentioned here that it took me over a week to find the first two moves! I worked and worked at it for absolutely ages and earned a 3rd degree burn in the centre of my forehead from the laser stare of the present Mrs S because there's a significant amount of metal inside the circle and it doesn't just jingle - it clangs....very loudly!!! I then read that Allard (who is MUCH older than the puzzling sense!) managed to get his copy solved in just about 1/2 hour! In tears I huddled in a corner and rocked myself to sleep muttering to myself that despite practicing my puzzling skills for about 4 years, I was obviously still rubbish!

Now Shane and I have been communicating frequently for nearly 18 months and when he mentioned that he was qualified as a Master cabinetmaker and was interested in making puzzles himself, I provided lots of encouragement and just hoped that he'd let me buy one of his masterpieces! Over the months we became really good friends and it transpired that not only is he a Master craftsman, he also owns and runs a huge (yes HUGE) building company. As well as that he has a family to maintain too. So I am really flattered that he makes such an effort to communicate with me and has even said on several occasions that I (little me!) am the only reason he wanted to have a go at making these puzzles and this is why I always receive puzzle number 1! So why was I so much slower than Allard? Surely Shane wouldn't have made mine much harder? He's much too good a friend for that...isn't he??? Well it transpires that Shane had moisture problems and not the kind that can be fixed with a prescription deodorant! My puzzle was made to MUCH tighter tolerances than the subsequent copies and this was the reason for my slow progress! That IS my story and I am going to stick to it! Having been told this I was very keen to compare them at the upcoming MPP (Midlands Puzzle Party).

They look identical - mine is on the right - tighter!
Some history..... The Block was shown at an MPP where it went down a storm and even bamboozled Louis (The puzzle solving machine) and Wil Strijbos (The pusher). So it was very fitting that we take the Circle to the next one and test it on the "Machine" again! I also wanted to convince myself that I wasn't a total failure!

Friday 21 February 2014

A Quick Update

An additional menu choice
Whilst many of you follow me on Facebook and get my update photos there, there are also many of you who do not like or use Facebook so I thought I would add an extra page to my blog. At the top there is a new option - it is the New additions page. I will post very intermittently to it just to show photos of what I have received recently, what I'm working on or stuck on and maybe even what I have solved.

It's a new URL but everything just works
Blogger doesn't allow a second page to have posts added - the extra pages are supposed to be static. To get around this I have copied my template and started another blog called Puzzlemad extras and made links to it from the main blog. It is a bit of a kludge but that is the only way I can work out how to do it!

I suspect it may be time to leave blogger and go elsewhere (maybe Wordpress or Squarespace?) Any thoughts on this will be gratefully received!

Sunday 16 February 2014

Man the Torpedo

Man the Torpedo
Having been to the first Midlands Puzzle Party of 2014 yesterday, I am absolutely shattered today! A good time was had by everyone and luckily there were people newer to puzzles than me so I was actually teased a little less than normal! At least this time I did not do anything too stupid to give them too much ammunition! Pictures can be seen here. Shane also made it and we tortured quite a lot of people with his Circle puzzle - I was very relieved to see that Allard's copy was considerably looser and easier than mine - phew! Confidence restored......for now!

I usually don't like to take along any puzzles that I am frightened to have someone else scramble, dismantle, undo or partially solve because I always end up with a good number to resolve at the end of the day. When I got home last night, I had 4 twisties, 2 N-ary puzzles and an interlocking puzzle to solve when I got home! Yesterday I had actually taken my Hexaminx crystal - a Pyraminx crystal converted into a cube shape by the amazing Traiphum. I have never had the courage to scramble it but decided that if it happened yesterday then that would be fine! But no-one scrambled it for me! Oh well, I'll just have to do it myself!

Pyraminx Crystal
Same puzzle in cube form!
So today, with my fatigue and having someone with a laser stare breathing down my neck to do some DIY asap, I will be posting just a quickie on another of my more affordable puzzles. I do like to keep going with the puzzles that are less expensive and within the reach of the more (shall we say) "normal" human being! I am well aware that I have been buying rather a lot of expensive bespoke puzzles over the last few years and many cannot do this. In fact one of my colleagues actually asked me whether I had developed some kind of terminal disease because I was buying things as if there was no tomorrow! I can assure everyone that I don't! I just am sort of.......addicted! Plus I am lucky enough to have a good job and no children! Hence all the toys are mine, MINE, MINE! Hahahahahaha! Blush! Ahem! Sorry for that!

This week the puzzle I am showing off is a very nice looking thing called Man the Torpedo from Puzzle Master's own metal puzzle collection (note this is a separate category for you to peruse to their wire sets). I own several puzzles of a similar type in wood which I got from the Puzzle pusher, Wil Strijbos and they are part of a very large series from either Hungary in wood or Japan in plastic. I have been thinking for a while that I should get a few more because they look so simple and yet each one is subtly different and requires slightly different techniques. Two of my favourites have been the Canary in a cage, cylinder in a cage and best of all the Dinosaur and box in a cage!

Canary in cage
Cylinder in cage
Dino and box in cage
Now I am always interested in trying new variants of puzzles that I have already and especially if the materials have changed. So when I saw that Man the Torpedo was a similar idea but in brass and aluminium I jumped at the chance - it is only $18! Puzzle Master have rated it as level 8 (Demanding) on their difficulty scale of 5 to 10 and I probably think it would be better rated as a level 7 but I can't be sure that it's not just because I have done a few similar ones before.

It arrived in a fairly large box and was very nicely presented. It looks very nicely made although there were a few marks on it but they were fairly easy to smooth out with my fingers. It could be better made but not for that sort of price - the aim obviously is to remove the spiky torpedo from the cage. No solution is provided in the box but it is available for download here.

Sunday 9 February 2014

Understanding Parity part II

Just 2 pieces to swap? Hmm! Impossible!!!
2 weeks ago I showed you all the fantastic 10x10x10 cube that I got from and used it as a beginning of an introduction to explain my approach to parities. The parities I discussed were the ones that every beginner to twisty puzzles hates because they seem to be so inexplicable and require such complex solutions. I recall that when I first started on my twisty path, I avoided the even order cubes like the plague because of these parities. But ultimately an understanding that the problem was caused by the reduction technique has given me enough knowledge to be able to work out how to beat them. In fact I know that by avoiding this sort of reduction can prevent these parities completely!

Initially I thought that solving in a layer by layer fashion would avoid the problem but unfortunately all it does is move the parities to the very last layer. Even though that does not solve the problem you should all try it - take your 4x4 up to 6x6 (or larger) and solve it layer by layer. It is a really fun challenge! The final floppy parities can be VERY tough to resolve. One way to prevent the parity situation is to perform an edges last solution - my friends Derek Bosch and Andy Chillingworth have convinced me to try this and it really is a fun thing to do and there are absolutely no awful algorithms to learn! Give it a go! My first approach was to reduce the 4x4 to a 2x2 and solve that way. For the 4x4 this was a fantastic challenge (watch SuperAntonioVivaldi go through it here). Recently he has posted another series of videos showing that it can be done with a 6x6 cube too! I recently got given a 6x6 cube by a Dutch friend (KattenVrienden on Twisty Puzzles) so I will be attempting this myself very soon.

So having explained parity - there is nothing left to discuss? I'm afraid not! The parity so far is that caused by the reduction technique. There is another sort of parity which we see on simpler puzzles including the Void cube (a 3x3 with no centres) and also on various other shape mods of the 3x3. This parity was explained to me (again by the amazing SuperAntonioVivaldi) as the "parity of false equivocation". This sounds horrendous but, again, it is not! It is just a simple way to understand where the misplacement arises and from then it is a "simple thing to fix it".

The puzzle at the top of the post is another fascinating cube that I also received from - it is a new puzzle made by Moyu and is called the Evil eye (closed/version I) - like most twisty puzzles it is not expensive and Cubez do it even cheaper than anywhere else at $16.50. The both versions are pictured below. Version II is the "open eye" one and has little holes that reveal colours inside.

Evil Eye I
Evil Eye II
Scrambled and looking horrendous!

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Do you want to be a Lunatic?

I'm a lunatic! Do you want to be?
There is a new Kickstarter project up and running that I am sure many of you puzzlers out there may want to go and look at! My friend Marcus Allred, sent a couple of these gorgeous puzzles last year and I wrote about them here. This time there are a variety of price points starting at just $25 for a pocket version (3 x 3 x 1") right up to $320 for  your choice of 4 full sized (3 x 3 x 3") hidden mazes made from the most amazing wood burl and there are lots of options in between. Woods available this time include domestic US woods like Maple, Walnut, Cherry, Cedar, Black Ash, Desert Ironwood & Flame Box Elder as well as Exotic woods - Wenge, Amboyna, Cocobolo, Bocote, Malaysian Blackwood, and Honduran Rosewood as well as some fabulous burls. I am such a sucker for beautiful wood that it is making me drool at the thought!

I cannot personally vouch for the pocket ones as I have not seen one yet but I am sure they will be a great quality puzzle. You can read below for my experience with the full sized ones. Many people are suspicious of Kickstarter projects but Marcus has run several of them before and been very successful (in July 2012, October 2012 & July 2103). Roxanne wrote about her experience here.

The Kickstarter project can be found here (click on the image):
Lunatic Maze Project
The one at the top of the page is one of his hidden maze puzzles made form Bird's-eye maple with Cocobolo accents - within that block there is a series of interconnecting channels ending at a small hole on 2 sides. You can see one ball bearing peeking out above but you are provided with two! There are several possible challenges - the first is to blindly by feel and sound navigate your ball bearing through the maze and out the other side. Easy you think? I thought so too! I started my puzzling with the revomazes and they couldn't possibly be any tougher than that! Could they? Well let me say that I have only managed to solve the puzzle above twice since receiving it and am actually not sure how I managed it!! Then, the task, having gone one way, is to try and reverse the process. No! It's not just a matter of reversing your movements because it depends on where the side branches come off! If you can beat that challenge then try doing it with 2 balls at once! I can't - for some reason they seem to get lost inside! What about doing both in opposite directions - now that is surely impossible!!!

Still a Lunatic - just revealed to the world!
The mazes are also available in a "revealed form" where you can see the maze in all it's glory and the both balls and maze are encased in a perfectly fitting acrylic box. The one above is made (I think) from Bocote. This has very similar aims as the hidden ones and is slightly easier to carry out but adds further challenges: Firstly - navigate both bearings from one end to the next. Then manoeuvre each ball it to opposite ends (very hard to do!), if you can manage this then try it whilst not allowing the balls to touch each other! Finally each ball must make it to opposite ends without returning to the point of origin, or in other words each ball can not touch the others' destination.

The craftsmanship is superb and the woods are absolutely gorgeous - as a testament to this my Bird's eye maple maze is actually allowed on display in my living room! Mrs S is very discerning! Not once has it been plonked on my keyboard in the study like many other puzzles!

Here is a video of Marcus solving one of the visible mazes:

Sunday 2 February 2014

OMG! I think I've lost my mojo?

Pictured above is the Euro puzzle designed by one of my favourite puzzle designers, Jean-Claude Constantin. It looks so very simple and yet has become my new nemesis causing me to question whether I am losing my puzzling mojo?

I had been eyeing up a few of the wire puzzles by Jean-Claude for quite a while and finally bit the bullet and ordered this one quite a long time ago from Puzzle Master. It is designated as a level 9 (Gruelling) puzzle by the guys at Puzzle Master and I figured that at that level and with no string involved at all, it wouldn't be too bad and might in fact be quite a fun one to explore. None of the other level 9 puzzles recently have caused me much difficulty. Oh how wrong I was!!

It arrived in just a simple plastic bag with nothing more than a label on it - I do quite enjoy the unpackaging of puzzles and feel that some of the distributors are missing a trick by not giving us something to unbox! It is nicely made of anodised steel wire and measures 8.7 x 8 x 4.5cm. The puzzle is named Euro after the resemblance to the European currency symbol. The picture above makes it quite difficult to discern that there are 3 pieces - if you partially butterfly it then this becomes more obvious and also reveals just how interlocked all the pieces are:

Now you can see the pieces properly
 Instructions are to remove the ring from the other 2 pieces (in reality the ring is the first piece to come off - it will actually completely disassemble). No instructions or solution are sent out with the puzzle but if you want to download the solution then it can be found here in Puzzle Master's solution section. Someone has left a 5 star review on the product page but as far as I can tell there have been no descriptive reviews yet.