|So exciting - N more N-ary puzzles!|
Kcubes in my collection! Would I? Of course not - I have 2 of them! ;-)
The KCubes MMMDXLVI box has such a small cavity that I decided that it wasn't a box and thus I was allowed to own one. It requires 3,546 moves and is made of Kingwood, Tulip wood, Mun Ebony, and brass inlay with Tulip wood. It usually takes me about 90 minutes to open it because I invariably get lost during the process. Mrs S has admitted that it (and it's smaller brother the K419) are so gorgeous that they can remain on show in our living room on the central coffee table.
I am not the only one to have a huge addiction to N-ary puzzles - my very good friends Michel and Goetz often communicate with me about these particular puzzles and I do get informed of new ones often before they hit the market and then we discuss them a little without giving too much away. For more information about this fascinating group, you really should visit Goetz' Compendium of N-ary puzzles - he has analysed many of them in great detail and also have a look at his treatise on the Kugellager puzzles here - these pages are a tremendous resource for us all.
Having received so many at once I did ask for advice about the order to start them in and I started working my way through them. The first one that I played with was probably the most attractive of all.
Later I moved to something quite a bit harder and certainly more unusual - the Seestern puzzle is a record breaking 11-ary puzzle consisting of a large ball bearing in a track which runs through 3 layers. Each layer must be manipulated simultaneously to allow the ball to roll around the track - it goes back and forth many times and if you don't pay attention or stop for a rest and forget where you were then many more than expected. The total number of moves on this one has been calculated as 1330 but it feels like a lot more due to the micro-adjustments needed continuously during the solve. It is 16 cm in diameter and 1.7cm deep, and a deep red colour. Luckily it has a reset hole for just in case you don't fancy doing it in reverse! I, of course, did it both ways because I'm a glutton for punishment.
The front consists of 4 horizontally oriented sliders which can only move if the pins that stick through them are lined up with the cut out paths. The back consists of another 4 sliders but they are arranged vertically. These can move up and down, but again, only if the gaps in the top boards are in the correct place. Sounds fairly easy so far doesn't it? Well not so fast, young Paduan! At the extreme top, bottom, left and right are independent sliders that act purely as extra blockers and even locks of the sliders and some of them are joined together meaning everything needs to be positioned in the right place at the right time. There are a number of holes and grooves cut into the boards on the front and a few more cut into the back parts - these holes and grooves form parts of the maze track that the ball needs to navigate.
|Reverse of Labynary showing maze tracks and blockers|
When I first started to play, I had not had the benefit of a kind blogger telling me what the aim was - I had to work that out. Initial movements showed that the ball bearing moved up a slot and quite quickly I was able to extend that slot my moving a slider - the penny dropped! So where was the next part of the track for me to jump to? There are choices - so choose well. Having made your choice, it is time to actually make the pathway and now comes the N-ary part of the puzzle - as you move further from the start point it requires more and more complex series of moves of multiple sliders and blockers to get the paths to form. I, of course, chose wrongly and set out along a nice fun route. I was full of hope and happiness only to have it dashed by a dead end when I was so near and yet so far! So back I went and had to think of where there was an alternative pathway. It wasn't so obvious at all which was why I had missed it the first time.
I worked and worked on this over about 3 weeks (probably 20 odd hours or more) and got to a point where I was finally understanding the system. But it never got to the point where I was able to just blindly and rhythmically make my moves as you can with many of the other N-ary puzzles. You need to break each section into small subsections and solve them one at a time without forgetting what you were trying to do! This, I found very hard and often reached a point where I had no idea what I was trying to achieve or why I had just done a sequence. Each time it's important to sit back and take stock of the aim. Suddenly I was sooo close and then nooooooo! Hopes dashed yet again! Now where? Backtrack again and Aha! (We puzzlers live for that Aha! moment) Another pathway I had not noticed earlier and off I went. Finally I let up a shout and the ball was free! Did I dare to do it in reverse? Hell no! I had a blog post to write which required photos etc so I reset the ball in the reset hole and quickly put the sliders back.
|Reset hole - I'm not going to show you the exit!|