Livewire puzzles some time ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. But it only had 6 rings on it and really didn't take very long - let's say it was a beginner version. I also have a lovely heavy metal version which was sent to me by a very kind friend from the US. This version is made of steel by Tucker Jones and is called the Patience puzzle - it is absolutely stunning but not high enough level. I had seen on YouTube and also on Goetz' wonderfully informative site that there were variants that had more rings and hence, many more moves to solve.
I regularly browse through the Puzzle Master wire puzzle section to see if they have anything new for me and realised they had a Chinese ring puzzle so I ordered the Puzzle Master own brand version in my last order so that I could have a "grown up" version to try! The Catacombs plus is a beautifully made version with not just 1 or 2 extra rings - it has 10! For this reason it has been rated as a level 10 (Mind Boggling) on their difficulty scale and despite the fact that it is just based on a binary version of Gray code, it is a real challenge and certainly not something to do when you might be interrupted and sent off to do other chores. It arrived in Puzzle Master's standard clamshell packaging (albeit a much longer one than usual) and the only instructions are to remove the handle. It is beautifully made with really nice thick anodised wire, a good quality handle which makes holding it for prolonged periods much easier than the ones with wires only and, as you can see, has 10 rings on it! Dimensions are 3 x 20.5 cm.
No solution is given and hopefully you won't need one but if required the solution method for an easy version can be downloaded from here.
I am sure that you all have played with something like this and not really been challenged much at all. That will be because most of them have only 6 or maybe 7 rings and so it really doesn't take long and there are few opportunities to get lost. But when you take it up a few extra rings it starts to get more complicated - the package insert says that it takes "over 1000 moves". Now I absolutely love recreational maths and went to the definitive source of information from Goetz - he has made available a Compendium of Chinese Ring-like puzzles and it is a fabulous resource for the whole community. The generic formula for a true Chinese rings puzzle (which is binary in form) is given by the equation:
Rule number one - You need to pay attention to where you are in the solve! There will be no multi-tasking whilst you do this - as a bloke I rarely multi-task anyway but initially I was chatting to the present Mrs S and on at least 3 attempts I miraculously found myself at the beginning again. Luckily, I had not been trying too hard.
Rule number two - DON'T stop half way through and do something else! I was rather forcefully told that I had chores to do and so roughly half way through I put it down and off I went to be a good husband and try to decrease the pressure she had put on my forehead thumbprint. Later on I returned to it and quickly resumed and again miraculously found myself back at the beginning again! I reckon that I must have been approaching 1000 moves by now!
Rule number three - Think© about it and experiment on a small subsection before diving in. I just started what I thought was the correct sequence (a VERY long sequence) and ended up with this scenario:
|Caught on the last piece|
Starting again I again found myself back at the point above. This time I must have spent 10 minutes desperately trying to work out how to progress from this point and no matter what I did, I just couldn't do it. In the end I had to "continue the sequence" and, you guessed it, miraculously ended up at the beginning again! I am sure that at this point you are all wondering how I actually manage to keep myself alive, fed and dressed (as am I) because I really don't appear to be very bright. Let me assure you that I have several degrees and am generally thought of as mildly intelligent - my patients really are safe in my hands, I promise!
This time I determinedly looked at a small subset of the puzzle and realised that there is a difference when the number of rings is an even or an odd number. I suddenly had a very lovely Aha! moment that the very first move that you carry out makes all the difference as to whether this is solvable or not! Finally after several 1000 moves (BLUSH!) I had a plan and sat down with no distractions and Voila:
|Solved - I need to lie down now!|
|A wonderful book!|
Now, I need to find a BASIC interpreter for my Mac! Oh that brings back memories of spending day after happy day of typing code from magazines into the Tandy TRS 80 or later, the Dragon 32, only to hit Run and have it all crash on me (usually a syntax error!) or to lose it when the tape deck munged my tape!
|KCube MMMDXLVI #15|