Sunday 29 June 2014

I'm back

I just cannot resist wood!
Hi all! I'm sorry for the short break - I've had a week off work and had plans to spend time with the present Mrs S - day trips, eating out, a little DIY & gardening, some puzzling and getting my office in order. Sounded idyllic didn't it? I thought so too and thats when it all fell to bits! I caught an itty bitty cold and it has absolutely pole-axed me! I have spent the best part of 9 days coughing and sneezing my lungs out and sleeping almost every moment - I haven't touched a puzzle and barely even been on Facebook! I'm not one who really believes in illness (which is awkward when you work in a hospital!) and I seldom let a cold stop me but OMG I think I have had pneumonic plague! Let me say that a combination of very strong pain killers (for tendonitis) - Tramadol, Codeine and Diclofenac plus a Hot Toddy plus a good dose of "Night Nurse" does make for a VERY good sleep - 12 hours lying in exactly the same position all night! Just make sure that position is a comfortable one or something's going to hurt the following day! Even Mrs S who, as a nurse, has no sympathy for anyone apart from those about to lose a limb, felt sorry for me! That is right up until she got it too - now I'm public enemy number 3 (just behind international terrorists and Alex Salmond)!

So before I'm either killed or cured, I thought I would review something for you to prove I'm actually still alive and before Mrs S puts me out of her misery. Some time ago, my friend Jakub at the New Pelikan Workshop emailed me to say that the puzzles he had been working on were about to go on sale. Now, as you've seen over the last few months, I seem to have sold off my organs and bought puzzles instead (maybe that's why I got sick?) so I couldn't afford to buy the whole lot he had and so chose the 3 that looked most interesting to me. Pictured above we have from the left: Space Axis, Tall Joe and Orion.

Sunday 15 June 2014

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Mirror blocks
Boy, I have been so busy recently - work keeps me going, then there's surfing the internet for toys, buying toys, taking photos of the toys, solving those toys, keeping in touch with puzzlers around the world and then we have those amazing but very time-consuming Midlands Puzzle Parties! I attended number 15 yesterday and had an absolute ball! More puzzles were bought, some were solved and I learned NEVER to trust a magician!

Another nemesis!
Laurie Brokenshire (one of the greatest collectors and solvers in the world) was present, as well as the incredibly prolific mathematician cum puzzle designer, Dick Hess and I realised that previous puzzle party attempts to make me look foolish were as nothing compared to the combined efforts of these two amazing gentlemen! They made me into a nodding donkey, doing contortions with my thumbs and having a guessing game on what was the purpose of a plastic thingummy! I have not had such a laugh in a long time - my only consolation was that everyone fell for their pranks. I was also humbled by watching them quickly solve puzzles that I had spent months on and failed - Rox had given me a copy of the Squared Fish puzzle and after year I had singularly failed - it took Dick less than 15 minutes! There are some of my correspondents who think I am an experienced and skilled solver but I am nothing more than a rank amateur compared to them! I did not take a camera so you will need to watch one of the other blogs for that. I've had my little MPP fix of Puzzle boxes so yet again I have no need to buy any myself - Phew cos Mrs S would be very unhappy with me if I started on that route.

We even had some Koala porn!!!

So I'm left rather late on a Sunday afternoon wondering what to write about and not an awful lot of time. I therefore decided that after a sublime MPP, I would write a few lines about my ridiculous fascination with twisty puzzles and in particular about a few brilliant ones I own or have played with.

Sunday 8 June 2014

It's not a review - its a PREview

Seen this before? Not quite!
On the 29th March 2013 I published a rather sad but also hopeful article about a puzzle that I had obtained from Hunter Palshook. Hunter had taken one of Calvin's 4x4x6 shapeshifting cuboids and pared it down and fused bits together and polished it up until he had made a 2x4x6 cuboid. This is the lowest order version of the "Ultimate shapeshifting" group of cuboids. I have described the classification extensively in my blog post here as well as a printed version in 2 editions of the CFF journal.

The Ultimate shape shifters are twisty puzzles in cuboid form with the general arrangement:
N x (N + E1) x (N + E2) where E1 and E2 are 2 different even numbers
Having 2 different even numbers ensures that it can shapeshift in every direction and it also means that it suffers from the problem of parities - it has both Floppy parities as well as brick parities. The group include the original 3x5x7 and subsequent 4x6x8, 5x7x9 and the incredible 6x8x10! The "simplest" in this group would be the 2x4x6 and when I first received it from Hunter I absolutely loved it!

But the deal all along was that if Calvin was interested in possibly mass-production then my handmade copy would have to go back. In all I owned the original (marked with the HP1 logo on it) for just under 2 weeks when it had to be returned. During that 15 months, I really missed that little puzzle! Of course I managed to obtain several of it's bigger brethren but there was something magical about it. All of a sudden Calvin made an announcement on the Twisty Puzzles forum that his mass produced version was about to be released.

Friday 6 June 2014

An Eggcellent puzzle - Much more complex than I first thought!

The Strijbos egg - it's the one on the left!!
Last week I warned the world that Wil Strijbos was going to be releasing a very special new puzzle on an unsuspecting world and oh boy was I right! The first ones have been released and I absolutely MUST write a blog post about it!

People seem to think that working as the "trouble shooter" for Streetwise puzzles (Wil's brand name), I get lots of advance notice of puzzles coming up or even get to play with them early. I'm afraid that is far from true - I hear about them through the same newsletters as everyone else and have to rattle in my order as quickly as possible to avoid losing out! My rôle has simply been to receive emails forwarded from Wil that are asking for help with possibly broken puzzles or sometimes helping people who just cannot solve something.

We have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Egg for a year now, since Wil sent out tantalising photos of the pieces. Everyone had hoped (including Wil) that it would be ready for Easter this year and when Newsletters A-E came out in May after the Easter holiday, we had almost given up hope. But late at night (does that man ever sleep?) an email was sent out that suddenly released on the unsuspecting world the news that "The Egg" was now available. Most of the UK was asleep (including me) and I actually didn't see anything in my usual morning scan of my emails at 6am. Whilst eating breakfast I received an email from my very good friend Shane (famous for The Block and The Circle). Shane and I communicate very frequently about life, families and puzzles and it is always a delight to read his emails - I also hope for news of the upcoming Parallelogram. I opened his email at 06:30 and was horrified to read that Wil's latest newsletter did not appear to have come to me! Quickly rummaging through my Spam folders I was disgusted to see that Google had indiscriminately placed Wil's latest email there! I read through the blurb, gulped very loudly at the price-tag and promptly sent an email hoping that there would be some left. I immediately set up a Gmail rule to ensure his messages are tagged as high priority and then also set up an "If This Then That" (IFTTT) rule to ensure that if ANYTHING came from Wil I would also receive a text message informing me of it asap - do you think this might be the sign of OCD?* Later on I paid a sum of money to Wil that Mrs S still is not aware of and I don't plan to let her know any time soon! I received my tracking number a day or so later.

*Let me assure you that my OCD is actually CDO - it is VERY important to put the letters in the correct order!!

In the Newsletter we were provided with the following information:
After 3 prototypes I managed to get ready the EGG in time, at least
before Easter 2015. Still a lot of work to do, to check all the Egg’s
from the inside. I anyway from the outside they all look wonderful and
if you can not solve the EGG, who cares about the inside?
                Mmmmmmm, probably just me :)
James Dalgety's Egg
          History of the EGG:
See the picture I took when I visited James Dalgety in December 2011.
The date on the bottom from the EGG says 1986, so it is now at least
28 years ago that I created this EGG. This first creation will be also
in the collection from Jerry Slocum, Dick Hess and in some other col-
lections. Maximum production at that time was less then ten. In the
90tys last century a company tried to produce the EGG. The result at
the end was a broken EGG, too difficult to produce they told me. So
when I saw my EGG again in the collection from James Dalgety I decided
to give it a try.
With this sort of tantalising information, how could I possibly resist?

Sunday 1 June 2014

Wire and String from Mr Strijbos

My last Strijbos delivery
You all know about my habit! I have a man who keeps tempting me away from my money! Yes, Mr Strijbos, that would be you! Recently the update that came out had a few nice bits of metal loveliness and, of course, I had to add that to my collection! The 4 piece jigsaw has been quite a hit at work and the Heart in heart puzzle was a big hit with my wife! Who knows whether I will ever get that one back.

Wil knows about my love of disentanglements and is aware that I seem to have become a bit of an expert - I still feel like a beginner but I do appear to have solved quite a lot of them now and the guys at the Midlands Puzzle Parties often give me new ones to try. Wil finds quite a few new ones during his travels and brings a few really good ones back for us to buy. One of the best I have ever tried was the 2 ring teddy which has stumped many many people - both newbies and experienced puzzlers. It was so good that it has made TWO appearances on this blog - here and here.