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.

Orion designed by Osanori Yamamoto
I started with Orion, a really attractive design by the unbelievably productive Osanori Yamamoto. Jakub had made this using 5 different woods to make for a superb attractive puzzle for display (even Mrs S said it was beautiful) - the woods are Padauk, Maple, Wenge, Robinia and a ring of Mahogany holding them all together.

I quickly found the first sliding move and the 4 pieces separated into 2 pairs and then one separated further. At this point I became convinced that this would be similar to others by Mr Yamamoto and started looking for rotations. Once the pieces are separated, there is a lot of room in that ring to allow all sorts of different movements of the pieces and I went around a few times rotating here and there trying to make a space that would allow a piece to fit through. After about 15 minutes of getting absolutely nowhere, I had a really close look at the pieces and saw that there were some subtle differences between them. Maybe I had been trying the wrong one? I knew that the solution was level Around and around and around I went for quite an embarrassing length of time! I was sure that I had done quite a lot more than the 14 starting moves and not found anywhere that a piece might come out. Posting my frustration on Facebook, someone suggested that maybe rotations weren't allowed! Doh!!! I went back to it and looked with fresh eyes and finally saw what I had been missing for hours!

It really looks easy but kept me going for ages!
It is amazing how my pre-conceived ideas had interfered with my rather meagre solving ability! I am sure Jakub has more in stock and they will be available from all the usual outlets soon - MrPuzzle doesn't have this batch yet but does have some other great ones. Puzzle Master has recently got these in stock

Tall Joe - for "obvious" reasons
The second one I tried was by another phenomenally prolific designer, Tamás Vanyó, this one is called Tall Joe. The few designs that you see from Tamás on does not look like much but I watch him with amazement on Facebook and practically every single day he posts a new design which loks either attractive, fun or very high level. This one has been made by Jakub from Wenge, Maple with a Mahogany frame and looks absolutely stunning. I have said before that over the years, the workmanship being produced by Jakub and Jaroslav has just got better and better. Had I not known that this came from the Czech Republic then I would have sworn that it was the work of Eric Fuller who is amongst the best in the world! The quality is just superb!

This puzzle is a lowish level at and after just a few minutes of fiddling I had it in pieces. I was rather surprised to see that all the burr pieces were identical:

All the burrs are identical!
Initially I was a little disappointed - having done some very tough burrs from designers and craftsmen like Alfons Eyckmans and Stephan Baumegger, I had been expecting this to take me a few hours to work out rather than a few minutes! I immediately put it back together and had no problem. Now it is not usual for Jakub to make a puzzle purely for the look of it - there is ALWAYS some good puzzling behind it. I decided that there must be more to it than I first thought - I dismantled it again but this time examined the frame and realised that the frame has blocks and gaps that are not symmetrical and require exact positioning for the assembly to work. So this time I scrambled all the pieces up and left them for 30 minutes. This time when I attempted reassembly it was much MUCH MUCH harder! In fact it took me a couple of hours before I was successful. Now I understood why it had been made! Absolutely stunning to look at, can be simple if you keep everything oriented right and a really nice tough challenge if you scramble it! I love it! Puzzlemaster now have it in stock here.

Space Axis
The last one from that batch was Space Axis, also designed by Osanori Yamamoto. I have to admit to a little responsibility for this one. A good friend of mine had suggested that I make this for myself using the plastic Livecube system because it had such a fun and interesting solution. I had later suggested this during a little chat with Jakub and a year later here it was. This version looked much better in Maple and Wenge than it had in plastic and unsurprisingly, I had completely forgotten the solution. It is only a low level puzzle with level 9.3 but since it requires rotations, this makes it rather tough. I found a dead end very quickly and only after a fair bit of fiddling did the critical next move reveal itself to me and it comes apart into just 3 lovely pieces:

Only 3 pieces!
Rather than put it straight back together, I scrambled the pieces and then wandered off for ½ hour. When I returned I couldn't even recall which piece to start with and had to literally start from scratch by working out the final orientations and then moving on to trying to visualise how they might disassemble. I know that I am a Bear of very little brain and find sometimes that a "Thing which seemed very Thingish inside me is quite different when it gets out into the open" - hence this took me a really long time to put back together! In fact it took me nearly 2 days! This one is worth getting either because it's difficult or (if you have lots of brain) because it is a lovely sequence! Puzzle Master have it available here.

I am looking forward to the next batch from Jakub - hopefully it won't be too long a wait! If you get the opportunity to obtain some of his (and Jaroslav's) work then don't hesitate; it is beautiful, clever and challenging!

But now I think it's time for some more drugs and a little lie down again - Hopefully I'll live long enough to solve a few more puzzles and maybe even get to write some more adventures for you! Cough! Splutter! Hack! Wheeze! Just shoot me now please?

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