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.

When I congratulated Hunter on his marvelous achievement, he asked for my address again and arranged for one of his free copies to be sent to me for the small part I had played in the process. As you can see from the top of the post, it has arrived. The Royal Mail had beaten it up a bit in the envelope but a few minutes of replacing core pieces and I had a beautiful stable puzzle again! After my initial photograph I had to scramble it! It's important that you scramble it in stages - begin with 180º turns only then add 90º turns on a single axis before also adding them on the other axis. You end up with this:

What's the puzzle like? It is just stunning! The turning is great (it even corner cuts if you feel you need that sort of thing), the stickers are bright and well adhered to the puzzle. My only criticism is that the corners of the puzzle are very curved and it would have been nice if they came to a sharper point but that is a very minor thing!

It has been quite a long time since I solved a cuboid and I wasn't sure I could remember a general approach to them. So I tried a few things and quickly got stuck - you can see above that a lot of the puzzle gets bandaged up during the scramble. Finally I had a plan and still struggled to return it to cuboid form. After I finally succeeded in that I needed to solve multiple floppy parities and brick parities before it was eventually solved. In all the first solve took me nearly 2 hours - I reckon this will not cost much when it is eventually put up for sale so it will be very good value.

On TP and on the Puzzle Photography Facebook Group, there has been much discussion about parity and ways to avoid it - this caused me to write a pair of articles here and here about parity. The main thrust of my discussion fell to the fact that most of the parities that we see are directly a result of the fact that we reduce an even order puzzle to an odd order one during the solve. I proposed that using a different technique of reduction the parity could be avoided - I illustrated this by reducing my 6x6 cube to a 2x2 and also reducing my Master kilominx to a Flowerminx - these reductions were much more arduous but definitely possible.

Wondering whether the parities in the Ultimate shapeshifters could be avoided I have just attempted the same thing on this puzzle and it is definitely possible and even quite fun! I am one who actually enjoys the parities that occur but having an alternative technique is really quite fun too - I will alternate my solve processes.

When this one comes out you should buy it immediately! You should not miss out on the first chance to get a mass-produced Ultimate shapeshifter - it has been very well implemented and you will not have experienced a solve like it!

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