Sunday 9 November 2014

It's good to have puzzle friends!

It has nearly killed me!
I don't know whether you have noticed but I have really lost my puzzle mojo recently! The present Mrs S (and even the postman) had noticed! Postie had realised that the constant stream of parcels Chez moi had definitely decreased and seemed to be pretty much limited to clothes and other "stuff" for the first wife and definitely no new puzzles for me!

Even "she who must be feared" actually commented that I seemed to have stopped playing with any toys recently - I usually annoy the hell out of her by constantly fiddling with something during our quiet time together in an evening. To my shame, I can confirm that I have barely solved anything in ages and yep, hardly picked anything up and fiddled either! The only toys I have picked up have been those I have solved already and needed to remind myself of in order to assist people who have contacted me for help. I really seem to have run out of steam! Why? Well work has been frenetic and some health issues which have been a cause of concern have combined with the chronic changes in the NHS to make me feel pretty low recently. When I have added this to worsening of my insomnia (currently at 3 hours sleep a night instead of the usual 4) I have just not felt the urge to puzzle at all!

Wurmm - it should be easy!!! But I'm not very bright!
I was alerted to something very cheap on eBay by my friend Michel and it has been my only purchase in 2 months - The Wurmm puzzle pictured above is a fun and cheap little thing that can be found on eBay and is available from Puzzle Master too if you feel that way inclined for a meagre $8.

The rationale is to wiggle the wurmm through the apple and at certain points inside it is possible to rotate the wurmm to a different direction and then continue. The aim is to remove the wurmm from the apple to make it edible. I got mine with the wurmm at the exit point and promptly wound it on and rotated a few times. Movement is fairly slick and I expected that it would be pretty easy - after all, it is only a level 7 (Challenging). I'm not convinced of that difficulty level at all - because I have totalled about 4-5 hours on this thing so far and managed nothing more than going round and round in circles but never getting to the exit point!! My mojo seemed to have deserted me completely! Sob!!

So how does one return from this low point? Admiring my beautiful collection helps - but only so much! You might think that puzzling is a very solitary pastime.... for me this is very far from the case. I attribute the beginning of my recovery to the puzzle community - I got a little help from my friends (I'm sure there's a song there somewhere!!)

It's wonderful to receive gifts - especially puzzles!
I posted in my New additions page about the beautiful gift of a burr I received from Sophie and Adin a week ago. After I had admired it for a while, I managed to disassemble it and marvelled at the incredible 7th move that the designer Alphons Eyckmans had conjured up! I had a pleasant evening playing with Burrtools. My mojo was starting to heal but I was still very listless!

Such wonderful precision! 
Next I received news that Brian Young (MrPuzzle) had completed the next batch of Katie Koalas and after a little chat with his lovely wife Sue, whom I met at IPP and who shares a birthday with me in October, I was feeling quite a bit better. I could just send a 'small' PayPal amount then Katie would be posted to me. Well I just adore sequential discovery puzzles and this is the king of them all! Mojo started to stir a little more! Yes another little boost from another puzzle friend. Katie is currently being held hostage by the customs men!

Master Skewb and tetrahedral transformation by Traiphum
I was almost back to my self again but I hadn't picked up a twisty puzzle in ages and ages. Many of you might think that is a good thing but I absolutely love twisties because of the incredible variety and the ability to learn how use techniques between different puzzles! The fact that I had not even solved a 3x3 or 4x4 in months is a bad sign! I must be truly sick! The big worry for me was that I might have lost the hard earned skills that I had managed to accumulate - I had carried Traiphum's fabulous Tetrahedral transformation of the Master Skewb with me for months and after my initial failure to solve it had gotten disheartened and not touched it in ages. Carrying such a wonderful puzzle with me unsolved and even untouched for such a long time was a symbol for me - I really HAD to solve it to prove I was still a puzzler. Then, yet again, another puzzle friend, Burgo from the Twisty Puzzles forum, chimed in on FaceBook and offered me some advice and, even more importantly, some encouragement - so with some trepidation I picked it up again on Friday evening.

Now, my normal approach to the Master Skewb is to solve the corners first like a skewb (just to prevent a later parity) then edges and then to use Rex cube algorithms (really really simple moves) to make and then position the centre pieces before finally repositioning and rotating corners. It sounds tough but is actually not too hard and is one of the funnest (is that a word?) twisties out there - I was advised by another friend, the great Rob Stegmann, that it was an essential purchase and he was absolutely correct! Every time I tried to use this approach with the tetrahedron it failed and I ended up with a parity. Burgo suggested that I try a totally different approach. I was worried about this because I am not good at discovering techniques myself and I don't have much tetrahedron experience to draw on and use algorithms from. I whined about how rubbish I was but he just encouraged me  - even suggested a video he had made if I really got stuck and yet again with help from a puzzle friend my mojo jumped another step!

So what did I do? Burgo suggested a centres first approach so here goes!

one face
2 faces
Oh dear!!
The first two were pretty easy once I had gotten used to the movement - the last 2 centres are a bit of a challenge but so far no algorithms needed at all - just pure thought and planning!! Next it was time to recombine all the edge pieces - if you can do a 4x4 or bigger cube then this is a doddle - again no algorithms at all!

It took me an hour to work out how to do this!

Construct edges
Position edges
Having positioned the edges, all that was left was to position and orient the corners. I struggled with this - the first attempt was easy and required only for the 2 pairs of corners to be swapped - done the same way as the parent Master Skewb but the second time I attempted the puzzle I had a 3 cycle which I did not know how to deal with. Again, Burgo leapt to the rescue using just one word..... SUNE! Doh! I am really out of practice at twisties - how could I forget one of the first algorithms any of us learn? A little experimentation showed me how SUNE worked on a tetrahedron and I was ready to place my corners. I was left with just needing to orient the corners and this was a trivial thing to do - just move them out and then back in after turning a face to the correct orientation:

Corners in place
Ta daaaaa!
It has taken me months but thanks to a friend I am there!

So has my joie de vivre returned? I actually think it might have, thanks to help from my puzzle friends - I have even spent an evening and part of a day playing with my simple 3x3 & 4x4 cubes, reminding myself of all the different methods of solving them. Finally, I seem to be enjoying my twisties again and I have ordered a few more from Calvin to challenge me further. Yay!!

So if you think that puzzling is a solitary hobby, may I suggest that you join the various forums to talk about them and make new friends and even get help when you lose your mojo as I did. I would definitely suggest joining one or more of the following:
the Twisty puzzle forum
the Puzzle Place forum
the Facebook Puzzle Photography group
as well as keeping in contact with me if you feel the urge.

Happy puzzling everyone!


  1. Traiphum's Tetrahedral Master Skewb is a work of art. I've had scrambled puzzles on my desk for months. It is perhaps even more rewarding to solve a puzzle that put up a mighty challenge.

    1. It is indeed a work of art and I am really stoked to have beaten it finally.

      But more important to me is the fact that I have finally gotten back to puzzling and done so with help from my friends!

  2. glad to hear you've gotten your puzzle mojo back... I need to find mine again.