Sunday, 28 September 2014

Not a box! A sequential discovery puzzle with a cavity!

It's a sequential discovery puzzle!
It is a standing joke amongst the puzzling community (mostly MPP guys but now some of the IPP guys too) that for someone who doesn't collect puzzle boxes, I do seem to have some absolutely stunning examples in my collection! My excuse is that they must always have some other puzzling aspect too and so I can classify them some other way! Why do I do this? It's to save my sanity and my bank account from total annihilation! I really have collected quite hard the last few years and upset Mrs S considerably with the sheer extent of my madness. If I was to completely give in and properly collect puzzle boxes like some others I know, then I might also have to pay for a divorce or, even worse, end up being murdered or buried alive! You and I (and more importantly "SHE") knows that starting a puzzlebox collection would end up with a massive expansion in my collection and I already have no space or money left!

Still not open!
Having said that I don't collect puzzle boxes unless there is another aspect to them, I can categorically say that I have learned from Allard and Neil - that when the Stickman (aka Robert Yarger) offers me something then the answer is an emphatic YES! I bought my first Stickman from a fellow puzzler 3 years ago - he needed cash fast and I had never tried a Stickman box so I resolved both situations without telling the present wife and the Perpetual Hinge entered my custody! It is stunning and sits above me as I write and to this day I have not managed to solve it! I'm pretty crap at puzzle boxes because I don't collect them - I do have the instructions for it but have refused so far to look at them! It remains one of the longest unsolved puzzles in my collection - at least it looks gorgeous sitting on the shelf taunting me! Last year I was offered the Constellation Puzzle Box and immediately said yes. Mine was one of only 2 made from Bloodwood and not only is it stunning but I actually managed to solve it! It only took me a week of hard work and I still don't understand how it actually works!!! I'm definitely not very good at this particular category of puzzle but I do try to practice as many as I can at the MPPs.

Stickman Constellation box in Bloodwood
Neil has taken to reproducing one or 2 of the Stickman puzzles and has adopted the nom de guerre of "Stickboy" - unfortunately at the last MPP, at which Neil was present, I was only able to afford to buy one Stickboy puzzle - I managed to finally obtain a stunning craftsman version of Iwahiro's ODD Puzzle and it is another of the very few puzzles that is allowed to sit in my living room. I look forward to more from him in the future!

The Stickboy's version of the ODD puzzle!
I had a minor heart attack when the latest Stickman was released! They are very limited edition and I heard the other collectors receiving theirs and Allard wrote a review. I assumed that I was not being offered one this time but I did contact Robert and was told that I had been offered one but had not replied yet. Hmmm! I might be getting old and senile but I am sure I would have remembered an offer for one of these! A quick visit to my spam folder and Aaaargh! there it was. Luckily Robert had not released mine to the public yet and a quick email back and an exchange of cash occurred and I was to be the proud owner of the latest Stickman puzzle - "The Pirate's Wallet Sequential Discovery Puzzle Box". Another reason to buy it...... not only is it sequential discovery but it also includes a puzzle lock! All made of wood! Now I DO collect puzzle locks and this is a puzzle in it's own right. In fact several of these went up for sale at the last Cubic Dissection auction and fetched a serious amount of money!

A wooden puzzle lock as a bonus with the puzzle
It had been sold separately

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A great collaboration!

Doors and Drawers
Trigo cube (Chain loop edition)
Mike Toulouzas is an amazing craftsman who I was very pleased to meet and attempt to solve a puzzle with at the last IPP. He is a brilliant craftsman, designer and a perfect gentleman who for very good reason won the Puzzler's award at the IPP design competition this year. Allard had extolled his virtues as a craftsman several times over the years. The only puzzle of his that I owned up until the IPP was the Trigo cube (Chain loop edition - made from Bubinga, Rosewood, Palisander, and Sugargold Maple) of which there have only been 17 made and because of the difficulty in manufacturing them there will never be any more made. For some reason I have never reviewed this puzzle and I'm afraid I cannot recall enough about my attempt at solving it to do so now! After one of Allard's and Neil's reviews I couldn't resist trying to get another one and am on the waiting list for an Illusion puzzle and hopefully it will arrive this year! I very nearly bought one of his entries (Cross Links) in the design competition but unfortunately had already spent more than my budget had allowed - sigh!

So how does this make for a "collaboration" as stated in the title of the post? Many people admire Mike's work and puzzles but he is never able to make enough to keep up with demand! At the beginning of his puzzle designing career he designed a 3 piece burr with blocking pieces - hence it is a sort of combination of a burr and packing puzzle. Mike is a good friend of Bernhard Schweitzer and during their discussions about his puzzles they made an agreement that Bernhard would employ the New Pelikan workshop under Jakub and Jaroslav to partially manufacture his design and Mike would make the more fiddly pieces. This would allow a decent number of this puzzle to be manufactured and make it affordable to the general puzzling world. Bernhard told me about the design months before IPP and I knew that I would be buying one when we met! It is now available from Bernhard for a very reasonable price.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

I think this career change will be a success

Wood Wonders! Just soo beautiful!
Even a busy weekend working doesn't stop the intrepid puzzler posting reviews for you! But now it's time to lie down for a while! I'm shattered!

Over the last few years I have posted quite a few puzzle reviews extolling the virtues of the workmanship of Brian Menold from Wood Wonders. Numerous times I have exclaimed at how accurately everything was made (his quality is up with the very best of the craftsmen) and the beauty of the woods chosen. A month or so ago I found out that poor Brian (who has already had a LOT of upset in his life) had been made redundant from his previous employment. Choosing not to be brought down by the change, he immediately saw it as an opportunity to change his life around and undertake something professionally that had previously been just a hobby for him. Brian decided to turn puzzle making into a career - it was something he enjoyed and this would give him a chance (his own words) to "push his boundaries a bit".

I immediately wanted to support him in his endeavours and vowed to buy as many puzzles as I could afford (although I seem to do that to ALL puzzle craftsmen!) and I also offered some advice about his site and purchasing mechanism. I managed to nab a couple from his last batch - he has been in contact with the amazing Turkish puzzle designer Yavuz Demirhan (amazing because as of writing this he has 369 puzzles published on Ishino's site) and has produced quite a few really beautiful and really interesting puzzles from his catalogue.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Arrow Dynamics plus a special N-ary puzzle

Arrow Dynamics
Just a short blog post today! This week I have been away at a medical conference for a couple of days and then off on leave for the rest of the week. You might think that this would give me plenty of time for puzzling and blogging but she with the 'cat-o-nine tails tongue' and the laser stare had other ideas! Every time I settled down to try and play with something, I was given another chore to do or some DIY! Finally towards the end of the week the cats went into the cattery (much to their disgust) and we headed off for a very nice relaxing long weekend in North Yorkshire where I proceeded to eat and drink too much and managed absolutely no puzzling whatsoever! I did take this one with me in the hope that I could solve it and write about it - but as you can see it might be called "jingly" and the fear of retribution came over and hit me with paralysing accuracy. I got home a while ago and having unpacked and had a refreshing (and finally non-alcoholic) drink and was given kind permission to play with this whilst she pottered out of earshot.

This is the Arrow dynamics puzzle from Puzzle Master's own range of wire disentanglements. I have almost the entire set now and I think this must be the last of the high level ones for me to try. It is a good price at $18 and is level 10 (Mind Boggling) at the top of their difficulty scale. It is clamshell packaged and the simple instructions are just to remove the arrow (inside it reminds you that no force or bending is necessary). It is made of beautifully anodised thick wire and is good and strong - dimensions are 35.6 x 10.2 x 2.5cm. No solution is provided but it can be obtained on request at this link.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Some nice puzzles from IPP and torturing the sick

Load's of metal!
I'm off to a conference soon and don't have my usual amount of time on the Sunday to write a post so I thought I'd highlight some of my recent puzzle escapades and publish a day early. At the MPP, Louis showed up with 4 beautifully made bent nail disentanglement puzzles. He had bought them from the proprietor of the Majorcan puzzle shop. I solved them all fairly quickly at the MPP but with each successive puzzle solved a whoop of delight came from me. These were absolutely beautifully made, really chunky and nicely anodised. But more important than the look was the fact that each of them had something new and interesting to their solve process - they all look very similar to the cheap puzzles of our childhood but were very different to them.

I was really surprised and pleased when Louis contacted me just before IPP to tell me that he had found the same 4 puzzles available at Village games in Camden Lock (their own website appears to be dead). He bought them for me and I picked them up when we met at IPP - this was one of the first parts of my haul. I have had fun playing with them myself as they make great worry beads and don't jingle enough to invite the wrath of Mrs S. They also are perfect for taking to work as no-one can resist them.

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