Sunday, 24 May 2015

The Pentagon - Hales Puzzle Number 4

Four Hales Puzzles - each very different
Earlier this week I left you all in suspense having announced the arrival of Shane’s 4th puzzle, the Pentagon. The letter that came with it informed me that this was a prop, a themed puzzle. It would appear that there had been an explosive device which needed to be defused. Shane declared that he himself had defused the timer but there were other parts including an electronic and a magnetic fuse that needed to be deactivated before the device could be fully opened and the contents revealed. Finally the code within needed to be sent back to Hales Puzzles HQ.

I left you with a picture of the special case that the device was sent in. Obviously Royal Mail could not be entrusted entirely with safe delivery of an explosive wrapped in bubble wrap (as most puzzles seem to) - this required a special case! All very exciting and my first task was to open the case to get to the device/puzzle itself. Undo the clips on each side…. easy! But the lock held it firmly shut and now the chase was on! How to open it? Was the lock a fake? Was there another way in? Be observant is the watchword here! It took me an embarrassingly long time to find a tool. It looked helpful but proved impossible to use - hmmm! Embarrassingly, after an even longer time period, I finally used my observational skills elsewhere, followed some rather subtle instructions and eventually I had a tool that I could use. The case was open:

It took me quite some time to reach this point! I've barely started!
Inside we have an absolutely beautiful puzzle - as the name suggests, it has 5 sides. It is pretty substantial in size and weight. It weighs in at 1.062Kg (2.34lb) and dimensions are 78mm thick, 139mm base to point and edge length 93mm. Also in the case is a golden tool with no obvious function as yet.

The puzzle is inscribed with the name on top. Like the previous ones, Shane has used his own particular quirky lettering - notice the A in pentagon in the picture below. The bottom surface displays the puzzle number and my name as well as Shane’s signature. From the side we can see that it is formed from layers of various woods (Black Walnut, Cherry, Beech and Maple) and with that weight there must be metal parts inside - I am told that there are steel and plastic parts involved. The whole thing was finished using a lovely satin lacquer.

Top face
Bottom face
I nearly broke my thumbnail trying to unscrew that bolt/screw on the top surface and berated myself for being an idiot. Follow the instructions, stupid! Find the tools!! Yet again I prove myself to be not as “smart as the average bear” (those of you of a certain age may remember a saying from Yogi bear!) After some thinking and searching another tool is revealed and it is pretty ingenious - the screw starts to turn and stops dead! Now what has he done? Think! Fiddle! Play! Bingo! The screw is removed and step 2 of the instructions is completed - the electronic fuse is removed - completely!

Now we have the “hard” part according to Shane's instructions - deactivate the electromagnetic locking mechanism using all your senses. There is very little to go on during this part and the correct tool needs to be found and used in the correct way without knowing how it works. After a little play there was a nice Aha! moment and things moved but didn't move far. Now what? I actually did not really understand what I had done so I backtracked and immediately it locked up again - Damn! Not knowing what I had achieved, I struggled to repeat it and reckon that it took me another 15 minutes to repeat it. This second time I fathomed what had stopped it dead the first time and managed to make it come further apart before it locked up again partially open. There are at least 2 simultaneous mechanisms in play here (these must be the electro-magnetic and antigravity stabilising systems) - they need to be manipulated together to open it. After about 40 minutes the insides were revealed and the mechanism(s) proved to be quite ingenious!

You didn't think that I would show the insides did you?
I had my defusing code and sent it back to Shane to confirm. All I need to do now is establish what it means and I am finished.

So what are my final thoughts? Shane’s work just seems to get better and better - he wants to make sequential discovery puzzles and this is his most complex yet. I love the fact that it is themed and, like all good craftsmen, Shane takes great care to ensure that the finish is as near perfect as possible. He is not completely happy with this one but decided that it had to be released (I reckon he could keep playing forever and it would never meet his exacting standards).

As a part time puzzle designer who runs a very very big construction company, as well as maintaining family life with wife, kids and a home, I think that this puzzle is truly amazing! It looks beautiful and was great fun to play with. It was not as tough as the recent puzzles designed and made by Brian Young (MrPuzzle) but this is a hobby not a living like for Brian.

I am totally flattered that Shane considers me to be the final arbiter of quality and I always received puzzle number 001 before any others are released. I can now reveal that the other recipients will be:
002 Allard Walker
003 Ali Morris
004 Nick Baxter
005 Yet to be decided
Shane is very keen to ensure that his puzzles go to deserving people who have helped him or the puzzle world in some way. These are limited editions - there will NEVER be any more produced and they will never be up for sale. Shane’s terms and conditions state that the puzzle is a gift and not for redistribution or sale by the recipient. If they decide they don't want it any more then it should be returned to the craftsman. I, of course, wouldn’t dream of getting rid of them - they now are in my dining room on display with some of my other very special puzzles. Very few puzzles are special enough to be allowed on display there by Mrs S. She has stipulated, however, that the metal case must go into storage! When I reported this to Shane, he laughed and stated that Mrs H had said exactly the same thing - his is in the loft with his suitcases!

Now we have the small matter of puzzle number 005! If you think you deserve one of these marvellous puzzles or know someone who does deserve it then visit the guest book on Shane’s website and leave a message stating why you or they should receive one. Shane will pick a recipient from those messages (maybe with my input). Good luck to you all. Remember that the puzzle only goes to someone who is deserving.

Notice that I was the first ever visitor in September 2014 and whilst you are there, browse the site for more information about this very generous man and his wonderful puzzles.

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