|The Naga Puzzle|
I do tend to consider myself very lucky. I have a very tolerant wife who puts up with this truly ridiculous hobby of mine with only the occasional Whack! Ouch! I have great friends in the puzzling community who are happy to discuss my obsession with me and share their thoughts and even let me play with their new toys and I even have the great good fortune to be in contact with (and even be great friends with) some fantastic puzzle designers like Shane, Wil, Steve, Stephan and Alfons.
|The Hales Puzzle collection - I am honoured|
|She won't let it be on display!|
Steve Miller sent me his Spam puzzle last week and I investigated it with trepidation - it had a curious smell of burnt wood which luckily was not from some explosive that he had set up but actually came from laser cut and engraved wood. The Spam puzzle will prove to me an absolutely horrific challenge for even the most ardent of packing puzzle fans - thank heavens I didn't just up-end the tin and shake it all out. It would probably be a pile of sticks forever more. I think even Dave Holt (THE metagrobologist) who adores packing puzzles might even be stumped by it!
What is so tough about it? Remember that Steve is an evil genius! At the top of the tin I have removed the title spam and you see just the top puzzling layer - each layer is about 5 mm thick! Just look at this:
|Just one layer!|
Last week I was contacted out of the blue by Carsten again. He told me that his favourite type of puzzle is the sequential discovery puzzle and he had been beavering away in his shed to produce one of his own. Again, he said that he had no idea whether it was any good and he wanted me to play and review it for him (and if possible to get opinions from other puzzlers too). Of course I jumped at the chance! Recently I have been rather preoccupied with my concerns relating to my mother’s rather serious illness and have barely done any puzzling at all. I have been spending my time trying to get copies of her scans sent to my hospital so that I and my medical consultant friends in Sheffield could review them as well as trying to optimise her pain relief.
I actually forgot that Carsten had sent anything! A week later postie rang the door wanting my signature for a package and the first thing I noticed and pointed out to postie was OMG! That’s really heavy! After an excited unboxing and being given yet another Whack! Ouch! for getting the packing material all over the newly cleaned kitchen (he had used the results of a cross-cut shredder to pack the puzzle tightly), the Naga puzzle was revealed as you see at the top of the post. It weighs just over 1.2Kg (that’s 2.65 lb to you Yanks) and to my huge surprise is made mostly from brass!
How does an amateur puzzle designer manage to produce something so perfect in his shed? This is even more amazing than Shane’s production - Shane is a fully trained Master craftsman and has the ethos that what he produces should be beautiful. It would appear that Carsten is a lighting engineer on a cruise ship and spends 9 months of the year away from home. During this time he thinks up his ideas, jots them down and then develops the ideas to produce the finished product on paper before he can produce anything. During his 3 months at home he retreats to his shed and uses the tools that his father has accumulated over a lifetime of collecting. Working in metal is HARD (I know this from my chats with Shane who manages to include pieces from various material types in his puzzles) and yet Carsten has produced something truly beautiful.
So is it a good puzzle? I’ll tell you soon! First you need to know that this puzzle has a story to it - just like Shane’s envelope with instructions to his “agents” there is a storyline to the Naga puzzle:
“Nagas were part of most asian religions. Especially in the eastern parts of Indonesia - many people had wooden snakes in their homes which granted them protection, health and fortune. During the beginning of the 20th century the christianization began and the missionaries burned all the wooden snakes they could find to display the impuissance of their guardian spirit against the one god. Only a few people were able to hide their families Nagas.
So the goal is to free the wooden snake hidden inside the puzzle to reclaim its protection.”Before I began work on this and immediately after I unpacked it, Mrs S picked it up went wide-eyed at the weight and metallic nature of it and told me in no uncertain terms that it had to be removed from the kitchen/family room/conservatory area.
“RIGHT NOW!!!”N eedless to say I RAN into the living room with it and sat down to play surrounded by a carpeted floor and soft furnishings. I suspect that a Whack! Ouch! at that point might have used the puzzle as a weapon and would almost certainly have been fatal!
“If that drops off then it will smash a tile and that would be very painful for you!”
As you can see there are a number of parts to explore initially. The screw on the front is very tightly turned and definitely not going to unscrew without a tool. Nothing is loose or comes off so I did the obvious. No I’m not going to tell you what - use your imagination! The first tool is now available and it provides the first real aha! moment. The next step seems to begin but it won't complete - and I was stumped. I recalled that my instructions from Carsten was that there is NO spinning, no force, no banging at all required.
I did hope to God that there was no submerging in water or gin required as that would require me to take it away from soft furnishings which was VERBOTEN by the present Mrs S. After about 10 minutes of trying the same thing in various directions, I concluded that I was missing something. The search began and after a few minutes I found another rather awkward to use tool and put it to work. I soon realised that I had to use the two tools simultaneously which is no mean feat for a man with my limited dexterity skills. Suddenly something very heavy dropped in my lap (luckily not doing any damage requiring the skills of my friend Steve Canfield).
|I can see the Naga! I have a brass ball too!|
|Freed the Naga!|
|I suspect this is a genuine Indonesian piece!|
I plan to send this to Allard initially so that he can spread it amongst the various MPP guys (Chris, Oli, Ali etc). I would appreciate it if each of you who works on it can send me your opinion for me to pass on to Carsten (and also add to my blog). After the MPP guys have received it then I would ask Allard to send it to Steve before he sends it on to Shane to play with before he then returns it to me. I will bring it with me to other puzzle parties for folks from further afield to play with.
To all the guys who I will be sending this to:
Whatever you do - DO NOT open this puzzle over anything fragile and DO NOT open it over anywhere that you could lose small parts - the pieces inside are truly tiny and easily lost. Please do it over a tray covered with a white cloth/towel to ensure that you can see all the tiny parts when they drop out. Some are literally only a few mm in size.
Thank you Carsten, you have really cheered me up after all the worries I have had recently with my mother’s health. Hopefully you will produce even more amazing puzzles in the future. I look forward to sending you regular updates from the MPP crowd.