Sunday 27 September 2015

Cast Keyhole and Keeping my Mind Busy

Hanayama Cast Keyhole
Recently things up here have gotten very fraught for me - my Mum who you all know has been ill, had a crisis and went from ill to near terminal and I had to make a lot of calls and rush down to London. Luckily she is now being well cared for and seems comfortable. I thought for a while that she wouldn't last long but she's a tough old boot and is hanging in there just now. I've been a doctor for many years (25) and am surprised at my own response to it.

You would have thought that with all that going on, I wouldn't be writing a blog post or even playing with a puzzle at all but I certainly have found that in times like these I need something to occupy my mind to stop me dwelling on the terrible occurrences of last week (even medical professionals feel the stress when it is one of their own) - solving something fun and writing a blog post is a bit cathartic for me and very therapeutic. I definitely would not be up to doing a Revomaze but I find that a simple little puzzling diversion is just the ticket. I rummaged in my "to be solved" stash from Tomas at Sloyd and found the Hanayama Cast Keyhole. This puzzle is a beautiful little thing designed by the Finnish Vesa Timonen and is available at the bargain price of €14.95 from Sloyd. I guess that if you live in North America it might be cheaper to get it from Puzzle Master here for $12.95.

It arrived in the usual Hanayama immaculate black packaging and the instructions on the box say simply to take it apart and then put it back together again. The puzzle is 6.9 x 2.6 x 4.5 cm and made from lovely shiny gold and chrome metal. I took the photo before I had even played with it at all because these puzzles do get marked by fingerprints immediately and they do get scratched during play - the gold one in particular will look very scratched fairly quickly.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Pole Dancing - Earned me a Whack! Ouch! and Worse!

Pole Dancers
Despite being on annual leave this week, I have actually not had much time to do that much puzzling and don't have enough time or energy to write much today. This is partly because my fitness drive started this week (and nearly killed me) and also the stress of my mother's illness has left me more sleep deprived than ever. My concentration ability has not been great as a result. I also was forced by "she who must be feared and cringed from" to tidy up my study - the results of which can be seen on my New additions page here. At least after many hours of tidying I have made a bit more space for any new toys that might be coming my way Whack! Ouch! No dear! I promise I am not expecting anything at the moment! Apart from...... Whack! Ouch!

I seem to have an awful lot to go!
My mojo seems to have abandoned me! I continued to work on Wil's exchange puzzle and finally after several days managed to solve the first 2 challenges in a way that was repeatable and that meant that I understood them. Remember that it is important to be able to solve a puzzle repeatably before you can claim that it is conquered and the challenges in Wil's leaflet are surprisingly difficult for such a simple design. Number 3 is killing me and I haven't even begun to use the extra piece yet. I have also singularly failed to solve Allard's exchange puzzle!

Luckily a few days ago, Steve sent me a copy of his IPP exchange puzzle - It is called the Pole dancers and was designed by the helical genius, Derek Bosch. I have reviewed every single one of these puzzles so far and could not resist playing with this as soon as it arrived. Unlike all the others in the series, this consists of 3 pieces instead of 4 and the core is a solid stick - hence the name as the other 2 helical pieces seem to dance around the central pole. Steve printed it himself on one of his Threedy printers and used a pair of beautiful vibrant colours. The layers have been beautifully smoothed so I assume that he also used an acetone vapour chamber to produce such a spectacular finish.

Sunday 13 September 2015

The Ball and Chain is Going to Cause Much Pain!

Wil's exchange puzzle
They say that "absence makes the heart grow fonder" and it is true....but ONLY up to a point. The current "ball and chain" skipped up to Edinburgh to visit her parents and left me alone for a few days. Now normally this would be an excuse for me to veg out, play with my toys, drink loads and loads of red wine and gin (No! Not mixed together!) and generally be a slob. But unfortunately, I had had so much to drink the previous weekend at the gin festival and then the following few days as an organiser and attendee at a major medical conference (VASGBI annual scientific meeting) seemed to include a fair bit of booze too. So when Mrs S left, I decided I had better give my liver a rest - I really don't want to have to carry it around in a wheelbarrow! Luckily for me I had a series of deliveries whilst she was away that involved her least favourite of my toys - yes there were a good few disentanglement puzzles and you know that if I jingle I automatically earn a Whack! Ouch! Or a burn from the laser burning stare! So last night whilst sitting companionably together watching the last night of the proms on TV I started to make some annoying noises and the fondness that had accumulated immediately vanished and pain ensued! Sigh!

Bastard evil puzzle!
I would like to say that the "wife induced" pain is the main reason that I have singularly failed to solve Allard's evil puzzle but I can't really blame "her" entirely! I have sort of worked out what is required and my friend George Bell has confirmed my thoughts (remember to go and buy a copy of his exchange puzzle here if you missed it last week) but for the life of me I cannot seem to get the pieces into the correct position to allow the first critical move to be done! My eternal shame is compounded even more having just had an email from Shane showing his copy in pieces - he confesses that he is rubbish at these and so I (who am supposed to be moderately experienced) am feeling rather ashamed of myself! I will continue to blame Mrs S so as not to destroy my self image. Whack! Ouch! Ooh! Sorry dear!

At the top of this post is a recent purchase from the latest update courtesy of Wil Strijbos. As soon as I saw it I knew that I just HAD to have a copy. First it is a disentanglement, second it has multiple challenges and third it is just beautifully made and has a reset mechanism (which is just as well). It has the look of a Jean Claude Constantin production and was given away at the Ottawa IPP by Wil as his exchange puzzle. It comes with a leaflet displaying 10 possible challenges and says that more are possible:

Drool! Lots of puzzles in one!
The reset mechanism is by pulling the pin out of one of the balls and releasing the string. It arrived in the position for challenge 7 (which is the Ottawa exchange puzzle) but I decided to start at an easier one - namely number 1 (the top photo is actually that configuration). I have spent 3 days playing with this damned thing and have managed to dismantle it twice and still have absolutely no clue how I managed it! I have had to use the reset mechanism to put it back to the beginning each time because having taken it apart I couldn't even reverse the process. The actual shapes of the pieces are not complex and the string is not long so getting knotted up is not a problem. This puzzle should not be as hard as it is but I have found that (like Allard's puzzle) the crucial moves that I want to take are blocked by the narrowness of the metal U. Last night having received pain for Allard's puzzle, I quickly moved onto this one and even with wooden parts it still was noisy enough to earn me another Whack! Ouch! Lord! I'm covered in bruises! Can you imagine what state I will be in by the time I have solved Allard's puzzle AND all 10 challenges? I have to say that this is an absolutely BRILLIANT design - if disentanglements are your thing then get one NOW!

Sunday 6 September 2015

Exchange puzzles cause a LOT of Whack! Ouch!

Errm! It's Housing Crunch by George Bell
It has been quite a good week for me in terms of puzzle acquisition and solving - yes I know it seems to you all that every week is a good week for me but I promise that I don't receive new toys every day (or even every week). If I was to start collecting at that rate Mrs S would give me such a hard Whack! Ouch! that I would be incapable of doing anything for months afterwards and may even end up in the ICU - she IS a very strong and violent girl (remember she IS Scottish! Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear!) I really am not terribly bright - you would think I would have learned by now!

Two prototypes
Earlier this week I received a copy of a puzzle from George Bell. Over the last 2½ years I have helped him test his prototypes for the IPP puzzle exchange. He contacted me in February 2013 and asked if I would help and critique the puzzle he was designing. He did say:
"There are only five pieces, how hard can it be?"
I am not stupid enough to fall for that one again - my experience (and many others I have tortured) with the Symmetrick puzzle with only 2 pieces has showed me that number of pieces is NO guide at all to difficulty! Despite my protestation that I was terrible at packing puzzles, I did seem to provide useful feedback. The first one to arrive was the one with the rectangular shaped tray. When I got it, I struggled a bit initially (I did say that I was bad at these) but found a solution after about half an hour of random movements - I wish that I had better techniques than that! Much to my surprise (and George's I actually found a second solution which he had not expected. George paid me the huge complement of letting me know that I had actually solved it quicker than one of our puzzling doyens, Dick Hess! I made a suggestion about how he might prevent the second solution and he went away to think about it. The puzzle was not used as his exchange in London in 2014 and I assumed that he must have struggled to find a way to make it work properly. I was, of course, wrong. If you ask Mrs S she would tell you that I am almost always wrong! but if I was you I would keep as far away as possible from the violent Scottish girl! Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear! I don't know how she keeps managing to creep up on me so quietly.