Sunday 31 January 2016

A Burrtastic (but painful) Week! A Wish Come True!

Last week's blog post was all about metal puzzles - I did manage a short abstinent period but I'm very easily swayed and it only takes a little push to have me back playing with my wood! In the middle of January I received a couple of new puzzles from Jakub Dvořák of the New Pelikan Workshop and a few days later they were made generally available for you all to buy. This gorgeous looking burr has kept me occupied for a couple of weeks and I finally managed to solve it last Friday. This one is called Mimicry and is designed by the incredible Christoph Lohe whose designs always seem to add something new and fun to explore. This puzzle is not yet on Puzzlewillbeplayed so there was no chance for me to cheat by looking up the pieces and entering them into Burrtools.

Jakub and Jaroslav have made this with their usual extreme perfection and every move has just the right amount of resistance. It is 77mm cubed and made of Maple, Purpleheart and Wenge. At level 27.18 it is a real challenge. Christoph says this about the design:
"This design exists of six 2x2 sticks of length 6 in an unusual 6x6x6 frame which I think has never been used before. The frame consists of twelve 4x1 rods which are connected by eight internal corner voxels. Because of these internal corners, the puzzle is densely packed. The sticks are bicolored and the frame is tricolored to result in a unique 27.18 solution. Ignoring the colors there are more than thousand solutions, starting from level 1. The name 'Mimicry' was selected as the outer appearance looks like six 2x4 sticks of length 6."
Of course when I was offered the chance to buy it, I couldn't resist! I love my burrs but really like a level that is challenging and fun. As my friend Jose Dias says; "any puzzle with too high a level ceases to be fun and becomes work", I can honestly say that whilst level 27 sounds very high, it is actually a perfectly solvable puzzle by anyone with a little bit of burr experience. There is a little bit of work because there are quite a lot of blind ends in the solution path, but they are not so long that you risk getting lost. The correct path is long and winding and has a few tricky moves but never enough to dishearten you.

Sunday 24 January 2016

Enticed away from Wood by a Friend?

Wil's Metal delivery
All that wood!
You are all aware by now that I seem to have developed a bit of a wood fetish over the last few years! With all the gorgeous stuff being produced by Jakub, Brian M, Brian Y, Stephan, Alfons and Eric, I have an inexhaustible supply of stunning wood to drool over and play with. Many would say that it's not good for a man to play with his wood so much and I heed their worries by intermittently playing with wiremetal or plastic. So far this has prevented me from developing hairy palms but the fear of going blind always keeps me on the lookout for more variety in my puzzling media.

It was with great 'relief' that I received a nice new newsletter from my favourite Dutchman giving notice of a new pair of puzzles that he had finally brought into production and luckily for my mental and physical health, these would take me away from my beloved wood! Above you see an ingenious new burr puzzle called the Heavy Metal Triangle designed by a Mr Gong (who I have not heard of before and who doesn't seem to appear on Ishino's site) as well as Wil's own Sweta cross. The transaction was organised with Wil and I expected to pick it up at the next MPP in February but a few days later a package arrived much to the disgust of Mrs S who is really getting a bit fed up with all the deliveries she is having to answer the door to. She knew immediately who it was from because of the enormous amount of parcel tape covering the box from top to bottom - it's a Strijbos signature!

Sunday 17 January 2016

Is this a new puzzle category?

Compressed (NOS1)
Round Trip (NOS3)
In December, Eric Fuller returned from his rather prolonged road trip and bamboozled us with quite a few nice new toys to choose from. I was just a bit cash strapped again, having been hit by several puzzler designers/craftsmen in a short space of time. I decided that I had to buy these 2 puzzles and pass on the others no matter how much I wanted them! At this point in time drooling was only going to make me dehydrated and not actually help me obtain more toys. Having spent the cash, I waited, and waited and waited for weeks. The tracking on the US post website said they were in the UK and the Royal mail site acknowledged it but did not say where they had gone. After 3 weeks, I got rather fed up and called them.  They were, I was told, being held by customs and they would only return to the website once released. So I waited and waited even longer. I'd more or less given up hope when they suddenly arrived in my mail with no final customs demand and no sign that they had even been looked at! Phew! They were entirely intact!

They came out of the packaging and posed for photos. Mrs S, quite rightly this time, said that they looked quite like several others I had and also looked like the ones I had been constructing from those 3 burrsets I had acquired earlier. Obviously Mrs S does pay some attention to my never ending stream of acquisitions. I could not do what she does when I ask if a pair of shoes or clothing is new! She always replies:
"oh no I've had this for ages - don't you remember that I bought it last year?"
I can't argue with her because there is such a continual influx of girls stuff that I have ceased to pay any attention to what it is! But she has answered the door to postie with my stuff and knows whenever I get something new!

She is quite right however to say that they do look suspiciously familiar - they look remarkably like 6 piece burrs. But I said to her and I say to you:
These are something TOTALLY NEW! They might be a completely new puzzle category.
The response was a snort and the comment that I always say that with every puzzle that arrives. Guilty as charged I guess - but I'm sure that I don't declare that they are a new category every time. To prove to her that there is something special - I just move a piece in Compressed and a few pieces in Round Trip and show her a hint of what is inside. There are some very odd shapes in there! I just get a blank look in return. I don't argue because the smell of burning flesh from the laser burning stare is becoming overwhelming and I don't want to risk a Whack! Ouch! until I have had a chance to play.

Sunday 10 January 2016

Beautifully Camouflaged

or beautiful AND camouflaged!
In which I describe burrs and twisty puzzles with a common theme and obtain more punishment from Mrs S.

Portico puzzles
I posted on my New additions page that on Christmas Eve I had just received a wonderful surprise gift from Jakub, the co-owner of Pelikan puzzles. He had sent to me an advance copy of two puzzles designed by Stéphane Chomine (note that after a small fracas on Facebook, Stéphane is not publishing new designs on Ishino's site). These two are the Little Portico and the Portico J and they look very similar to the Guillotine burr designed by the hugely talented Yavuz Demirrhan - they look to be a sort of mirror arrangement to the guillotine which fascinates me. These two puzzles are not yet up for sale on Pelikan's site but keep an eye out because Jakub did post them on his personal Facebook page as a preview of things to come. I always say, whenever I get something new from them that at this moment in time the Pelikan puzzles are the most perfectly made in the world - fit and finish is just superb.

Sunday 3 January 2016

Thought Outside the Box and.....Failed! So....

....thought back in it again!

Triagonal Agony
First new post of the year and this is a brilliant puzzle that really kept me going - proving that I am not terribly bright!

Back in November I had a little epiphany about packing puzzles....I needed to start thinking outside the box. One of the most important triggers for this was a brilliant puzzle that I bought from Eric Fuller - the One Hole designed by Bram Cohen. But even before this I had a trial run when Brian Menold sold me a beautiful copy of the L-I-Vator cube designed by Laszlo Molnar (apparently who is also known as Lacika Kmolnar). The L-I-Vator taught me that there were quite a few steps to be done between assembly of the basic shape outside of the box and the actual packing it in. The requirement for rotations of more than one of the pieces made it a really fun challenge and I loved it. It was not hugely difficult but certainly had a couple of brilliant A-ha! moments.

When Brian announced that he was producing another of Laszlo's creations, the Triagonal Agony, I promised myself that I would jump as soon as the went up for sale. I was actually on-line at the moment that Brian made his announcement that they were up for sale and quickly added my preferred one to my shopping cart along with another beauty (the Tropical Fish). There is an odd quirk of the shopping cart that Brian uses that allows puzzles already in someone's cart to be snatched out by someone else buying before the original purchaser gets to the checkout. This has happened to me several times over the years and Brian always tries to make good on it if you ask him about it. Apparently it was my turn to do the snatching! Hooray! I got there first! I ripped the copy out of someone else's cart when I paid. A day or so later Brian emailed me to ask whether I would agree to let that one go and he would make me another copy using the same woods as my L-I-Vator cube. Well I hate to disappoint anyone and I trust Brian implicitly so of course I agreed and a few weeks later I received my new toys with the Triagonal Agony being made out of Holly and Marblewood to match my other puzzle.

Friday 1 January 2016

Happy New Year - My best puzzles from 2015

Happy New Year to all my readers - may it be a happy, healthy and successful year for you all!

Yet again, my study was in a huge state of disarray and I was forced to tidy it up last weekend and can now provide photos of the state of the study! When she who frightens me to death shouts at me again, I will try to tidy up the rest and take some more pics to show off. Here are the ones in my study for your perusal: (edited - she saw the nice tidy study and forced me to clean up the dining room and living room piles too - pictures added)

Above the computer we have some of my most prized possessions:

Ooh! Shiny shiny! And gorgeous wood!

To the left is my display of N-ary puzzles, Eyckmans specials, Fuller loveliness, Menold gorgeousness as well as Vinco's and Young! There are so many from Eric and Brian that they are getting intermingled!

Notice the bat in a privileged position 
To the right of my desk are hand made twisties as well as puzzle books and Interlocking puzzles from Bernhard (and a few others) Packed VERY tightly!

Katie watches my every move!
Finally in the study on display are my Pelikan lovelies and the incredible work (most of it) from Stephan Baumegger. Some are on display in the living room and dining room!

How much more wood can a man take?
Since I published this post at midnight she made me tidy up more and here are the results:

Larger and special puzzles in the dining room:

Stickmen, Hales puzzles, Heyns Puzzles, Burrsets, and a monster from Bill Cutler

On a lamp table are some gorgeous but smaller toys that Mrs S seems to approve of:

Specials from Brian Menold, Scott Peterson puzzles, KCubes and a beauty from Jakub
 Finally on a basket on the floor are my special burrs that meet "her" approval:

Fuller Burrs, Baumegger special 6 piece burrs and Arteludes beauties
For the last few years on New Years Day I have been posting a summary of my favourite puzzles that I solved in the preceding year. This always coincides with the emailed vote that Peter Hajek takes of the puzzle world for his End of year Puzzle Party (EPP) and publishes shortly after. However there is a major difference between the result that Peter seeks to mine - he asks for the top 3 puzzles that a collector has acquired in the previous 12 months and for me I only include the top puzzles that I have solved in that time. I use a combination of my database and my photo gallery to work out which ones were solved when. It is a lovely excuse to peruse back and drool over all the gorgeous toys I have played with.