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!

The cross pops off the stand
Allard reviewed the Sweta Cross here a week ago but I couldn't resist writing my own to further entice you to buy one of Wil's wonderful designs.

In September last year Wil was approached by a Swiss company who asked him to produce a puzzle for their customers. Obviously they didn't want to make their customers feel stupid so Wil crippled it a little bit to make it significantly easier to solve. The stand for that company was a plain red to make the whole thing look like the national flag. The name of the puzzle is a mixture of the first 2 letters of Switzerland and Wil's Russian girlfriend Sveta with whom he stayed whilst he completed the design. Now I have no idea how much truth there is in that but that is the story that Wil sent out when the puzzle was made available - believe it if you like but it makes for a nice tale. Wil knew that his other customers/suckers (that means you and me) would be interested in obtaining a new design from him and so he also made a harder version for us which is what is available now.

Original Aluminium Cross
It does look very similar to his wonderful Aluminium cross which I reviewed here in 2011 which is still one of my favourites of his puzzles but let me advise you this new one is completely different in solution method. The original is for sale by Tomas Linden at his Sloyd store and Brian Young's MrPuzzle store or you can get it at auction just now on Puzzle Paradise - the auction ends on the 14th February so you have plenty of time to make up your mind.

The goal as always is to take it apart with the special instruction that you must not use any banging, magnets or force at all. What kind of barbarian does he think I am? We all know that the correct solution to these puzzles is to submerge them in water (that's an MPP group in joke). When I got it out of the package after a particularly long day at work, I had a quick look and could not quite fathom any appropriate thoughts at all (Not very bright at the best of times but much worse after a hard day's work) so I then had a play with the Heavy Metal Triangle and couldn't do that either. The following day at work, I was a bit fresher and had a bit of time to explore further. There are big brass bits that you can see sliding around inside and 3 ball bearings alongside them visible in the end of every piece through a little window.

Ball bearings galore - there are 12 in the puzzle
The important thing with this puzzle is to actually stop and "think"! Just fiddling with this one will not help you at all and there is absolutely zero chance that it can be solved by accident. It is clear that the ball bearings need to go in the holes in the brass pieces but what happens then? Do they have to do something inside? How many need to go inside and what about the other 3 windows? All questions that you need to think about and answer before you can solve this puzzle. My intial experimentation revealed that for some reason the balls didn't want to go down the holes!!! Hmmm! Eventually I made a discovery that was key and the A-ha! moment was loud enough to make my colleagues in the coffee room wake up from their stupor!

Solved! Inscribed with the name and my usual serial number 021
The puzzle is not particularly difficult but needs thought and dexterity. The remarks that have been circulating on Facebook have basically all said that this was back to the "classic Strijbos" that we have all come to admire over the years. I agree - it is ingenious and fun. It is certainly a puzzle that can be handed to non-puzzlers and they will enjoy playing with it and will actually stand a chance at solving it. At a mere €48, this is well worth a purchase - get it from Wil himself or I am sure the usual puzzle outlets will have it in stock soon.

Heavy Metal Triangle
The beautiful burr above is aptly named - this is not one of Wil's usual aluminium constructions, this one is made of steel! I am also rather grateful that Wil has confirmed that it is stainless steel and should not rust. This is a VERY heavy puzzle for it's size and superbly made. The internal edges are so perfect that they are almost sharp to touch and hence everything fits together perfectly also as you can see in the picture, the outer edges have been bevelled making it a joy to play with and not too dangerous to play with. Try not to drop this on your toes or a kitchen tile as damage will ensue!

There are a few movements possible from the beginning and after a little exploration and thought the solution jumps out at you. Yes, this is another puzzle that you solve in your head rather than just fiddling. The level is just 4.2 so not high at all but because it is based on a triangular grid, it doesn't just leap out at you. The movements are a pleasant solid feel and it slides beautifully. When it comes apart you will see the pieces are all identical:

3 identical burr pieces
The machining that went into the manufacture of this puzzle cannot have been cheap because this puzzle was quite expensive at €115 but to my mind it was a worthwhile investment for the sheer quality. The pieces are so well made that when piled up in a stack the surfaces are so perfectly flat that they actually stick together when you attempt to separate them:

These will stick together due to their perfection

To ensure that my wood fetish doesn't overwhelm me, even more metal arrived the day after the package from Wil. My VERY good friend from the Far East had managed to negotiate a few more spectacular wire puzzles from Mr Wang Yulong. These beauties are proving quite a challenge!

Chinese lanterns
I now have a full set of the Chinese Lantern puzzles right up to the level 5! The level 1 and 2 are pretty easy but my original level 3 is still enough of a challenge to me now that the bigger ones frighten me to death!!!

Smart Snail
Spiral Horns

The Smart snail seems to be a variant of the classic ball and chain with a huge tendency to make a knot with that big spiral. The Spiral horns has completely stymied me so far!

Lucky Lantern
The Lucky Lantern has proved to be quite unlucky for me so far - I have been completely flummoxed by it. I thought I knew what was required but can't seem to make it work. Galaxy frightens me so much that I have saved it for later!

3 Moons around the Sun
Long and Winding Road
I think I know how to solve the Moons around the sun but I actually cannot work out what is the aim of the Long and winding road! Such fun!!!

Lambert Bright's "The Ring Bearer"
Binary Arts' "Horse"
2 rather rare disentanglements were in the package too! One is N-ary and not too tough but the other is giving me a bit of a headache!

These should keep me busy for quite some time! I doubt that they will make my wood fetish go away!



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