Sunday, 28 February 2016

Diagonal Moves are Great!

In fact they are bloody marvelous!

3 Gorgeous packing puzzles from Brian Menold and Laszlo Kmolnar
You will need to excuse any editing errors in this post - I have been desperate to improve my writing methods to make them easier to achieve and less work. The Blogger on-line system is not particularly responsive and I have been trying to move to a plain text editing system using Multimarkdown in a special editor called Scrivener which allows me to keep all my thoughts and plans etc in a single document and organise everything without having to worry much about formatting and having the distraction of the web browser open at the same time. It also means that I have full copies of all my blog posts outside of Google’s system if I ever wish to move elsewhere (for example SquareSpace looks fun as does a self hosted WordPress site). So I am trying out an entirely new system here and my grammar and spelling may wander off whilst I learn new methods - just bear with me.

Today’s topic is based on some gorgeous puzzles I received this week from both Brian Menold and Eric Fuller - all the puzzles that I will discuss today are made considerably more confusing and definitely more interesting by the fact that they do not require simple linear movements. The addition of diagonal (and also rotational in one puzzle) really up the ante on the puzzle. They may well make the puzzle harder to manufacture but it is more than worth it for such a fantastic end result.

The first beauty that I am going to mention is the third in a series from Brian Menold and designed by the genius that is Laszlo Molnar (also known as Lacika Kmolnar) - I reviewed the first 2 in a blog about think Outside the box. In that post I described how I spent many hours struggling to find first the special fancy move that would allow the crucial piece to fit in the box and also the particular assembly of the pieces that would make it possible. Brian emailed to let me know that he was planning on making the third in the series - called No Holes Barred by Laszlo and asked whether I would be wanting it and if so would I want it in the same woods as the previous 2? He said he had just enough of those woods to allow one more puzzle to be made - I absolutely lurve the combination of Marblewood and Holly so I immediately emailed a definite yes back to him and I knew that I didn’t have to worry about the scrum that occurs when Brian posts an update (pretty much every time I get a puzzle stolen out of my shopping cart before I manage to login and pay). I was blown away by the look of Brian’s new additions and so bought more than I anticipated - Mrs S really did not approve when they arrived and the laser burning stare was utilised to maximum effect as well as the whiplash tongue.

No Holes Barred - Marblewood and Holly
The No Holes Barred puzzle was offered in quite a few gorgeous woods and they all got snapped up very quickly. Brian said this about it:
The latest packing puzzle brain teaser from Laszlo is cool! He told me he thought is was easier than Triagonal Agony but after three days of playing with my prototype I had to get back to work and ask him to send me the solution! This is another of his Aha! moment puzzles.
I was very much hoping for a puzzle that was a bit easier than the Triagonal Agony! That one took me weeks before my Aha! moment. Of course it had to be the first one I tried. The puzzle had arrived with the pieces outside of the box and all shrink-wrapped together - no chance to cheat by having a quick peek at the solution. I tipped them out and took the photo above and had a play that evening with a cat on my lap whilst watching TV with the “first wife”. Needless to say I failed to solve it when the little bugger (cat not wife! Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear!) romped off with one of the pieces in his mouth. That night I put it in my bag to take to work for the next few days (just in case I got a chance to play).

The key feature of this puzzle is that there is a half block stuck to the box which severely limits the way the pieces can be inserted and also one of the 5 identical pieces is differentiated by having a block diagonally cut away. The first thing I did was try to work out what the special pieces might allow and then see if I could utilise that special feature. There are several possibilities and I obviously would need to try them all out. Then I had to “think outside the box” again - doing it in the box would make it far harder. I failed for the first couple of days and one evening, I had a late finish because of an educational evening I had to attend. Whilst waiting in the Ivory Tower for the meeting to begin, I had a spare hour and under the watchful eye of one of my colleagues, I proceeded to investigate systematically. There are 4 or 5 possible assemblies that might fit in place which can be doubled by rotating the cube through 180º. There was one that looked particularly interesting because it potentially required a ver fancy coordinate motion to work. I tried to get this to happen for about ½ an hour making loud clacking noises and both amusing and annoying nearby colleagues who were struggling to concentrate on more academic topics. Eventually I had to give up on that particular approach and look elsewhere. Just before the meeting was about to begin I had my Aha! moment and all of a sudden I knew how it worked - I got a round of applause from my bemused colleague and a sigh of relief from several others. It’s amazing how annoying I can be to many other people and not just Mrs S!

Finally solved - now it can be put away on show
Another puzzle I couldn’t resist from Brian was a design by Gregory Benedetti - Little Slide Plank. My version was made from Red Oak and Black Palm. I have previously bought a few coordinate motion puzzles from the amazing Vinco (aka Václav Obšivač) - but haven’t bought any coordinate motion puzzles for a while. This new one by Greg was a good price so it had to be added to my shopping cart:

Mrs S says all my puzzle are just cubes - she might actually be right!
Brian said the following about it:
I made this coordinate motion cube just for fun. The three pieces sometimes take a bit of pushing and pulling to get moving but it is not that difficult to take apart. And with only three piece, reassembly is quite easy too. Only a few made of each as these were made from stock left over from another project and a bit of a last minute decision.
Scary movements!
Picking it up in just the right places causes it to literally slide apart and then the pieces drop on the cat who is sleeping on your lap:

He didn't seem to mind!
Good view of the pieces
He didn’t even wake up this time! Putting it back together is not difficult as Brian said but it makes a fabulous worry bead to play with. What a bargain at $19!

Finally today I have to show off yet another amazing design by Gregory Benedetti. The New Old School Puzzles were designed in time for last years’ IPP and Greg worked on Eric to make them in wood. Eventually the convincing worked and Eric said yes. I reviewed the first two of them here and was completely bowled over by the amazing design and production. When Eric said that he planned on making some more in the series then I knew that I had to have them - on the predicted day I sat refreshing my browser repeatedly until the update went live. Another 2 were available and I snapped up both - I did want some of the others but after splashing out with Brian, I had to be careful. I really didn’t want to give Mrs S another excuse for a Whack! Ouch! Pictured below is the Crenel puzzle which is the number 5 in the NOS series:

Just another 6 piece burr? I don't think so!
It is gorgeous in Purpleheart and looks just like a standard 6 piece burr except that no standard linear moves will work. The hallmark of this series is that odd diagonal movements are required and many are coordinate motion. This means that the standard Burrtools application cannot solve it for you.

Eric said this about it:

Crenel is the fifth of the NOS designs and is difficult to disassemble and assemble. It has extremely unusual movements that will have you muttering under your breath when you take it apart, and exclaming admiration for Gregory’s genius when you reassemble. The peculiar back and forth gate movements are extraordinary.

The first thing I noticed was that it was much looser than Eric’s usual output but after playing with it I reckon that is required to ensure that everything slides properly in all the required directions. Literally after a minute or so you get an idea of the complexity of what is happening inside. Notice in that picture the diagonally oriented slots and cuts.

As I played, I noticed that there are several blind ends and even unexpected back tracking is required - this must be the “back and forth gate movement” that he meant. The disassembly is not horrifically difficult - and after a short while the puzzle splits into two halves. One half falls apart easily and the other needs further moves before you end up with this:

These must have been a nightmare to fashion!
Make sure you have noted which pieces belong where before you scramble the pieces as the reassembly from scratch is a real challenge. I absolutely loved it - it is my favourite of the series so far. The fourth one - Transfer (NOS2) remains unsolved - it frightens me to death! Every piece moves at the same time!

Of course I had to take a group photo:

4 seemingly simple 6 piece burrs - don't let the looks fool you
I really hope that Eric makes the others in the series - if he does I will be sure to throw my money at him again. I suggest you go to Cubic now - there seems to be a few of each of the NOS puzzles left just now.

I have made a video of the Crenel puzzle to show off the amazing movements to those of you who haven’t managed to get a copy and also if you have managed to disassemble it but not managed to work out the reassembly then the video may help you.

Hopefully I have convinced you that diagonal moves are great? Now I need to get back to solving puzzles with circular moves - Derek and Steve's last productions - Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum are causing me some problems! Twiddle Dum is in pieces and I cannot put it back together and Twiddle Dee just will not come apart! They are MUCH tougher than previous helical burrs.

Damn these are tough!!!

I hope you have enjoyed the post - if you do have any suggestions on writing methods and platforms then I’m open to suggestions. Just comment below or drop me a line via my Contact page.

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