Sunday 29 May 2016

Moving in Sequences

OMG! It took me 10 days!
Today is my late Mum's birthday and hence this blog post may be a little shorter than normal due to sadness and a visit by my brother. Today I am going to mention some puzzles that I have very little experience with and am really not very good - the group that I refer to in my personal classification as Sequential movement puzzles. Now you could argue that almost all puzzles are solved by sequences of movements and hence are ALL sequential movement puzzles and I do agree but that sort of argument is not really helpful. I know that a burr requires a set sequence but I still categorise it as a burr. The Gray code or N-ary group also is a sequential movement puzzle using a logical sequence but again that is not useful.

The photo above is Johan Heyns' production of Delirium 13 that I mentioned last week. Now we could argue the semantics of whether it is a burr, or an N-ary or a sequential movement puzzle but it doesn't help things much....I have called it a N-ary puzzle in my database. The difference now is that the photo shows the final position after the strict sequence of 5460 moves and after just one more I had this:

Sunday 22 May 2016

Trust the Craftsman to Make a Good Choice

More Moves Aren't Always Best..... Except sometimes they are!

Breath-takingly gorgeous - Delirium 13
I've been on a bit of a burr whirlwind recently and have really enjoyed myself! Below I will be discussing some recent puzzles I solved with the theme of trusting the craftsman to make good choices. Many people are either attracted to or repulsed by high level burrs and I have flip-flopped between both feelings. I do own some incredibly high level burrs and am proud to have them in my collection but am aware that I don't have the skills to solve them. They make great talking points and look gorgeous on my shelves but after the first few, I really stopped buying any more. Most of the burrs I have bought recently have something much more interesting to them in terms of solve process or have a very interesting shape/look. I really want to have a chance of actually solving the puzzle to get maximum value from my purchase.

Of course, there has to be an exception that proves my rule and above is that exception! It is the Delirium 13 puzzle designed by Stéphane Chomine and then altered slightly and beautifully crafted by my good friend from South Africa, Johan Heyns. This fabulous construction in African Rosewood, Pau Marfim, Cedrella and Burmuru for the frame with Rosewood and Cherry for the burr pieces even came with a tool to allow me to dismantle the frame and reset if needed. With 5461 moves for the first piece I might just need that there tool! So why did I buy it and go against my edict that high level burrs are not something I should be collecting? Well as well as wanting to support Johan, it should be noted that this is not just any old burr.... it is an N-ary puzzle and is very similar in process to Bill Cutler's Binary Burr. The upshot of this is that once the logical sequence is fathomed, then it is just a matter of stamina and getting through to the end without getting lost. Despite such complexity this puzzle moves beautifully and so far has been great fun to play with. Of course, I have NOT finished it - I have attempted it twice now and each time managed probably about 2500 moves and miraculously found myself back at the beginning. Doh! I have absolutely no idea at what point I got turned around but it seems to be easily done and I never recognise it until I am right back to the start. Definitely NOT terribly bright!

Sunday 15 May 2016

Hanayama Cast Padlock

Hanayama Cast Padlock
A quickie today - I had fallen behind on the most recent of the Hanayama puzzles and rapidly caught up in April with the purchase of the most recent 3 of the series from a new UK store run by a nice gentleman by the name of Nic Picot. For those of us here, he offers the best value and postage but for those in Europe you will probably be better of buying from Hendrik Haak or from Tomas Linden. In the Americas then I would definitely suggest using Puzzle Master who have the whole lot as well as a gigantic selection of other goodies to tempt you and in Oz then Brian Young has a great selection plus many of his own wonderful creations.

The original cassette
(pic from the design competition site)
The most recent of the Hanayamas to be released was the Cast Padlock which was based on one of the winners of a Jury Honourable Mention award in the 2014 IPP design competition (London). It was designed by Korean designer JinHoo Ahn and his version, which I did get to play with (but not solve) at the IPP was called Cassette. It was beautifully made from Aluminium with two of the pieces beautifully anodised in matt gold - it was gorgeous.
JinnHoo Ahn has also been responsible for the Cast G&G (which I have solved but not actually reviewed for some reason (despite having a Hanayama version as well as a hand made wooden copy).

Sunday 8 May 2016

MrPuzzle Visit - Part 1

In Mr Puzzle’s lair (repected professional on right, neophyte on left).
Ed - Just look at that display! Soooooo jealous!
I am once again very grateful to Mike Desilets (the Puzzlemad foreign correspondent) for providing me with this wonderful article and reminding me that I am very overdue making a purchase from MrPuzzle. I've had a very busy week and also had to work in the hospital emergency operating theatres all day yesterday. This meant that my usual gym visit HAD to be done today before my various chores. Mrs S has told me that if I get fat then I'm out and I daren't take that risk! After 22 years of marriage, I still have the same waist size as on our wedding day and cannot possibly risk a change. The supplied article from Mike has needed almost no editing and will give me a free afternoon to catch up with the gardening and avoid yet another Whack! Ouch! 

Aloha Kākou readers.

This week I have something quite special to report. While I’ve enjoyed doing puzzle review-type posts for Puzzlemad, I am VERY pleased to be able to report on something a tad more social this time. The online puzzle world is very stimulating in its' own way, but meeting and talking puzzles in person with a professional is really special and not something I am ever able to enjoy on this tiny rock of an island.

Thanks to some extremely fortuitous work scheduling I was able to spend a little time in Queensland, Australia on my way back from a project a couple months ago. Why fortuitous, you ask? Well, besides getting to spend a day in the magnificent little city of Brisbane, it gave me the opportunity to drop in on one of the world’s premier puzzle designers and makers, Brian Young, and his lovely wife Sue, who together run MrPuzzle. Brian needs no introduction to most puzzlers, so I’ll assume you have at least a passing familiarity with his work. If you don’t, just study the MrPuzzle website and/or search any of the major blogs for reviews of his puzzles.

Sunday 1 May 2016

Masterful Craftsmanship Leads to Hours of Fun!

Momus on its' stand
I've mentioned Johan Heyns quite a few times on this blog - he had stopped making puzzles for a very long time and focussed on other hobbies for a while but, dare I say it, thanks to encouragement from me as well as unfortunately losing his job, he has begun making puzzles again. Luckily for us in the community, they are available in small numbers for purchase. They are not cheap but they ARE very high quality and so far have always had something interesting about their design or solution. The Alfons Eyckmans' Cocoon puzzle is one of my all time favourites which remains on show in my living room. Today I will be focussing on another one that I couldn't resist as well as another delight that I received as a gift.

When Johan emailed out and posted on Facebook that he was going to make a batch of Momus puzzles designed by the rather prolific Terry Smart, I couldn't resist it. Terry is a Scotsman who spends much of his time working offshore on the oil rigs and hence has quite a bit of time away from his home and family which no doubt helps him hone his design skills. Having trained as a med student and junior doctor in Edinburgh as well as Fife and the Borders, I have a bit of a soft spot for anything that originates from there (yes, including Mrs S! Whack! Ouch! Of course I had to say that, dear) so when a puzzle by a Scotsman comes up - even Mrs S can't talk me out of it!

I have watched Terry begin to play with Burrtools and very rapidly become a real expert. The thing about using BT for puzzle design is that many people seem to get fixated on producing the highest difficulty level possible and the end result is a puzzle that is only solvable by super humans like Goetz (and a few others I know on Facebook). I personally only own a few very high level burr puzzles and expect that I will never be able to solve them - I top out at level 40-50 for the first piece! Terry decided to take a different route entirely in his design - he went for unusual shapes or interesting solution pathways. This interesting approach was so evident that Eric Fuller also couldn't resist producing one or two of his designs. Eric is not interested in super tough puzzles - he wants fun and interesting ones and he obviously agrees with me that Terry does just that.