|Just 6 piece burrs? Definitely not!|
From the left... Wallace, Gwendoline, Thrym and Gromit
The pic at the top of the post is a wonderful series by Stephan Baumegger. Three of them were in my top 10 favourite puzzles from last year. They all look like variants of the standard 6 piece burr but they are much more fun than the normal burr. They do consist of 6 pieces but that's pretty much where the similarity ceases. Most 6 piece burrs (I have three very very beautiful sets (see number 7 from the top 10)) are based on a 2x2x6 or 2x2x8 grid for each stick and so there are severe limitations on the shape of the pieces that can be made and the moves that are required to assemble or disassemble them. Rob Stegmann has a huge discourse on the possible shapes of burr sticks and is probably the world's greatest authority on them - his site is well worth reading through. This series of burrs from Stephan is of great interest to me because the sticks are actually based on a 3x3x8 grid which allows for hugely complex constructions and effectively allows him to design a moving interlocking maze. They are less difficult than the 18 piece high level burrs because they have less pieces and a lower number of moves to solve them but I find them absolutely fascinating because I love the exploration involved in solving the maze and much of it is open to be seen and explored.
|Gwendoline (I have no idea why)|
Gwendoline was the first one I played with about 6 or 8 weeks ago and it took me about ½ to ¾ of an hour to dismantle it and the reassembly after scrambling the pieces was another hour. It’s a wonderful maze to explore and a fabulous piece of the puzzle maker’s art. The pieces are phenomenally complex and I see why Stephan thought that it was impossible but it has proved to be very stable and a fantastic worry bead to play with.
|Gwendoline pieces - incredibly complex|
Next up is another fantastic burr that Stephan sent me called Backflip:
|2 halves of Backflip|
Showing off the front and back sides of the sticks - a brilliant design!
What followed last night was a good hour of swearing under my breath to work out firstly which way to group them into 2 sets and then how to interlock them in a way that will let the 2 halves come back together. This is some serious fun (at least I can say that in retrospect) and is another that I can heartily recommend. It’s not part of that series but very nearly.
|Divorce - an odd name?|
|Amulet from Adin|
After seeing Divorce in the flesh I wondered whether it was a caged 6 piece burr. However when I started to play with it I realised that it was a very different beast entirely - it was a 6 piece burr in a cage that splits apart. There are a few blind ends but like many of Stephan’s designs there is a lovely pathway through the puzzle with the main challenge being to work out what move goes next - it’s almost a sequential discovery puzzle but without tools. I was playing with this at work when after a fair while it split apart and my mouth must have dropped open because the nursing staff around me started to laugh at my expression. I quickly put it back together again and went back and forth to this point a few times but never dared to go any further at work. I now understand the reason for the name - a married couple are a very complex series of interlocking parts and it takes some real determination to split them apart. That evening at home, whilst trying to block out the sound of Mrs S coughing her lungs onto the work surface, I split it apart and took a couple of quick iPhone photos of the two halves (just as an emergency clue in case I got totally stuck later) and marvelled at the design.
|2 parts of the divorce - like a married couple?|
I finally dared to take it completely apart to take my final photo of the scrambled the pieces. Just as in a separated couple, the 2 halves don't fall apart but it is possible to make it happen. Again, as in a divorce it is with some determination perfectly possible to put it all back together but it takes a fairly good memory and a good bit of determination. I do think that puzzle assembly is easier than people assembly although the madmen I work with seem to dismantle people quite regularly - it is amazing what you can do with a knife and a powersaw! The reassembly of the puzzle is great fun - there is the initial challenge (like Backflip) of organising the 2 halves correctly and believe me, when you’re not very bright like me, this is a huge challenge!
|If these are pieces of a divorced couple then these must be organs?|
Now I'm getting silly - I blame the Manflubola!
Have a nice weekend everybody - keep well and try to avoid either being pulled apart or falling apart (save that for the puzzles).