Sunday 31 July 2016

It's Good to Play With Some More Basic Puzzles

Und plus Kugel
Recently I have been playing with, and failing to solve, some incredibly complex puzzles including Brian Young's SMS Phone, Johan's Moluscub and Jakub's Superhero burrs. So I was really delighted when I received an emailed newsletter from my favourite puzzle pusher, Wil Strijbos, with details of a whole bunch of disentanglement puzzles that had been produced by Jean Claude Constantin just in time for people attending this years' IPP in Japan. This set of beautifully made wire (and string) puzzles looked like a trip back to some very basic disentanglements with very simple shapes intertwined. Looking at these I felt that I was going back to some nice "BASIC" (Blush) puzzles for a little bit of light relief. I knew they wouldn't be really easy because Wil had said this about them:
Most of them are very challenging and hard to solve. But you can "Try when you fly" on your way back home ;)
There were 10 new designs available and I had already obtained 2 of them. One was the U-Twins which had been inside Allard's Loopy box exchange last year. I wrote about that one at the beginning of this month when I called it Allard's Evil Puzzle. From my experience with this puzzle alone, I knew that I just HAD to have the rest in the series! The U-Twins/Evil puzzle had taken me months and months to solve and even then I had needed a clue from Joe at the last MPP. If that was anything to go by then the other new ones were essential buys!

I placed my order last Sunday for all the ones I didn't have already and was hoping that they'd arrive whilst I was home on a Thursday afternoon and "she" was out. They did arrive on Thursday but unfortunately whilst I was out at work.

U-Loop - Derek's current nemesis
Mrs S was not impressed when she answered the door to our postie and a nice box arrived with Wil's absolutely unmistakeable packing tape covering every edge and corner. She was even less impressed when she saw the potential jingliness that I unpacked. She gave me a laser burning stare and threatened me with a Whack! Ouch! if I so much as thought about making a noise during our TV time that evening. Gulp! I promised to be quiet and she covered up the laser. Even with my previous experience I was reminded how difficult these could be by my good friend Derek who had been given a copy of the U-Loop which he had managed to take apart some weeks before but to date had singularly failed to reassemble - he was relying on me to tell him how to put it back together! If a genius of that calibre had struggled then I was going to be in trouble (after all, I'm just a newbie at these puzzles!) We then proceeded to have a discussion about genius and newbieness and I went to bed later that evening chuckling - it is really good to have puzzle friends around the world who can challenge each other and generally take the piss! Derek and I do that a lot!

So after dinner had been cooked, consumed and the washing up and other chores done, I brought my new toys and added them to the pile of "to be done" puzzles on the tray next to my armchair. Mrs S turned on the laser and looked at me significantly which hurt quite a bit. I promised to be as quiet as possible and also promised to clear up the increasingly large pile of unsolved puzzles that was now on that tray. Johan's beauties are truly gorgeous but they are also truly gigantic and the tray really was piled quite high. I put a few away so as to try and avoid another Whack! Ouch! but after another delivery yesterday the pile is again at unruly, violence inducing levels!

New Pelikan Puzzles
Bubbloids from Martin
I decided to start with what looked like the easiest of the bunch and picked up the Und Plus Kugel puzzle (so called because one shape is an &  and the other is a + shape with a ball on it. I played (quietly) for a couple of minutes and solved it straight away:

Solved it quite quickly
Despite it only taking me a few minutes, I was not at all disappointed. I was pleased to have something that wasn't impossibly hard but even more importantly, I was able to fathom the design decisions that JCC had made. This one was deigned to look very similar to some of the old classics that we've all seen as a child but he added lengths of metal, twists and the ball to deliberately block the usual method of solution. It is possible to carry out the usual moves but then get caught with the pieces just not quite separable....beautiful! It is also designed so that you hold it in such a way that you block the required moves with your fingers. Any experienced disentangler will solve this one quite quickly but will love the design features in it. Reassembly is not terribly hard - even if you scramble the parts and wait a while, it shouldn't give too much trouble. The best bit after that, is something that I have not had much chance to do for quite a while....torture others!

Usually my Friday afternoons are non-clinical and I spend the time in my office sorting my paperwork and emails, but last Friday I had been asked if I could rearrange my week and work all day in the emergency theatre (OR). The 'Friday club' of surgeons, anaesthetists and nursing staff are a great bunch and always looking for some distraction as it's miserable working on a Friday afternoon when everyone else is heading off for a weekend of fun. Let's just say that I had a lovely afternoon torturing quite a number of my colleagues and the Und plus Kugel played centre stage. I had an absolute ball watching people try to solve it - most people fell right into JCC's trap and really struggled - it took them 15-30 minutes before they got it whilst I taunted them! That was the best Friday afternoon I have spent at work in a long time! If you get a chance to buy this one then do so...not for you but for your colleagues. Of course, one of the other puzzles to make an appearance is my trusty Symmetrik - this keeps people occupied for hours and I love watching people solve it but not realise they've done it and then move past the solution.

8U8 twins
This pair of puzzles were pointed out to me by Wil as a couple of his favourites amongst the bunch. The name obviously describes the 3 piece shapes and the aim is to remove the bottom dangling 8 shape. They are named the 8U8 Groß and 8US Klein - it is not easy to see from the photo but the 8's in each of them is of a different size and the orientation of the bottom one is reversed. The end result is that they have totally different solutions. I started with the small/Klein version expecting it to be very similar to standard wire puzzles like the one to the left - maybe the U would add an extra step?

Oh boy! I found out pretty quickly why Wil favoured it! There is MUCH more to it than the standard wire puzzle moves. It requires 3 distinct sequences of movements and they MUST be carried out with extremely accurate positioning! If you are a fraction of a mm out then it will not go. It is a particularly beautiful set of moves and a real eye-opener to find that so much more is needed just by adding the extra circle and the U. After about 15-20 minutes I had the 2 pieces:

Klein version solved
I left the pieces for about ½ an hour and then tried the reassembly. This gave me a bit of a fright! I sort of recalled the rough idea but the extreme positioning accuracy required made this a HUGE challenge! At first I was unable even to get the detached 8 even to engage with the entry point and after a while I finally got it to begin the reassembly but could not complete the sequence - I was blocked. It must have taken me an hour to put it back together and I loved every moment of it. There was no panic that I thought I might never manage it (remember that Wil NEVER gives solutions) but it was a huge challenge from such simple pieces. This one is wonderful!

I then moved on to the Groß version and was stunned when I picked it up and had it apart in my hands with no effort at all! I looked at it closely and realised that my copy has a very slight problem with the tolerances - the U will just slip through the large 8 piece (this will not happen with the Klein version).

Shortcut - it just comes off like this
but you KNOW that's not the solution!
Obviously - I knew that wasn't right so looked at my photo for the correct start orientation and then went about solving it the intended way without pulling the U through. Despite the flaw this version is even better!!! The change of orientation of the bottom 8 makes a huge difference to what is required - it is MUCH more complex and took me the best part of a few hours to work it out to the point where I properly understood it and could do the required moves repeatably. Reassembly is also tricky if you've left the pieces a while for 2 reasons: the accuracy of positioning is even more crucial that the Klein and also the moves are considerably more complex. Even with the fault in the tolerances, this one is an absolutely terrific puzzle. As a pair they are nothing short of perfect! Thanks Wil and JCC!

These puzzles were not as "basic" as I thought when I ordered them but they are just what I needed to break up the challenge of the incredibly complex puzzles that I had been working on recently. Simple designs do not necessarily mean simple puzzles - I am pacing myself so as not to solve them all too quickly and am really enjoying going back to some "basic" puzzle ideas.

When you see Wil at IPP, buy this set of won't be disappointed.


  1. Excellent, can't wait to get them. I'll be very interested in your take on Zauberschlussel.

    1. That one looks pretty horrific - I'll be saving it for MUCH later I think! I've been hoping for a much easier set of puzzles to focus on for a little while!

  2. How did you get the new pelikan puzzles? They are not yet on their website.


    1. I am very good friends with Jakub and he offers me the chance to buy them early. I often write little reviews for him to put in the puzzle descriptions.