Sunday 11 September 2016

Packing in some beautiful wood

BDSM with interesting box to pack
At least twice this year (here and here) I have waxed lyrical about the fantastic collaboration between extraordinary puzzle designer Laszlo Kmolnar and the amazing craftsman Brian Menold. Laszlo has produced a whole series of cubic packing puzzles which look quite simple yet require some very complex thinking because they are not just about randomly rearranging pieces until they fit in the container. Each design has added something special....either rotational moves to orient some of the pieces once inside the container or some very unusual diagonal sliding moves to get the pieces to interlink. The shapes are just "simple" cubes very like the classic Soma cube but with containers that have very constrained (and sometimes multiple) openings for the pieces to be placed through. So not only do you need to find the correct one of a number of possible cube constructions but then you need to work out how to get the pieces through the window(s) and then how to get them facing the correct way. I absolutely adored the ones I had bought so far and despite not being good at packing puzzles, I had managed to solve them all.

I am not sure why the puzzle was called BDSM - I am not really into that scene despite all the Whack! Ouch!'s that I receive but maybe it's because you need to be masochistic to try it?

L-I-Vator II
Ipe and Canarywood
The puzzles Brian makes are always stunning and his choice of woods is superb. I was very lucky that I managed to get the first few of the Kmolnar puzzles all made with the beautiful Marblewood and contrasting Holly. Unfortunately Brian had run out of the Marblewood for the L-I-Vator II and that one had to be in Ipe and Canarywood. It looked great but it did mean my series was interrupted. Just before Brian's last update he asked me whether I would like to complete my series with the same woods and of course I jumped at the chance so I got BDSM in that beautiful pairing and also got a second copy of L-I-Vator II too giving me the complete set! Laszlo is incredibly prolific and has designed many many puzzles in different categories (he had 3 new designs in the 2016 design competition - I ran out of money and could not buy any of those but hopefully will manage to get some in the future). The BDSM is apparently the last in the cube series that he will be designing and I really look forward to the next puzzles he works on. I have so far completely failed to solve the sliding puzzle that he showed (and I showed you) back in April.

When I received the BDSM I quickly created a cube and thought to myself that this is going to be less difficult than the others. After all there are 2 very large holes in the box to pass the pieces through and forming the cube really hadn't taken me very long:

BDSM came with a lovely stand - how hard can it be?
I really don't enjoy most packing puzzles because they involve too much trial and error and with my goldfish memory, I cannot remember what orientation and order of pieces I have tried before. The best part of this series of puzzles for me was that only the very first few attempts are trial and error. I initially thought that the large holes in the box would make this one quite simple but I quickly realised that I was wrong as usual! It wouldn't pack in and I was back to square one. I tried a few different cube assemblies without success. After those first few attempts I had a great Aha! moment where it occurred to me that there were certain constraints on the cube assembly that would narrow down that trial and error part. With these designs the Aha! moment occurs when you realise that a very specific piece has to go first or last and that something needs to be rotated to fit inside.

Finding the solution took me 3 or 4 hours over a period of 3 evenings. I did earn a Whack! Ouch! when I yelled in triumph but it was worth it! When packed into the box the puzzle looks tremendous:

So gorgeous - it lives in the living room!
I would say that the BDSM is is the third hardest in the series (from easiest to hardest: L-I-Vator I, L-I-Vator II, BDSM, No Holes Barred and finally the terrifically difficult Triagonal Agony). After I solved it I put the shapes into Burrtools and saw that there were 11 possible cube assemblies but the constraints discovered by the Aha! moment meant there was much less of a difficult search to be done. You should be able to solve this without using Burrtools - just work out what the special requirements are and then build your cube with those in mind.

You may ask what happened to my non-matching L-I-Vator II? Well the editor in chief of the on-line Metagrobologist magazine, Dave Holt, suffered his 22nd wedding anniversary last week and so as a gift for that as well as all the work he puts in with the magazine I sent him the L-I-Vator II. As a teacher he often uses packing puzzles to help teach his class thinking skills and what better puzzle to have than one of Laszlo's?

At least I can now show off a gratuitous picture of the whole set in one picture and all constructed with the same woods:

A full set in Marblewood and Holly
From the left: L-I-Vator II, No Holes Barred, Triagonal Agony, L-I-Vator I with BDSM at the front

4 Layer Co-Mo Puzzle

4 LAyer Co-Mo puzzle
Whilst we are discussing some beautiful wood I have to show you yet another gorgeous puzzle from Johan Heyns. I have purchased quite a few delights from Johan over the last couple of years. He has turned puzzle making into a full time job and seems to delight in producing some of the more unusual designs and uses some truly gorgeous South African woods. Allard wrote about the 4 layer Co-Mo puzzle some time ago and loved it - for some reason, I had missed the email that they were available. This was one design that just looked amazing on display and I was delighted that Johan had decided to make another batch (I was very surprised because they are a real pain in the A to make). I jumped when he offered them up for purchase and received this last week. It doesn't take much to find the initial move:

1st sliding move
After about 1cm of movement everything goes very limp and nothing seems to be engaged anymore! Each time I got to that point I backed up in a cowardly manner and slid it all back together (it took some time to get everything aligned). I could hear Allard and Johan with their 'Sed Afrikaan' accents making fun of me so yesterday I decided to go for it! I'd had a rather lovely Gin and Tonic with a Strawberries and cream flavoured (but full strength) gin and my courage was high. I went for it and managed to align the pieces for a second coordinate motion and pow! I had this:

You can really see the craftsmanship now
I left them in pieces for a while and attempted the reassembly - luckily my gin soaked nerves had steadied my hands and I managed to get it back together after about 10 minutes of effing and blinding with a Yarpie accent! I was also able to see how the triangular stand was able to interact with the circular puzzle:

Stunning on display - it will live in the dining room
Don't tell Mrs S - Whack! Ouch! Ooops she found out!
There might be a few new beautiful wooden packing puzzles in my future!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kevin

    It was done intentionally to have it disengage halfway. That's where the "double difficulty" comes from.

    Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated.