Sunday, 16 October 2016

Going round the twist

The Vapors
Just a quick post today as I am out and about visiting the out-laws (Whack! Ouch!) and haven't really had much time for puzzling or blogging. I thought I would mention a couple of puzzles I have been working on over the last couple of weeks that I have had varying success with. Both are the brainchild of the combined genius of Derek Bosch and Steve Nicholls. They have been working together on these helical variants of burr puzzles for quite some time now and I have managed to acquire a full set so far. Steve went to the Kyoto IPP this year and had printed about 100 copies of one of Derek's designs as his exchange puzzle. Luckily for me (and a few others) there were significantly less participants than that in the exchange and hence some were left over.

When I was chatting to Steve on Facebook, he mentioned that he had some new helical puzzles to show off and of course I said that I would buy them when I saw him next. At the last MPP a few weeks ago, big Steve was there with a good few new plastic toys and he promptly handed me his exchange as a gift - he is SUCH a gentleman!
Seeing as it was Derek who designed it, I will forgive Steve the awful (and incorrect) spelling of the name! It is a rather enticing thing with a block of whitish plastic into which 2 corkscrews of red have been sunk. The aim (like all previous versions) is simply to disassemble the pieces. How hard can it be? Well previous experience of some of these puzzles has shown that they can be VERY hard! From the previous pair (Twiddle Dum and Twiddle Dee) despite months and months of trying I have only managed to solve and understand Dum - the solution to Dee has completely eluded me and as far as I know most puzzlers in the world who have a copy! The problem is that there are just so many blind ends and even loops into which you can fall. This type of puzzle is very hard to lay down memories of what you have done before to help you decide on a pathway to choose and so any puzzle with a very high number of choices can quickly overwhelm my memory (which is very poor at the best of times).

Oddly satisfying
With some trepidation I took out the Vapors and thought that as an exchange puzzle it cannot possibly be too tough as many puzzlers who receive it will have had minimal experience of this sort of design. I started to explore and realised that my hunch was correct - there were only a few very short branches from the main pathway and the puzzle is oddly satisfying to play with as it is simply a nice exploration. I rapidly got a good few moves in and then decided to backtrack as panic set in....what if I couldn't put it back together? Steve (and D) would laugh so hard at me! I took out my trusty pocket notebook and had to work on a useful notation to keep track of how I moved the pieces. I have to say that doing that actually added to the fun for me. I spent a happy hour working my way through the various moves and intermittently breaking off to obey commands from Mrs S.

In the end, after 24 separate moves I had this:

A lovely design!
Next question - could I reassemble it? I left the pieces aside for about an hour and went back to them to try it! Could I do it unaided? Hell NO! I couldn't even remember which piece went in first and which way around it went! I am not very bright and have the memory of a goldfish. After I went back to my notes, I discovered that my system for keeping record worked beautifully and I managed to return it to the beginning in a few minutes. I have played with it a good few times now and can honestly say it is a lovely fun puzzle - I can even reassemble it without notes now and love it. It is sitting on my desk to be played with after I stop typing this.

OMG! Oliver 540
So with my terrible failure on a relatively easy helical burr fresh in my mind I have to mention another puzzle that the terrible twosome have devised. The Oliver 540 was also available to buy at the MPP - this is the first design that not only has a single complete rotation...it has a full 540º of turns. Steve had a few available including 3 that were manufactured from a very realistic and rather alarming pink flesh coloured plastic! Let's just say that a number of rather crude jokes were made and inappropriate suggestions were voiced! Luckily the group were just boys involved in "locker room" talk!

To top it the puzzling challenge, Steve was too lazy to assemble them and was selling them (for a very reasonable price) as assembly puzzles! He actually wanted advice from me as to whether this is a good idea! Little does he realise that I am an assembly puzzle dunce! I have a few really beautiful burr sets and have struggled to solve very many of the thousands of potential puzzles available. I just cannot assemble things from scratch unlike my puzzling hero Laurie who has spent years forcing his long suffering wife Ethel to disassemble everything before he tries to put it back together again! I have spent 3 days so far this week trying to assemble the damn thing and think that I have made some progress but have achieved little more than arrange 4 pieces of plastic in a tight and rather large knot! I will keep trying and if I eventually manage it then I will report back to him that they are definitely suitable as an assembly puzzle because if I can solve it then ANYONE can do it.

So far it seems to be proving a "little" tough!
As always these helical puzzle are beautifully made by Steve and are a very nice unusual addition to a puzzler's collection. These new puzzles should be available in the next few weeks or so from the Puzzle Paradise auction site. Look out for them as they do tend to get snapped up quite quickly!


1 comment:

  1. I like Vapors, not too hard to disassemble and not frustratingly hard to re-assemble! Good exchange puzzle!

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