Sunday 30 October 2016

I packed something

OMG! So gorgeous! I want to produce stuff like this!
Last week I wrote about my causes for celebration! Today I have a rather large birthday (one with a zero on it - I will be 100!!) and I mentioned that some puzzlers had been very kind! Shane had given me some lovely gin and a copy of his first class Haleslock 2 (congratulations to him on selling the special copy of number 1 for $3600 going to Laurie's special charity) and Yvon Pelletier had sent me a package with instructions not to open until my birthday! Pictured above is the contents of that package. I don't yet know what it is called, who designed it or what level it is but I can tell you that it is stunning. Beautiful woods, great attention to detail with bevels everywhere, this is a burr consisting of a frame that comes apart as well as burr sticks and boards. This is going to be very tough indeed! After I have finished playing, it will have to go on display somewhere special because it is beautiful and it is a gift from a wonderful friend - thanks Yvon!

Chain Store
Today I am going to discuss the latest puzzles I received from Tom Lensch. Above is a picture of a packing puzzle called Chain store. Well that pretty much describes it perfectly - there's a chain (made very nicely from wood and a box (also made of wood) and the aim is to "store the chain in the box". Yes, I know I have said many times that I am not at all good at packing puzzles and do tend to avoid them most of the time because most of the solution process seems to be to be trial and error which I don't enjoy. BUT I couldn't resist this one for a few reasons: First it had won a Jury Honorable Mention for Goh Pit Khiam in the Kyoto IPP design competition and so it must be special - not just a lot of randomness to solve it. Second, it is made of lovely WOOD and like any self respecting bloke I really appreciate wood and things crafted from it (hence my rather embarrassingly large wooden toy collection) and.... Third, there was another interlocking puzzle that I also wanted to buy from Tom and it's pretty much an international law that you cannot just buy one puzzle at a time! Hence I ordered Chain Store from Tom just after IPP and he added it to his backlog of orders. Much to my surprise he completed it and requested some PayPal a little earlier than expected. I had some explaining to do to "she who stares with high powered laser"!

It certainly doesn't fit easily
I discussed this with a good friend when it arrived and he was very interested in my thoughts. This good friend of mine had been struggling for some time with it and had singularly failed. If he had failed then I was certainly going to struggle but I had to see what all the hype was about. The first thing to do is to compare the dimensions of the box with the links of the chain and this definitely reveals something very interesting - the width is exactly the same as a length of a single link. The depth on the other hand is an odd dimension and definitely confused me - it was not really related in any obvious way to the links. The height was also of interest and very useful.

Having looked at the dimensions I decided that this was going to be rather like the 4M puzzle and several others like it and I set about trying to do similar things. After a couple of evenings muttering under my breath I realised that I had been led astray and needed to try something else. It was time to try my hand at chain folding. The chain is a tricky thing to manipulate! Just as you think you might be getting 2 links into a useful configuration and you try to add a 3rd one, you discover that wood doesn't fold and you don't have enough fingers. My Aha! moment arrived on the third evening - I suddenly had a vision of what was needed (yes I solved it in my head first which amazed me - this was definitely a packing puzzle with a difference). It took me a little while to manage to manipulate the links the way I wanted (rectangular links need some special consideration to rotate and orient them properly) and I had an interesting shape in my hands. A moment later I just dropped it all in one go into the box and the Chain was Stored! An amazing design and I can absolutely see why the IPP jury loved it! This is a packing puzzle that you need to think about. I have subsequently teased my friend (who shall remain nameless to protect his reputation even if you all know who he is) about his inability to solve it.

No! There's no picture of it solved - it will give too much away. If you really need help with it then contact me and I will send some clues or even give a photo.

Little Kenny

Little Kenny (notice the TL craftsman's mark)
Little Kenny was the puzzle I had really been wanting to buy from Tom when the "rules" forced me to buy the Chain store too. Ken Irvine has designed (and made) some of the most interesting interlocking solid puzzles that have been seen in the last few years. Amongst his incredible designs are a group that fall into a special subset - the Turning Interlocking Cubes. My very good friend and international expert on the subject, Bernhard Schweitzer, had introduced me to these puzzles many years ago when I edited his series of articles on them for the CFF journal. Bernhard had made quite a lot of these fabulous designs for me and they proudly sit on my shelf to my right and come down frequently to be toyed with. When a new one comes out I just cannot resist them and of course when I saw that this had been entered into the design competition, I knew I had to have this one too.

The Little Kenny differs from the classical design in that it is a 4x4x3 cuboid rather than a cube but the principle is the same. Allard gave a rave review to this (and it's brother Little Bruce which is not available at the moment, sob!) The original had been made from jatoba wood by Ken himself but Tom had been given permission to make and sell copies - mine is a lovely rich Lacewood. It is sent out in pieces and the aim is obviously assembly. The inclusion of half unit cuts on two of the pieces make it really quite easy to establish the ultimate positioning of all the pieces BUT there is a problem:

It won't fit!
The last piece just won't fit in! I have tried putting that one in first or second but nope! Not happening! I have noticed that there is a design feature or 2 on some key pieces:

There corners are all nicely bevelled but 1 or 2 are VERY bevelled
The extra bevelling must be part of the solution but so far I have not been able to work it out. I haven't solved any of these TIC's for a rather long time and am out of practice. Allard mentioned that he has a 5 stage puzzle solving process:
  1. Thinking “this should be easy”
  2. “I must be missing something obvious” 
  3. Thorough bafflement 
  4. Believing it isn’t possible, until finally 
  5. Solving it!  
I am working through his process (it seemed like a good one) and think I have got past stage 2 onto stage 3! I plan on skipping stage 4 because I know that Ken wouldn't be that mean and Tom is far too good a craftsman to give me an impossible puzzle (Ah - I have just remembered that a certain "puzzle pusher" has done that to me in the past!) I suspect that I will be caught at "Allard stage 3" for quite a long time despite also adopting his custom technique of Thinking©.

It may be that I will need to ask Bernhard for a clue. I'll keep trying for a while yet. My previously mentioned very good friend has also struggled with this puzzle too which does make me feel much better! His is locked up in the wrong configuration just now - whoops.

If you get a chance to play with either of these two puzzles then you won't be disappointed. Tom is a fabulous craftsman and the designs by Goh Pit Khiam and Ken Irvine are phenomenal. I am really hoping that Ken decides to make a production run of the Little Bruce for the rest of us or that he gives permission for others to make it and sell it on his behalf. Come on Ken, put me out of my misery!!!

Now it's time to continue my birthday celebrations - she won't let me play with any puzzles though!!


  1. Chain Store is a great puzzle...can't use burr tools to solve but with a bit of thinking, not overly frustrating to solve either...

    1. I agree Jerry. I solved it in my head first which is very unusual for me. Little Kenny, on the other hand, is still causing a lot of problems!