Sunday 11 December 2016

Mrs S is VERY generous

It's a wooden sliding tile/twisty puzzle!

A thing of absolute beauty!
When Robert Yarger sends you an email it's time to say yes! This time I was lucky enough to be selected from his pool of previous clients and interested parties and was offered one of the 50 copies that he made of the latest gorgeousness. I gave a big gulp when it got to the price and hesitated - that is a lot of money. Mrs S saw my gulp and furtive look at her when the email came in that evening and she asked what I was looking guilty about. My response was to say that I might have found her Xmas present to me which I think was very quick thinking on my feet. She said Ok without knowing the price (and she still doesn't) but I told her it was cheaper than the jewellery that I had bought for her Xmas present. Whew! got away with it this time. But should I do it?

I'm definitely not saying that it isn't worth it but it is a serious outlay which needs to be thought about - I always advise puzzlers that no one should spend what they cannot afford - no puzzle is worth getting into debt for. So I chatted with Shane by email and at the MPP - he encouraged me to go with my gut feeling which was to say yes. Many people would say "buy it as an investment" but I can't stand the idea of selling my puzzles and unlike certain other people who buy and then quickly sell on at vastly increased prices, I do not want to consider these wonderful craftsmen as a source of income for me. I consider these puzzles as things of beauty and things to challenge me. Like Allard, Shane and many other collectors, I consider this hobby as a labour of love and I want to help designers, craftsmen and other puzzlers as much as I can - it's NOT about profit.

So the Stickman Burl tile puzzlebox (I am choosing to ignore the last word in that title) arrived yesterday and Mrs S took one look and exclaimed that it was gorgeous which relieved me enormously. I told her that she obviously has great taste in Xmas presents!

This is the 30th in Rob's series and I think he has completely outdone himself this time:

An incredible designer and craftsman to have made 30
Rob's puzzles are numbered in the series and I have received number 7:

I love the added touch there
Now to all of you who would say "but you claim not to collect boxes and this is a BOX", I would respond that I don't collect simple boxes but do collect puzzles with a cavity as long as they have another puzzling feature to them than just a box. This particular puzzle is a mixture of twisty puzzle as well as a sliding tile puzzle and I am definitely known to be a twisty puzzler. I can categorically say that it must be primarily a sliding tile puzzle because Rob wrote that on the customs form and he would NEVER lie on a customs form would he?'s not really a box even if there is a cavity
Having taken my pictures, I will put this away and not play until Xmas has arrived. I WILL be a good boy....just for once!

I think I should also write a little review for you too so here goes...

Aaron King Does it Again

Beyond the Ying Yang
Over the last few months I have acquired a few new disentanglement puzzles from China. These were designed by the prodigious genius mind of Wang Yulong aka Aaron King and sold via Felix Lam's puzzle store. They are very reasonable in price and Felix provides really good service. My puzzles only take a week or so to arrive after ordering and he is very responsive to communication - don't be frightened of ordering from him despite him being in China.

I have been playing with Aaron's recent designs and not getting very far. Most of the ones I have chosen are labeled as Level 10 or 10+ and when Aaron rates them as difficult then, my goodness, they are going to challenge (and delight) you. The puzzle above is called Beyond the Ying Yang and is a level 10 which makes it one of the easiest that I bought. I fiddled with this on and off for a few days and got nowhere but during a break from a VERY long spinal operation, I had a small breakthrough. This puzzle had been recommended for me by a very good friend and I basically take his word as absolute gospel (if he says something is good or worth buying then I don't even blink....I just buy it). He had told me it was a good test of skill and had a lovely clever solution. I have to agree, the level 10 (without the plus) made for a challenge but not too hard and when I saw what was required to solve it, I was really surprised at it's elegance. Definitely a fun one to play with and being only wire it is OK to give to friends and not worry about knots:

Just plain clever
After that success I got a little big-headed and immediately moved on to another of the set without string thinking this would be relatively easy. I sort of didn't notice that there was a PLUS added to the 10 rating and Oh boy! I really should have taken note. I tried two puzzles that came as a set - Libra I and II

Libra I
Libra II
These are subtly different from each other and don't actually look too difficult. But remember that I am not terribly bright and have a great difficulty remembering what I do one day from the next. It really does look like there is an easy way to remove those elongated loops but those damned beads really get in the way. I played with both of these on and off for 2 months and succeeded in convincing myself that there was no exit point that was reachable. Again, after a few months and during a coffee break during another VERY LONG spinal fusion operation (a 7 hour procedure is enough to allow anyone to be driven to distraction) I suddenly noticed something that might just be possible. How had I not noticed that before?'re really quite dim! All of a sudden Libra I fell apart in my hands and I had a vague notion of what I had done. I quickly put it aside and looked at Libra II and noticed that a very similar configuration was also possible except at the last moment it was blocked by the bead in a different position. Aargh! Try again but with different setup moves to bypass the blocking bead and WOW! A similar puzzle requiring a similar sequence actually has a different exit sequence! Now that is very clever!

OMG that was difficult!
Similar puzzle but new solution
I then found myself with 2 solved puzzles and only a vague memory of the techniques used but my quick coffee break was over - time to return to the loooong operation. At the end of the day once the patient was safely delivered to the critical care department and doing well, I packed up and went home with my triumphantly solved puzzles in my bag. That evening it came to time to reassemble whilst watching TV with Mrs S and.....I couldn't do it! OMG - I had forgotten the configuration and exit/entry points. A brief expletive caused Mrs S to focus the laser burning stare on me and I subsided into muttering under my breath. To my eternal shame, it took me another 3 evenings of torture to put these back together! That extra plus after the 10 rating really does make a difference!

The Pass
Last week I showed another 3 new arrivals from Aaron and Felix. After my experience with the Libra puzzles I decided that I should go back to puzzles without the plus. The Pass is rated as level 10 and was another that my friend heartily recommended. The addition of the string always makes me hesitate but if he tells me to buy then I don't question it. A brief fiddle one evening revealed that it is a bit more complex that I initially expected and it is quite possible to get tangled up if you aren't careful. The plain level 10 though, did make a difference and after about an hour I had an unusual configuration which revealed that a really interesting move was possible and I had freed the key piece:

Much easier at level 10!
Don't be disappointed if you solve it quickly - do what I did....leave the pieces unassembled for a couple of hours and then try to put it back together. The initial configuration of the assembly is absolutely critical and if you don't remember it properly then a real mess and subsequent challenge occurs. It took me a couple of hours to get it back to the start position and it made me sweat! A lovely little challenge for only $13.

Now I need to get back to a puzzle from Aaron that my friend really enthused about....The Leo looks really simple but I have spent many, MANY, MANY hours on it and have not found myself anywhere near solving the damned thing. I have had lots of fun trying to unwind severe tangles but not gotten anywhere on it.

The Leo
Maybe I will solve this, maybe I won't but it certainly is a great value challenge for all you disentanglement freaks out there. Go on Mike D you know that you want them!!! And I am definitely interested in hearing your thoughts on them. In fact, if anyone has thoughts on any of these puzzles then leave a comment below or let me know using my Contact page.


  1. I'm really pleased you have taken Robert up on the OFFER ! As you know he's a great guy, he never overprices he's work, so much in this puzzle, and there are so few in the U.K so its great others will get the chance to enjoy here with a little help from us collectors. You will NOT regret it !! It's a beautiful puzzle, and ill happily pull it to pieces for you ...... :-) Shane

    1. After what I watched you do to your copy, I don't think you will be going anywhere near mine young man!!!
      It IS stunning and I am delighted to own it - I really do plan on trying to solve it properly but am not allowed to touch it until after Xmas.

  2. I just want to second everything you said about wang yulong's puzzles. I couldnt agree more. This is really new stuff and i think he's advanced the whole tanglment class. No small feat.

    Got leo apart, but going on two months now with basically no progess getting it back together. Its a killer!

    1. You got it apart? You're a better puzzler than me!