Sunday 11 June 2017

Time and Strijbos has Defeated me! What About Aaron?

The Revenge Lock aka the Wanderer
It's time to produce my own write up of Wil Strijbos' latest marvel, "Revenge Lock" aka "the Wanderer" which I introduced and described a couple of weekends ago here. Allard has already published a fantabulous review of this brilliant puzzle here so go and read it first. You can then marvel at how good a puzzler he really is....because he managed to solve the damn thing despite being lead astray initially by the puzzle pusher's prototype. I, on the other hand, have had the benefit of more time with it as well as never having seen a prototype and have still failed to complete the puzzle!

No clues on the back
So what is my excuse? Firstly I have to emphasize (as I often do) that despite what I do for a living (you would imagine that being a doctor I would need to be clever), I am really not terribly bright (Mrs S says I am often really quite dense) and my wonderful puzzle pusher has had me beaten for a good 2 weeks! My second excuse is time!!!! For some reason I have been working my arse off (for you Americans that would be ass). I never seem to get a break at work (even for lunch) and the caseload I carry is too complex to take my eye off the ball/patient/monitors/ventilator for even a moment and think about a puzzle! I am sure that many potential patients are greatly relieved to read that!! My days have been very long and in order to preserve my health, when I get home in the evenings I do have to spend some time with "she who frightens me to death" lest she follow her full name through to its' final conclusion. With last weekend having been her birthday there was no puzzling allowed and yesterday was yet another day to write the on call rotas for my department - after 8½ hours on the damned rotas, puzzling proved impossible. Yes yes yes, I can hear you now....that is a feeble excuse! I agree which is why I put my lack of brain power first!

The puzzle is a thing of beauty! made from milled aluminium with brass and steel mixed in; it is a really good weight and size. If you drop this it will do some damage to foot or floor tiles! As with all of Wil's delightful designs, the solution is entirely self contained - no external tools are required. The instructions are:
"First Part:
1 - Discover your Number
2 - Open the Shackle
3 - Remove the Brass Key
4 - Find the Tiny Wanderer

Second Part:
5 - Replace the Wanderer - Brass Key - Shackle
6 - Put the Lock back in the Frame.
7 - Fix the Lock back into the Frame.

No Magnets - No Banging - No force needed - Spring-loaded
     Take care of the "Spring" and the "Wanderer"."
It is clear straight away that the lock itself is held somehow in a frame and the fist part must be to release it. This will give you the serial number on the back of the lock. But how to do that when nothing really moves? A quick look around doesn't really give you much so all that is left is to squeeze it. Of course we all expect that squeezing a great big chunk of metal will work and as one would think that alone does nothing! A combination of squeeze and "other stuff" certainly does. I was full of the joys of my puzzling prowess when I found my serial number within about 10 minutes:

Wil always gives me number 21 (to match my age? Ahem!!!)
Having found my serial number and managed to get the actual revenge lock off the frame, I started on challenge 2 and this proved a bit of a problem for your rather dim puzzle correspondent! There really are quite a few things to discover in the process. I spent a good few days moving the same thing around and got nowhere at all. I squished and squeezed and turn things upside down and still got nowhere. I then began to spin things and thought about what the MPP guys would say to me. NO!!! I was NOT going to submerge it in water (or even gin for that matter)! But I did smile at that thought! At one point I seriously thought about trying to do it standing on my head but the look I was getting from Mrs S deterred me. I'm not sure why I didn't try the correct move earlier as it should have been really obvious - there was a forehead smacking moment when the correct action was discovered! That hurt a lot because the lock was still in my hands! OUCH!

Einstein's trick?
Having found "move" number 2, one thing becomes immediately obvious and triggered a vague memory of solving the "father" of this puzzle, Gary Foshee's Lunatic lock, this was a little helpful but only a little. The wanderer (this is really a reflection of the pusher himself who spends most of his life wandering around the world looking for or making puzzles) shows himself at this point and it takes a while to work out what can be done with him. After I had worked out how to manipulate the wanderer and his less mobile brother, I was hoping the shackle would open. Nope! Not a chance! I was missing something! There is a very big clue of what might be going on but as is usual for me, I didn't notice it. Very dense indeed! After several days of practicing Einstein's trick, I noticed the clue. It's not even a very subtle clue but I couldn't seem to see it and maybe if you are not a puzzle designer you would not put 2 and 2 together properly.

All of a sudden I had one of my very infrequent thoughts....Mrs S would like it if one of those was about her or the chores that are mounting up but nope, my thoughts only ever seem to be about puzzles. At the end of this thought I had to try something and BINGO!

Steps 2, 3 and 4 completed!
I had completed the first stage of the challenge. Please note that the picture only shows the end result but I can't show you the working pieces including the Wanderer without giving too much away! I marvelled at the workmanship and the sheer genius of the designer. It was a beautiful creation and a very very clever sequence of steps. I now had quite a few pieces all of which were proving very interesting to the cat on my lap - he was fascinated by the spring and tried to eat it!

Stage 2 is to put it all back together. With this sort of puzzle, I often find that a significant part of my initial solution had been done by luck and it is only in trying to reverse the process back to the beginning that a true understanding is gained (remember I am all about true understanding and hate it when I solve a puzzle without proper insight). So I took out one of my trusty pocket notebooks and sat down with pen and paper and tried to reverse engineer what I had done from the very beginning.....

And here I am stuck! That bloody puzzle pusher has me stumped! It is still in pieces because partly I cannot workout the positions that everything needs to be in at the start (one spring position is really causing me problems) and also because my job keeps getting in my way! A small sealable bag of bits has accompanied me everywhere for a week and everything remains in pieces! What I need is a whole day and nothing else to do but try things! I daren't ask Wil for help as he will remove me from his email list, I will just have to keep trying. I hope it doesn't end up like Rainer Popp's T10 which has been on my desk for months and months unsolved! I am sure I will get there eventually but let this show you that I truly am:

Aaron King's Latest Wire Brilliance

Over the last few years I have communicated off and on with Wang Yulong who took on the pseudonym Aaron King to make it easier to talk with Western puzzlers. He has a gigantic catalogue of puzzle designs which he has drawn and solved in his head. Yes! You read that correctly IN HIS HEAD!!! He is probably the greatest exponent of disentanglement puzzles alive in the world today (he is up there with the amazing Dick Hess. I hope one day to achieve just a tiny fraction of his skills. I was absolutely stunned to see the pictures on Facebook of his latest designs and so please when Goetz Schwandtner tried some of the N-ary puzzles amongst them and seemed to really like them. Of course I couldn't resist as I absolutely adore N-ary puzzles as well as disentanglement puzzles and these seemed to provide a whole new realm of challenges. These puzzles are hand made by Aaron and absolutely scream great quality. I hope that I will be able to solve one or two soon but they are VERY jingly which means that Mrs S won't allow them in the living room in the evenings which is when most of my puzzling is done.

As you can see these are horrifically complex constructions and I will certainly need the pictures on the front of the package to help me when/if it comes to reassemble them! Note the little piece of red string is there just to prevent dislodgement of the end rings during transport. They are not string puzzles.

The puzzles above are all variants of N-ary puzzles but below was an extra one I had to order! The Leo II:

The Leo II
I bought the original Leo puzzle back in December and it took me over 2 months to solve it and even then only with a little clue from Aaron. I was delighted to see that he had made a new variant with key pieces being different shapes. One very alarming feature is the ENORMOUS length of the string! If all of that is needed to solve it then I will be in serious trouble! The cats have already shown great interest in the string on this one before Mrs S forced me to put it away after only a teeny bit of jingling! Luckily Aaron has begun to put quick release catches on some of his puzzles to help get out of any knots.

If you are interested in buying some of Aaron's puzzles then they are commercially available from the Felix puzzle store (Westerners are best contacting Felix via Facebook and he will create a PayPal invoice for you). He is very responsive and a pleasure to deal with. The puzzles made by Aaron are a tremendous challenge and very well worth purchasing.

Now I had better get back to that damned lock unless "she" has chores for me to do!


  1. ...Wil's not kidding when he says that half the puzzle is restoring The Wanderer to the start position!

    1. If only I knew what the start position was! I actually am struggling to work out where the hidden element goes and also a spring and...... Aaargh!