Sunday 29 October 2017

When in France One Should Buy French

Or...... Jean-Baptiste Pushes Me Over the Edge!

A trio of caged 6 piece burrs - one of these is new to the collection
From the left: Nickel box, Congestion and Chrysalide
The IPP this year was held in Paris and was my chance to catch up with friends old and new. Two friends that I did not know were members and whom I was delighted to finally meet after many years of knowing each other, were Jean-Baptiste Jacquin who is the proprietor of the wonderful Arteludes puzzle store, one of the two puzzle bloggers in France with his "Jeu-et-casse-tete" site (for completeness, the other French blogger is Guy Brette at The other French puzzler I met for the first time in years was Guillaume Largounez who is one of the greatest burr puzzlers and analysers in the world - he writes on the puzzle-place forum as Pio2001.

It was fabulous catching up with them and, for some reason, I did not expect them to set up a store at the main puzzle party on Sunday - yes, I know..... I am not very bright! The day of the party, I shot down to the main hall armed with what I thought was enough cash for the day (again, not very bright) and promptly ran out of money in under an hour! Don't tell Mrs S! After that I had to resort to PayPal and thanked the stars for the iPhone app. Having spent a fortune already, I suddenly came across my two friends with a fantastic table full of the wooden wares that I frequently drool over on the store and also some new ones not seen before. They caught me already feeling rather guilty at how much I had spent and then tempted me with more. The table looked so good that I stopped to admire all the new toys and that was my downfall! First of all Jean-Baptiste gave me a lovely bag of nutty sweeties which he said were for Mrs S as an apology for all the puzzling that had come from him over the years (let me say that I DID give them to her and she has NOT forgiven him for littering her house with new toys). After receiving the little gift/bribe, I felt it would have been rude not to add a French puzzle (or 2....or 3) to my collection. One thing I should add is that all of the puzzles in the Arteludes store are made by the amazing Maurice Vigouroux and are always beautifully made.

The first puzzle that I HAD to buy was to complete a collection - I am actually not sure whether I will ever solve it! The Chrysalide puzzle, designed by the incredible Stéphane Chomine, is a standard 6 piece burr in a frame made from Ebony and Padauk with Beech dowels to give an orientation and ensure a single solution. This puzzle is the 3rd in the series that began many years ago with Nickel Box and which took me 2 weeks of work despite being rated as only an 8/10 difficulty. It was followed a couple of years later by the incredibly tough Congestion puzzle which is still available and which I have yet to solve despite trying it on and off for 3 years! Chrysalide is supposed to be halfway between them in difficulty and maybe will help me bridge the gap. They certainly look wonderful together on display as the top photo shows. Chrysalide is next on my to be attempted list and is currently sitting on my armchair in the living room calling to me now.

I have bought several burr puzzles over the years with animals (or other objects) inside which contribute to the puzzling - Goetz has called these the puzzle zoo and I absolutely love this idea. Several were made by Alfons Eyckmans, a couple by Stephan Baumegger and even one by Eric Fuller.  A couple of these made it to the Arteludes store but I had already bought them from Alfons years ago. I was astounded to see some new ones on Jean-Baptiste's table which were not on the store and I HAD to have them. Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear!

They do look identical but they have different animals inside and have a very different solve process each. These have been on my "to be played with" pile for a couple of months and only recently did I manage to spend a decent amount of time working on them. I had been idly fiddling on and off in the evenings but with my back and forth approach to this type of puzzle, I did not really make any progress other than to find a few interesting moves.

I had got to the point of being stuck on each and unable to make any headway so I needed a decent amount of time to sit and think and experiment. This week I have had some annual leave - at this time of year I usually use the leave to do the chores I haven't done during the year like tax return, optician, visit doctor etc). I actually had not been terribly well during the week and was forced to take it easy for a couple of days and so I started on the Rhino. The puzzle is beautifully made by Maurice as always and slides smoothly. Back and forth to the dead end was getting me nowhere and now I was forced to just sit and think and experiment. The Aha! moment was wonderful when it arrived. After about a couple of hours of solid play I had the Rhino released:

Rhino - The back 7 pieces are identical
I had managed to dismantle almost all of it and keep the process in my head quite well when the customary sleeping cat turned over on my lap and I dropped the remaining precariously held pieces thus any chance of a reassembly by brain power was lost! Oh well, Burrtools to the rescue! The reassembly is fun and doesn't require 4 pairs of hands and double jointed fingers. I am amazed that the puzzle has 7 identical pieces. I love it and will do it again soon to prove that it wasn't a fluke!

Moving on to Bull, the disassembly was much harder for me. It seemed less rhythmic and intuitive. There were some very well hidden moves before the first 2 pieces came out and after I removed a 3rd and 4th I was hopelessly lost. No chance at all of a reassembly from scratch with this - I lined everything up for a photo and made my BT file.

Bull - brilliant fun!
If these two do get put up for sale then I can heartily recommend them (in either case you should certainly try the Free the Monkeys 2 and Save the Gorilla which are available just now). All of these puzzle have the characteristic 'MV' stamp from Maurice which I have been unable to photograph in a way that shows up.

Even if Mrs S is not impressed with the cost of my IPP splurge, I am delighted to have added yet another few french puzzles to my collection (Don't forget the Stand by cubes by Gregory Benedetti which I wrote about here). My current French puzzle photo will need to be updated:

French puzzles - completely out of date now!


  1. Hi Kevin,
    It was nice meeting you.
    The Chrysalide, Nickel Box and Congestion are among my favourite puzzles. Actually, the Chrisalyde was designed by Stéphane shortly after Donald designed the Nickel Box, but Stéphane never published it because Goh Pit Khiam published the Congestion first, with more moves. It was much later that I drew the attention of Maurice over this old design.
    It seems to me that your copy has pieces in bubinga, while your nickel box has pieces in padauk. The dowels are made from aluminium rods, that's for sure. It's the nickel box that has dowels in beech.
    The most beautiful ones in my opinion were the two Nickel Boxes with pieces in purpleheart. Violet and black together is so cool ! They were both sold by Arteludes.
    Mine is in bubinga, like your Chrysalide, and my Chrysalide is in cuchi, an exotic wood rarely used.
    I see that you have a very beautiful Daedalus in walnut. I think they are the best ones. Maurice used a very old walnut, completely dry and stable. The ones in marblewood or ironwood are less forgiving about inaccuracies. Mine is in padauk and is never tired of producing an amazing amount of that white dusty thingy from the inside. Well, that gives me a pretext to open every few months in order to clean it.

    1. Hi Guillaume,
      Thank you for clearing up my inaccuracies. I did think my Chrysalide had aluminium dowels but the page on arteludes says Beech and I copied that. Hopefully Jean-Baptiste will amend it. I really must go back to my Daedalus and solve it again. I very seldom return to puzzles because I have little time.