Sunday 11 February 2018

More Blame is Cast

Arne's Cube
Anke's Cube
Yesterday was a fantastic Midlands Puzzle Party (MPP) in Birmingham at which more fun was had at my expense (as usual) and today I am on call again. I will, therefore, need to keep this short and sweet to ensure that I actually get it finished before being asked to go into the hospital again. I thought I would continue to divert the blame away from me and lay the responsibility at others' feet.

First of all, I have to blame Ali! Yes again! He is one of the founder members of the MPP and is responsible for much of my downfall. He is an astounding puzzler and a tremendous collector. His interests very much overlap with mine in that they include metal, and gorgeous wood - in particular, he enjoys complex interlocking puzzles - burrs, cubes and puzzles with rotations. Every few days on Facebook I see when the master designer and craftsman, Alfons Eyckmans, posts his new creations and fairly frequently Ali chimes in with a request to add a new puzzle to his shopping basket. A few months ago Alfons showed off a couple of gorgeous looking cubes and of course, Ali bought them. I expressed my admiration and sort of forgot about them (after adding them to my list of puzzles to buy on my phone). At the end of last year, Ali's batch arrived and he showed them off - he expressed the view to me that these were ESSENTIAL purchases. A bit later on, my friend Michel (who incidentally managed to raise €600 for charity with his puzzle auction) also showed off the latest additions to his collection and reinforced the view.

I was helpless to resist! On New Years Day I emailed Alfons and placed an order - I did not dare tell "she who freezes the air around her" how much they cost! It took Alfons a few weeks to make them all and my lovely 'little' package arrived:

How gorgeous is that?
The cubes were the ones I was particularly enamoured with. After taking some photos I started work on the first of the designs (that with the lowest, and hence easiest, level). I have no idea as yet where the names come from but they are particularly beautiful. Arne's cube is made from Pine, Afzelia, Ipe (aka Brazilian Walnut), Zebrano, Ash, and Maple. I am sure you will all agree that it is stunning. The solution is a pleasant

I absolutely adore this sort of puzzle - it is just the right level of challenge and with only a few blind ends, it is a fun puzzle to play with and explore without ending up feeling like a chore to solve. The first piece fell out in my lap (it is so perfectly made with expert tightness) after about an hour of fiddling and I quickly reinserted it before making my way back to the beginning. I then spent another hour trying to find the path to the second piece removal. I expected more burr type movements. At this point, I realised why everyone had been so impressed with this series - the next piece to come out was part of the frame and it really caught me by surprise and delight. After that, there was an easy sequence of piece removal and I had a nice array of pieces laid out over my lap and sleeping cat. I got to the last 10 or so and again got a bit stuck - this thing remains stable for ages and actually requires ongoing sequences to remove later pieces. It was a wonderful experience!

Lots of lovely pieces!
I actually finished the disassembly whilst at work (I had 10 minutes in a coffee room) - A bunch of colleagues watched with amazement as it all came apart and then laughed at me when the final few pieces were separated and I immediately couldn't put it back together again! That will teach me not to chat to a friend whilst finishing a puzzle! I had been having an animated discussion about retirement plans and had stopped paying attention to the orientation of the last 6 pieces. I was lost and unfortunately had to go back to the operating theatre fairly soon. My only option was, unfortunately, to bundle all the pieces into a bag and take them home for Burrtools to assist me with the reassembly! Even a second and third attempt has proven to be fantastic fun - Ali, you were completely correct!

I then had a short dalliance with this:

Yin Yang Master Puzzlebox
More on that another time - I know I do not collect boxes but when the Master, Robert Yarger, offers, the answer is always yes! This is a box originally designed and made by the late Randall Gatewood and Rob finished off the series after he passed away.

I then moved on to the Anke's cube which is identical in size but slightly tougher with a solution level of It is made from Padauk, Oak, Zebrano, Teak, and Afzelia (plus 'Adobe' which I cannot find in the Wood database). Externally, apart from the colours, the two cubes look identical. However, internally, they are very different and an entirely new sequence has to be found to dismantle it. I actually found this one even more enjoyable than the first one. There are a few blind ends and some surprising moves to remove various pieces. The other very enjoyable feature is that there are very few sequences that require simultaneous moves of multiple pieces. Fantastic!

Very similar pieces to Arne's cube but very different solution
Yet again, I was unable to reassemble the damned thing! I have no excuse really... it was all laid out in order and orientation but I was watching Silent Witness on TV at the same time and the thrilling conclusion of that program just as I took it apart proved to me that I really cannot multitask like a woman! I multitask like a bloke.......BADLY! Back to Burrtools again!

Ali and Michel, you are forgiven for leading me further into my madness. There are 2 more cubes in the series and Alfons knows they are in my next order from him!

Following on from the blame that I laid on Goetz and Aaron last week, I could not resist playing with another few of the wonderful series that I showed off last week. A quick look at the second and third order Chinese rings made me think that they might be fun to solve and very logical too. The naming of these comes from the count of the overlap of the top rings. In a traditional Chinese rings puzzle - the ring on one rod is held on the shuttle and beneath that it covers straddles the next rod in front. In the second order puzzle, it straddles two and in the third, three. This considerably adds to the initial confusion.

Beginning with the Second order puzzle I quickly realised that there are 3 possible start sequences and had to work out which one to take. After that, I discovered that there is a delicious logic to the path taken. It is actually possible to solve these ones by pure thought and planning without having to recognise a long sequence and repeating it multiple times (of course, you could do that if you wished) and despite there being a fearsome number of rods and rings (especially on the third order puzzle), this pair of puzzles is nowhere near as arduous as the reverse Chinese rings that I reviewed last time. In the end, I solved both of them sequentially and kept them in the solved position until I had a chance to take my photos.

You can really see the overlap here
Essentially the same idea
The reassembly was just as much as much fun as the disassembly - I did not memorise anything - I just worked out each sequence as I moved through.

These two were taken to the MPP yesterday where big Steve seemed completely fascinated (I suspect that Aaron will be receiving another order) but despite that, he proceeded to get at least one of them into a fairly awful position before abandoning it with a wicked grin! I may have to scramble a few of his twisty puzzles for him next time to get my revenge! Allard seemed to think that shaking it vigorously might solve them and seemed disappointed when it didn't! If only more of these could be solved that way.

Finally, I have to blame Jamie! He has been posting lots of pictures of padlocks and picks and stuff with information how he has progressed in his lockpicking skills (or is it 'skillz'?) I have been aware that several other puzzlers have been into lockpicking as a sport/hobby and never really thought about it much. Jamie left a bunch of links on FB with some initial advice and I could not help surfing about. Damn him! I was hooked on the idea and have made a few purchases - picks etc. I don't really understand how locks work (I'm sorry Shane! I am trying to change that!) but my interest has been piqued and I couldn't resist. As well as some picks I have also bought a selection of acrylic locks to help me understand what is inside:

This should help
What it will not help me with is understanding how the Popplock T11 works - this gigantic puzzle (weighing in at 2.5Kg/5.51Lb) is almost certainly the most complex puzzle lock ever designed. It was not cheap but the price was very reasonable for the time and effort that went into the design and manufacture.

If Mrs S hits me with this then I'm a goner!
None of this is my fault - Rainer showed this off at the IPP and most of us were hopelessly lost in puzzle lust afterwards!

It would appear that my "short and sweet" blog post has ended up anything but! I do feel much better for having gotten the blame off my chest. I am sure that you all agree that none of this is my fault! Please let Mrs S know that I am entirely blameless.


  1. Where did you acquire the T11 from? It seems to be impossible to acquire.

    1. There are very few available with this model. Most are being distributed by Rainer and only a few people seem to be getting one from the usual other sources.

  2. My T10 remains unsolved. Is the T11 more complicated/difficult than a T10.

    1. My T10 also remains unsolved! I don't know whether the T11 is more difficult to solve (as I haven't solved it yet) but it is MUCH bigger with many more steps to the solution. This is more of a sequential discovery puzzle.