Sunday 27 May 2018

The Heat is On! Some Surprisingly Difficult Puzzles.

Radiator I
I have had very little puzzling time the last few weeks despite having some annual leave! DIY (and the clear up after it) plus a return to a busy week at work have prevented much puzzling recently. So the heat was on for me to find something to blog about. A few evenings ago I decided to pick up a couple of the wire disentanglement puzzles that I received from Aaron Wang. This bunch are particularly complex and have made me pause a little before getting the courage to have a go. If you are keen to try some of Aaron's puzzles then many fabulous examples are currently for sale on Puzzle Paradise now (all are fabulous puzzles but I can particularly recommend the Lucky Lantern and the Libra twins). When Aaron showed off his latest productions I couldn't resist and bought all the ones that I didn't have and they have been sitting waiting for me for a while. I have been playing with one for a week or so now and recently this one dropped into my lap for evening play. Luckily for me the Whack! Ouch! situation is not too bad because this one is not jingly.

It is called Radiator for good reason...not only does it look like one, but it also laid the heat on as I tried to solve it. This is the first (and easiest of 3) which I feel I have to master before I attempt the silly ones:

Radiator II
Radiator III
I had been expecting these to be N-ary puzzles and spent a frustrating 5 minutes playing with Radiator I and trying to find a repeating sequence. Eventually, I realised that this one was a "simple" disentanglement. All I needed to do was unloop the string and ball. "Simple"? Maybe for a genius like Aaron but not for me. I realised the first evening what was sort of required but kept getting stuck with the string very badly looped up around the helices of the radiator. The string seems to be only just long enough to allow this to be solved which is a help as well as a hindrance. It is helpful because you can tell that if you are rapidly running out of string and manoeuvre room then you must have attempted something wrong. But the hindrance is that you have to position everything just right to allow yourself the space to solve it. I am very grateful that Aaron now uses the lobster claw clips to allow easy reset of these puzzles if you get in a mess. If that was not the case then these would become impossible knots quite quickly.

After my second evening of play, I had my Aha! moment and realised what was needed to remove the string. After I had convinced the cat on my lap not to eat the string or play with the wooden ball, I delightedly held up the pieces to show them off to Mrs S (she showed not the slightest bit of interest or encouragement). The solution to Radiator I is very logical and needs just a bit of investigation and then some proper logical thought (not something I am particularly good at):

Beautiful - a nice start to the set
As usual, I attempt the reversal of the solve and get stuck. The reassembly is another nice logical puzzle and should be the reverse of the disassembly but due to the complexity of the main piece, I struggle to visualise what is needed. I found myself getting half way there and as I continued it would magically reverse itself and fall apart! The reassembly took me over an hour! I love this puzzle - very clever idea and just the right level of complexity. Aaron has labelled it level 10+ but I think it is probably a Level 9 - the next ones will be MUCH harder!

Mobius Ring
The Mobius ring is slightly different from the others in that it arrived in a box and also arrived incorrectly assembled (different to the picture on the front). The incorrect assembly was rectified after a quick email question and here is what we are trying to disassemble. When I saw this one in a picture from Aaron it looked very familiar and I asked a question or two. After a single reply, I knew that I had to buy it because it took a couple of my older puzzles and raised the complexity to new heights. This REALLY turned the heat up! A long time ago (January 2017) the Puzzlemad foreign correspondent, Mike Desulets, reviewed the Russian heart puzzle by Jean-Claude Constantin and later I reviewed the Diskette puzzle - both have similar mechanisms to the solution.

Russian Heart
As you can see, they have the common feature of a double intertwined loop of wire with the string loop straddling both parts. The solution is very satisfying and you should all run out to Tomas Linden's Sloyd store to buy the Russian heart to experience the lovely Aha! moment. The Mobius Ring takes that same basic premise and adds an extra separate mobile ring of wire across the puzzle to add a whole lot of extra difficulty.

Having enjoyed the other two puzzles so much last year, I picked up the Mobius Ring first and very rapidly realised that I was in trouble. That damned extra ring makes a huge difference. It really gets in the way. I played with this every evening for a week and was very thankful for the lobster claw release mechanism. Finally, after a week of work, I had my two pieces:

OMG! That was VERY difficult!
So far I have not managed to reassemble it from scratch. In fact, despite having disassembled it 3 or 4 times, I can only do so whilst generating a bit of a tangle in the process which eventually undoes itself at the end. I cannot claim to fully understand the solution yet and plan to keep playing with it until I do!

Soma Tube
Finally, I have to end with another surprisingly tough puzzle! Except I really should not have been surprised! I have previously extolled the incredible brilliance of Laszlo Kmolnar - his packing puzzle designs have truly delighted me (even as someone who is notoriously bad at packing puzzles). When the Published professor of wood, Brian Menold, released his latest puzzles, I could not miss the Soma tube designed by Laszlo. My copy was made from Bolivian Rosewood and Maple (with an acrylic lid). Yes, it is JUST a Soma cube (which I proved to myself by taking about ½ an hour to assemble). I have said before that every puzzler should own a Soma cube and I stand by that - now I have two.

With this version, the aim is to assemble a cuboid (with a corner missing) which is actually quite a simple thing to do. My Burrtools file tells me that there are 1520 ways to make the correct shape but there is only one way to assemble the shape within a box through a T shaped hole in the top. Laszlo, you are a truly evil genius! I sat down at our dining table with this and spent the best part of a day working on it (moving a little periodically to prevent pressure sores!) I have to admit that it took me 2 days of effort before I found the solution! The Soma cube is relatively easy and all the other shapes that can be made are a nice diversion. The Soma tube is a surprisingly VERY tough variant which nearly broke me. It is sitting next to me assembled and I am hesitant to take it apart again - I think I will put it on display in the solved state!

My goodness! That was tremendously tough!
Now after those very difficult puzzles I really need to find something easier to work on for a rest. Maybe the next 2 Radiator puzzles? Maybe the latest twisties I bought are the right difficulty level??? Or maybe not.....

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