Sunday 28 October 2018

The Happiness Continues and Yukari Placates Mrs S

The second delivery of the week!
There might have been more than one delivery of new toys this week and this, of course, makes me very happy (even if Mrs S is not so sure). The photo above shows two deliveries received yesterday and these were not the first to arrive this week. The 2 leftmost puzzles came from Juno and Yukari's Pluredro store - they are the final puzzle in the "Suits series", the Spade case and the Tangled clip burr. Yes yes yes! I know I don't collect boxes but the suits puzzles are technically called "cases" and so I am allowed (sort of). I reviewed the others here and here (where someone left me a little humorous message inside). The other puzzles in the picture above were my puzzles received from Tom Lensch (OrdiNARY burr, Pushbutton burr, Galette and King box. These should keep me happy for quite a while!

The other package to arrive this week came from the Doctor of wood, Eric Fuller. His recent update on Cubic Dissection had quite a few I wanted to add to my collection but funds and fear of Mrs S kept me down to just 3 new toys from him (one was from the much cheaper Artisan collection which saved me a little money). This delivery also made me very happy - the new toys were lovely and my inquisitive little boys loved the box!

They cannot resist!
Neither can I!
After receiving 3 packages in such a short time I was very happy and Mrs S was thinking of ways to reduce my happiness and maybe even inflict pain! I was still working on the wonderful Happiness cubes from Alfons that I showed off last week. Having solved the first one, I seriously struggled with the next few but alternating with working on that damned Jigsaw 29 puzzle, I began to have more and more success - these are seriously clever interlocking puzzles with a couple so far having rotational moves too for the final disassemblies:

OMG! How awesome are these?
The happiness kept on coming all week as I worked through these and then my deliveries all arrived. To top it all off the coming week is all annual leave and there will be more happiness as a) I am not at work and b) there might be another package on the way......or two! Shhh! Don't let on to Mrs S! I will have to pay for all this happiness with quite a lot of work around the house and garden! My study has degenerated into a shithole again and the pre-winter gardening needs to be done and to top it off, I need to collate my tax return information too! happiness will not be abated!

Spade case
Having received the Spade case from Juno and Yukari, I started on it last night whilst watching TV with Mrs S. This made her happy because there was no jingling and no swearing either! Made from:
"Karri, American Black Walnut, Koto etc."
It is a really lovely little case. The etc. becomes clear only after it has been solved! It measures 89 x 89 x 60mm and at first sight would appear to be just like the Club case in mechanism with a sliding lid and another sliding panel at 90º to that underneath it. There are a few very simple and limited moves possible with the 2 sliding panels and they do seem to interact rather like those of the Club case but within just a few mm of movement it comes to a stop and despite the feel of an interlinked maze on the panels, the maze seems to end in a blind end. I sat watching TV and just did the same 5-7mm of movements again and again and again feeling to see if something different was inside or I was missing an exit. It did not seem to work so I turned it upside down and tried again whilst listening to it much to the amusement of Mrs S. As expected, this didn't work for me either.

What is happening here? I have no idea!
I did notice that there was an unusual feature visible through the spade on the top and contemplated what might be going on for a while. Is the maze blocked by something that needs to be shifted? But then, this does look like a blind-ending is blocked here. Having watched a whole program on TV without getting any further, it was time for a little pre-bed green tea and another period of thought and investigation. Feeling my way around the maze very gently, I suddenly noticed something VERY subtle! He is a very subtle man that Juno! Having felt something strange, I gnawed at that feeling for a while until it became more and more obvious. Within another few minutes, I had made some very significant discoveries and something new was revealed to me (in fact a couple of somethings new) and I can honestly say that I have never seen these before in any other puzzle. The new thing I had found was not the entire mechanism but it allowed me to deduce something that was occurring inside and attempt to use it later on in the solution. Another few minutes and I had the puzzle opened and could peer inside to find Juno's Hanko but there was something else there:

Solved, but what is that?
A little mystified I removed the contents of the box to see that, yet again, Juno and Yukari had been having a hilarious little dig at me! I showed it to Mrs S when she wondered why I was giggling to myself and she was equally delighted - yes, the happiness continued all around!

Yukari sent a handbag!
In the bag was a letter!
Many amongst the puzzling community are aware that Mrs S has a bit of a "thing" for shoes and bags! She might have quite a few of them - I couldn't possibly say on the internet how many there are but "quite a few" is the safest way for me to describe her collection! Her collection doesn't include the very expensive ones like Chanel/Dior/Vuitton but Mulberry has been my/her downfall. Obviously, Yukari knew about this habit and allowed me to capitalise on it! This little addition, yet again, absolutely made my day and made both of us laugh out loud! No loaves of bread this time but what a great way to finish up!

The Spade case is a clever little box with a very unique mechanism - it is not hugely difficult (as Juno has said himself) but the Aha moment and the final understanding, when you get to see the underside of the plates, is fabulous! This is well worth adding to your collection even if you don't get a miniature handbag inside. I am delighted to have obtained the full set and am looking forward to playing with the other puzzle that arrived from him!

Sunday 21 October 2018

A Frustrating Week Finally Ends in Some Happiness

Jigsaw Puzzle 29
I was staggered in August when the results of the IPP design competition came out and the descriptively named Jigsaw puzzle 29 (yes, it has 29 pieces) won a Jury honourable mention prize! This very nicely made acrylic jigsaw puzzle was designed and produced by a very nice gentleman from Japan called Yuu Asaka. I chatted with a few people who had been there and asked how come a simple jigsaw won a prize? Everyone said that the puzzle was fantastic and deserved to win - they had all enjoyed solving it a lot. No more information could be extracted from them and so I contacted Mr Asaka via Facebook and asked if he had any for sale. He did not have them in stock but was happy to make another one for me and a couple of weeks later a thin package arrived in the post.

The Jigsaw Puzzle 29 includes a nice white acrylic tray and a sealable plastic bag with 29 jigsaw pieces in it. I was still rather sceptical but I set to. I have only once ever reviewed a jigsaw puzzle and enjoyed that one mainly for the sheer quality of its manufacture. John Rausch has, on several occasions offered me a chance to buy other sublime jigsaws which he acts as a distributor of and one day I will take him up on one of these because of their incredible difficulty as well as sheer beauty.

Now I don't know about you but when I start work on a jigsaw puzzle I separate the pieces by type - corners, edges and middle pieces, so I set about doing this and discovered my first problem:

I have studied some Maths in my time (OU maths degree for 7 years of fun) but I definitely cannot consider myself a mathematician like my friend Jim and whilst my studies were a rather long time ago, I am fairly sure that a square does NOT have 5 corners to it! Houston I seem to have a fundamental problem.

Despite this minor(?) setback, I continued in my usual fashion and started working on the edges. This proceeded as one would expect and I did manage to make 2 very nice edges with pieces that fit together perfectly BUT I seem to have found a second problem:

What the @£$% is going on here?
Yes, my nicely assembled edges don't seem to fit inside the tray. YES! I did try the other direction and can assure you that the tray is square! I was beginning to suspect that this puzzle might be beyond me when I looked at the remaining pieces and realised that Houston was trying to get in touch with me - there was a THIRD problem:

I think someone sent me the wrong pieces!
Looking at all the remaining edge pieces (all in the tray in the pic above) it is quite obvious that they are all "female" in form and cannot link together! This is a VERY strange Jigsaw puzzle! AT this point it has occurred to me that maybe it is just a very very difficult packing puzzle where the pieces just need to be stuffed into the tray but not actually interlocked? I started out trying to solve it this way with the pieces just loosely packed together but this really did not seem to be a possible solution as there was not enough space. PLUS, it did occur to me that an incredibly complex packing puzzle with 29 oddly shaped pieces would not win a prize at an IPP.

During the week, after some discussion with the genius, Derek Bosch, about my singular failure to solve a "simple" jigsaw puzzle with only 29 pieces, he let me have the bombshell that his rather gorgeous daughter (age 7!!!!!) managed to solve that puzzle! This made me "rassafrassarickarackets" like Muttley (do you remember that???) and I carried on working on it.

So far, after 3 weeks of working on this blasted award-winning puzzle that a7-year-old can solve, I have singularly failed! I am genuinely no closer to finding the solution than I was when I started!

In desperation, I started work on some wonderful new cubes that I bought from my friend Alfons Eyckmans.

Happiness Cubes - they should make me happy hopefully!
Alfons showed off the Paduak (red) cube on Facebook and after a little discussion, I learned that this was number 169 of the Happiness cubes designed by Japanese puzzle designer, Sekog Yukiyasu. He has produced a huge number of extremely complex interlocking cubes which he published on his website here. There is also a pdf with all of these designs. Interestingly the number 169 is not on the site or pdf and I am not sure where it came from. I had started playing with several of these and on each had found only a move or 2 and then got stuck with nowhere to move. Each evening I tried a few of them in turn and was beginning to wonder whether my puzzle solving days were over? Looking at the cube description for the 9.2 that I was really working on, there is a solution described but for the life of me, I could not make head nor tail of it:

Nope! Not helpful at all!
Every time I lost patience with the Jigsaw puzzle 29, I began again on the Happiness cubes and finally after a week of abject failure, I solved just one cube:

Happiness cube 9.2 finally in pieces
I lurve interlocking cube puzzles and I think that these are amongst the very best! The 9.2 disassembly is level which doesn't sound like much but the interlocking of the pieces is so incredibly complex that finding even a single move is a huge challenge. Alfons has made these puzzles for me from Oak and they are stunning. I have another 5 to solve and they may well take me a good few weeks or more before I manage them. If you would like to try then Alfons may well make some more or you can buy one of the hardest of them from my friend Rich Gain's Microcubology Shapeways store where he has the Happiness cube #20 up for sale in white nylon. Rich was one of the puzzle friends who really led me astray at the beginning of my Puzzle journey and you can count on him to find a good puzzle!

Thank goodness! At least I finally managed to solve one puzzle in a week - my despair ended in happiness! Now I need to have a breakthrough thought about this damned Jigsaw!!!

Sunday 14 October 2018

Shane Starts a Fire in my Brain!

Haleslock 5 - The Firestarter
Please excuse me if I am less coherent than normal - yesterday I spent 10 hours writing the consultant on call rotas for our department and it included the Xmas and New year period. Jaded is a fairly good way to describe me just now and it looks like I will be working on Xmas day  😢! At least today I now finally get to write my review of the wonderful Haleslock #5 aka the Firestarter.

Shane produced this rather complex construction at the same time as he did the 2 others that he was commissioned to produce for the IPP exchange. I picked my copy up at the last MPP at the beginning of September (he also made me some extra keys for my fancy secure door locks - did you know that he is a Master Locksmith?). I set to on this each evening after work whilst watching TV and it has taken me up until this week to finally solve it and then an extra week to understand it.

The lock consists of an unusual design of shackle held within a lump of metal. The key is provided attached to a small sprung ring around the shackle. The instructions are:
1. Open the lock
2. Retrieve the ring
3. Find Shane’s signature
There should not be any random movements and especially no hitting or other force can be used. The hint is to use the shape of the lock to solve it and also to bear in mind the name…“Firestarter”.

It is a nice size - fits in the palm and clenched fist and is pretty damned heavy giving a hint at the solidity of the lock. This must have taken a fairly solid (?expensive) bit of equipment to modify. There were only a limited number available, some direct from Shane and the rest from the usual suppliers of puzzle locks. as far as I know, none remain for sale.

In my initial investigation, I started by flipping the plastic cap off and could not see a keyway until I realised that the top of the lock had a disk which could rotate and after a little fiddling with my fingernail I had the slot lined up with the keyway. Yes I know it’s not going to work but it sort of is the law that you at least have to try and open the lock with the key:

Well, that didn't go very well, did it?
Yes! You guessed it…not only does the key not work - it won't even go into the keyway! Shane has doctored it and left a pin (at least one) blocking the keyway. It can be seen if you peer inside:

There's a steel pin in the way!
And here I got stuck! For weeks! I tried turning it in multiple different directions. I tried doing it upside down - that’s the lock, not me! I tried putting it on a surface lengthways and spinning it. That earned me a sharp rebuke from “she who must be feared” - she really did not want any scratches on our granite work surface and certainly did not want a heavy solid lump being spun on her glass dining table above our high gloss kitchen tiles! Silly me! Needless to say, it didn't work anyway! Shane's not going to make it easy for us. Now, I have a problem with puzzle locks...I don't really understand much about how locks work and so if some bright spark modifies one to make it not work properly then I really struggle to understand how I am going to get around that. The lock that Shane has used is so different from anything that I have seen before that I knew I would have difficulty. Still...I like a challenge!

Gradually, I heard from other puzzlers who solved their copies (Goetz solved his copy pretty fast but he’s a genius as we all know). Then Allard contacted me and let me know that he had solved his and then wrote his review. This just convinced me even more that I am not terribly bright! Shane taunted me occasionally and even suggested I watch his solution video but I resisted! Even if I am not very clever, I still prefer to work at a puzzle for as long as it takes (even if it is months or years) and I kept at it. One of his comments was to encourage me to think about the name “Firestarter”. Do you think that is helpful? No! Neither did I! I spent a few days flipping the cap off and trying to use it like a zippo lighter and of course, this did absolutely nothing apart from to make me look very stupid in front of Mrs S. I did discover that the shackle can turn inside the casing but no matter how quickly I turned it, it also wasn't helpful in opening the damned lock!

It had been a month and I had played with a few other puzzles (and reviewed them) having run out of ideas for Haleslock 5. Allard’s review forced me to pick it up again and in desperation, I thought long and deeply about the name. I fiddled around a bit and tried some new movements based on a sneaky idea and suddenly the key was in the lock!

How did I manage that?
Quite shocked and not very sure how I had done that, I took it out and picked it up to look inside the keyway. I was none the wiser! The pin appeared to be still blocking the entrance and, you guessed it, the key also wouldn't go inside again! What the hell? I tried the movements again and nope! No luck this time. Again, being "a bear of very little brain", I decided to try those movements many many more times much to the annoyance of she who was trying to watch TV! AHA! YES! The key slipped inside again and this time I think I knew how. Time to turn the key. Don't be stupid, of course that's never going to work - so I tried it anyway and...nope! It wouldn't move. He’s a sneaky bastard that Shane!

I fiddled a bit with the puzzle in this state and for no apparent reason the key turned - I had absolutely no idea how I achieved it but I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. Time to move to the next step. I already knew from Allard’s article that the core of the lock could be pulled out of the casing and so I did just that. Yes! It pulled outwards! I had SOLVED IT! Errr, no wait, it would only come part way out! There were some very choice words uttered at that point which involved Shane and his parentage!

Damn that man! Just as I thought I had beaten it!
The ring is still trapped
At this point, a couple of other discoveries occur. One that just happens to surprise you and another that requires you to explore. Once both discoveries have been made then it is a matter of putting 2 together with 2! I expected 5 but for once I had 4:

Over 4 weeks to solve it! That is one tremendous puzzle!
Having gotten it apart, the ring comes off and Shane’s signature is clearly visible inside. At this point, I revealed how dim I was! Yes, I reset the locking mechanism with it in the disassembled position. This meant that a) I could not reassemble the puzzle and b) I had to solve it again without the benefit of the assembled shape to help with the various moves. Another half hour of vigorous swearing and it was finally back together.

I have solved it numerous times and now understand almost all of the mechanism - it is unbelievably clever and I was tempted to completely disassemble it to actually see how he had made the modifications. There are some stories of people doing this and finding themselves with rather a lot of pieces! Shane gently advised against doing that and if he advises something then I take his word for it - it remains fully assembled.

I have all of the Haleslocks (and his other puzzles) that Shane has produced and this is by far the best of the Haleslocks - the sheer complexity of the modifications and the skill in producing such a beautifully made puzzle is breathtaking. If you get a chance to buy one or borrow one to play with then jump at the chance.

I cannot wait to see what he does next - he is qualified as a Master Carpenter and also a Master Locksmith. I would say that he has qualified as a Master Puzzle maker too! Well done mate! I can't wait to see what you do next.

Sunday 7 October 2018

Rex Makes Perplexing Puzzles From Perspex!

Following on from last week's fun with a fabulous maze puzzle (Aguinaldo), I now intend to write about the two puzzles that I actually purchased from Rex. I expected to receive just 2 puzzles but a third was in the package. Before I continue, I should explain to all of you outside of the UK what the term Perspex from the title means. I had no idea until I wrote the term a few years ago that "perspex" is not known outside of the UK - Perspex is a name that we Brits frequently use for Acrylic, Plexiglass or Lucite. Why would I use this word? Because it makes for a properly poetic puzzle title and I'm positively practical in my pleasing and perspicacious approach to my puzzle writing! Gulp!

The Rizal puzzle is either named after a region in the Philipines in which Rex lives or it is the surname of one of the main national heroes of the Philipines, José Rezal. Maybe Rex can comment below for a clarification?

I knew that the Aguinaldo was a maze having played before at the MPP but actually had no idea what type of puzzle the others were. A quick look at them revealed that there are clearly things that can slide in and out and part of me expected to navigate a maze to move them but I was very pleasantly surprised when nothing budged. After spending a few minutes poking and prodding at various parts of the Rizal puzzle I realised that there was something moving around inside and it wasn't the coin. Time to switch the radio off and then listen properly. Mrs S walked into the kitchen to see me holding up an inanimate object to my year with a quizzical look on my face and yet again became convinced that I was losing the plot and having conversations with my toys! She didn't wait to see if I would talk back...she just assumed that I would! I hastily explained that I was listening to moving parts that I couldn't see and she stalked off muttering about crazy husbands and getting me committed to the loony bin (no guys...NOT again!)

Despite her disbelief, the listening was quite useful. I could tell that something would move only in certain directions and it did make the piece that should (but wouldn't) slide feel different. Thinking© about what was changing I formulated a cunning plan and Aha! sliding occurred! After this, the mechanism was revealed and it is deceptively simple but beautifully functioning because of the unique properties of perspex/acrylic. From this point, it is a fairly simple matter to perform another sequence and the coin drops out...very pleasing!

Not too difficult but logical and fun.
Returning it to the start position is not quite a matter of just reversing the moves you made. It is also important to think of orientation during the's not terribly tough but is another part of the Aha! moment. This is definitely worth adding to your collection when Rex makes them available again.

Barasoain is derived from the “baras ng suwail” which means “dungeon of the deviant”. It was the meeting place for revolutionists who were working against the Spanish colonial government in the late 1800s. Their work paved the way for the Philippine Revolution. I do wonder whether the deviant thing is just Rex having a sly poke at us puzzlers?

This rather nice grey puzzle is a bit thicker than the Rizal indicating there might be a good bit more to the solution than that one. Another indication is that on the opposite side to the coin there is a window into the interior. It doesn't reveal anything helpful but sort of implies that you're going to have to look inside or poke about at some point. Rex had warned me not to solve this in my customary armchair with cat on my lap as "things" fall out.

I began working at the kitchen table on it and was pleased that I had. There is a convenient blue piece of one layer poking out and depending on how you hold the puzzle it may or may not be useful. Needless to say, when I first picked it up, nothing would move but after a couple of minutes of desperate twisting and turning, pushing and pulling, I had a movement and...that was it! About 5mm more blue acrylic sticking out. A little more listening and fiddling and something dropped out...not the coin. Now that is interesting! What do I use that for? The shape is very reminiscent of something and gives a big hint (buy one yourself to find out!) but doing what I thought I should, did nothing.

Proving that I am not very bright, I was stuck at this point for 2 hours doing the same things over and over and over again. Of course, nothing ever changed and I put it down for a bit to cook dinner. During my cooking, I thought and thought and thought and for once it occurred to me that I needed to listen to this puzzle as well. It is VERY subtle but with certain conditions met there is a sound, a very small sound but when it occurs you know what you have done and why. At this point, you are still stuck but I would encourage you to listen again and see what you can hear. With all this listening and thinking and pushing, prodding and tilting about, there is a sudden change and BAM! A coin drops out! Now THAT is a very clever puzzle and not at all easy.

Phew! That took quite some time!
It is also a nice feature that Rex has used simple nuts and bolts to construct the puzzles. Once you have solved them it is worth taking the time to unscrew them and take the puzzle apart to see how he achieved what he did. The construction is really quite simple but very difficult to envision. I take my hat off to him for coming up with such a clever idea. I will be looking forward to future puzzles from his rather devious mind!