Sunday 16 December 2018

Lee and Derek Quickly Reveal the "Full Sheep"!

Lee Krasnow's Barcode Burr Master Set
I am not sure when I first saw this but it has really taken the puzzle world by storm! Lee Krasnow is an amazing talent who has branched out into 3D printed puzzles which he is currently selling on his Etsy store. Have a browse around - there are quite a lot of fabulous designs which are generally unaffordable to the majority of us when made in wood but in plastic (whilst not as nice) they become accessible to the majority of puzzlers. Most of us, at some point, have drooled over his Barcode burr in wood but very few were made and if they ever come up at auction go for $1000s (Allard wrote about it here).

It would appear that he and the other genius, Derek Bosch, began a collaboration based on Lee's knowledge of the Barcode burr and Derek's incredible knowledge of Burrtools and non-rectilinear grids. Between them, they managed to produce designs for extensions of the original Barcode burr and Lee decided to produce a kit to extend the 3D printed Barcode burr that he had previously released. The whole lot he named the Barcode Burr Master Set which was effectively a kit for the production of 6 puzzles. It's not cheap but you get a LOT for your money. It is beautifully presented with all the pieces bagged in groups, a set of screws and a hex key. There is also a bunch of envelopes containing cards with a certificate of authenticity as well as puzzle summaries and assembly instructions.

The only fully assembled puzzle in the box is the coordicode burr (blue internals) so of course, I started with this one:

Coordicode burr
There are a few pieces that move at first and confusingly they move in pairs (sometimes). Lee described it as:
"like fumbling your way to the bathroom in the dark"
Now that is classy!! But he's not wrong. All sorts of things seem to be happening and it is quite confusing. It was being solved in the evening whilst watching TV with Mrs S and after about an hour she looked at me at just the right (or maybe wrong) time! She immediately burst into gales of laughter just as I removed the first piece of the puzzle. There is an expression that we use in our house usually to describe one of the cats...they look up with an amazed but totally blank look which looks very like a sheep. We call that:

Duh! What happened there?
"The Full Sheep!"
It would appear that just as I removed the first piece of this particular puzzle my jaw dropped and I assumed the full sheep expression! Yet again I show to my beloved that I am not terribly bright! I had absolutely no idea how I had done it and at that point, it was time to go to bed and leave it at that.

The following day I spent over an hour before I was able to return the cube back to it's assembled shape. Wow! That is confusing. I then proceeded to try and repeat it and continue the disassembly. It's actually quite a fun process and eventually I had to concede that it was not that tough. Reassembly from scratch after scrambling the pieces is particularly fun but quite possible once you have understood it.

Coordicode burr pieces
Next up it was time to set up another in the series - I was going to go in ascending order of difficulty and this meant making a copy of the Barcode burr itself. It had been a long time since I had played with my copy bought from "Small explosive Steve".

Small Steve's version of the Barcode burr
The instructions are a little confusing but when combined with a disassembled Coordicode burr, you quickly end up with a nice set of 6 pieces:

The brown coloured piece is number one to help keep track of moves.
Assembling these puzzles from scratch is a MUCH more challenging puzzle than just the disassembly. There is a fair amount of dexterity involved when there are only the first 3 or 4 pieces inserted but it does give a nice chance to understand the base sequences. I really enjoyed the process (even the frustrating dexterity part) and after just an hour or so I had assembled my first N-ary cube:

Very clever!
At least with this one, there was no repeat of the sheep expression! Of course, the next challenge was to take it apart again so that the assembly of the next up in the series can be done. It shouldn't take you long as the level is if you assemble it correctly. Improper assemblies will allow lower move counts.

Next up is the Terncode burr - the Barcode burr is based on a binary sequence and the Terncode is...ternary. Another happy half hour produced a different 6 pieces:

Yes they do look very similar to the others
This version is quite a big step up in the difficulty level. Some of the moves seem to be possible at a very unexpected position which really meant that you couldn't relax into the sequences. I was rather surprised at the difficulty of this and the odd sequences but Lee did confirm that it wasn't just me being the full sheep:
"If you have already mastered the classic Barcode burr puzzle, then your muscle memory might even work to your own disadvantage here..."
I really struggled for a while on this even if it should have been just a simple step up in difficulty. The level for the disassembly is which is a nice number of moves.

Unexpectedly difficult!
So, what to do next? Should I go for the Quadcode burr? Or try the Supercode burr? I initially thought that the ardour and confusion of the Terncode were enough and I should try something new but when it came down to making the pieces, I read the description of the Supercode:
"Moving the exit notches to the inward position on this burr comes at the expense of adding evil twists and turns to the otherwise orderly seeming mazes, and in general, throws all sense of fair play out the window! Say hello to blind alleys with pieces locking up unexpectedly..."
OMG! This made me think again! I knew that Derek was having some serious difficulty with this one (he had received an assembled copy from Lee). At heart, I am a completionist if at all possible and so with Derek's warning ringing in my sheep like ears, I set to making the Quadcode burr. The pieces look much like the previous 2 but have considerably longer maze channels:

Quadcode burr pieces
What have I done?
The Quadcode is actually easier to understand than the Terncode but very arduous in its solution. The level for disassembly is 1233.320.78.25.8 but I have to admit that the number of moves that I made was considerably higher! I'm knackered after just assembling it and now need to take it apart so I can attempt the Supercode.

Easier to understand but a bit of a monster!
This is a fabulous kit! Thank you, Lee, for making it available and Thank you, Derek, for helping extend the scope of the original puzzle. If you have even a vague interest in N-ary puzzles as well as hidden maze type puzzles then this is a great purchase for you. Now hopefully Mrs S will stop laughing at me in the image of a sheep for long enough for me to have a conversation and be able to concentrate on another in the series as well as some other new arrivals.


  1. My Master Set is in the mail!

    1. Well done! It’s a great set. Don’t get put off by the dexterity required to assemble the first 4 pieces - consider it an extra challenge. Then you too might look like the “full sheep”!

      I have disassembled the Quadcode burr and need to set up the Supercode burr. Gulp! Baaaa!

    2. I have progressed through Terncode, what a fantastic kit! I'm not sure I need/want to go any higher. Coordicode is really cool!

    3. I don’t blame you! The early pieces of all these puzzles is so difficult to do and the more complex the harder it is. I’ve spent 2 weeks trying to get the Supercode burr started and cannot even get the third piece into place!!!

    4. I just assembled the SuperCode Burr! I just followed the diagram. But it seems some dead ends lurk if you are not careful. Also it is easy to screw the wrong parts in (I did but noticed it on the next piece). The "exit notches" are always on piece 4.

    5. I haven’t tried using the diagram as I did not think it would be necessary for the third piece but everything wobbles about so much that I can’t seem to get it aligned right. I’ve given up for now.

    6. No worries. Now for me it's either QuadCode or ExtremeTorture!

    7. Good luck! Especially for ExtremeTorture!