Sunday 20 October 2019

Let's Focus on the Doctor

Even if he Does Seem to Have a Thing For Imprisonment and Murder!

Guillotine aka Harun
A name which keeps coming up associated with some absolutely cracking puzzles over the last few years is that of the good Dr Volker Latussek. He was the man behind my favourite puzzle of 2018, the Casino packing puzzle which was so beautifully produced by both Jakub's Pelikan Workshop and Eric's Cubic Dissection (indeed, Eric's gorgeous version is still available here). If you don't have a copy yet then stop whatever you are doing right now and go buy it......Yes, right NOW! If you cannot afford Eric's beautiful version then a cheaper one is available from the Rombol range (for those in North America, PuzzleMaster has it here and In Europe, Rombol has it here). I have not managed to unearth any details about Dr Latussek but he seems to have a knack for designing puzzles with a very simple idea and a rather difficult challenging Aha! moment which is universally enjoyed. Another of his amazing puzzles that I have discussed recently was the Dunant also made by Pelikan which I also stopped you all in the process of whatever you were doing to go and buy immediately.

Now when I receive notice of another puzzle designed by Volker, I sit up and pay attention - it is pretty much guaranteed to be good. I was delighted to receive a copy of the Guillotine puzzle from Allard at the MPP after he returned from the Japan IPP (actually he had not brought enough and posted it to me a couple of days later). The premise is to pack all the pieces into the box so that the lid can slide freely to the far edge. It arrives improperly packed with the "head" sticking out. Now, you all know that I am totally rubbish at this sort of puzzle and so it was with some trepidation that I tipped the pieces out (I was worried that I wouldn't even be able to get them back into a storage position). I was rather surprised to see 2 types of very simple shape - how hard could it be?

6 U shapes and 6 bars - easy peasy! $%£k no!
This particular version that Allard had exchanged was made by Rombol in special contrasting woods. It has also been made available by Eric (for some reason it was called Harun) and again by Pelikan where it is still available now in gorgeous Cherry and Bubinga. If you want to buy a slightly cheaper version then, again, in the US get it from PuzzleMaster here or in Europe from Rombol here.

12 pieces are quite a lot for me to solve with a packing puzzle - but they are only 2 simple shapes and I figured that it would not take me too long. There is supposed to be one easy solution and then another harder solution - hopefully I will be able to get at least the easy one. Each evening whilst watching TV with Mrs S I would begin to make some shapes and hopefully some progress. After the first evening, I began to feel the "laser-burning stare" as I began to mutter increasingly loudly under my breath as failure after failure occurred. I always started promisingly but any victory was snatched from me at the last moment. There is actually plenty of room in the box for the pieces with at least a few gaps to spare but I always ended up with the gaps clumped together and a piece sticking out. I know that I am not very bright but this should not have been that much of a challenge!

After 4 days I was starting to tear out the remnants of my last remaining hair and I muttered in disgust to Derek, yes the genius! He left me feeling ridiculously inadequate by telling me that it had only taken him 10 minutes to find the easy solution and another 15 to find the tough one. OMG! What was I doing wrong? I asked for a small text clue and he typed out on FB messenger the following spoiler - don't look if you've not solved it:

Yesssss! I went straight at it and...failed dismally! For another couple of days! Sob! Getting angry at my stupidity, I decided to do what Allard always tells me...THINK© and for once it actually worked! I found something rather interesting. I definitely do not think that it is quite as easy as Derek suggested but certainly much easier than I made it look. I finally had a puzzle fully inside the box:

At last!
Next, it was time for the harder solution - I had a second spoiler for it from Derek which at least stopped me from heading completely in the wrong direction. No peaking unless you really really need it:

It stopped me heading the wrong direction but still was a significant challenge for me - I spent the whole of the remainder of the evening working on it before finally getting there. Wow! That one was even more challenging.

I have put major picture hints behind the next spoiler buttons - don't go there unless you have given up or have no intention of trying the puzzle.

If you really have to now then look here for a spoiler for the hard solution - don't do it as you really shouldn't need it:

I hope that you didn't peek! 😉😉

Bastille is another puzzle from the Good Dr Latussek that I played with in the design competition room in the Paris IPP and failed to work it out over the half-hour I spent on it there. I decided that I should buy a copy and managed to get one a few months later. It is a nicely made cubic frame containing 7 "prisoners" (rather appropriate for the Paris IPP) which were quarter segments of a cylinder. They had been p[acked into the cell and the aim was to break them all out of imprisonment. There is initially only a very small amount of movement possible which certainly doesn't seem to get you anywhere near the solution but with a little more play a discovery is made and it leads to one of those pesky thoughts. This particular pesky thought leads to another and after that, it should lead to a release of the prisoners. It is not hugely difficult but very enjoyable. Repacking is a fun little exercise in dexterity as nothing wants to sit where you need it. Greatly enjoyed and available from either Rombol direct here or PuzzleMaster here.

Tower of London
Image taken from the Rombol site
At the last Midlands Puzzle Party, I was chatting with Clive who is a genius at puzzle boxes but surprisingly even worse at packing puzzles than me. He either owned or had picked up a copy of the Tower of London puzzle by Dr Latussek and had been unable to unpack the 6 balls that were held tantalisingly loosely within the box. I had just shown off how to solve the Bastille puzzle and he challenged me to solve this one. It is not in my possession and I had never seen it before so set to with unease. There are 6 balls packed in such a way that it is easy to slightly move one at a time but not easily manipulate any towards the nice large holes in all 6 faces of the cube. It is fabulously tactile and infuriatingly awkward to manipulate but after just a few minutes of play, it was clear what I needed to do. Actually achieving this was another thing entirely and another 5 or 10 minutes ensued before a ball dropped out and then so did all of the rest leaving me to chase them around the floor. That cats would absolutely love this one! Clive was suitably impressed and then I was unsuitably horrified to realise that I couldn't put them all back!

Should be easy!
Image from Rombol
I got 5 balls back inside but couldn't for the life of me put the 6th back! Stupid boy! After a minute's thought, I had a little brainwave and carefully put the puzzle down hoping that it would stay assembled. That was quite fun and definitely an added pressure solving it in front of an audience.

Yep! Another great packing puzzle by the Master (he's as good as my friend, Laszlo Kmolnar)! This is also available from Rombol here or PuzzleMaster here. If you are making a purchase of the others then you might as well add it to the basket whilst you are there.

I hope that gives you some ideas for a puzzling future purchase or 3?


  1. Guillotine: It's not about packing the pieces, but about packing the 5 holes!

    1. That's a great way of thinking about it even if it's no help whatsoever!

    2. Exactly! No spoilers in my comments!

    3. I think this may be a larger version of the Slothouber–Graatsma puzzle. See:

    4. George, You are full of fascinating information - thank you for that!