Sunday 9 February 2020

Everyone Should Have Some Tray Puzzles...Or Maybe...

Everyone Should Have a Tray of Puzzles?

My Tray of Shame!
It would appear that I have not (yet) committed murder and been carted off to prison! Mrs S continues with the demon cough all night and I continue to have unrequited thoughts of assassination but have so far managed to hold myself back! I have to think of the cats...who would look after them if I killed her and went to the clink? Whack! Ouch! No dear, that's not the only reason I've kept you alive!

Yes, on the floor next to my armchair in the living room I have a tray - it's a nice wooden one which Mrs S insisted on me using rather than spreading out across the whole living room. It is my "tray of shame" - puzzles I have not solved but can't actually put away. I still keep picking up all of these puzzles fairly frequently and getting nowhere with them. Some puzzles have been there for several years! I really need to solve them some time but then, I really need to get better at puzzling! Allard has the puzzling machine (Louis) come over to solve his outstanding failures but I don't have anyone here like that.

The actual subject of this blog is about a group of puzzles that I have very little experience or skill with - tray puzzles. Today, I can report that I have solved a whole series of them and actually enjoyed it. I received a bunch of toys from Tom Lensch late last year and admired them, quickly played with a few and failed dismally so added them to my tray of shame. I tend not to be good at packing puzzles because I have no patience for puzzles that are solved with huge amounts of simple trial and error (especially those that have high numbers of pieces). These puzzles did not have a high piece count and because they were designed by Goh Pit Khiam, I was fairly sure that they would have required a decent bit of thought and understanding with a great Aha! moment. He is a fabulous designer.

Having failed with all three of the "3 in 1" puzzles, I stopped trying until a few weeks ago and had a play with a different set -

This is a series of 5 challenges all marked out by lovely laser etching inside the tray. The aim is to place the start and end pieces as shown in the tray and then place the other pieces so as to create a single continuous pathway to join them together (the walnut squares are blank fillers):

Challenge 1
Challenge 2
Challenge 3
Challenge 4
Challenge 5
It looks easy, doesn't it? I have to say that as a starter for tray puzzles, for someone with very little confidence, this is just perfect! Whilst watching TV with Mrs S, I found solutions to the first 4 in a single evening and struggled with number 5. These are not simply trial and error - it could be solved that way but a little thought certainly cuts down the sheer number of random piece placements required. Having failed for a long time to solve almost anything, this was just the pick-me-up that I needed. The fifth challenge was taken to work and in a quiet moment during a period between operations, I had another go. Yess! After another 20 minutes, I had solved the final challenge and could take another puzzle out of my tray of shame once and for all. Fab! This is perfect for newbies or people like me who need a bit of a boost of confidence.

No, I am not going to show the solutions - it's not so hard as to need to give anyone help.

3 in 1
Next up was the series that had completely beaten me for a couple of months! I just could not seem to think about these in the right way. The 3 in 1 is also designed by Goh Pit Khiam and beautifully made with a Canarywood tray and 3 sets of 5 different shaped pieces - Cherrywood, Maple and Walnut.  Pick a shape and try to insert all 5 of them inside the frame. The tough feature of this is that the frame has a lip and the pieces need to slide under the edge. It is so perfectly made that no piece can be slid inside without lying it flat first. There is no squeezing it diagonally under the edge.

This was the puzzle that I stared with when I first received these months ago...and I completely failed with all three of the challenges. Off it went to my tray of shame and got played with at least weekly without success until well after Xmas. Finally, in exasperation, I took it to work to torture other people with as well as to spend more time with myself. I had a couple of very senior trainees with me who did not help me at all. I was kind of hoping they might solve it for me. I even plugged one of them into Burrtools which told me that it could not be solved - those of you in the know will be aware that that fact is particularly helpful and prevented me spending more time attempting the impossible! As a result, I spent more time trying to place the pieces on the tray whilst it was upside down and ignoring the lip. Only after I had found a possible assembly or two would I then turn the frame back over and try through the limited hole.

One afternoon, waiting for some blood results, I had ½ an hour to play and I suddenly had a breakthrough - I thought about other puzzles by the designer and something went click in my head. Initially, I thought that was my old man's neck going "crack" but it ended with a wonderful Aha! moment. Yess! One down, 2 to go!

The next 2 still took me another week or so - I got my final motivation when someone (I think it was Mike) at the last MPP told me they had solved their copy without a lot of trouble. Damn, I'm thick! I worked on the last ones at work and one of them has an absolutely delicious solution - classic Pit Khiam! The other one came as a huge is solvable by Burrtools and when worked out it is a very nice sequence.

At last, another puzzle series can be removed from my tray! Maybe I can relax and join my boyz in their favourite place, the nice warm conservatory:

Oh, Lord! I want to be a cat!!!!


  1. I have some doubts. I made a rectilinear in cardboard because I dont get it to buy. Are there some pieces whit a line in both faces?