Sunday 29 March 2020

Mrs S Piles on the Pressure

It's a box! But I don't collect boxes. So, therefore, it's NOT a box.
Hi guys, I hope that you are all keeping safe out there? Please please please:


You may be fit and healthy but the UK has had a healthy 21-year-old girl die of COVID-19 and continental Europe has had a 16-year-old die too. None of us are safe - the outcome depends on pre-existing comorbidities and even more importantly viral load. If you get a big dose then you may be in trouble. This explains why healthcare workers are one of the groups with a high mortality...we just get a very high exposure level despite having PPE. Even with PPE, it is very easy to lose concentration over a long shift and rub your eyes or forget to gel your hands. Staff in Accident and Emergency departments are bearing the brunt and then anaesthetic departments as well due to the fact that most Intensive care medicine (at least in Europe and Australasia) is provided by anaesthetists. Even if you don't think you are at risk - remember that you don't want to kill your or someone else's parents/grandparents!

I am not sure how much longer I will be able to keep blogging - my duties are changing day by day and as well as clinical duties, I am working on supplies/equipment and am needing to rewrite the on-call rotas as staff get moved around. I will be doing an awful lot more nights and weekend duties over the next week or so and may not be able to solve any puzzles or write about them for a while. I'll do my best to get something for you all as and when I can manage it.

During the week things got busy and my idle puzzling time dropped to zero. In the evenings, I seemed to be unable to concentrate. So Saturday was the first day off in a while and I was determined to solve something for today's blog post. I had received a delivery from Eric earlier in the week after Mrs S released a package from its' quarantine in the porch. It had the usual orange tape marking a Cubicdissection puzzle and I spend a little while wrestling a greedy cat for possession (he lurves tissue paper and loves string even more!) Inside was a box. But no, it's not a box - it can't be because I don't collect boxes. The cavity(ies) were filled with 9 beautiful wooden assemblies - I do collect wood!!!! Drool!

9 different kinds of wood and a display case
The usual sig plus beautiful workmanship on the box
I knew that I had to have this just because of the woods and the workmanship. Plus I have become more and more addicted to interlocking puzzles. This particular puzzle - yes, it is effectively just ONE puzzle was designed by Lee Sallows (I am ashamed to say that I have never seen that name before) and fabulously made by Eric from Black Limba, Walnut, Mahogany, Leopardwood, Wenge, Spalted Tamarind, Canarywood, Quilted Maple, Paduak, Red Grandis (Box). The Blurb (which I didn't read said:
Reticulated Cubes is a fascinating exploration of 3x3 cube puzzles with a novel twist. Each box contains nine pieces, and there are eight possible cube solutions. The goal is to organize the pieces in the box such that any three pieces in a straight line will assemble into a cube (tic-tac-toe style). The solution is quite difficult to find!
So, it's a kind of Sudoku and multiple interlocking puzzles! Fab!

First of all, have a closer look at the pieces and the box:

Even the grid is gorgeous!
Which wood is your favourite?
I initially set to just random cube assembly and realised that individually they were not that hard to make (no rotations or multiple moves to get them interlocked) but then when I tried to make 2 at the same time, it got harder quite quickly and then a third was really tough! I tried again and only could make one! None of the remaining pieces could be assembled! OMG! Time to Think© (that was painful). I got out a piece of paper and a pencil and did some adding up...several times! I ended up with a plan - my plan is hidden behind a spoiler button - don't click it if you ever plan on solving this yourself.

After I had done my initial planning, I set to at the breakfast table with Mrs S reading the newspaper next to me. She was a little bemused at the number of pieces and the rapid onset of muttering that occurred next to her. After an hour the muttering had escalated to swearing and she was starting to get annoyed. She asked me what I was trying to do and then asked whether I had a quieter puzzle to play with. When I told her that I HAD to solve this for the blog the following day she gave me an ultimatum...You have GOT to do this within another 2 hours or you MUST move onto something else! Aaargh! As if the pressure of work and blogging weren't enough already - she's a mean vindictive woman with a powerful right hook so I took this all very seriously.

After another 10 minutes, I actually had a second epiphany - the initial pattern that I had thought of could be narrowed down by looking at further restrictions in the pieces that can interact together at all. This was made quite a bit tougher by the fact that I seemed to be incapable of interlocking 2 pieces that really HAD to go together. Then...Aha! I had a breakthrough and some more pieces were placed in the grid and finally, just as I came up towards my deadline, I had it solved. Phew - such pressure from both puzzle and Mrs S!

The solution is behind another spoiler button - again don't click it unless you really want to see the solution.

Wow! What an incredible puzzle - the design is fabulous - I loved having to think about multiple assemblies that went side by side and am delighted with Eric's workmanship and choice of gorgeous wood. My addiction is well served here - even Mrs S liked the look of it even if she did not like my swearing.

Luckily I was able to solve it before she a) murdered me or b) physically took it off me and put another puzzle in my hands! Next up, my puzzle fro this evening is how to write a rota that usually has 30 people on it providing 3 tiers of cover with only 18 people, some of whom may disappear at any moment (but I don't know who will be disappearing)!  Wish me luck.

Stay safe everyone - really pay attention to what is being advised. It is dangerous out there to you and to your families. If you obey the advice then this may be under control within a month or so (ignore the "Orange idiot's" plan for Easter) and we can hopefully not swamp the health services beyond their ability to cope.


  1. Kevin, you are doing an amazing job (and a cracking job with the puzzles too). Keep safe and all my to you and your loved ones. Mike Quigley

    1. Thank you my friend! Greatly appreciated. I’m doing my best - hopefully I’ll manage to keep blogging - I’m quite proud that there have been no breaks for quite a few years.

  2. Thank you for all that you're doing!

    Stay safe - and if you need to skip a blog or two, we'll make do. You have larger obligations.

    On the other hand, you'll need some down time as well and if puzzling and blogging can help you cope, then by all means please do so.

    I am loving Reticulated Cubes and have my own ideas about how to solve the larger challenge, but i'll keep this in reserve for when I need a hint - thanks!

    1. Thank you! I will (and do) need the down time from all of the stuff at work and am really hoping that I will be able to solve something for you all to read about. I’ll try not to let everyone down.

      Good luck with the Reticulated cubes - all it needs is some logical thought and a wife putting pressure on you! If it wasn’t for the social distancing I’d send her to you!

    2. It's okay - you sent the wife's BurrTools file and I'm having my own 3D-printed