Sunday 10 May 2020

Rainer Nearly Breaks a Table!

The Popplock T12
This blog post very nearly didn't happen - I lost a lot of hair trying to get this post up and I don't have an awful lot left to lose! My poor 2006 iMac is sometimes takes a minute to type a single sentence. I am not sure what is happening but it seems to get sidetracked and goes off doing other things whilst I am trying to type a coherent sentence. This can mean that words and sometimes even letters get jumbled up during typing. Then the trials and tribulations of photo editing are particularly bad for my poor frazzled nerves! In the end, I managed to cobble something together and am going to need to think about alternative methods for the future. Now on to the topic today...

Still unsolved!
Late last year I got a heads up from Shane that there might be something coming up that I would definitely want to save up for. He is very good friends with Rainer Popp and seems to get advanced notice about upcoming releases in Rainer's Popplock range. Now, I have a few rules and firstly it says pay attention to Shane - he cultivates the appearance of being a poor puzzler and a "bear of very little brain" but I know him very well indeed now and there is very little that is mechanical or practical that he doesn't know or understand very quickly. As far as puzzles are concerned, if Shane says that it's good then I get my credit card out and ask questions later. My second rule is that I buy whatever Rainer produces - they are always amazingly well made and always a tremendous challenge. In fact the T10 remains on the shelf in front of me entirely unsolved! Shane said that the T12 would come out early this year and I put in a request with my usual puzzle purveyer/pusher and received assurance that one was mine if I wanted it.

It was duly released and then this bloody virus hit! I was due to pick mine up in person at the MPP in March and abruptly all travel and fun was cancelled. Thinking that it might not be long, we all waited and eventually we realised that the post was the only way. Luckily for me, the post was still working - I am aware that a few that were destined for the USA seem to have been trapped in limbo for quite a long time. I am sure that they will get there eventually but this is a VERY expensive puzzle to have apparently disappear.

When it arrived, Mrs S duly put it in quarantine in the porch with all the other post and I was forced to wait...impatiently! There is no arguing with a Scottish nurse...she has the genetics for violence and the training to make it really painful. I waited for 48 hours! My package eventually was opened and a rather heavy box was emptied in the kitchen. I put it down a little too hard on the kitchen granite and the bang nearly earned me a night sleeping in the garage! I quickly examined the work surface and breathed a sigh of relief - intact with no crack or dent! This lock is a rather solid lump of brass and steel - it's not quite as large and heavy as the T11 (2.5Kg) but not far off it - the T12 weighs in at a solid 2.05Kg (that's 4.52lb for you Yanks) and is really dense with dimensions of 80x45x99mm (3.15x1.77x3.9in). Whatever you do don't drop this - it will hurt either you, your table or your floor...badly!

Back view with Rainer's logo
Things were getting rather busy at work with many extra hours trying to buy ventilators and also write up new rotas as people were shunted off to work in ICU. I finally got some time to play in the evenings and first read the rules provided with the lock:
"No hitting, shaking, force or gravity needed 
Do not use the key until you have found the key hole 
No random movements like turning the key indefinitely or rattling 
Do not use the key to push buttons - you scratch the lock! If your fingers are too think then you may use a match or similar as an aid"
As you can see from the photos, there is no obvious keyhole (a hint of where one should be) and a number of potential buttons - not all of them are actual buttons! Where to start? Push, pull or twist everything you can get your fingers on! Nope, no use! Go fetch a wooden chopstick for the buttons smaller than my help! Bugger!

I spent several evenings annoying Mrs S whilst swearing under my breath about Rainer's and Shane's parenthood. After nearly a week, something occurred to me and Aha! I found something very useful - only 4-5 hours of trying on the first step. Remember that I am not very good at locks and really not terribly bright. Having found the first step, there was a whole lot more investigation to be done and I quickly got lucky. The second step lead to a third and a fourth step...I was on a roll!

No I wasn't! Having done my 2nd third and fourth steps, the whole thing stopped moving. I could backtrack but not advance any further. Looking at the design of the lock, I really thought that I had been making progress - I had sort of worked out how the shackle would open but the steps I had taken were not enough. True to my idiot self, I continued to do the same few steps over and over and over again for quite a few days! I knew that my friend Nigel and solved his copy (he was one of the first to receive one) in just 5 hours of work - I was already much more than double that and was completely trapped in a vicious circle. Time to Think©...again.

I thought back through some of the earlier Popplocks and something occurred to me that I might have been missing. I tried a few ways to achieve something new and failed again and again. Another thought occurred to me and that didn't work either. Maybe my copy was broken? It seemed unlikely that such a sturdy object would break in the post. As is my wont, I went back to doing the same thing many many times and suddenly something new happened! How the hell? Looking at what was in front of me, I realised that whilst I had been doing the same thing multiple times, the lock itself had changed configuration by accident and suddenly the correct configuration had been achieved to allow "new stuff". Literally and figuratively there are multiple layers to this puzzle! Now I could achieve my first few steps but also a few more. Progress at last - it is almost logical if you are a warped mad tricklock designer.

After 2 weeks I had reached a point where my initial surface look at the puzzle seemed to have led me. BUT still not there. The final steps were pretty obvious but didn't work for me until I found the correct directions for 4 movements. It took me 3 weeks of work and many more hours than Nigel but my Aha moment led to an open lock. The photo below has a very very minor spoiler so don't look if you want no help at all.

The high cost was well worth it - Rainer has made something challenging again, beautiful again and fun again! I am already looking forward to the T13 - will it be unlucky for me?

Now I need to find a way blog more efficiently on a bloody old computer - sigh!

Keep safe everyone - if where you live, the lockdowns are being gently loosened then please be careful! Don't go crazy out there, don't go mixing with lots of other people. Keep protecting yourself and your family. This is a very nasty and unpredictable virus - just because you are young and healthy does not mean that you won't be hit badly - I have seen quite a few unpredictable deaths.


  1. Your mac needs a new hard drive. $140 My T10 also remains unsolved!

  2. Your mac needs a new hard drive. I paid $140. My T10 also remains unsolved!

    1. I got a new Mac in the end. The old one was 14 years old…I’d earned a new one!