Sunday 9 August 2020

Aaron Might Just Coin It In With This One!

3 Coins
A nice quick blog post today - I’ve had to work both Saturday and Sunday this weekend and had very little time. This has been done quickly on my iPad on Saturday evening whilst completely saturated with curry so my concentration ability is rather poor and finished off on Sunday evening having just got back from work. Let me know if there are any awful grammatical errors?

Aaron Wang, as I’ve said a few times before is a genius like no one I’ve ever met before! He is a teacher in China and in his spare time he designs and manufactures disentanglement puzzles. How does anyone go about this? I have no idea but from what I can tell it involves having a very twisted mind. The unique thing about the designers of this type of puzzle is that they do it all in their heads! There is no software that helps them with it, they just are able to visualise how the pieces or string or loops of chain can be manipulated to release whatever is required. As a result of this ability to design, they are also able to solve these their heads! I cannot do this for the life of me! I solve most puzzles by many hours, days, months or even years of random movements. I seem to be quite good at random movements because I am successful with a lot of these puzzles...eventually.

When the IPP was going to be held, Aaron was hoping that someone would take this puzzle, 3 Coins, to be their exchange puzzle. He offered it to me if I wanted to participate in the exchange but I personally can not afford to risk the wrath of Mrs S! Can you imagine what she would do to be if I bought 100 copies of this at $10-12 each and then came home with another 100+ puzzles all in one go, PLUS what I would have bought whilst there? A whack! ouch! would not even begin to describe what would happen to me! I suspect the South Yorkshire police might be finding pieces of me for years.

Regretfully, I had to turn Aaron down but he still let me buy a bunch of new toys at the beginning of the year. He wanted to know whether I thought it was suitably difficult.

Now I’m sure that you are wondering, "is it suitably difficult?"

OMG! Hell yes! I received this at the beginning of January and started to play straight away. I found some very interesting movements and thought I found a key move. Then I got in a knot and hastily backtracked to the beginning. Try something else? Maybe a different direction? Still a knot and back to the beginning. A different idea and yes, a knot! All the knots look very similar except this time there was the OMG panic of how the hell to I get out of this mess? Luckily it’s a chain rather than a string and despite getting stuck many times I have always managed to find my way back to the starting conformation. If you are a bit anxious about disentanglement puzzles with fully flexible components then this one is perfect - it doesn’t end up permanently buggered up!

I played with this everywhere I went all through January and February before realising that I was now repeating the same thing over and over again and still struggling every time to reverse it. In March the world went a little crazy and my work-life balance tilted rather emphatically towards work! In between the huge amount of work, I carried the 3 coins puzzle with me and took it out to play periodically but got nowhere.

Recently Aaron has been posting a whole bunch of new designs that he will be making available very soon and when I chatted about them I asked for a little hint to help. He sent me a picture that showed me the general idea. It is exactly what I thought and forced me to focus on a particular technique. It certainly was not a big hint - he basically showed me that it functions in a similar way to this puzzle (don’t look if you don’t want a spoiler):

Armed with the knowledge of a similar puzzle, I duly tried the critical move which, I hasten to add, I had probably already done 1000s of times before. It had a very specific effect which I then had to decide how to utilise elsewhere. Aha! Now that is very interesting! What if I try...

And I have a knot again! Back to the drawing board. I spend the next 3 days trying variations on a theme and also desperately trying to remember what each variation was and inevitably repeating the same mistake many times. At some point I fed some part through and around and over some other part (now you see why I can’t remember much) and something is very different. In fact if I move something in a certain way then it might just look just like the "spoiler puzzle". A few seconds later I have the 'coin' removed From the puzzle:

It only took me 7 months!
Now, putting it back? Despite having been very careful to watch what I was doing during this disassembly, I found it really quite difficult to manage the reverse of the procedure, even having done it just a few minutes earlier. Resetting what I refer to as the 'second lock' requires absolutely perfect positioning and there are lots of ways to muck it up. My first reassembly took me 2 hours and having done it multiple times, I still struggle every time - it’s always the same part that I cannot find the position for. This is a bonus - it adds a frisson of panic to a wonderful Aha! moment which never seems to go away.

All the puzzles from Aaron are wonderful. They are definitely NOT for beginners! Almost every one of the puzzles I’ve bought from Aaron are seriously tough and very well made. If you like a challenge  and want to try one of his wonderful new designs then contact him via his Facebook page or if you are not on FB the contact me and I’ll put you in touch. Alternatively a good few of his older designs are available from PuzzleMaster.

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