Sunday 22 November 2020

Just in Time For...

Sunday to Post an Article or For You to Buy Xmas Presents

Upcoming puzzles from the New Pelikan Workshop
I have had a few days off work this week which proved to be very welcome. An odd time to take leave you might think but I had to take my allowed leave before December or lose it completely so here we are...Late November, miserable weather and a pandemic meaning nowhere to go. Luckily for me, Jakub let me buy advance copies of his upcoming releases to play with just at the right time.

"Which ones would you like me to write about?" I asked. 
"All of them." he said.
GULP! The pressure was on.

The five puzzles this time are stunning as you would expect and a very nice set of challenges. Whack Ouch! Mrs S was really not very happy with me or Jakub as I spent several hours a day this last week "wasting my time with toys" and not doing anything useful around the house. I, on the other hand, have had a very restful few days desperately trying to solve these in time for today's blog post. The pressure is really on as I don't want to delay Jakub's business and most importantly don't want to be responsible for delaying you getting your hands on these wonderful new challenges.

Castle by Christoph Lohe

This puzzle is the only burr in the upcoming release. It is absolutely stunning made from American Walnut and Cherry - it even has turrets and small windows in the walls. There are 4 burr sticks to be removed from the Walnut frame. It is a classic design by Christoph Lohe who over the years has designed many many burrs with absolutely fascinating shapes and a wonderful move sequence that you discover by careful exploration and deduction. Each movement reveals one or more options for further travel and some very nice clever moves that give a great Aha! feeling when found. The sequence is actually very logical and not too difficult - this would actually be suitable as a caged burr for beginners. Having removed the pieces then it is perfectly possible to scramble them, leave it for a while to try and forget the sequence and then try to work out the reassembly from scratch. That part took me quite a while but even a numbskull like me could manage it.

Four beautifully made sticks to fit inside the frame

Santa by Dr Volker Latussek

Dr Latussek must have a mind like a steel vice! I have no idea how he keeps coming up with these amazing packing puzzles! I have so far completely failed to solve the final one in the Euklid series (for Nick) and then I receive another beautiful challenge. This consists of a 5x5x5 box beautifully made from purpleheart with 12 Acacia pieces to be fitted inside flush with the top surface. There are 2 different types of pieces and each of which consists of 10 voxels. This means that there will be some holes inside but not very many. I am terrible at this sort of puzzle because I just don't know the right way to think - I tend to make lots of random attempts which as you will appreciate seldom gets a puzzler very far.

The random positioning did reveal a few interesting ideas and whilst I was muttering to myself about it, Mrs S suggested I "shut up and get on with it without disturbing her". She could not understand why I was struggling but refused to try it for herself. In trying to explain the difficulty I realised that the best approach to this puzzle is to work out how best to distribute the holes and then find a way that would enable this. Even knowing that crucial fact does not actually help a whole lot. After a little thinking© I noticed something and tried something new. OMG YES! That was really clever. This is a very approachable puzzle and well worth adding to your collection. Now I really must get back to Euklid for Nick! A very minor spoiler is hidden behind the button - only press it if you aren't bothered by a minor giveaway.

Super Magnetic by Alexander Magyarics

Super Magnetic
I have to say up front that I am totally addicted to Alexander's designs! There is something truly special about them. He has taken the type of puzzle designed by Osanori Yamamoto (see below) and added a whole new dimension of fun to them. This consists of an Acacia box which has a plus shaped opening on the top and a minus shaped opening on the opposite side and 4 rather interesting but fairly simple shapes (made from Wenge) to be placed inside such that the opening is completely covered. 

Straight away it becomes clear that there are some serious constraints preventing the pieces being placed inside easily. The big piece requires 4 moves to place it inside and the presence of the other pieces inside will seriously hamper this but placing it first almost completely blocks the entry for the other pieces. OK...time to think© yet again! I thunk quite a lot about this and did it "outside of the box" yet still it didn't help much. With my pea-sized bwain hurting quite a lot, I tried a systematic approach - there are only a few ways that 2 of the pieces can be arranged inside so how can the others be arranged around them? This process did actually help me a lot but still left me with a few options to go to trial and error. 

After 4-6 hours, I finally got it - the Aha! moment was ecstatic and then I tried to put the pieces inside only to realise that there is another dimension to this wonderful puzzle! It takes quite a bit of dexterity to actually make your planned solution work. Fingers won't fit inside easily alongside the pieces and they need to be slid around by gravity all whilst preventing rotational moves which can block things. At one point I had a horrible feeling I had it all jammed up but finally managed to get to the solution. 

I cannot believe how difficult that was!!
Undoing the solution was just as much of a challenge as putting it all inside. This was wonderful!

Triple 4 by Osanori Yamamoto

Triple 4
Oh yes! I love it when Jakub brings out more of these. Osanori is the master of the "simple" packing puzzle. Simple because it is just a small volume to be packed (and often not even fully packed) and often with pretty large entry holes to get the pieces through plus a hole in the opposite side to allow more room for manoeuvring. This version of Triple 4 is made with a Mahogany box and Ipe pieces. It's quite lovely!

This one has a giant big entry hole so should be pretty easy! Maybe for you it is but for me...oh boy! The pieces are relatively complex placing real constraints on the ability to insert them and the diagonal cuts for the hole is a significant restriction to movement. With only a single voxel clear at the opposite side, this made using it to make room rather more complex than expected. Making a cube shape outside of the box was remarkably easy - too easy in fact! I found loads and loads of cubes and many of them met the criteria to fill the holes in the box (after solving it, I put the shape with restrictions into burrtools and there are 26 possible cubes). This approach was going to have to be modified. Maybe I should start with looking at the restrictions for the entry method? Yes, that might just help. After about 4 hours whilst watching TV with Mrs S, I had a major breakthrough and it was solved! Yesssss! Brilliant design!

That is quite a challenge!

Pentaring by Osanori Yamamoto

This simply stunning puzzle from the fevered brain of Osanori-san is made with a Zebrano box and some very vibrant Padauk pieces. Here there are only three pieces to be fitted inside but they are fairly complex and there are 2 rather large holes diagonally opposite each other to be filled at the same time. That single diagonal wall on the entries will prove very important. 

Initially I could find several ways to make the 3x3x3 cube but I couldn't for the life of me find an assembly that would end up with the opposite corners filled. It took me a couple of hours to find a potential assembly only to be stymied by the realisation that one of the pieces was oriented in such a way that it could not be inserted inside the box at all. Back to the drawing board.

This morning I was starting to worry that I would not have anything to write about today - I didn't want to split the post about these up as that's not fair on you and I had nothing else ready. In a frenzy after breakfast this morning, I tried this one again and again and again! I had missed an alternative cube assembly - this was easily done because the positioning of the pieces was particularly unintuitive. Having found a new shape, I had to find out whether there was a sequence that could fit it into the cube frame. Again, I struggled but just in the "nick of time" I solved it so I can reveal them to you. There is a very minor spoiler in the next picture so I have hidden it from you behind a show/hide button:

This is a wonderful challenge with a fantastic Aha! moment.

All of these should be released by Jakub and Jaroslav on the Pelikan Puzzle store within the next week or so. I suggest that you tell your significant others to buy them for you for Xmas or better yet, you do what I do and buy them yourself and let them know that your present is sorted! If you miss out on the selection from them then I am sure that they will also soon be available from PuzzleMaster amongst their enormous Pelikan selection.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends - enjoy your celebrations and time off. Take care everyone! Be safe out there. It takes no effort to put on a mask and it will help prevent this blasted virus spreading further. 

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