Sunday 11 April 2021

I Have Not Burred For a While

Juno's 6BB Oddly Extended Burr (possibly #1 of several)
You very nearly didn't get a blog post to read today. There is an odd bug in Adobe Lightroom 4 which causes the app to hang if there is a video file in the folder that you are trying to import from. I have spent the best part of 2 hours trying to get my images in and edited. Only by sheer fluke did I work out what the issue was and manage to get it sorted. I have lost even more of the small amount of hair that I had left!

Over the years I might have bought a few of Juno's puzzles! I especially like his SD puzzles and they have appeared in my best of year many times but I also seem to be rather addicted to his burrs as well. He particularly seems to be able to design interesting board burrs which remain very stable during the disassembly process. It appeared that there was a limit to how interesting a standard 6x6x6 board burr can be and so Juno looked into elongating the boards to make an 8x8x8 puzzle. My interest was peaked when he stated:

"If the length of the board burr pieces is simply extended from 6-unit length to 8, we can not expect higher numbers of movement for assembling and disassembling since the filled area (block) strongly restricts the possible movement. Simply extending the blank area (voids) also causes another issue since it makes the puzzle too unstable when being assembled. Then, how about extending the length of the pieces and partially extending the blank area?"

Juno realised that this would greatly increase the number of possible interesting puzzles and also ensure they had decently high numbers of required moves (up to level 24 for the first piece). The first release in this series (I do hope that there will be more) is a mere level but is still a fabulous puzzle.

The page on the Pluredro store (the puzzle itself is in the archive area now that it has been sold out) states that the size is large. I obviously didn't read that bit and when the box was opened and puzzle unwrapped from several metres of bubble wrap, I got a huge shock...its huge! I know that he extended the dimensions in Burrtools but OMG...this puzzle is 12.8cm in each dimension and weighs 360g. To prevent his board burrs from having any risk of snapping along the wood grain, Juno always uses his own home made plywood. This is not just any old white plywood from the DIY store this is gorgeous stuff - he uses PNG Rosewood (aka Amboyna) and New Guinea Walnut. The Walnut has a very interesting feature in that depending on the direction of the light it varies in colour from deep brown, through light brown to a yellowy silver colour. It took me a while to realise that the centre wood was the same in all 6 of the boards but just looks different for each of them because they are oriented differently.

It has been quite a while since I played with a board burr (in fact, I have not done much burring at all) and it took me a while to get used to the thought process of exploring without getting hopelessly lost. The difficulty level is perfect for me - as a board burr it is possible to see everything that is happening during the interaction and almost plan where you want to go. There are a number of blind ends but not too many to get me hopelessly confused and lost. There is a definite rhythm to the disassembly of this as certain sequences are needed several times as other boards are unlocked. Despite the very extensive holes in the centre area of the boards it stays very stable. At several points it looks like a rotation may be possible but it never seems to happen and you don't need multiple hands to keep everything aligned whilst you progress. I really enjoyed this one - with my back and forth approach to solving all burrs, it took me about 3 hours to find my way right to the end:

There is a LOT of space in these
Even when 2 or even 3 pieces have been removed it remains pretty stable. There is absolutely no way that I would ever be able to assemble this from scratch but I was delighted to realise that even after so long without burring, I was still able to reassemble this without BT (even if I did have a bit of a struggle working out how to get the penultimate piece back inside). Of course, I have created a BT file for it. That is an essential part of the fun for me! Now the puzzle is how I am going to get this into my display cabinets? The Juno section is pretty packed already!

Spy by Alexander Magyarics
I had several puzzles saved up to be delivered from Cubic Dissection by Eric's wonderful assistant Sara. I had finally spent more than the required £200 and they came winging across the pond to me. Mrs S loves the neat packaging but she was very unimpressed that 4 arrived at once! The first puzzle from the four that I wanted to try was Spy by Alexander Magyarics. I think this is the first of his puzzles that Eric has made and I hope that many more are coming. I have bought a LOT of Alex's puzzles from both Brian and Jakub over the last couple of years and can honestly say that he has become one of the best designers in the world (he is delightfully humble about it too when I get to chat with him). It is not just about producing something with a high number of moves...Alex designs things with a nice achievable level which has the solution masterfully hidden and/or with just the right number of blind ends to make it challenging. When Eric offered up several of Alex's interlocking type puzzles I just clicked the add to cart button without hesitation. 

Spy is another of Eric's gorgeously precise creations made with a box from Figured Maple and burr sticks made from Yellowheart, Purpleheart, and Chechen. It is 3" in every dimension (Americans don't seem to understand metric yet) - the joinery is incredible. Reading the list of woods reveals something missing - Eric says this:
"Spy is an Interlocking Puzzle with a secret. Four Purpleheart and Yellowheart pieces packed into a Figured Maple container...simple, right? Perhaps a closer look is in order. With a level solution, Spy is definitely hiding something! Even disassembly is a difficult task"
Having bought this purely because it was designed by Alex, I started with this to establish why Eric was so enthusiastic as to take the risk making yet another "straightforward" caged burr. Very quickly it becomes apparent that there is nothing straightforward here...the 4th wood is revealed as a piece hidden inside which blocks a lot of movement but also the burr sticks are not based on a 2x2x6 grid. Several of them have single voxel protrusions meaning they are based on a 2x3x6 grid which hugely ups the ante on the interaction possibilities. Movements which look like they should be perfectly possible just won't happen and this is not helped by the presence of 5 extra protruding voxels from the interior of the frame. 

At several points during the solution process it looks like there might be a rotation but it is never possible and the sequence is delightful. I spent at least 5 hours before I had managed to disassemble it and was quite surprised that even after one of my cats dislodging the pieces from their careful placement (he turned them into a heap of wood), I was still able to reassemble this one with only a little bit of trial and error. I must admit that there is no way on earth I would be able to assemble it from scratch but scrambling the pieces did not hinder me too much having effectively learned a rough assembly path. Yet again Alex has designed an absolute masterpiece - it is still available as I type. Go and get one whilst you can.

The 4th wood type is revealed
A stunning puzzle (both design and craftsmanship)
I still have quite a few burrs in my "to be solved" pile but am pleased to have got by burr mojo back again. They are still amongst my very favourite puzzle types.

I do have a new Stickman to play with as well but I think this will take me several weeks or even months.


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