Sunday, 18 April 2021

Taking it Slow but NOT Easy

Matrix by Émil Áskerli
Unfortunately work has interfered with my puzzling and blogging this weekend - the NHS never stops and never sleeps and as the pandemic begins to ease again, the workload to try and catch up with the backlog is going to increase. Unfortunately I am missing a virtual MPP and having to write this review in advance.

My friend Johan Heyns unfortunately decided to abandon making puzzles (except for his own enjoyment) and selling them on his store which is now shut down. I am very pleased that in the few years that he was selling I managed to buy quite a few of his creations (starting with the phenomenal Really Bent Board Burr designed by Derek Bosch). Most of Johan's puzzles had a number of features in common - he made them from sticks which he cut very accurately and then glued together (this is really obvious in the photo above) and also almost all of his creations were supplied with a stand especially designed to hold a particular puzzle. Some of the stands are almost as complex as the puzzle itself and I distinctly recall that one of them needed assembly and it took me ages to actually work out how to put just the stand together!

Stand perfectly designed for the puzzle
Tray of shame! Matrix always present.
Back in 2017 I bought the Matrix puzzle from Johan. It looked interesting as a stick burr that was combined with a complex frame made from interlocking boards. This puzzle does not have a particularly high difficulty level with a solution requiring only 45 moves to remove all pieces (21.3.2.2.2.2.2.2.2.2.3.2). Despite this so called ease, I have been completely unable to solve it for years. Many puzzles like that get shelved and brought out periodically to be tried again (and again and again) being put away between attempts each time. The Matrix, however, was different...the moves were really quite interesting and I always seemed to be making progress but then getting stuck about 15 or 16 moves into the solution. I couldn't bring myself to put it away and it would always end up returning to my tray of puzzles I am "currently" playing with. It has been on that tray in the living room for 5 years being picked up and fiddled with every few weeks/months. Always always, I would get stuck at exactly the same spot. Maybe I was down a dead end? It seemed unlikely that one would be this long but I could not find an alternate path and have remained fixated on this blasted puzzle for years.

There is something really special about the designs from Émil Áskerli - Eric made the Clamped cubes back in 2017 (if Eric makes something you can always assume that itis a very interesting puzzle)

Clamped cubes
Clamped cubes pieces - looks simple?
I also received a gorgeous version of Émil's Tvan from Johan and it also remains compulsively unsolved but stunningly beautiful on display.

Tvan on stand
This week, I have had to medicate one of our boyz and he is not enjoying the process. In the evening, by the time I get to settle down with a puzzle, he is usually clamped to my lap and I realise that I have forgotten to put out any of my new acquisitions to play with. So this week I have been forced in the evenings to continue playing with Matrix - after all, it has been within reach for 4 years!

Each day I have repeated the same sequence of moves and been unable to get any further until Thursday when I have a fabulous Aha! moment. I've found a move...a REALLY complex move that involves the frame shifting along with several of the sticks. I don't know why I found it this time. I suspect that I must have been holding the puzzle in such a way as to squeeze it and initiate the move. Johan doesn't use a smooth lacquer to finish his creations and this may have created some friction which made it harder to find the hidden move. Having found the new move, I was on my way and I quickly laid a pile of pieces on the purring boy. It soon became obvious that I was never going to get this back together again without Burrtools and have spent a happy few hours creating the solution file.

At long last!!!!
Absolutely brilliant puzzle! I hope that Émil continues to design and that other craftsmen will make his designs. I know that Johan has several other hobbies and a grandchild keeping him busy. I will miss getting puzzles from him as they are very different to those produced by others. I hope that everyone who went to the MPP had a good time? Hopefully we will be able to meet and play in person soon.

Finally, I know that some of you have subscribed to my email list to get these articles emailed to you. Unfortunately, Google has announced that it is withdrawing this service very soon. I apologise for this - I am still looking into making a jump away from the Blogger platform (as Steve C has done with his Boxes and Booze site) which has become increasingly frustrating to use. This is another factor motivating me to jump ship - hopefully I can find the time to do it sometime soon. 


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