Sunday, 13 June 2021

All at Sea and Hitting the Bottle

Ship in a bottle
It would seem that every Sunday when I write my blog post I sit down with tears in my eyes and almost unable to see. Not for any emotional reason but this is the time that I have to do one of my employer mandated twice weekly lateral flow tests. 15 minutes before I start to type, I have had a good swipe at the back of my throat (pharynx for those of you keen to learn some anatomy) enough to make me significantly gag (Mrs S uses the affectionate term "boak") and then stuffed the thing far enough into my nose to feel like I am doing a brain biopsy. At the end of this with tears streaming down my face, I sit down to think about puzzles. Yep, I'm a truly depraved individual - who could think about puzzles after that?

Recently I might have received a little package from Tom Lensch and one of the puzzles that Arrived was a puzzle from last year. Ship in a bottle was designed by Goh Pit Khiam quite a few years ago and was entered into the IPP design competition in 2003 (that time made by Walter Hoppe). Tom rereleased it in 2018 and I sort of ran out of money at that time and turned it down. Of course Allard bought a copy, described it as a brilliant puzzle and immediately made me regret my decision. On top of that, at several subsequent MPP's it had been brought out and people playing with it seemed to enjoy it and further make me regret that decision - another reason for tears! Somehow I never actually got to play with it there as I am very easily distracted by other shiny things and squirrels.

Simple instructions - turn the ship around
Well, the last year has definitely encouraged me to hit the bottle - this bloody pandemic seems to have increased everyone's alcohol intake considerably. My own personal gin collection has increased enormously. When Tom let me know what he had available recently, he said he had some new copies of Ship in a bottle available and so I jumped on board and sent some PayPal. The package crossed the pond really quickly and before I had had time to warn Mrs S that yet more stuff might be arriving the postman had knocked on the door. She then knocked on me when I got home from work. It seemed like a good idea to hit the bottle as an analgesic!

Beautifully made from Walnut and acrylic with nice brass capped screws the bottle looked lovely. Tom had sent out the ship blocks (Maple I think) outside the bottle to protect it from being broken by the pieces in transit. The "cork" in the bottle is also made from Walnut and is held in place with a magnet. Pulling that cork reveals the only way to insert the pieces into the bottle. There are gaps all the way around the outside so that fingers (or as Tom suggests a pencil capped by an eraser) can be used to manoeuvre the pieces into whatever position you wish and then slide them around each other. I started on the first position and quickly achieved this:

Ok I'm hooked - definitely floating on a stable sea
Photo taken, I take the pieces out and reverse the orientation of the bottle. Now let's reassemble that ship...oh, now I see why everyone liked this puzzle. The presence of 3 vertically oriented pieces which appear to need to be inserted last (which is impossible) suddenly presents a challenge. Allard is right again (damn him!) I need to think© outside the boxbottle and this hurts (maybe I have sampled too much brain with my lateral flow swabs?)

Like most of you, I have solved the 15 puzzle many times before and initially thought that this would help but nope, not really much help at all. There is quite a lot more to this than just sliding tiles around, the presence of 2x1 tiles in both orientations really limits your options. 

In the end I solved it in about 45 minutes (probably much longer than most puzzlers) but I was distracted by TV and a cat trying to knock the 1x1 pieces off my lap. The assembly of the ship requires a fairly long sequence of moves and provides a very nice Aha! moment. After that it's time to reset to the beginning and of course, I had completely forgotten the correct sequence and had to work it out again. Really lovely!

Oh yessss! Definitely as much fun as everyone promised
Having reassembled the ship in the start position, I tried again and still couldn't do it without a struggle - this is an absolutely delightful challenge. It's not too difficult for an experienced puzzler but still fun and will be a wonderful challenge for a beginner or a child. I think I will be taking it to work to torture my colleagues with - at least they stand a chance solving this one (I have one particular orthopaedic surgeon who starts to cry whenever I threaten him with Tomas Linden's Symmetrick puzzle - if you don't have a copy then go and buy one right now!)

Having hit the bottle and completely consumed the contents (Hic burp!) I then decided to play with my balls:

Of course they are not my balls!
I just own them
My recent bunch of puzzles from Mine included a copy of Dog and Balls that he had managed to unearth. I couldn't resist adding it to my pile especially as all men like to play with their balls. The aim is to swap the green and red balls over without lifting anything off the tray. This is not as challenging as the Ship in the bottle despite needing many many more moves. Also quite fun.

I'm not very good at sliding piece puzzles but these were very enjoyable - if you find one for sale then definitely worth adding to your collection. Now it might just be time for some more gin. Cheers everyone.


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