Sunday, 11 July 2021

I Have Worked As Fast As I Can!

Coming soon from the New Pelikan Workshop
I showed off on my New Additions page that I had just received another huge batch of puzzles from Jakub and Jaroslav that they were hoping to release soon. I know that you all want to know about them as soons as possible and they want to sell them soon as well. I know that they like for me to write a bit of a spiel about them for their site and hence I start work as quickly as I can. Luckily I had a week of annual leave this week and did get a bit more time to play than I usually would BUT Mrs S is still a woman to fear if I don't do all the chores and duties that she has decided I must do and hence I did not have quite as much time as I needed. Plus...I am only human and my very feeble brain can only solve so many puzzles in a short period of time without feeling like it is going to explode. There are 9 in this release and I have managed to solve 5 of them so far. I will work on the remainder as quickly as I can.

I have no idea when these will be put up for sale so keep an eye out on the Pelikan puzzles site for updates or (if you are North America based) then keep an eye on the Pelikan section of PuzzleMaster for them appearing there (this normally happens a few weeks after the initial release).

I will start with the 2 puzzles from my friend Alexander Magyarics - right up front I have to shout out that HE IS ON FIRE!!! The puzzles that Alex has been designing recently have been not ownly beautiful in their design but absolutely astonishingly fun designs to play with and solve. He has got just the right difficulty level and play experience recently and these are the very best he has produced.

Colliding Galaxies 2

 Colliding Galaxies 2 by Alexander Magyarics 
Let me say from the beginning that for me this was the pick of the bunch - it may not be for everyone but I seriously struggled with this and the Aha! moment when I managed it was something truly special. Yet again this is another 3x3x3 cubic packing puzzle with a fancy box and a complex restricted entry which must be completely closed once solved. The title comes from the rather nice 3 armed hole on opposite poles of the box - the one pictured above is made from Cherry and Wenge and of course, like all of Jakub's work it is superbly made. The 4 pieces are quite restricted in the way they can be inserted into the box but so much that there is only one choice. Alex is not going to make it too easy by restricting too heavily.

Solving this was an unusual experience for me - I did my usual of trying to solve it outside the box and got only so far before having to change my approach - this may because I am stupid I guess. I found a few ways to construct a cube and felt this part was quite fun. Finding which orientations would fill the entry gaps was rewarding too and I had narrowed my assemblies down to only one or two. My next step is to seat the box on my lap (or the sleeping cat on my lap) and alongside it put the assembled shape I thought might be correct and then work through the possible disassembly. The problem for me was that these shapes and the holes in the box were too complex for me to keep visualised and held in place during the process. I tried this each evening for several days and just could not do it. Eventually I abandoned that approach and did something I have almost never managed before - I actually tried to assemble it within the box without having worked out what order or sequence to use first. What a challenge! Which pieces to put in first etc? Eventually I managed to get 3 of the pieces assembled inside but the 4th was a problem. I could do this with several combinations of 3 different pieces, Aaaargh! I spent 3 evenings desperately trying to get this together and always found that the crucial move that I needed was blocked until I noticed something special. A few slides later and:

At last! Fabulous!
I had not tried a particular set of positions before (I don't know why but I just had a mental block and couldn't see it) and suddenly I found the setup position I needed and AHA! It went together like a dream - this is a STUNNING challenge. You may find it easy but for me, I just could not seem to visualise the sequence. It forced me to work in a different way to my usual.

Play-boy 2

 Play-boy 2 by Alexander Magyarics 
It arrived like this
Yet again, we have another puzzle based on a non-rectilinear grid. Only Pelikan seem to have the courage to do these sorts of puzzles - probably because they must have a way to create the necessary jigs cheaply and easily. This puzzle has been made from Pink Oak and Padauk. Taking the pieces out of the box as it had been packed for transport, I could see just how accurately these had been made - the pieces had sharp corners and I had to be careful not to stab myself. I am sure that you can see it straight away but for me it took a few days for me to realise that this one is also "just" a 3x3x3 cube to be fitted into a box with a complex entry hole. The special feature is that this box and the pieces have been sheared along the x-axis to make a shape that is also quite difficult to visualise in your head (of course, YOUR head is probably more capable than mine).

I had taken this to work because I knew that I had a vascular case down in our angiography suite which was going to be a very easy anaesthetic and a VERY long procedure. I needed something to keep me out of mischief (I get up to all sorts of pranks if I am not kept properly occupied) - this puzzle was going to save the staff from being annoyed by an anaesthetist with the mind of a 12 year old and a low boredom threshold!

I worked on this in my usual fashion - assemble the correct shape outside the box and then work out whether and then how it can be placed inside. I am not good with a non-rectilinear grid and just finding the shape took me a little while. There are some big clues as to what is needed in looking at the shapes. The restricted entry is very helpful in limiting the possible assemblies and I was pretty sure that I had the correct one settled on fairly early. Time to work through the disassembly first outside the box and the skewed shape made it hard for me. After about ½ an hour I had it worked out - solved in about an hour? Not so fast! Actually doing the assembly proved an extra fun challenge - gravity has to be utilised just right and a good bit of dexterity - it was almost like a non-rotational version of the Rollercoaster puzzle which I reviewed here. The nursing staff and my ODP had watched me working on it with fascination and were almost as delighted as I was when I stood up and showed them this:

That was FUN!
Yet again Alex and Pelikan have produced something wonderful and requiring a different thought process to usual.

No Pelikan release seems to be complete without something from Osanori Yamamoto - the next two were his challenges.

All Tetra Pod

All Tetra Pod by Osanori Yamamoto
This puzzle has been beautifully made from wenge and Padauk. This was the first one I tried from the current batch - I thought I might manage to do it fairly quickly because the pieces are relatively simple being just the complete set of tetrominoes and also because I distinctly remembered having solved a very similar challenge from my good friend from South Africa, Johan Heyns. He had produced the Tetro puzzle from Ishino's site complete with a frame and a stand - I had written about it here and had enjoyed it a lot.

Tetro pieces - see the similarity?
Assembled in the stand
And there was my first mistake - the similarity was only superficial - Johan's puzzle was relatively easy because there are 63 possible assemblies into that corner shape and whilst finding one of them was not trivial, it was not too many hours of work. The new design from Osanori-san has a much more restricted entry (in fact, it is a corner shaped box with only a slot for entry). I think I had made about 6 different corner shapes which would not go inside the frame before I realised quite how much more of a challenge this was. I needed to think in terms of the restrictions as well and that really added to the challenge! Over an afternoon I think I lost most of the rest of my hair from this puzzle - it is a massive challenge and it transpires there is only a single assembly out of the 63 which is assemblable inside the box. It requires a lot of thought and a LOT of trial and error - fabulous!

That took me a very long time!

Palace by Osanori Yamamoto
Palace has been made from Pink Oak and Wenge. I's yet another packing puzzle! Yet another of those 3x3x3 cubes that need to be inserted in a box so that they fill all the entry holes! Over the last few years I have bought dozens and dozens of these puzzles and I never ever get fed up with them! They are all very similar in idea yet all very different in challenge. I absolutely adore them because they require several different trains of thought and then some fun manipulation of pieces and even some dexterity too. Osanori (and Alexander) are the absolute masters of this subtype of the packing puzzle group (I consider it a mixture of packing and interlocking along with some dexterity).

Palace looks pretty simple because there are only 3 relatively small pieces and they don't look terribly complex but there is the challenge - such compact pieces still need to fill some very big gaps in the box. It is quite easy to make a few shapes outside the box which will fill the gaps so maybe the challenge will be small? Unfortunately the entry is really not very restricted at all and therefore it requires a lot of trial of different orientations and assemblies before the appropriate thoughts begin to percolate my dense noggin. Like most of Osanori-san's designs, the pieces need to dance around each other quite a bit - in this case there is one particular move that I really struggled to find at first. The Aha! is tremendous when it hits you and everything finally slots into place.

Palace solved - magnificent!
I would be interested how all of you store these puzzles? Do you leave them in the solved state? Do you put them on display in pieces or just assemble into an incorrect shape for the shelf?

Web 3

Web 3 by Dan Fast
Finally today, a new design from a man we have not heard much from in a long time...Dan Fast (he used to be called the CrazyBadCuber but has given up that moniker now) has designed a few puzzles over the years (both Twisty and interlocking/burr) which I have had the opportunity to review and enjoy a few times on the blog. Dan got into Burrtools a few years ago and has recently been playing with it again. He sent me a few BT files a month or so back to ask my opinion and I was fairly positive about them. Jakub also got to see them and was enthusiastic enough to make a quick prototype (really really quick!) and made the decision to produce one of the easier of the designs. Web 3 is the result. This has been gorgeously made from Garapa and Ovangkol (stunning grain on it). Dan has designed a whole bunch of these up to 8x8 but I think jakub wanted something more approachable for all puzzlers.

The aim here is to slot the pieces into the frame to create a lattice that sits flush with the base. My first attempt at this had it solved in about 5 minutes and I was left with a feeling that I was missing something. I took it apart and gave it to a coworker and they really struggled - I must have got lucky. They eventually put it together and were very pleased with themselves so I tried again. My second attempt was less straight-forward. It requires a little trial and error but mostly, after the first few attempts, a definite plan and logical approach. It is still not hugely difficult (I think that a 4x4 version might be really really tough - too tough for me) and they final assembly gives a nice satisfied feeling. This is definitely suitable for beginners and experienced puzzlers alike. Dan has commissioned Alfons Eyckmans to make a full set for him up to 8x8 - now that will be a wonderful puzzle set for his collection!

Fun challenge and looks great on display

I am continuing to work on the rest of the puzzles and will hopefully have reviews up for you all soon. 

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