Sunday 8 August 2021

Free Me From All This!

Is that something that Mrs S has muttered at me having opened the door to the UPS guy twice in one week? No, it is the motive for the latest challenge from Joe Turner - Free Me 7:

Free Me 7 (back to the usual format)
We have all been waiting quite a while for this to be released. Joe is a busy man and producing puzzles to satisfy the community's insatiable appetite is a long difficult process. The email about both Freem Me 7 and 8 came out way back in the middle of 2020 in which Joe explained that number 8 was going to be released a lot earlier than number 7 and, of course, I couldn't resist one of those. I am not entirely sure why he didn't just change the numbering so they were sent out in order but I am not clever enough to be a puzzle producer. The Free Me 7 was delayed because he was struggling with the required tolerances. It must have been a huge struggle because the offer of the next in the series didn't arrive until a few weeks ago. As you know I am never one to refuse a sequential discovery puzzle (or any puzzle for that matter) and I sent of some of my hard earned GBP (converted to USD) and risked the ever increasing ire of "She who must be feared".

When it arrived it was accompanied by a sealed packet containing specific instructions and a solution leaflet which so far I have resisted opening. As always, the aim is to take the coin out of the box whilst using only tools that are released as you play. Joe's wood craftsmanship is visibly progressing as he makes more puzzles. My first one was the Free Me 6 and, whilst a great puzzle, was not anything much to look at. Here we have a puzzle that is nicer on display and finished beautifully.

I couldn't resist! I had reached a dead end with the Abraham's Well from Brian Young and had this one on my pile'o'puzzles to solve next to me and went straight to it.

It is quite obvious that the end comes off but there is only a tiny amount of movement in the dovetail before the blockage is evident. OK, how do I release the blockage? There really isn't much available at this stage. Turning it over and over in my hands, I can hear things moving inside but no matter what direction I turn and what angle I am at I cannot release the dovetail. I consider putting it on the lapcat and spinning it but decide that isn't a good idea - it has been a few weeks since we trimmed his claws and I didn't want a "lap" injury when he zoomed off. I also wondered whether spinning the puzzle might actually be considered shaking? I carried on doing the same thing over and over again for a whole evening thinking I had a broken puzzle.

Of course, I did not have a broken puzzle! I was just too stupid to think of what else was possible. After a soothing day (?) in the hospital, I came home wonderfully refreshed and ready to puzzle again. OK, maybe that is a little exaggeration but I had been thinking about what else I could try and again with cat on lap, I tried something new. This time there was a change inside and the top slid off - yay! In my usual way, I wanted to understand what had happened and tried to reverse the process and lock it back up again but, yet again, I couldn't do it. I was able to replace the lid and lock it on but it was always trivial to unlock again. I could not seem to understand how it was properly locked. Time to give up on that aspect and continue...

Looking inside I could see that the coin was held securely in place by a piece of metal and I clearly needed to move or remove that object. I tried all sorts of orientations and moves and had to stop myself again spinning the bloody thing. It was not going to come free easily. Another evening passed and it was back to work again. The next time I played (starting from almost the beginning) I made a discovery... it is really quite important to enjoy a puzzle slowly and listen as well as feel and look at what it happening. I heard something happen at one point and repeated that move a few more times. It happened every time - Aha! What if I????

Having made a nice discovery that could be heard and felt but not seen, this started me on an interesting path of discovery. I noticed things changing but never quite enough. I need to think© a bit more. 

After I had thunk, I realised that this sequential discovery puzzle is special in that there are almost no useful tools. I had been hoping that more stuff would fall out but what was really needed was to use the tool I had properly:

That took me several days!
After my shout upset Mrs S, I went to take a photo and then reassemble it. I suddenly realised that I had not fully understood the mechanism. I could put it back together but it was quite easy to open again and remove the coin. There was more to it aka "you did it by pure luck!" 

Finally, after another evening of toil, I think I have understood the puzzle mechanism. It is all hidden and needs to be manipulated blind which is not one of my strong points. Much less complex a construction and solution than either FM 6 or 8 but requiring very accurate movements. I can see now why Joe struggled to produce these - the tolerances would have to be fractions of a mm. Delightful and really good value puzzling - I am delighted to have this in my collection. I wonder when version 9 will be coming?

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