Sunday 24 October 2021

Plastic Fantastic!

 Or...Perpetual Plastic Puzzlement is Positively Propitious

Switch cube pieces
Switch cube failed yet again
You may remember the suffering of the poor puzzler from last week? He had foolishly ordered a plastic interlocking puzzle from the rather clever Richard Gain and decided to take the advice of another rather clever puzzler that it would be a really great fun challenge to accept this in pieces as an assembly puzzle. This advice and decision was simultaneously absolutely brilliant and, paradoxically, also a powerfully preposterous preference!

Ok! Ok! Even I am getting fed up with the P words and it's getting tough to find new ones that make sense.

I was left after last weeks' blog post with a bunch of vibrantly red pieces that were supposed to make up a 5x5x5 cube. I had worked out where they all were supposed to go but, for the life of me, I was unable to find a sequence that would lead to an assembly. No matter what I did, I always had one or other piece that I could not insert. On Facebook it was suggested that Burrtools might help but I was loathe to try that and cheat. Dammit! I wanted to be a good successful puzzler for once and actually solve something myself. Richard, chimed in to that conversation to say what I had already worked out - BT would not easily solve the puzzle - it was a TIC (Turning Interlocking Cube). I had noticed that one pair of pieces could only be interlocked with a rotation but I was worried that there might be a whole load of them. Richard said there was only the one rotation - Phew!

I persisted at it. Every evening this week until Thursday, I worked at it. I tried every possible starting sequence and wasn't getting anywhere. Finally on Thursday evening whilst watching TV I realised the source of my was me! I had got fixated on which piece was going to be the last one to be inserted and that simple insertion would complete the cube. To be honest, I don't know where the fixation began. It did seem like a perfect end to the puzzle as it slid the piece into the cube very nicely but, after days and days of failure, I forced myself to reset my methods and expectations. I began to place this piece earlier amongst the others and kept the blue piece out to be the last one. This still failed me but led to a realisation that there was a fabulous sequential locking movement involving multiple pieces. I couldn't put the blue piece in last but this spurred me to find a way to insert it earlier without blocking the locking sequence. On Thursday evening I thoroughly pissed off Mrs S with a shout:


OMG! It is absolutely incredible!
The closing sequence meets the "switch cube" name perfectly 
I have subsequently dismantled and solved this cube dozens of times and absolutely adore it! An amazing design - the TIC element is a nice touch to prevent a puzzler just giving in and resorting to Burrtools but really the puzzle is almost a pure linear assembly puzzle but with multiple steps. The disassembly is level which doesn't sound like much but for a puzzler of poor prowess it was a humongous (and very rewarding) challenge. I have made a BT file which solves it using groups but that is just for the fun of it and because making these files is part of the fun. All that I need now is for someone to make this in wood and I will throw money at them! If you get a chance to add this to your collection then don't it and ask for it to be sent in pieces.

Sweeney Todd - complete with stand
Oh yesssss! I never thought I would be typing such a thing but again I have perfect plastic puzzling on my kitchen granite to play with! The genius that is Derek Bosch has done it again  - he has designed another helical burr puzzle but one with a real difference. The last one I absolutely raved was so difficult that Allard surprisingly failed at it and of course, who could resist yet another one which was supposed to be the "highest difficulty level yet".

The name is spot on - it has been 3D printed to look like a classical barber's pole and I guess that because it might just kill you to solve it, the murderous barber of Seville is appropriate. I hadn't properly realised until I picked it up (yes I bought it without even looking properly) that it has been designed differently to all the other helical burr type puzzles. Yes, it has 4 pieces like most of the others (the Vapors and Pole Dancers have 3 pieces) but instead of 2 inner and 2 outer pieces, it has a single central pole and 3 outer helical pieces. This monster apparently needs 43 moves to remove the first piece! How could I resist? 

Mrs S was not particularly amused when yet another puzzle delivery interfered with her day - I did reassure her that one of those deliveries was her birthday present to me but she seemed unmoved by it. Following my enormous (but slow) success with the Switch cube, I decided I had to jump straight in with another plastic puzzle. This has been printed by the ThreeBrassMonkeys a bit differently to the others. The inner pole seems to be a different material to their usual - it has silver flecks in the grey plastic and is textured as well. It makes for a surprisingly pleasant tactile experience and something quite nice to look at. The stand stops any of the outer pieces sliding whilst stored upright as well as making it stable for storage on a shelf.

The previous puzzle (Polar Burr) was a wonderful sequence with only a few blind ends and was a very nice discovery puzzle as the correct path needed to be found. This monster, on the other hand, has multiple blind ends right from the beginning and several loops in which you miraculously find yourself back towards the beginning of the puzzle without realising how one achieved that. 

I did my usual to and fro approach and explored the blind ends and back-tracked each time before advancing further. The "maze" has been printed on a smaller scale than most of the other puzzles and so you will require smaller moves each time as part of your exploration. Some of the moves are unexpected and complex which definitely justifies using the to and fro method and at times some of the moves are of the central pole and the interactions with the outer pieces are hidden. At one point about 15 moves in there is a way to remove a piece using an illegal move. It is quite clearly a cheat so I resisted the urge and put it back to continue with the proper solution.

On several occasions I got stuck - I could not back-track and I could not advance. This frightened me to death and really annoyed Mrs S because apparently when this occurs I start to heavy breathe and mutter to myself about being lost! There is nothing more annoying to a wife of 27+ years than a husband who still breathes so I tried my best (unsuccessfully) to do it quietly. Each time I got stuck, after a frantic 10-20 minutes of trying everything I could, I managed to get back to a place that I could remember...

Until I couldn't!
Probably about 25 moves in I did something that I couldn't undo! Not because it got jammed, not because something went wrong with the puzzle. It was my own stupid fault - I do most of my puzzling in the evenings after dinner whilst watching TV with Mrs S. Now I am a bloke which means several things:
  1. I snore sleeping on my back (little clue to all you girls - you do this too! I have a huge experience of sleeping women - it's my job!)
  2. I enjoy watching violent crap on TV
  3. I cannot multi-task! Well we sort of can but it doesn't end well (as we will see)
I was watching TV and doing an extremely complex multi move puzzle! This was one task too many and something happened - I reached yet another place where I could not backtrack. I spent all Friday evening trying to work my way backwards and a fair bit of Saturday as well. Nope! That was not happening. Time to try just to advance only - except I was in a loop. For a couple of hours I went round and round in a circle getting more and more desperate. Suddenly, whilst explaining to Mrs S that the heavy breathing was necessary, I was out of the loop and had no idea how. OMG!

Interestingly, at this point the pieces all had reversed their order on the pole and started to dance in the opposite direction - I was having fun again. I had given up all attempts at keeping track of my path - there was no way in hell that I was going to reassemble this without help. I know Ali had managed it but it had taken him 6 hours and he is a savant! Apparently these things can be modeled in BT as well (I have never managed it).

It's very pretty like this which is just as well
I suspect it is going to stay like this!
After about 6 or 7 hours of fiddling, swearing (and being sworn at), the 3 outer pieces slid off one after another. Photos taken this morning and I now have to contemplate asking Big Steve or Derek for a solution file to help me reassemble it. After that I will have to do it again, and again and again. Until I can say that I actually understand the solution.

This is a fabulous addition to the series - I have a lot of these now and I think this plus the Polar burr are the very best yet. The series has been progressing nicely over the years in difficulty and fun factor. You definitely should add one of these to your collection whilst they are available (Polar burr is available whilst you are there). Steve and Ali sell the plastic puzzles via Puzzle Paradise and keep the TwoBrassMonkeys store for their metal marvels. If you are in North America then you may prefer to use PuzzleMaster for purchasing.

Stay safe guys and gals! It is still taking huge measures to keep things under control around the world. As you can tell, in places where mask use and vaccination levels are low the virus is running amok. Even here, where our idiot government won't do what they are advised, our numbers are going through the roof and our hospitals (including mine) are filling up. This is making the work extremely difficult. It is a really simple thing to do - keep socially distanced as much as possible, where a mask when in public places, get your vaccination (and booster if offered and eligible) and this will keep you and your loved ones as safe as they can possibly be. Unfortunately Coronaviruses don't behave the same way as other viruses and transmission can still occur after vaccination but it is decreased and the level of illness suffered is hugely diminished.

1 comment:

  1. Quote: "The inner pole is textured as well."
    Comment: Unlike Sweeney Todd, the lads did not polish it off. LMAO. -Tyler.