Sunday, 26 December 2021

A Simply Incredible Gift!

It lasted a year!

         The Stickman(no 35) - the One Hand PuzzleBox aka Pandora's Box
At the end of 2020 I received a fabulous gift from the incredibly generous Asher Simon. I offered money but Asher wouldn't say yes and insisted that this was a gift for the effort I had put into my blog and he wanted to know my opinion of it as a puzzle. He had been working on it for quite some time with Robert Yarger aka Stickman. After I said yes thank you lots and lots of times and offered again to pay, I waited and watched the tracking and waited and waited. It arrived in the UK and got stuck somewhere. Now, those of you who have had dealings with customs department will all get that chill in your bones. 

Instructions/Info included
I don't know what they saw but I guess their X-ray machine may have thrown up some red flags. There are, after all, a LOT of magnets in this puzzle and Asher had said there was something inside especially for me (maybe this enticed them as well?) After being held hostage for quite a few weeks my package arrived with another sign to chill the bones...there was the "inspected by customs" tape on the box. In the meantime, Allard had already received his copy and solved and reviewed it. He is a MUCH better puzzler than me which is another reason that I have had to wait the best part of a year to be able to write about it. Mrs S kept the package in quarantine for a few days, as she has for all our post since the pandemic began. I can't really argue with her logic and am too frightened of her to even think about it.

Slide the lid and a grenade pin pops up!
The box lid will not slide any further
A few days after it arrived I got to open the box where the full horror of the situation was revealed. Customs had slid open the box, and pulled all the pieces out and then proceeded to try and force things back in and tried to force the mechanism. OMG! Instead of 9 pieces, I had 11 and a very unhappy PuzzleMad. I couldn't even work out where the broken pieces were supposed to fit together...Sob! I reported the catastrophe to Asher and he was mortified! It was not his fault at all but he felt guilty and was determined to make it all good. Luckily for me he had a spare copy which he packed up and a couple of months later sent out to me with dire warnings for the customs department and he included a set of instructions/solution specifically for the customs meatheads so that they would not need to force anything like they had before. This time it arrived completely untouched by any other human hands. Thank goodness for that! I take the obligatory photos and marvel at the design and craftsman prowess that went into making this. The lid slides inone direction only and meets a little resistance. Encouraged by the comment to Allard that a little force is required to open the lid, I gave it a push and could see that presumably a hollow in the lid had housed a bevelled piece that was pushing up into it. The little force pushed the lid over that bevel and what can only be described as a grenade pin pops up. Oh boy, the temptation is huge! Do I pull that pin? What will happen? Hopefully nothing will break. 

Whilst part of me wants to just admire the puzzle for the rest of eternity, that is not going to help me solve it or even understand why it's a puzzle. It's time to be a brave little boy and pull the pin:


After the "explosion" there are 9 pieces with lots of magnets pushing and pulling all over the place. 

Look at the precision of those pieces! Look at all those magnets!
Even arranging the pieces so that I could take the photo was a challenge...they kept moving and either clicking together or repelling out of the correct placement. No Stickman box is complete without the Stickman logo somewhere inside and here it is - branded onto the beautiful wood box.

The usual logo inside the box
OK, here goes! Not only is it a box but it's also a packing puzzle. Apparently, if I pack the pieces back in and get them in the correct orientation then the magnets will trigger a hidden mechanism that will unlock the covered compartment. Yay! This should be fun. But let us not forget that I am rubbish at boxes, rubbish at packing puzzles and generally rubbish at puzzles! Mrs S often asks why I keep buying puzzles that I cannot solve and I shake my head and tell her that I don't know - I have to own up that I have an addiction. My name is Kevin and I am addicted to puzzles! There, I feel much better for that.

One of the main "features" of this challenge comes from the name..."one hand". Yes that dastardly designer did not just make a complex 3D packing puzzle which would be tough enough for a man of my limited skills. He also insisted that this puzzle should be solved using just ONE HAND! OMG! I discovered almost immediately that the way I thought some of the pieces should fit together was quite difficult - they really wanted to spring apart from each other and as soon as I added an extra piece or two, I found that either I didn't have enough fingers or my joints didn't point in the right direction to hold everything together - maybe it should be called the Stickman double-jointed box? After a few days of attempting the impossible I read the rest of the instructions and realised that I had been doing it all wrong (this explains quite a bit of my home life). The puzzle should not be solved by dexterously holding together a bunch of repelling pieces before stuffing them in the box - they can/should be inserted into the box with one hand one piece at a time. Aaargh it gets harder and harder! The last paragraph of the instructions says:
"This puzzle is far more diabolical than it appears"
No kidding! I have spent MONTHS on this - it has been sitting on my desk since it arrived in March. I have had it right next to me ever since then so that every week after writing my blog, I can pick it up and try again and again. Hell! For most of the last 9 months I have been completely unable to put the pieces back into the box! Yes, it is that difficult. At some point during the first couple of months I spent a happy few hours making a Burrtools file from the pieces so that at least I might be able to leave the pieces in place. Except, to my horror, I discovered that there are 900 different assemblies of those 9 pieces in the box cavity! In the end I had to go back to my photos to and the video to at least find how to put the puzzle back to the start. Yep, this might take me quite some time.

One thing that bothered me about reading Allard's review was that he mentioned a distinct Aha! moment and I had not come even close to one of those in many months. I was not trying to exhaustively work my way through the BT solutions as that might be construed as cheating and to me was just too much like hard work...especially as I frequently had to retrieve pieces from under my chair as they shot off when I ran out of fingers in my "one hand" to hold them inside. What was I missing?

In the end I opened up Asher's beautifully illustrated solution book which he had left for the customs guys should they need it. It walked me through the reassembly back to the beginning. Well that was very nice but wasn't getting me into the second compartment. Over the last few months I have become quite accomplished at reassembling the puzzle back to the start (I must have done it 50 or 60 times).

Last week, I looked at the next page of the booklet which I had been studiously avoiding and OMG! You sneaky bugger! How had I missed that? Rule number one of puzzling...Look at everything, don't trust the designer at all, things are often not what they seem. The booklet showed me something new and I had a whole new avenue of puzzling open to me. Immediately after that Aha! moment there was another. I think that if you don't try something straight away then you might get lost amongst the possibilities but luckily I did and then I made a major breakthrough. Sheer genius! 

The lid is off and there is a very ancient coin inside
It appears that this is an ancient Greek coin because Pandora's box is Greek mythology. I do wonder whether it was this coin that might have excited the customs officers and made them take my puzzle apart.

The mechanism of the lock is absolutely ingenious and absolutely foolproof. It works every single time.  If you are offered the chance to play with one or even better, to buy one than jump at the chance - it is a Stickman and it has been designed by a master.

Asher, thank you so much for a whole year of excitement, complete with highs and lows and a monumental Aha! moment. This is probably one of the most difficult puzzleboxes that I have ever seen. It will certainly end up in my top puzzles of 2021!


 

Sunday, 19 December 2021

Locking Heaven or Locking Hell?

Mind the gap.
Just a quick blog post today - I am working yet again and don't have much time to solve and write, I'm afraid. Thanks to Mike last week, I did at least have some time off from the pressure of writing whilst I have to work so much.

I can now say that Andrew Coles produces VERY nice puzzles! That will be plural. I really loved his Lock Out puzzle back in August 2020 (it was a very welcome relief from the pandemic and definitely made me feel much better having had the virus and felt absolutely awful for a month in the early summer). We have all been waiting to see what he came up with as a follow up and he has certainly done something quite wonderful here. He has used a very "non-standard" padlock (certainly not one I have ever seen before) and modified it so that it doesn't open properly until you do something to make it open properly. It is not available for general sale yet but will be coming soon - a bunch of previous customers and friends got a chance to buy it a little early and I am very grateful for that opportunity. Andrew describes this puzzle as one of medium difficulty and I would agree with that. Maybe even a simple puzzle as a numbskull like me solved it in about 20 minutes. This does not detract from the pleasure - it is a very nice mechanism which has been beautifully made. If you collect locks or metal puzzles then you HAVE to buy it. 

Mind that gap!
It is a fully brass lock with the exception of a screw in the top (obviously a modification from Andrew) and the steel keys. It didn't occur to me straight away but the routed ring in the shackle is also a modification (surely Abus would not deliberately weaken a metal shackle?) and the routing work gives you something to think about. Of course, you have to do it even if you know it won't work! Put the damn keys in the lock and turn them... I got a fright - it went click and the shackle moved quite a bit.

Nope the lock didn't open - it just moved a bit and made a gap. Remember that you have to "mind the gap". Absolutely would not go any further. Now what? Time to have a look at what you have and think©. I thunk for a bit and my simple mind sort of said to me..."what if I???" Ooooh that's interesting! Now what?

The gap is minded!
I cannot give anything away but after the "what if I???" moment, there is a very nice Aha! moment and then another one of those maybe I should try ??? ideas will occur to you. It is all quite logical and before long you will have a proper gap and a little satisfied grin on your face. Mr Coles has engineered something very clever and quite logical. I dropped him a message with a photo of my open puzzle and my appreciation of his mastery. I knew it would be good - Shane Hales is an expert on locks and lock puzzles and he said this had a mechanism that he had not thought of before and that it was a good puzzle. I trust Shane implicitly and I handed over my money as a result - let's just say...he was right yet again! When it comes up for sale - you won't be disappointed.

Loki - a devil of a lock!
Next I go to hell with Loki from the incredible Boaz Feldman. I have played with this every evening for over a month now and I am convinced that Boaz sent me a broken one! I am not the only one - my friend Neil (an incredible puzzler) has also singularly failed to open his copy. Now, you must know that I am joking about broken puzzles - Boaz' engineering skills are superb (this can be seen when you see the solution to the original B-Lock (available here and here) and the Danlock which Boaz is now making (also available here)). What we have here is a master at making trick locks producing something that is too difficult for a simple medical practitioner like me to figure out. 

Key turned and removed.
As usual, yet again, you put the key in the lock and sometimes the key turns and sometimes it doesn't. When it does turn, the shackle moves a bit which gets your hopes up and then it stops with not a hint of a gap there. Sigh. So you turn the key back again to "lock" it and sometimes it turns back and sometimes it doesn't. Boaz has definitely broken this lock rather badly!

After inspecting the puzzle for any other signs of things I can do, I run out of ideas rather quickly so it's back to turning the key. I noticed that when the key is turned the shackle won't open and the key won't come out again...except if you do something special then the key will come out. That is very interesting and has gotten me absolutely nowhere! What else can I do? I have no idea! I am a simple man - I sort of think that you put a key in a lock and you turn it and you expect something to happen (usually it opens) but here sometimes something happens and sometimes it doesn't and I think I can make it do all of those things at will whenever I want them happen. 

That is unexpected!
I spent a happy few evenings doing the same things over and over and over again getting nowhere when I suddenly found that there is a way to turn the key in the lock, still remove the key but then be unable to reinsert the key more than a few millimeters. That is very interesting and...so far completely useless!

I am certain there is more to this than I have found so far but just like with the B-Lock, it will require very close examination and thought - this could take me years! Loki is a the name of a norse god and is supposed to be a trickster or little devil and so far over a month he has lifted me up a little bit and taken me to hell. I have absolutely no idea what to try next and am reduced to doing the same things over and over again in the vain hope that something different might happen one time. 

If you want a challenge then you should definitely buy one (at the moment they are only available direct from Boaz' site). They may be available from PuzzleMaster or other vendors in the future.


Sunday, 12 December 2021

Mike Saves My Bacon...Again!

Happy Sunday everyone! I have been rather strapped for time yet again - work has been very busy both with clinical stuff and quite a lot of admin too. I had to work yesterday and have not really had any time for puzzling. Despite this, thanks to my good friend, Mike Desilets, the official PuzzleMad foreign correspondent, I still have a fascinating post for you. I don't know how he does it, Mike always seems to sense when I am struggling for time and comes up with the goods for me/you. This time he did it in the guise of asking for some help with a puzzle he had been struggling with but I know that he is too good a puzzler to need help and it is just an excuse to get in touch with yet another article. I hope to get back to normal puzzling this week (although I am working next weekend as well) - if anyone else has a nice article for the PuzzleMad readers then please get in touch. Over to Mike...


Aloha kākou puzzlers,

I know we have yet to close out the story of the Great 13, but let’s please forget about that for a while longer. Instead, the PuzzleMad Foreign Office, Hawaii Branch, offers up this quick and dirty post, designed specifically to provide Kevin with a free weekend (Ed - yay!). Free from blog posting, that is to say, not free from his actual day job, which does not respect weekends. He deserves so much more, but this is all I can muster at the moment. Today I share with you some recent output from the PuzzleMad Workshop, which is conveniently located in a sub-basement 200 feet below the current Mrs S’s house. (Ed - how come I don't have access to this area? It would definitely solve my storage issues)

John Horton Conway (1937-2020)
Years ago, George Bell turned me on to a very interesting problem known as Conway’s Soldiers. This problem was first proposed in 1961 by the eminent mathematician John Horton Conway. John has, tragically, left the room, having been one of the very early covid victims. But he left behind a massive legacy in a variety of fields. The Conway’s Soldiers problem, or puzzle, is surely among the mildest of Conway’s accomplishments. If you’re not familiar with John Conway’s varied contributions to mathematics, go check the wiki right now. They’re quite remarkable. And, unlike the great majority of mathematics (and mathematicians), also interesting, relevant, and accessible to the average fellow, at least in broad strokes. Most puzzlers probably know Conway from his combinatorial game theory work, of which Conway’s Soldiers is a small piece.

 Disentanglers might be familiar with his knot theory work. Everyone is surely aware of his Game of Life (Ed - I programmed this into my school Tandy TRS80 in 1979 and even learned Assembly language because the Basic was too slow). If you hadn’t kept pace with his recent work, Kevin, then I highly recommend checking out his (and Simon Kochen’s) Free Will theorem and its implications for the ever dubious, but somehow inextinguishable, deterministic worldview. I actually thought that whole thing was put to bed decades ago, but I suppose people are still free to choose determinism (or are they?). Anyway, the point is that you will benefit greatly, and in unexpected ways, from engaging with Conway’s vast and varied body of work. 

Conway’s Soldiers, the mechanical puzzle.
For my part, being a simple puzzler, I was drawn especially to Conway’s Soldiers and its peg solitaire aspects. A couple years ago, in a flash of brilliance, I realized that creating a physical version of this abstract puzzle was within my ability. It is truly the simplest of designs, consisting of gridded peg holes and a line dividing the plane. A full year and a half after the initial inspiration, I made the puzzle. The lag was partly due to the location of the PuzzleMad Workshop, which is not convenient for me (or Mrs. S, for that matter).  (Ed - I NEED to know how to get there - it will allow me to make puzzles and even get a 3D printer!)

Conway’s Soldiers poses a simple question: Using conventional (but non-diagonal) peg jumping rules, how far above the “line” can you get your pegs? No amount of trial will ever prove an answer, of course, so in terms of a mechanical puzzle, it is not really a “solvable” problem. The question can only be answered (proved) mathematically, and Conway did this, showing that the fourth row is the maximum possible. His proof utilizes the golden ratio, by the way, which is fascinating in itself. It was later shown that allowing diagonal moves will get you as far as the eighth row. There are numerous web pages about the puzzle where you can study previous work and variations. You need to read the 2007 article by George Bell and his colleagues Daniel Hirschberg and Pablo Guerrero-Garcia, The Minimum Size Required of a Solitaire Army. Bell et al. solve a problem that actually does make a good puzzling objective: what is the minimum number of pegs needed to achieve a given row?

Look at those rings Kevin!
(Ed - drool! That is some beautiful wood)
Although not rigorous, you can kind of work this out yourself on the board. The trivial row 1 and 2 arrangements are shown below, mostly as an excuse to insert more pictures of my pretty game board. But I won’t give the solution to rows 3 or 4; you’ll have to read Bell et. al. or do the experimental work to figure those out. You can, however, assume that the number of pegs needed to achieve row four is equal to or less than the number peg holes on either side of my board (Ed - OMG - that looks quite a tough challenge). 
Solution for row 1, requiring two soldiers.
Solution for row 2, requiring four soldiers.
As you can probably guess, the PuzzleMad board is made from American Black Walnut and the pegs were scavenged from an old Setko puzzle. It is fairly simple to construct, just drill a grid of evenly spaced holes and insert a dividing line. Drilling the grid was tedious but straightforward. The line, in this case, is an inlaid half-rod of brass. Inlaying it was actually very tricky and stressful, but it did turn out well in the end. I learned in the process that you can use a drill press as a rudimentary router. I was afraid this might overly stress the bit, but it was actually a really smooth cut. Overall, a nice little DIY project for the amateur puzzle-maker.  (Ed - sob! One day I will make some puzzles...probably after I have retired)

In perspective.
John Conway has left us with a very enjoyable little diversion in the Conway’s Soldiers puzzle. Even if you cannot follow his fourth-row proof, you can surely figure out, eventually, how to arrange and sequence your army to achieve it. You can also, if you like, dwell on the more philosophical “diminishing returns” aspect of this problem. I think most people would intuitively believe that any level above the line is achievable, given enough soldiers, but the truth is that there is a hard theoretical limit, and that limit is surprisingly low indeed. 

That's about all I can muster for this mini-post Kevin, please take us home my friend...


My goodness! Thank you so much Mike. That was wonderful! You have given me (us) a nice bit of enjoyable reading to do and anything involving JHC and also George bell is always fun! I absolutely love the beauty of your home made constructions (even if they were apparently made under my home - I was totally unaware that I even had a basement).

Mrs S has had her booster yesterday and is feeling quite poorly - I had better go and offer her something sweet and sustaining as well as maybe some paracetamol or ibuprofen. Be careful out there everyone. Go and get your booster shots. The evidence seems to be that Omicron is significantly more transmissible and even if it tends to cause slightly less severe illness overall (we don't actually know that for certain yet) then by sheer numbers, a lot of unvaccinated people are going to end up in hospital or even dead. In our hospitals, the ONLY Covid admissions are the unvaccinated or the immunocompromised. The current vaccines with booster DO protect against severe illness. A Covid death is a very unpleasant way to die - go and get yourself immunised and help protect your health services as well as the vulnerable and yourselves.



New PuzzleMaster kickstarter campaign
Whilst you are here, there is a Kickstarter campaign being run by the PuzzleMaster guys: They are crowdfunding the production of three fabulous looking new metal puzzles. The skull is a design by Jerry Loo and consists of 67 interlocking pieces - it looks incredible! The other two puzzles are level 9 and 10 on the PuzzleMaster scale and also look fun.  This will run until New Years Day and certainly looks worth your attention - I have backed it (backer number 25).


Mind the gap
Also, my friend Andrew Coles, has created another puzzle lock, the "Mind the gap" puzzle. It will be available to order from his site quite soon. I have received my copy and hope to play soon. 


I have had no luck yet solving Boaz Feldman's latest creation - Loki, and suspect that locks are too difficult for me!

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Is it too late? Xmas Puzzles From Pelikan

9 puzzles arrive - the race is on!
On 23rd November a package arrives from the Czech republic...yes, Jakub and Jaroslav have done it again! They have been beavering away to produce a bunch of new toys for puzzlers the world over to enjoy as Xmas presents. I unpack, photograph and admire and begin to play - yes they are all simply stunning! What more would you expect from such masters of their art? After my initial email back and forth about which ones need me to write reviews, I am asked if I can write something about them all for their website and can I do it in 6 days? Gulp! Erm! probably not but I might manage something within 9 or 10 days. What was the reason for such awful dereliction of duty to the puzzling world and Pelikan? Well, there is quite a lot of work to be done in hospitals these days and at the end of that week, I had to go to Edinburgh to visit the outlaws. A journey from South Yorkshire to Edinburgh takes a minimum of 5 hours and this time took 7 due to road and weather conditions (England gets caught by surprise every single time it snows!) I would suggest that you subscribe to Ivan Danik's YouTube channel - he gets them a few days before me (due to being in Europe) and can advertise them faster than me.

But, I set to on them and managed to get most of them solved by Monday evening and sent off my spiel to Jakub for the website. They went on sale a couple of days ago and quite a few have sold out already. If my blog is the only way that you get to see them then I do apologise - I did show off a photo on Facebook and if you follow me there you might get advance notice.

Mini Lock 2

Mini Lock 2 by Christoph Lohe
Mini locks - a lovely pair

Minilock 2 is extremely cute, just like the predecessor. This delightful puzzle is not terribly difficult. It consists of a key, a shackle and 2 burr sticks. It requires only linear moves so do not try to turn the key. Like all of Christoph Lohe's creations, it is a lovely little puzzle to explore. Finding the correct path is more fiddly than tough but is a nice little diversion which at the end left me astounded at the precision required to make something like this move so smoothly. It also looks gorgeous and will be very nice on display in any collection. 

Just amazing precision - everything slides like a hot knife through butter
Reassembly from scrambled pieces is definitely possible (although it took me a whole evening). 

Christmas tree

Xmas Tree by Stephan Baumegger
I can't have a Christmas tree at home because the last time we did have one it was destroyed by the cats in a most upsetting manner. They are absolutely fascinated by it and whilst tinsel may look funny going in the front end, it very much is NOT funny when it exits the other 😱😱! This year, however, I shall have a Christmas tree on display in my living room! It will be on my mantelpiece...it is a beautiful design from Stephan Baumegger (go and explore his FB page here - it is wonderful). It looks like a burr puzzle but initial exploration shows that it is more like a wood chuck puzzle. A piece slides and then another and then I got stuck for a bit. After a close look at what was revealed I was able to proceed and after that quite rapidly had a pile o'pieces. The disassembly probably took me 10 minutes and was quite fun. 

Not really a burr - I classified it as an interlocking puzzle
The real challenge is to reassemble it with all the colours in the right place. The first couple of times I put it back together with great satisfaction only to realise that the light cubies weren't all aligned properly. It took me an extra 5 or 10 minutes of fiddling around before I got it right. This is a perfect seasonal gift and a nice little challenge for the new puzzler. 

Den cube

Den Cube by Osanori Yamamoto
This lovely cube is stunningly made from a maple frame and 3 interlocking bright yellow Garapa burr pieces. The aim, obviously, is to separate all the pieces from the frame but they are quite well interlocked and despite quite a lot of possible movements (all of which are beautifully silky smooth), in almost all directions, they seem impossibly intertwined. Being systematic allowed me to find one pathway that looked better than the others and on we go. This is very like untying a knot whilst it is inside a box that you can't quite see inside of. It's actually a lot of fun. 

I didn't realise until taking this that the 3 sticks were identical
Having taken it apart I tried to put it straight back together again and couldn't do it. I had forgotten one crucial part and had to work it out from scratch. Even that is possible for the experienced puzzler with a bit of thought and an extra hour on their hands. A wonderful challenge. I have now reassembled this from scratch a few times and it is quite a fun challenge - the disassembly will make it good for new puzzlers and the assembly challenge for experienced burr solvers.

Bison

Bison by Jack Krijnen
Not a model of the mother in law!
A first look at this puzzle leaves you absolutely stunned - it is breathtakingly realistic! The intricacy of the design and manufacture is incredible. I am amazed that this can be produced in any numbers and indeed, Jakub did tell me that it was very difficult to produce. Jack Krijnen designs some wonderful puzzles and this year he produced a very small run of these Bison puzzles and then allowed Pelikan to make some more. This is a new category for me. Kumike is a very old Japanese tradition but not something I've ever played with before (apart from very simple plastic puzzles as a child). My friend Frank is a world expert on these - have a look at his very extensive site here

This is a delight to play with
It is not a terribly difficult challenge but is an absolute delight to look at, hold and to dismantle. There is a nice surprise inside. Whilst not hard to do, there is something compulsive about it and I keep dismantling and reassembling it with a big smile on my face. It is not suitable for young children or clumsy people as the interlocking sections are quite thin and could be broken if inadequate care was taken. 

Ronde

Ronde by Dr Volker Latussek
I am absolutely terrible at assembly/pattern forming puzzles and anything by Dr Volker Latussek is going to be a challenge so I approached this with some trepidation. The aim of this is to assemble the 5 pieces so that the puzzle creates 5 whole yellow (Garapa) cubes amongst the Wenge cubes and also incidentally is self supporting. All of the yellow cubes have been cut in half diagonally and attached to the whole cubes oriented in different directions. This means that an assembly appears to be progressing nicely and then suddenly the final piece positioning is either blocked or just won't meet up where it's needed. This could be solved by brute force trial and error but there's no fun in that and the best approach after a little experimentation is to think© and actually plan it out. It's not terribly hard but it's quite a pleasant diversion. This is suitable for kids/newbie puzzlers as well as experienced solvers. Dr Latussek contacted me to tell me that he intended this as a beginners puzzle but I still really enjoyed it.

Tutu

Tutu by Dr Volker Latussek
This puzzle was designed by Dr Latussek as a tribute to one of the best packing puzzles ever designed and made. Volker and I agree that the 4L puzzle by Yasuhiro Hashimoto is an absolutely tremendous puzzle. I recall that the 4L took me a very long time and it was with some considerable trepidation that I set to work on this - at least 2 other packing puzzles from Volker remain unsolved by me so far (Euklid for Nick and Fermat). So, you're all wondering, how does it compare? Right up front, I have to say that this puzzle is absolutely FABULOUS! If you have solved 4L then it will not be quite as challenging but it has a couple of truly lovely Aha! moments. If you've never done 4L then expect a really fun challenge with thought and planning. It is also made perfect by the sheer quality of the woodcraft and the wonderful choice of woods used. 

Solved! No spoilers here.

Serpentarium

Serpentarium by Lucie Pauwels
Another stunning creation by the incredibly prolific Lucie Pauwels. She always produces designs that are interesting to look at either as pieces or as an assembled puzzle. This has been made by Pelikan in Wenge with a Padauk box and is simply stunning in the depth of colour. Of course the woodwork is superb. There are 4 different snakes along with 2 smaller pieces (?eggs or ?food) to be placed inside the caged box. The entry is very limited and forming the 3x3x3 cube through such a small set of holes is a big challenge. 

Solved it
This took me quite some time as my intuition for where to place the small pieces turned out to be wrong. The solution level is not terribly high but it is a significant challenge worthy of any decent puzzler. It also will look gorgeous on display. I had left it in the solved state for a few days and it actually proved a considerable challenge to dismantle as well - I would suggest storing it unsolved.

Moose

We have two Mooses (or are they Meese?)
Both are absolutely gorgeous
Moose is another fabulous creation from Alfons Eyckmans. He has designed quite a lot of members of the Burr zoo and each one is a wonderful challenge. Most are not too horrifically difficult but are certainly a very decent challenge that will take all but the very best of burr solvers a pretty decent amount of time. As I write this for Jakub, I have spent 3 evenings working on it. I've made some decent progress (I think) but have not yet solved it. The puzzle is available in two versions. There's the standard one with alternating Maple and Purpleheart burrsticks and then there is the gorgeous version made using the same woods but created in a totally new way for Pelikan...the burrsticks are all made from Purpleheart and they are edged with bevelled Maple on every face. This produces a stunning looking puzzle. The moose hidden inside the 12 piece burr (both versions) is made from American Walnut. Obviously the solution is unchanged with each version but the look is extremely different and very striking. If you have a lot of burrs on display then the special version will need to be placed front and centre. I hope to solve this in the next few days. 

Well, a few days have gone past and I have still not managed to solve it - here's hoping!


I apologise for my delay - I hope that you all managed to buy what you wanted and will get them in time for Xmas. Mrs S is starting to get upset again because the puzzles are everywhere and not organised in any way (I tell her that I do know where they all are). I really need to find some time to tidy up and organise things better...better than strewn all over my desk. Maybe over the Xmas break? Except I am not getting a break - damn! They will just need to remain spread out everywhere. Whack! Ouch!


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