Sunday 23 January 2022

Snap Right To It

Snappy burr by Jerry McFarland
Yes, as soon as you see a picture like this then it's immediately obvious this was made by the incredibly talented Jerry McFarland.

At the very end of last year Jerry contacted me again to let me know that he had got sidetracked yet again! Yes, Jerry seems to have a very short attention span - he could make a fortune churning out his old puzzles to the new hordes of puzzle lovers that have joined this hobby over the last couple of years and when he produces and is happy with a new puzzle then he does make a bunch. But...he just can't seem to keep his focus on making more of the same and his incredible 3D visualising brain ends up wandering off into more thoughts of what can be achieved by interlocking pieces of wood. Over the last few years he has been very distracted by the possibilities of magnets and has created some of the best and most fun puzzles I have ever played with. 

Apparently he thought he had run out of ideas and then something new sprung to life in his head (I really wish something would show signs of life in my head - I am completely empty, Mrs S will confirm it). Previously some of his puzzles have had the added bonus of being very nice fidget toys as you get to make long sequences of magnets and burr sticks move after a single push. This time he made something that has a fidget toy inside and whilst it can be played with whole as a fidget toy (very satisfying it is too) but the aim is to remove it and play with it outside the puzzle. Jerry did not think it was  a terribly difficult solve but thought it would be fun...he really wanted some feedback - I am delighted and flattered to be one of the few given a chance. My McFarland collection really is quite wonderful now.

A snappy move reveals a hint of a serial number
On unpacking, even Mrs S admitted it was beautiful. It has been made with Mahogany, Walnut, Cherry and Kingwood with the absolutely characteristic finish that marks one of Jerry's creations. Then Mrs S lost her brownie points by saying it's "just a cube" like most of my other puzzles. She was unmoved when I told her that it was actually a cuboid and even then not a proper cuboid due to the side edges being slightly recessed. I wonder why Jerry did that? It became obvious later. Dimensions are 4.01x2.92x2.92".

I couldn't resist a little exploration even if Mrs S wanted me to do some chores instead. I very quickly realised why it was called Snappy burr (or at least one of the reasons). The fidget toy inside is controlled by some really powerful magnets and it snaps back and forth by pushing one way and the other and surprisingly the Kingwood pieces on the top and bottom spring in and out as well - this has a lovely coordinate motion with magnetic attraction and repulsion too.

I spent several days enjoying that movement whilst searching for anything else that might be possible or released by the initial movement. I had a few ideas but nothing was happening. Time to check with Jerry whether I was being silly (something I do very frequently). Jerry provided a little hint which confirmed my initial thoughts and what I had been looking for before. It was not really obvious what else could possibly move - Jerry has taken with his recent designs to putting false interlocking sections that look like they should prevent a movement but in reality don't. I had been exploring some of these pieces and made a discovery about them but had not put 2 and 2 together. Once Jerry sort of reassured me that I was thinking correctly, I tried something new and OMG! that was an unexpected thing to happen! No wonder I had not found it easily - there are some really strong magnets involved.

Another reason for the name is part of that move I just found and also what happens when you reverse it - the puzzle snaps back together with a very sharp click. It's another aspect of the fidget toy in this. After I had amused myself with it for a while I tried to see where that move had led and started dismantling bits. It doesn't come apart completely without thought. I had to work out a few movements to make some space for clearance and then out came a section. Then I managed to get a second section off. I stopped there - I was sitting on an armchair with a cat on my lap and did not want to lose track of pieces or lose anything down the cushions. 

All pieces and a fidget toy
Later in the week I managed to find time to completely dismantle the puzzle - it is not hard to do once you have worked out the initial few steps. The fidget toy is just as compulsive to play with outside the whole puzzle. I am truly delighted to have number 2:

I think Jerry is making another 8
I had scrambled all the pieces but, as with most of his previous designs the insides of the pieces are marked with what position they should go in to ensure they all fit together and align properly. Despite this the reassembly was not straightforward - I did know where everything should have gone but, having constructed the various sections according to the labels, it was not immediately obvious how to get them to slide together. On several occasions I realised that my last section could not be slid into place and I had to dismantle and try in a different order. It took an extra half an hour before I managed to "SNAP" it back together with a very satisfying clack.

Jerry has designed something very different to his previous puzzles - it's not terribly tough but it is stunningly beautiful and wonderfully satisfying. I intend to use it as my fidget toy for quite a while before I put it on display in one of my cabinets.

Coming soon from Pelikan

Coming soon from Pelikan puzzles
I have received a wonderful new bunch of gorgeous puzzles just a few days ago from Jakub at Pelikan puzzles. The race is on to solve them as fast as possible so that they can go on sale.

Here we have (from the back L to R):
Belopo (Alfons Eyckmans)
Jakub's cube (Alfons Eyckmans)
Euklid version 2 (Dr Volker Latussek)
Pedals (Alexander Magyarics)
Seven Woods (Stewart Coffin)
Victoria (Christoph Lohe)
Hummingbird (Osanori Yamamoto)

They all look fabulous and, as always have been beautifully made. Several of them will be seriously difficult - I have an original Jakub's cube from Alfons and have not managed to solve it yet (I sort of got distracted by a pandemic).

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