Sunday, 13 March 2022

May the Success Continue!

Ice 9 by Yuu Asaka
I may have said once or twice on this very website that I am rubbish at packing puzzles and I stick by that assertion whole-heartedly. I have accumulated quite a few packing puzzles over the years and they give me a huge headache. I have gotten much better at the 3D interlocking type puzzles from Osanori-san and Alexander-san but any puzzles that involve placing lots of pieces (especially very similar blocks in a cavity) stump me. I have only managed to solve the Euklid for Kids and still not managed the other 2 Euclid puzzles and the Fermat, with only 3 pieces but a non rectilinear geometry, have me beaten. I just don't have the skills to work them through and am reduced to trying hours and hours of random attempts which I cannot keep track of. If there is a logical approach to them I just don't know it. I am in awe of Nick Baxter who not only solves them with little difficulty but seems to be able to find extra solutions. One day I will saw the top of his head off and examine his brain! Don't tell him though or I suspect he might avoid me. To my eternal shame, I cannot even solve a one piece packing puzzle - bought from Eric back in mid 2020 - it's "just" a big block to be placed in a box...it shouldn't be that tough! Tray packing puzzles with complex shapes are also a huge problem for me - is there a technique for them? I just don't know. I have a bunch of Alexander-san's puzzles which I dip into quite frequently and so far I have only managed to solve a few of the very easiest of them:

Very pretty and very difficult!
Last week, I extolled the virtues of Yuu Asaka's tray puzzles - they tend to have low numbers of pieces and a very nice logic to them that you solve with an initial splurge of trial and error before you are forced into a period of Think©ing and actually end up working the blasted thing out properly. Every time I manage one, I am amazed at how he made me think© inside the box/tray! Yes, these are puzzles where thinking outside the box doesn't seem to work (at least not for me) and it requires you to notice something odd about the pieces before you can work it out. I love the Aha! moment with these - it is not just down to random trial and error.

The Ice 9 was included in my hoard from Mine but it really frightened me...NINE pieces to place - Aaargh! After I published last week, I took it out and began to fiddle. As always, I started with trial and error. This has a bunch of odd shaped pieces which all have various odd shaped notches or protrusions which must obviously interlink. The squarer notches can be filled by either square protrusions or rounded ones. Is this going to fit together perfectly with no gaps? In doesn't say on the box. All it says is to fit the parts in the tray and that it is level 5/5 (PuzzleMaster rate it as a 10) with the estimate that it will take about 3 hours. Last Sunday evening did not see any success and I took it to work in the hope that I might find time. We had a big educational meeting via MS Teams on Tuesday morning and this was my chance to listen to the talks AND play with my toy at the same time. I promise sincerely that I was paying attention. Initially, it was just random placement of pieces which never works for these with so many pieces to place. Time to Think© and it was hard. There always seems to be a piece left over that cannot fit in.

First I counted the notches and the protrusions and they don't equal each other - bugger! Then I looked at how many notches I could make by placing pieces side by side - it still wouldn't match. Maybe there was going to be a huge gap but estimating the surface area of the tray and the total area of the pieces told me that there was a pretty close match and no big gaps. Time to be systematic and look at the lengths of pieces and estimate where they could fit when placed in pairs. It wasn't really successful in a way that I was expecting but I did manage to fill large parts of the tray with almost no gaps at all - the unequal pairing of notches and protuberances seemed to be less of an issue this way. I seemed to be filling the tray quite well. Until the last piece would not fit. At this point, rather than tip it out and start again, I did try moving tiles around and swapping a few without mucking up the really nice tray filling that I had achieved. Gradually, the tray filled better and better until I was left with one awkward piece which looked odd.

What if I can??? Oh, you sneaky man! That is very clever and really quite tough. The Ice 9 has a very lovely Aha! moment which cannot be found randomly. It will start random, move to a definite thought process which won't work and then noticing something special.

I think I did take about the requisite 3 hours making this rather good value for money. You should definitely consider getting one or two of these challenges! Maybe it is time for me to pick up Alexander's puzzles again?

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