Sunday, 31 July 2022

Don't Stop Believin'

Designed by Christoph Lohe and made by Matthew Nedeljko
At the end of last weeks blog I showed off a new puzzle that I had acquired from a Facebook friend who had started making puzzles commercially a couple of years ago. I had admired his work from a distance but never actually gotten around to making a purchase. I was finally motivated/forced to buy when Christoph informed me that his last in the series of TICs produced with the design assistance of the TIC-Meister himself, Andrew Crowell were only going to be manufactured in a couple of small batches by Nedeljko woodworks. This series began with Cyburr and Chamburr produced by Pelikan and they were a stunning pair of challenges which I absolutely adored and which sold out very quickly.

Most of my previous TICs that I have in my collection have been sent out to me in pieces with the challenge being assembly. I have to say that I am very pleased that these puzzles in this series were sent out as a finished puzzle as I really don't think that I could possibly assemble them form scratch. I know a few people who could manage it but I have no shame in telling you that I am not one of them.

The disassembly of this masterpiece took me over a week to achieve. There are a few moves possible from the beginning but one pathway quickly appears to be more promising than the others and off you go. After a few moves and changes of direction the pieces can be properly inspected and an odd diagonal cutout in a piece appears. This is a clue - use it! It told me that a rotation was going to be needed in such a way that the cutout was the only way that the piece could turn. So make enough room with the other pieces and turn away! This was quite fun to find. Having done so and fiddled with what might come next, I decided to backtrack to the beginning. Except, I could not seem to get to the position to make the space for the rotation to occur. Panic set in! I really don't like getting lost in the disassembly of these puzzles because Burrtools is not going to help me.

It took me a full 2 evenings to get back to the beginning. At this point I made sure that I would absolutely know what position the pieces were in - I took some photos! I am getting to be bloody ancient and my memory is not what it used to be so photos were essential. Then I went back to that rotation and had one of my rare thoughts... is this the correct rotation? I moved it back and forth very carefully and I actually think that the diagonal cut is not really needed for the move that I had made. Because of this I wasted another evening desperately hunting for an alternative. Having failed to find one, I continued on the original path. From here there are a lot of very interesting moves possible including some very enticing rotations of another piece. I was really enjoying myself! 

Despite all this enjoyment, I actually did not seem to be making any progress. Quite frustrating that after several days I was stuck. At least I was able to go back and forth to the beginning (in fact my muscle memory for the sequence was getting to be really good). I took it to work and during a spare moment I tried again. Much to the amusement of a bunch of nurses who were watching me play, I finally yelled my Aha! aloud when looking down from above I noticed something that I had been missing for several days. I had been so busily focussing on the rotational opportunities that I had not even looked at linear moves. I could clearly see an alternative path to try. Whilst being watched, I made another few moves and my first piece was removed. Probably the first time I have ever received a round of applause! Unfortunatelyit was time to do some work so reluctantly I put it back together again. At home that evening I started again and quickly removed the first and then the second piece. The final piece removal was not terribly tough but required some really wonderful rotational moves. 

Simply delightful!
This was a truly brilliant completion of Christoph's TIC trilogy. I enjoyed them all immensely and really do hope that he works with Andrew again and designs some more. I seldom mix the display of puzzles up but I think that the 3 TICs will have to be put together.

So, despite losing faith, I continued to push, continued believin' and solved a puzzle. I still had to do another...

Gobstopper v2 (Gamexy version) pieces
Another puzzle left hanging at the end of last week's blog post was the second assembly of Steve and Ali's Gobstopper v2. I had managed to disassemble the easy assembly that it had been sent out in and having gone back and forth several dozen times, I was really quite certain that I would not be left with a pile o' pieces. BUT... the real challenge was to find the other more difficult assembly.

I really don't know how to go about this sort of thing apart from brute forcing them by attempting every possible assembly I could find. This is not really a great way to go about it when there are 12 pieces and you don't have the compute power of a modern computer. I actually struggle to assemble the six piece burrs unless they are level 1. I was chatting the genius again and he let slip that the second assembly was actually very easy to find. Sigh! He confirmed his genius by finding the second assembly in just a few minutes whilst also chatting to me. His excuse was that he had plenty of practice with the Joy of Hex set (if you don't have it but you love Hex then buy a copy of the set here asap).

I was forced, having tried for a few days and not really knowing how to go about it, to ask for a clue. Derek was very generous and said that one of the vertical pieces in the easy assembly needed to be inverted. Huh??? I asked and like a true friend he said "well other pieces will need to be moved to make that possible". Truly, I am not terribly bright and especially so in the shadow of his genius. I have spent the last couple of evenings trying and failing to make it work and annoyed the cat a lot by dropping brass pieces on his back. This morning having done my weekend exercise and had some breakfast with Mrs S, I risked playing with a heavy brass puzzle on my glass table. The swearing started to get on Mrs S' nerves but I was determined. 

Finally! After several hours of work, the loss of most of the remainder of my hair, and a huge number of swearwords, I finally found the Gamexy assembly.

I am sure that you can tell looking at that photo that is the other assembly - 😈

I have finally managed to assemble something complex and despite needing a clue, absolutely loved the process! This is an essential puzzle for everyone's collection.


  1. Interesting ... I didn't realize the Gobstopper v2 has two solutions. I thought I was done with it!

    1. Get to it George! I'm sure you will find it much easier than me. I needed a big hint.