Sunday 25 September 2022

Ali Was Wrong But Also Very Right!

Akaki's Picnic Basket from Eric Fuller
Correctly solved Tsubomi
Just a quick one today, I’ve been up in Edinburgh visiting the outlaws and wining and dining with Mrs S. it’s been a lovely break but not much time for puzzling. I have to start with an admission of error…

Last week's blog post was me raving about the amazing Tsubomi packing puzzle from my wonderful generous friend Frederic Boucher. I had owned it for an embarrassingly long time and failed to solve it due to a combination of working my arse off and having too little time, doing a huge number of big cases at work which definitely don’t leave me any ability to solve or play with toys at work and, much to the delight displeasure of Mrs S, I might have acquired rather a large backlog to solve before and after Tsubomi arrived.

I wrote about the puzzle having been delighted and dismayed when Ali solved it at the MPP in under an hour. I should not have been surprised because Ali solves most puzzles in under an hour - he is a machine!! Unfortunately Ali got it wrong. He did solve the puzzle sort of but in the wrong way. I had totally misunderstood the aim and thought that just placing the pieces in the box using linear moves and those were the instructions I gave him. I was contacted by Frederic the following day to tell me that I had got it wrong and hence made Ali get it wrong. The actual aim was to place all the pieces in the box leaving no visible gaps. This requires rotational moves. I will need to give it back to Ali to play with again. I, of course, have singularly failed so far! My friend Theo has made his own copy and had it solved (hence the photo) in under 24 hours - he’s amazing.

Whilst at the MPP Ali waxed lyrical about the Akaki's picnic basket puzzles. I admitted that I had bought them from Eric when he produced 3 from the series back in August last year. I then had to rather shamefaced admit that I had not even touched them beyond taking a photo for the database. I had carried them around at work for a few mo this but never found time and then I put them away in the study in my "to do" pile which completely buried them and I lost them for several months. Having been told that I MUST get them played with by Ali and everyone else who had played, I decided to put them in my bag for my trip up north.

Clearly from the picture at the top, I had not really worked out what was needed. I referred back to the instructions on Cubic dissection to establish what was required. Eric wrote:

"Akaki's Picnic is a wonderfully creative Packing Puzzle. The goal is to pack each 3x3 cube into the Picnic Basket so that all pieces are flush. Assembling the cubes outside the basket is trivial; the challenge comes when you try to fill the container. The handle of the basket blocks your progress, causing you to analyze the situation and think outside the box.

Akaki named the cubes after different foods you might find at a picnic. Each has a unique solution, representing a range of difficulties. We have chosen three of the more challenging cubes for this release. Each cube has four pieces and requires rotations:

  • Egg (Birch) has a level solution
  • Sandwich (Jatoba) has a level solution
  • Wine (Bloodwood) has a level solution"
At least I now realised that the mixed up colour pieces were just the delivery packing.

I started on the Sandwich and struggled to even make the bloody cube! I had to persevere - Ali had insisted. After about a ½ hour, I had the cube and then time to put it in the beautifully made Zebrawood basket. Luckily I knew that rotations would be needed and I didn’t waste any time. With 2 missing voxels in the exterior, this left me just 3 faces that could point upwards and 2 possible orientations of each face. Some possibilities could be dropped very quickly because there was no way on earth one of the larger pieces could be packed that way even with rotations. This was tricky but fun. It actually took me a couple of evenings to find it but when I did the delight was palpable. The perfect craftsmanship made for beautiful smooth movements and I was delighted to be able to take my first picture:

The Sandwich is packed
Next up, the Egg. This must have come from a Wombat's rear end because…cubic!!! I was on a roll as I managed to find the cube quite quickly but with only one vacant voxel on an edge I had 4 possible top faces with 2 orientations. The shapes had less restrictions to their insertion and orientation but the basket handle really does cause issues. It took me another whole evening of play and annoying Mrs S by ignoring her whilst on holiday but I was able to annoy her more with a shout of glee and showing her something she had absolutely zero interest in.

One Egg in a basket
I had saved the Wine to last. It had the highest solution level and one of the pieces was huge and very restricted in its' ability to be inserted in the basket. I actually spent quite a long time trying to find the cubic assembly before I could continue (as you know, I’m really not terribly right). To my horror, there is only one central empty voxel meaning that there are 5 possible top faces and 2 orientations. None of the assemblies was easy to drop because it was possible to get the pieces in all of them individually but only later in the assembly did it become apparent that the interaction of them blocked a lot of moves and allowed certain orientations to be ruled out. This final assembly was really tough for me. There is a big clue in that one of the pieces is a simple 3x1x1 cuboid but there was no removal of a piece with a single move which helped a lot to cut down the choices. The solution to this last one is superb! It was so. I have fun that I could not help myself and assemble and disassemble it repeatedly. Eric's beautiful wood finish made this a delight to play with.

Wine generally best in a bottle rather than a basket
The Bloodwood is absolutely gorgeous in this puzzle.

So…whilst Ali was wrong initially with one puzzle, he was absolutely dead right with another one. If you can get hold of this then don’t is beautiful and a whole lot of fun. I am told that Akaki sells these in plastic from his Etsy store and you can buy the stl files to make your own. There are also a whole lot more in the series. I would love it if Eric made some more of them to fit in his basket as I’d buy them ina heartbeat. But failing that, it would appear that Akaki's version will work with Eric's basket too. WTch this space.

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