Sunday 8 January 2023

Finding the First Steps Usually Helps...

but not in every case!

Lock & Key
Always useful to have a diagram
Only level 7!
I seem to buy a LOT of puzzles from my friend Aaron Wang! I don't solve very many puzzles from my friend Aaron Wang! I put this down to a deficiency in my own brain because the puzzles are all very nicely made and well illustrated with an instruction diagram. Plus, I know that Aaron himself has solved them all - many of them he solves in his head. You would think that I should have no problem with these, I have had lots of practice and have a lot of empty space in my head (according to Mrs S) so there should be plenty of room for solving. Alas, that does not appear to be the case...not even occasionally. I think I have only managed to solve 1 of the previous batch which was allegedly a level 9. The MUCH easier level 7, Telescope (pictured right), still has me beaten. I keep all the ones to be solved in a little basket in the conservatory where I can idly pick one up periodically and do battle before putting it back having been humbly beaten yet again.

During the week, I had an idle 15 minutes with no assigned chores and some time to myself. I, yet again, picked up the rather beautiful Lock & Key puzzle, designed by the rather incredible DDK who is responsible for rather a lot of designs that I cannot solve. I keep returning to this one because it looks lovely and also there is a quick release in the string for the (frequent) occasion when a knot is formed. I have to say that I think that ALL string type puzzles should come with these as I have permanently murdered a few puzzles by getting into an awful tangle that I could not return from. It is hard to tell from the picture but it is not actually obvious how to start the puzzle solve - there is no direction to feed the string that screams go this way. In actual fact the first step on this one requires a twist of the loop which I always hesitate with. Eventually I bit the bullet and just tried a few different first steps and always ended up in either a knot or a dead end and had to restart. This time, however, I tried something and realised with a start that this puzzle is N-ary! I had had thoughts but wasn't really sure until this point. 

I lurve N-ary puzzles and this one is particularly fun - it is fiddly due to small rings and quite easy to get lost in the sequence and find yourself at an impasse or back where you came from. Having had my Aha! moment and made what looked like progress, I found myself at another spot where it wasn't really clear how to progress (another first step problem). This time I stuck with it and tried a few different "late first steps" and food what I was looking for - the N-ary sequence was underway again. After getting lost a couple of times I could breathe a sigh of relief and put it down ready for a new photo:

At last - 5 months of attempts!
I will be using the clasp to reset it and then solving again before attempting the reverse assembly process.

Having solved that one which I belatedly realised was N-ary, I had yet another try at the Ratchet puzzle (bought in September 2001) which quite obviously was N-ary:

Ratchet - beautifully made in steel
Diagram less helpful?
As soon as you look at it, you know that it is N-ary. The initial step in the solution was also not immediately obvious to me. There is a tiny clue to the first step in the wiring diagram but it is very subtle and I had missed it for 5 months. I should have found it much sooner but being made of steel, this one is not just jingly - it clangs and clanks! If you think that jingling upsets Mrs S then you should see what clanging does! The bruises were visible from a distance! I could only play with this infrequently when I was properly alone. After solving the Lock & Key and filled with N-ary strength, I started on Ratchet (this one had been entered into the 2022 IPP design competition) and for the first time had an Aha! moment - I found something special and then was able to see it on the diagram. Progress at last!

And that is where it stopped. Having found an obvious first step, I cannot convert it into a second step! The string is quite long which will almost certainly be deliberate and unfortunately there is no quick release mechanism so when I try a few things, I quickly get scared of a knot and return to the beginning. To be perfectly honest, all the possible second steps that I have attempted have not really led to anything good anyway.  

Alas, just because I find a first step does not necessarily mean I can find the next. It has gone back in my naughty basket of puzzles still to be solved - Sigh.

If you would like to be tortured by Aaron then he shows off his creations on his Facebook page.

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