Sunday 19 February 2023

The Vault Has No Room Inside

I Get A TIC Trying To Open It

TIC Vault by Andrew Crowell
I sort of knew that this puzzle creation was being developed but had no idea when it would be released. Andrew doesn't seem to market his toys very much and I heard nothing about it. I guess it will have been mentioned on the Discord but I just don't have time to visit it any more than once in a blue moon which probably means that I miss out on a lot of stuff. Luckily for me, at Peter Hajek's End of Year Puzzle Party, the TIC Vault was mentioned in the list of people's favourite puzzles of 2022 six times and  was the favourite for Goetz, who has absolutely impeccable taste that very much overlaps with mine. I contacted him and was told that some were being made and would be available soon and to keep an eye out for when they go on sale. I was very lucky to get one and took delivery at the end of January.

This puzzle is a triumph of 3D printing - it is stunning! The Vault itself is a deep Navy blue and has the characteristic 3D printing layers on it with a black central area circumscribed by a red circle inlay. The sides have very smooth inlaid patterned inserts which break up the layering. It really is pretty attractive and surprisingly heavy - I suspected there might be quite a few magnets embedded in it (one can be seen on the picture above). It is 5x5x2.88 inches in size which upset Mrs S as it will take up even more space that I don't have!  

It arrived with another of Andrew's colourful cards describing the challenge:

1. Unlock the vault
2. Find Your Unique ID Number

Rules: No external tools, excessive force, shaking or spinning is necessary.
Fab, I Thunk! Reach in to the handy gripping sections for the nice quartz finish TIC in the middle. Grab and pull and nope...that ain't coming out of there that easy. Maybe the centre rotates and releases it? Nope! Maybe holding it in different angles or upside down will release it? You guessed it...Nope! My next attempt would involve spinning but that's not allowed/needed. I'm not sure that I want to waste a whole bottle of gin submerging the puzzle and really doubt that Andrew would be that devious. I am obviously missing something. But what?

And here I got stuck all of my first day of playing with it. I tried the same things over and over and over again of course but the answer was still Nope!

Maybe it would work another day? So I left it until the next day and again tried all the same tricks. Still nope!

This went on for 4 days in total and I began to think about tearing my hair out before remembering that I don't have enough to get hold of. I suspected that hair would not play a part in the solution and so I went back to Allard's think©ing trick. It hurt but I remembered a mechanism used previously by other puzzles and tried that. Initially, I tried it in the wrong place but kept at it all over the place and I had found a tool - it looked remarkably like a piece of the cube in the middle. One thing about this tool had a funny shape on the end and a magnet embedded in it - Aha! I needed to try and use this tool next. Fortunately there are only so many places left for using the magnet and I found a couple of areas that caused a clicking noise. Despite a lovely and repeatable clicking noise, nothing else was changing. I could tell that I was going to exhaust my think©ing organ!

I tried something else and got my wonderful Aha! moment and visibility of a clever mechanism that had been used to lock it inside. I now had yet another tool. Now what could I do with that? Removing it had revealed some interesting stuff inside but nothing reachable with the tools I had. I know it's hard to believe but I got stuck again! Yes, being not terribly bright is not very helpful when solving complex puzzles.

After another day or so I noticed something slightly odd and tried to use it in various ways with no luck. But then the earlier clicks suddenly made sense. I had another tool/piece and then finally the cube pieces were all removable. Now I obviously had a TIC - lots of pieces. Lots and lots of pieces which had a very odd feature. Counting the voxels and the fancy features, I realised that something was missing - it was still in the vault and required a simple move to remove it. I had this:

Lots of pieces, lots of magnets and some odd slots
It was immediately clear that the TIC pieces needed assembly first. There were 3 pieces with slots in them and magnets at the end plus 3 pieces that would obviously engage into those slots and lock at the ends. BUT (a very big BUT) which went where? I am absolutely terrible at assembly puzzles and this challenge stumped me for quite a long time. Yes, embarrassingly it took me a week to work it out and get my TIC pieces assembled and then the TIC rearranged into another cube. My excuse for the long challenge is that whilst all the pieces are quite simple, it is quite tough to arrange them into a cube without interlocking them first and I struggled to visualise the shape they would make. Don't look if you don't want to see the assembled cube.

After that it was clear that the cube would interact with the vault (Nothing else was possible with the empty vault and moving the cube around the outside of it or underneath did nothing. I returned the cube to the vault and apart from a huge number of clicking noises, it did not do anything. I was obviously going to have to try other orientations. Was I going to have to try each face down and in 4 different directions? After another little think I had another a realisation that probably attempting 24 different ways to reinsert the cube was not what was intended. I thought, I saw, I conquered and another Aha! moment happened. This was really really clever. I had a coin telling me the puzzle was a TIC Vault but did not have my unique ID. Looking at what I had, a "what if I?" question occurred to me. There was a particular feature of the vault that did not seem to be necessary unless I used it in a certain way.

Now that is absolutely wonderful! I had my unique ID and could see how the puzzle worked. It is a masterpiece and I have a candidate for puzzle of the year already! It's looking like 2023 might be a really good year!

All solved - I left my coins outside so will have to solve it again to return them
The reassembly is much easier to complete but still fun. This is an absolutely wonderful puzzle and I will challenge some people at work to play with it if we have any downtime - will go on display with the rest of my ARCPuzzles and be a centrepiece. Thank you Andrew for a wonderful odyssey that took me nearly 2 weeks to complete. Wonderful!

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