Sunday 25 June 2023

Aaron Proves That Einsteinian Insanity Works For Me!

Spear & Shield
designed by DDK and hand made by Aaron Wang
For the last few years Aaron Wang has offered a whole bunch of wonderful new disentanglement puzzles for sale before the IPP begins. Every year I buy a big bunch of them and over a very long period of time solve a couple and completely fail to solve all of the rest. I always thought that I was quite good at disentanglement puzzles but since virtually meeting Aaron I realise that I’m actually rubbish at them.

He ranks the difficulty level on a scale of 1 to 10 and then 10+ beyond that and almost every single puzzle that he sells seems to be 10 or +. It may very well be that this is the reason that I can’t solve the bloody things! However, this may not be true - below is the Telescope puzzle which, allegedly, is a level 7 and I can’t for the life of me get anywhere near solving it:

Just level 7? Not for me, it’s not!
The Spear and shield looks fairly simple.
There are just 2 moderately complex pieces that are interlinked and a single obvious exit point. There is no string, no hinge, nothing that even gives a hint of why this is a level 10+ puzzle.

The complicating factor for the design here is that each of the pieces is formed by a double loop and the starting position has both double loops interlocked with each other. To me, it just looked like a matter of sort unwinding them and moving from two interlocking loops to one and then off and this is what I set out to do…way back in August 2022 when they arrived.
Let’s just say that I have attempted to solve this every few months ever since then and gotten absolutely nowhere!

The advantage of a puzzle involving string is that there are so many wonderfully inventive ways that you can make the string interact with the wire holding it in place. Also the disadvantage of a puzzle involving string is that there are so many wonderfully inventive ways that you can make the string interact with the wire holding it in place. If you don’t have a quick reset mechanism then it’s easy to end up with a knot that can leave you with a dead puzzle after a bit of play. So here we have no string which means that the disadvantage of having lots of ways to destroy your puzzle have been removed but also that advantage mentioned above isn’t there and you have very limited number of ways to make the parts interact. I quickly found a very nice way to make the M shaped area interact with the exit point and this led to a little unwinding of the double interlock. However, it always seemed to lead to having a single wire tangled in a double.

For quite a long time, this was all I had. Supposedly, the likelihood of achieving a position that you cannot get out of is lower for pure wire puzzles. Well, I must be very talented because I got to a single wire interlock and couldn’t get back to the beginning or advance in the solution. I kept trying a couple of very promising sequences only to always return to my incorrect position. I couldn’t advance and I couldn’t backtrack! Aaargh! This "dead puzzle" condition continued for a month or two and I did the same moves over and over again and then one time, despite doing the same thing as always, I was back at beginning. Amazing Einsteinian insanity in practice! I have no idea what happened.

This week, I have been up in Edinburgh for a little bit of holibobs (including a few visits to the outlaws) and I brought a few toys with me to play with. The advantage of disentanglement puzzles is that they take up very little space. The spear and shield came out quite early on and I began my insane sequence…yet again! I got to my odd intermediate position and somehow was able to move back and forth this time from here to the beginning. I could not progress, however.

Until suddenly, I could! I have absolutely no idea what I did differently, but I had moved one locked wire out of place. Yet again, doing the same thing over and over again had ended up with a different result this one time!
I think I have discovered a new puzzle genre - the Quantum Puzzle!

Having moved one locked area to somewhere else, despite not understanding how, it was immediately clear what was required next. It was a bit awkward to achieve it without force but a few minutes later, I had a new photo!

Spear and Shield (no idea which is which)
And no idea how to put it back together again!
I was all flushed with success, I had a new photo to be taken and a story for my website but my new quantum puzzle has a problem. I have to assume that there is a paired puzzle somewhere else in the universe that is now in the starting position and this one is entangled with it. I’ll never get this back together until someone else (an alien maybe) solves the other one wherever it may be. I have tried to return this back to the starting position for most of the week and simply cannot do it. I guess it will take me another year and doing the same move over and over again until one day something different happens.

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