Sunday 24 September 2023

A Wallet Worth Putting In Your Pocket

Coin Wallet by Koichi Miura
No spoilers (picture from the design competition page)
Here’s another of the wonderful puzzles by Koichi-San that did very well in the recent IPP design competition - it won the Jury first prize and there’s a good reason for it. 

I bought it a few months ago and it remained untouched because of time constraints and other puzzle arrivals. After Allard reviewed it in May, I moved it to my work bag where it again sat for several months. I did get it out and fiddle periodically but my case mix at work is now too challenging to split my attention off to play with a toy during a case. One weekend recently, I actually finished all the trauma cases a bit early and had a little time waiting around with nothing to do. Time to play with my money! Ok the coins are plastic and definitely not legal tender but still quite tactile and worth the expense.

There are 4 pieces with stacked coins and a limited opening into the wallet. When it arrived it is almost there. All the coins are sort of inside but peeking out the top opening:

Almost…but not quite
Taking the pieces out, the first thing to do is work out how the pieces can be assembled in the restricted space but outside. There are not many options really so should be easy…yeah right! Koichi-San does no design easy puzzles - there is always a catch and definitely with this one. After all, there must be a reason it did so well in the competition - if such experienced puzzlers rated it so highly then the Aha! moment should be fabulous.

Having worked out the only possible arrangement of the pieces inside, it was time to place them through what I thought was a decently sized wallet opening. And here is where the fun starts. That opening is tantalising. Big enough to give hope but small enough to dash them quite quickly. I even tried some disentanglement moves to place more than one piece at a time through that entrance. Whilst that was helpful in the end, it was only a small part of the solution. I spent a good ½ hour trying various entrance manoeuvres with no success and then tried some burr type moves. The Aha! moment was wonderful. It is really very logical and a nice sequence requiring several moves. My coins were packed - no photo spoiler I’m afraid.

I then handed it to quite a few work colleagues to play with and all thought it must be easy only to have their hopes dashed quite quickly. There is something quite compulsive to it because they could not put it down and at one point I had to take it away because they were ignoring their work in the operating theatre. They kept asking me for it each time there was a break in the day and none of them were able to solve it. Mr Miura seems to design puzzles with just the right difficulty level to be challenging to real puzzlers and yet almost impossible for newbies. The newbies keep playing with it because the design shapes are compulsive and demand to be picked up and played with. Who can resist a wallet with a bunch of coins to fit inside. I even showed the solution to one of my coworkers and then he still couldn’t repeat the solve despite having seen every step. This was a fun torture device!

This puzzle is so good that I will keep it in my work bag to keep other theatre staff occupied when they should be working. That bag is killing my shoulders as it is chockablock with puzzles for me and others to play with! 

If you want a copy then I think Mine is going to be making more of them and in more colours judging from his FB page. Again, no spoilers here.

This is awesome! Well worth adding to your collection.

Sunday 17 September 2023

A Knot Without String

Knot by Abhishek Ruikar
Abhishek has burst onto the puzzle scene from nowhere and seems to have produced a few very well received puzzles over the last year or so and I had missed them all. He showed off the Knot a couple of months ago on the Mechanical puzzle Facebook group and I couldn’t resist it. It was made of wood and had an interesting idea to it. When Neil reviewed it on FB and was pleased with the idea and puzzling level, my decision to buy was confirmed. Contacting Abhishek directly through FB messenger was a breeze and I purchased directly from him using PayPal. His designs are now available from PuzzleMaster as well as Nothing Yet Designs and I can recommend them.

It took a while to arrive from India because Abhishek was away from home when I contacted him and the British postal service seems to be falling to bits these days. I was delighted when I opened the box because the presentation was unexpectedly beautiful. There’s a nice black box with the name printed on it which slides open to reveal the Teak puzzle pieces held in foam and an instruction card alongside. It’s as if it’s been made by a professional puzzle supplier. 

2 sets of chiral tetrominoes
Magnets in seemingly random positions
The Teak is well finished and the magnets flush with the surface. I was impressed. A quick inspection revealed that the magnets seemed to be randomly positioned and with odd polarity. Each piece was different. The name and the instructions say to assemble into a complete trefoil knot with everything held stable by the magnets whilst none of them are visible externally. Easier said than done for a puzzler who is terrible at assembly - destruction seems to be my forté.

Initially, as I do with most puzzles, I start with randomly trying things. Luckily, there’s a diagram showing the aimed for shape and I place pieces in a way to achieve that only to find that the magnets won’t match with each other or actively repel. At one point I did seem to be making progress but the last couple of pieces couldn’t fit together without one of the magnets being visible externally. Whilst this was actually quite a pleasing thing to achieve (at least I had the shape correct) but not having all the magnets connect meant that it was not stable. If I let go of any piece the puzzle was going to fall apart.

After about ½ hour of almost getting there, I realised that I had to be a bit more analytical. With 6 pieces, I could not keep track of what I had tried in which position and had to actually think a bit about directions and polarities. Once along this path, I made pretty rapid progress and had my solution in another 5 minutes. The Aha! moment was delicious and a photo was taken shortly afterwards.

Aha! A nice Knot
How should I store it? The box is so good that I have dismantled it and will be keeping it in the box for display. Interestingly, repeating the solve had to be done from scratch - there seems to be no way for me to remember the assembly. Don’t tell Mrs S that I could just solve this over and over again with no recollection of previous solutions.

This is well worth the $75 from NothingYetDesigns if you like a nice little assembly challenge. It is not yet available from PuzzleMaster.

Thank you Abhishek for the fun puzzling. I will look forward to the next creation from you.

Sunday 10 September 2023

Thanks For The Fish!

Hokey Pokey Lock by the Two Brass Monkeys

What a week! Work was real busy but I had picked up a bunch of new toyas at the recent MPP and couldn't resist playing with a few of them at every moment of down time that I had. I have had quite a time with these and actually solved a few including the last 2 from the Pelikan delivery discussed at the end of August

Back in 2018, Big Steve and Ali had produced the Hokey Cokey Lock and it was Steve's exchange gift in the 2018 IPP and had involved dressing up and dancing (poor poor Derek!) - I reviewed it here. That lock is still available even if the one being reviewed today is currently sold out.

Poor Frank!

Needless to say, I absolutely loved the Hokey Cokey and was very fascinated to see what was new with the similarly named puzzle. I think that, at the puzzle exchange in the Jerusalem IPP, Steve and his poor assistant/victim, Frank spent a long day dancing the usual tune but this time using the American spelling to their dance and enjoyed themselves immensely. 

The puzzle arrived with instructions to open the lock and find the pun inside. There are 2 key on a keyring suitably adorned to celebrate the 30th IPP - there was a wine bottle seal sporting a snazzy 40 and a cork removed from the celebratory bottle.

First thing's know it won't work but you have to try the keys in the lock. Yes they fit, no they won't open the bloody thing. Hmm, now what can I do? I did what was expected of me and was rewarded with a stern look from Mrs S as Steve forced me to make a mess:

Yes, I poured a bunch of little fish over myself and the sleeping cat!
I almost got away with it. It was the inadvertent F word that came out that gave away that something bad had happened.

The engineering here is top notch. I found the rest of the solution fairly quickly and managed to open the lock without much song and dance (than goodness) and let Steve know.

No spoilers here
Steve asked whether I had completed the second half of the mission. Alas, I have not managed to find the pun. I keep looking at it but word games are not my strong point.

Hopefully another batch will be produced and made available for you to buy. If you wish to purchase Ali's exchange puzzle - A Bolt from the Blue then that is available here as is Allard's stunning teeny brass burrset, the Allard's Think© sticks, you know that you can never have too many burrsets!! You might as well pick them both up whilst you are there!

I have a few solved puzzles under my belt for the next couple of weeks - Phew!

Sunday 3 September 2023

Not All Disentanglements Are Wire Or String

Some Are Solid Plastic With A Box
Trapped Bird (photo from the design competition page)
A few months ago I managed to get hold of a copy of the Trapped bird designed by Koichi Miura (beautifully made by Mine). I ended up buying 2 different coloured copies of it because, like an eejit, I had not realised that the two versions being put up for sale were identical in function/solve (I got the one above plus another with a light beige box and a blue bird). The picture doesn't do the puzzle justice but I don't want to post my own picture in case it gives too much information away.

I could not resist it - it is really cute and I thought would be a nice easy solve before working my way up to the more difficult puzzles from that delivery. I was really quite wrong - I had thought when I bought it that it might be a bit like the Hedgehog in cage puzzles but no, it is actually a disentanglement puzzle but with a central piece to be separated from the frame (box). I lurve disentanglement puzzles and a new idea in the genre was very pleasing. There is a nice sequence at first which is easy to find but very quickly, there are decisions to be made and some moves are distinctly not intuitive or easy to find. 

To my surprise, it took me a good 45 minutes to free the bird after which, I took my photos (I of course did it with both copies so that I had a nice pic with both colours for my database. At that point, I put it back together again...except I couldn't! About 5 moves in to the reassembly I was stuck at a dead end. Now, that was very unexpected and caused a minor panic for a while whilst I freed the bird again. It was time for some think©ing and it hurt quite a lot. I actually failed to do it that evening and had to try again the following day. After a good 30 minutes of work, I realised what I had been doing wrong - the design by Koichi-san is very clever. he has made it perfectly to mislead you into following the wrong path and missing the correct one. It really is not easy to find it once you have taken the wrong way - it upsets your perception and has a lovely Aha! moment when it is finally restored to the start position.

To prove it is possible
Phot from Mine's FB - not giving too much away
Interestingly, despite knowing about the false passage being present, it catches me almost every time I dismantle the puzzle. The design is perfectly made to lead you astray even when you are expecting it. I can see why it was successful in winning a Jury Honourable Mention award in the Design competition this year. I have noticed at yesterday's MPP that when this puzzle is attempted by people who are not particularly interested in disentanglement puzzles, they seem to idly fiddle with it but have a very low threshold for abandoning it and their interest waned quite quickly. Indeed, on several occasions people got stuck very fast and instead of working at it they gave up and I had to return it to the start again.

Personally, I agreed with the Jury at the IPP, it is definitely worthy of an honourable mention rather than a first prize but certainly that mention is needed. What did I do with my second one? I thought it would be a fitting gift to Dale at the MPP yesterday - he is a big disentanglement fan and has given me a number of toys over the years so time to repay.