Sunday 11 February 2024

It Eclipsed My Abilities for a Long Time

Total Eclipse from PuzzleMaster

I have had the Total Eclipse puzzle sitting on my desk next to me in my, ahem, "backlog of puzzles to solve" for an embarrassingly long period of time. It has been there for over a year! First it was unsolved because I was too busy, then it remained unsolved because I couldn't work it out, then it got, BLUSH, buried in other puzzles to be solved and finally unsolved because I kept going round and round in circles. Yes, I am not very bright and I often use the Einstein's madness approach of doing the same thing over and over again until something changes.

I had bought it because it was an Oskar van Deventer design (pretty much anything he designs is incredible - I really need to get hold of a couple of copies of the Zigguflat puzzle that has been enjoyed by so many brilliant puzzlers and combine into one large fabulous N-ary puzzle. I also have been quite intrigued by the amazing series of PuzzleMaster's own metal creations. The Honeycomb puzzle recently created as a KickStarter is now available direct from them.

The Toal Eclipse consists of 2 interlocking rings (one chrome and one brass) inside a black metal cage. It is about 6.5cm in diameter and difficulty score of 9 on their odd 5 - 10 scale. I think the level is about right. The inner rings can rotate around inside the cage freely - it is very similar in idea to the Hanayama Cast Equa (also by Oskar) which I reviewed after a huge struggle many years ago. It also share a small similarity with the Hanayama Cast Duet (yes, another Oskar design) reviewed here. Obviously there needs to be a spot on the cage where the rings can be released. I found that straight away. The two rings each have a gap in them which allows them to interlock and presumably is where they disassemble from the cage. The reason they don't just come apart is because the gap has a polarity and straight away it is obvious that the polarity is reversed at the beginning the process:

The grooves in the cage are on the opposite side to the ring.
The ring obviously needs to be reversed to come off.
It is obvious that the aim is to move the pieces around so that the grooves in the cage line up with the ring. How do you do that? There are single grooves on the cage (different orientation to the release grooves) and the rings can be slid from segment to segment through a maze until the ring has the correct orientation.

In my multiple previous attempts to solve this puzzle I had found a shortcut - my copy has a slight flaw where the ring can be passed over the groove in the cage with the orientation the wrong way around. I realised early on that this was not right and did my best to avoid it. This turned the puzzle into a nightmare for me! There are multiple ways to work your way around the cage and tantalisingly there are a few places where the grooves occur on both sides allowing either orientation to pass. I found this no help whatsoever! I went round and round in circles in multiple directions and always ended up back at the beginning with the ring unable to slide off. OMG! I began to question my sanity which I have to say Mrs S has done many times. I kept having to put it down.

Finally lined up!
After the recent tidy up of my hellscape of desk, I suddenly found the Total Eclipse under a rather large pile and decided at the end of last week to try again and be finally able to put it away. I took it to work with me, I played in the evenings and everywhere for a bit. After annoying everyone for a week with my jingling. I had an Aha! moment and the brass ring came off. Yessss! The chrome ring was obviously the same and would need the same path - except I had no recollection of how the first one had come off. I went round and round in circles again. Each time I was back at the beginning there was a great offing and blinding. This was a very difficult puzzle! One more try and I suddenly noticed something about the possible positions and found a sort of figure of eight sequence that was able to reverse the polarity of the ring and then I had to make it back to the double groove position. This was easier said than done but I got there and could breathe a sigh of relief.

At last!
Having done this, it was time to return to the start position. This should just be a matter of reversing what I had done but of course, I couldn't remember what I had done! At least this time I had a vague idea of what was required and it only took me a whole day to do it. 

For just $25CAD this puzzle is a really good buy! It is quite attractive, very tactile as a fiddling object and most importantly, offers a LOT of puzzling without getting hopelessly lost (you always get back to the beginning even when you don't want to). At over a year to solve it, I have definitely got my money's worth.

Watch out next week for the first release of 2024 by Pelikan...

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