Sunday 31 March 2024

MiBinity 1 - Allard Got There First...

And He Is Right Yet Again!

MiBinity 1
A collaboration between Michel van Ipenburg and Jack Krijnen
Quite a long time ago, Michel sent out an email to a group of his friends telling us all that he has been working with Jack to create something that anyone with an interest in N-ary puzzles would be delighted to own: "would we like to buy a copy for our collections?"

I think that about a nano-second went by before I emailed back to say that I was in! As you know, I have a bit of an addiction to N-ary puzzles (I still need to order some of the latest ones from Stephan Baumegger but I have sort of run out of money recently for after my latest purchases). I also cannot resist anything made by Jack - he doesn't produce may puzzles but when he does they are amazing. There was a short delay once everyone had replied to Michel and Jack made the correct number. It arrived in a surprisingly neat little package. 

The original design remit was to make a 3-piece N-ary burr and just this description alone caught my attention - how can you make a significantly difficult burr with 3 pieces to be challenging? And how can you possibly make a 3 piece N-ary burr? Well, this combination of puzzlers made it not just possible but really good. 

The small leaflet included

Challenges listed

On the  other side of the leaflet was a list of challenges - who can resist?

The puzzle is beautiful to look at and very tactile - it is an interesting burr that only moves in 2 dimensions. I don't think that I have seen anything like it before. I am very used to pushing and pulling in 3D that this new idea must have upset me somehow because I found it a little confusing at first. The key to an N-ary puzzle is to find the repeating patterns and I struggled to do that with this one.

After a few moves
Each of the pieces moves along an axis back and forth along a track that Jack has cut in the inside. To make it N-ary there must be more than one track - there is indeed one on each side of the inside of the puzzle. Being able to see small segments of the tracks doesn't seem to help much with the solution - it's all down to exploration. I'm a little ashamed to admit that it took me 2 or 3 days to work it out properly.

Two different tracks show how the N-ary solution is created
Having worked out the correct repeating sequence, it gets much easier. At level 25.5, this is not a hugely difficult puzzle but it is very different from everything else in my collection. This is a delight and I am hopeful that there will be a MiBinity 2.

Have I managed all the challenges? I dismantled it, I found 2 maker's marks and mostly explained the name. Fab!

Sunday 24 March 2024

Brian and Girish Make a Fabulous Pairing

Clutch 1 by Girish Sharma
When Brian Menold offers new puzzles then I jump at the chance and place an order. Now, I am sure that a whole lot of you will be about to say that the Clutch 1 puzzle is NOT a new puzzle and you would be absolutely right in shouting that at me. I noticed way back in 2022 that the Clutch 1 was the winner of a Jury Honourable Mention award in the IPP design competition. I took note that it looked like Brian's beautiful work and then promptly forgot about it. Shortly after that Brian began to offer it up for sale and I was either busy or ill or away or something because I completely missed it when they were released. Sheepishly, I contacted Brian to ask if he was planning to make any more and, phew, he said that he was planning at least one more set in the future. 

When it came out, I pounced and got my copy ordered (I think it was at the end of 2022 that I put in my order). Why am I only writing about it now? Because I am eejit! I realised that ordering only one puzzle would make the postage as much as the puzzle itself and I asked Brian to hold it for me. Then in 2 or 3 subsequent puzzle releases, I added one or two more of his gorgeous creations to the ever increasing set that he had held until a few weeks ago with the last release, I finally decided to brave the postal service and the wrath of "she who frightens the universe" and get them actually sent to me. They arrived whilst "she" was out and I managed to smuggle them in without her noticing. My desk is a huge mess again and she didn't notice the extra ones on it - hooray! I managed to nab both Clutch 1 and Clutch 2.

The Clutch puzzles were supposed to have been sent out in disassembled form to torture me more but Brian had a little brain slip. I received the Clutch 1 that had been intended for Rox and George's collection and they had specifically asked for them to be sent assembled (I suspect it is to prevent pieces getting lost in the sheer enormity of their collection and the vast numbers of arrivals) - it would appear that they will have the extra challenge intended for me as my copy went to them! Maybe Rox will chime in to let me know how she gets on?

To be perfectly honest, assembly puzzles make me very very nervous. I'm really not very good at them but these TICs have become some of my absolute favourite challenges and my skills have improved over several years of attempts. I set to on the assembled puzzle and realised that there are only 3 pieces to come apart so how hard could it be? Cough! Blush! It would appear that Girish is a master at the art of puzzle design and yes, it's VERY hard. There is quite a lot of possible movement and quite a few possible rotations as well. Except none of them seemed to go anywhere that I wanted them to. This was fabulous. I'm always anxious about the glued joints on these sorts of puzzles but the ones that might get a little force on them have been reinforced with attractive dowels. This sort of attention to detail is what keeps me buying from Brian.

I am embarrassed to say that the disassembly took me 2 days to work out! I am actually grateful to Brian for his mistake - I might have been at it for weeks if it was sent as an assembly puzzle. Poor Rox and George! They both are much better puzzlers than me and I am sure that they will have assembled their copy in just a few minutes.

Three rather complex pieces!
Luckily for me, I also managed to nab a copy of the Clutch 2 follow up puzzle which Brian released last year. Yes, it was utter torture waiting for it but I did have erm, one or two other toys to play with whilst I waited for these to arrive! My backlog is horrific!

Clutch 2 also designed by Girish
This was correctly sent out to me in the disassembled form. 3 rather complex pieces to be made into the usual 4x4x4 cube. It really is stunningly made with lots of gorgeous wood which you know I cannot resist!

Having struggled for quite a long time with just taking Clutch 1 apart, I was expecting this to be a significant challenge. It may only be 3 pieces but I was expecting a fight! My confidence soared quite quickly when I saw that there was only one possible way the pieces could make the required shape. I thought to my self: "self, this will be much easier than the last one". It is really easy to assemble into any 2 pairs and none of those pairings require rotation. I should have realised at that point that I had been lulled into a false sense of security. 

Having established the only possible assembly and having seen how they could all be put together, I then hit a brick wall. Trying to move/rotate one piece out of the way to allow the third to be introduced proved impossible for me. I just couldn't seem to find a way to interlock all 3 at the same time. In fact when any two were assembled, the third could not be introduced to the puzzle in any meaningful way. It was always blocked.

I spent a few days failing with this approach and then had a rest with another couple of the bandaged cubes for "light relief" and returned to it with the aim of working it out as a disassembly in my head. I could find the first 2 or even 3 linear moves of the disassembly but then struggled to visualise how to go further. Another day went by! My goodness! Maybe Rox and George are correct in their demand to have everything sent out assembled? In the end, I took each of the pieces as pairs and worked out what possible moves were available for all of them. This led me to take the 2 most complex of them and plot out a really complex sequence of possible moves. It did not appear to be terribly helpful because there seemed to be no point where the third piece could be introduced until...
Suddenly I had found a rotation that left the perfect gap. Piece number 3 was inserted and I realised I was lost. I could not remember the complex path that I had walked down. Backtrack and start again. This time I took some notes and I let out one of my annoying shouts of success earning me a glare with the laser-burning stare and the warm aroma of burning flesh!

Clutch 3 assembled in all its' glory
No spoiler here - establishing the piece positions is trivial
I have to say that I am absolutely delighted with these wonderful puzzles - Brian has made them beautifully and the challenge is fabulous. They are suitable as either assembly or disassembly puzzles (I think the latter is best but either is good). If you get a chance to play with or buy these then don't hesitate - you will love them! Thank you Brian and Girish.

I still have a few more from Brian to play with and gulp, may have some more currently in the post. Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear! I'll make it up to you later this year for our big anniversary.

Sunday 17 March 2024

Amazing Value And Two Fabulous Resources For You

The CubeTwist Bandage Cube Set
Incredible value for money
Yes the 3x3 cube in the photo does look very easy - no stickers or tiles and all black. Even a 3 year old could solve that but above it in my nice little organiser is a complete set of tiles for it in all the usual colours. It includes tiles that are 1x2, 2x2, 2x2 and 2x3 cubies in size. The whole point is to make a bandaged cube of your choice.

I mentioned this puzzle many many years ago and feel that it is worth showing it off again because there is now something available for you all to help you with solving it and finding lots of challenges to be done with it. My friend Rline of the TwistyPuzzling YouTube channel fame has rebought this amazing set and has created a fabulous post on the Twistypuzzles forum where he annotates a method of describing the puzzles that can be created and also has produced an amazing spreadsheet that he has called CheckMakeSolve for allow you to visualise all the various puzzles that have been described so far as well as to make your own designs. The amount of work that has gone into this creation is incredible!

To go alongside this spreadsheet, Rline has been constructing and solving puzzles and posting videos on the approach to it. The whole point about Rline's approach is to use very simple methods to solve as many puzzles as possible. He showed off the "Ultimate solution" to the Rubik cube at the beginning of his YouTube career which uses just 2 or even 1 simple algorithm. The whole point of this sort of approach is not to memorise and fail to understand. The aim is to understand what simple things do and then use them creatively. I know all you non-twisty fans are shaking your heads and saying no, no, no! but it really is pretty straightforward for the basic twisty puzzles.

I had bought this set many years ago and played for a while but had been using the beginner's method for solving the Rubik cube at the time and found that this was rather hard with bandaged puzzles. I had set it aside and completely misplaced it. Now, with this new resource available I was determined to get back to it and bought the set again. Luckily it is a nice cheap puzzle and easily available (HKNowstore or Cubezz) - I bought it from Cubezz for a mere $11.99. How is that for value?

The cube above is the first one in the series that Rline is working through - it's the Block Built Cube. It's a very nice one to start with because the puzzle has 3 faces adjacent to each other that can easily be turned without becoming locked up. Having this set of faces available to move means that the top face pieces can easily be moved and rotated. Using the simple edge piece series once 3-cycles three edges but if you do it several times then you can use it to swap corners around and even rotate them. Remember, the edge piece series is nothing more than up, up, down, down. Using just a 4 move algorithm and using it creatively allows you to overcome a whole lot of bandaging. I was truly delighted when I was able to solve this challenge in just 20 minutes! I am a genius! Except, I'm probably not!

I have not had much puzzling time this last week and despite receiving some wonderful new challenges from Brian Menold (he sent me out a year of orders that he had kept aside for me until it was worthwhile paying the postage), I have not had time to play (I've not even had time to take photos!) I moved on to the second challenge, the Detour puzzle and my intelligence ran out (along with my luck). 

This one, as you can see, has only 2 faces that can be turned from this start position and even with the simple edge piece series system, it is hard to make this usable. I spent a whole week, on and off, trying to think of a way to solve it. In fact, it was even almost impossible to scramble the bloody thing! At the end of that week, I realised that it is possible to turn the blue and yellow faces 180º 3 times each which flips the pieces enough to free up a third face. From this position we are back to the same approach as before but just using it creatively. This was an amazing AHA! moment and having spent a week looking at it and failing to find anything useful, it then took me only another 20-30 minutes to solve it.

Just using basic techniques creatively is an amazing thing to be able to do and the sense of achievement is fabulous. If you can master a 3x3 Rubik cube and use the Ultimate technique and be able to think© a bit then this set will provide hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of fun and frustration. With the amazing resource from Rline (it has taken him hundreds of hours to create the spreadsheet and the ever increasing series of videos), this is a MUST HAVE puzzle set. If you truly get stuck then the video for the one you are stuck on is there to help and once you have understood one then maybe the next will be easier. Don't be afraid, just DO IT!

MatchBox Playground Resource

MatchBox Playground from Pelikan in collaboration with Péter Gál
I had written about this wonderful (actually incredible) puzzle set from Jakub and Jaroslav back in February and they sold out within minutes. Luckily a whole new batch will be produced soon and those who managed to pre-order will get their hands on them and have a whole lot of wonderful challenges.

I have been chatting with Péter about this amazing creation and the work he has done for it. He offered me the full set of BT files for the puzzling community to look at and play with. It has every single puzzle that his analysis created and is a fascinating thing to peruse. I have uploaded the whole lot as a resource to my Google drive and it can be downloaded as a single zip file here. The individual xmpuzzle files are gzipped inside the main file but this should not cause a difficulty for you. 

Thank you to Péter for this - I hope that you find it as fascinating as I do.

Sunday 10 March 2024

Oleg’s Orb/Ball Is Smaller Than Expected!

Oleg's Wardrobe from DEDwood Crafts
A few months ago Dee Dixon notified the world of the next puzzle in his never ending series of sequential discovery puzzles and I duly placed the release date in my task manager app with a reminder to go online on the dot of the release time and be ready with my credit card. I was very lucky to be quick enough and complete my purchase because all 65 copies went in under 5 minutes! My goodness the market for these has gone through the roof. Luckily for all of you who missed out, there will be another batch of 50 being released within a few weeks. Believe me, it is worth it!

It took a little while for the rather enormous box to cross the pond and the unboxing was well worth the wait. This puzzle is simply gorgeous! It genuinely looks like a wardrobe that would be present in a medieval castle complete with a beautifully carved door handle. It is 5"x7"x3.5" and made from Peruvian walnut and African striped mahogany (I think the handle might be Ebony). The door of the wardrobe has been textured to add to the authenticity and the quality feel of the puzzle. It is accompanied by a rather large card explaining the rules and the rather endearing story written by Brent Hessel to explain why we have a wardrobe and are looking for the Orb of Prosperity. Apparently King Oleg stole it from the villagers and hid it in his wardrobe. The plucky Knight Note has stolen the wardrobe from Oleg but cannot find the Orb and has asked for help from this plucky puzzler!

It is all absolutely beautifully presented (the cards are really difficult to photograph!). The first thing I noticed after my initial admiration of the craftsmanship (Dee always makes such gorgeous puzzles) was the fact that on the left side of the wardrobe there was a small area cut out that could be rotated in place to reveal a slot for something. I obeyed the rules and did not spinning of the puzzle but have to admit that I did shake it a bit upside down to see if I could make anything come out of the slot. Of course neither Dee not Oleg would make it so simple. There is also a small area on the base of the wardrobe that acts as a button but barely moves at this point.

There's nothing else for it...time to open the wardrobe. What do you do with a wardrobe? Pull the handle of course and Aha! the door opens (in fact it comes off) much to my surprise. Inside there is a warning and four drawers:

It's all so gorgeous!
There are no handles on the drawers so I tipped them out - luckily it's only a small wardrobe! They all come out and there is nothing in those drawers. What next? Time to think©!

The craftsmanship is wonderful
Dee's mark
With the drawers out it is possible to see that the wardrobe has been constructed in layers and one is slightly wiggly. This might be useful but at the moment for me, did nothing. I have to sheepishly admit that I got stuck at this point for over a week! Whilst investigating this I suddenly found a tool had appeared and I had absolutely no idea where from. Odd! I used a torch and looked inside and there was no clue where it came from and only 2 days later did I work it out. As I have said before, "I am really not terribly bright". Having found the tool, I had to work out what to do with it. The little slot that I had mentioned before seemed an obvious choice and with huge expectations I slotted it into place and...NADA! It wouldn't fit. Bugger! Maybe I was doing it wrong? I tried to do the same move on multiple occasions and in different orientations of both me and the puzzle. And...still NADA! Think© dammit!

I thunk for a while and noticed something else where the tool might be helpful so tried that and...NADA! I am really not very good at puzzling - it's amazing that anyone reads what I write. I then had to put this one down for a while or there would be no blog posts for you. I went back and forth from Brass Monkey 6 to the twisty puzzle to the Wardrobe for a while and only made progress on the two former puzzles. I must be missing something in this. I was convinced that the wiggly bit must be the secret but it wasn't doing anything in any position and so I was tempted to try something that was not in the rules - my last resort after blowing on a puzzle is to submerge it in gin to see whether that might help. With the size of this bloody thing, I would need to use a whole bottle and Mrs S was not going to let me do that. I did also suspect that gin might not be good for the wood - I know that I am thick but really not that dumb. Eventually, after 2 weeks, I made a very small but very interesting discovery - I had another tool which made what was wiggly really quite mobile. Man, that is a very unusual move in a puzzle! I had lots more movement and a lovely locking mechanism that I could not see but worked every time. This allowed me to try something else which did nothing until I tried it differently and it did. Bang! I had another tool which I did not know how I managed to unlock or even where it had come from.

This new tool looked very useful. It fit somewhere and then fell out again. Maybe I could try....


That is very interesting. I could make the took disappear inside. At this point there were only so many possibilities and before long I heard a click. I couldn't see anything new as a result of the click so carried on fiddling when Oleg's orb fell on the table. A word of warning - if you are doing SD puzzles, always do them on a table or on a lap tray. Son't do them on an armchair and especially not with a cat on your lap because stuff disappears quickly inside the crevices of an armchair or in the gaping maw of a peeved cat!

I appeared to have retrieved the Orb and I have to say that King Oleg has a very small ball!

The Orb of Prosperity is a little erm underwhelming
Having found the Orb, I am told that all is well in the village and I can now reset the puzzle back to the beginning without fear of the consequences. Except after over a week of trying, I cannot seem to reset the puzzle. I am trying to do the reverse of what I had done but something is not working for me. I suspect that I have forgotten a specific orientation for the puzzle when I do a certain move or sequence and need to keep experimenting to get it to work. The result of this? Note to myself to always pay attention to what moves you do and what position they are in when you do them.

I'll keep at it. It will look fabulous on display with all my other Dedwood Crafts puzzles. I really must get back to the Burner and Uplift puzzles which I have also singularly failed:

I also think there is another new one coming out which I will hopefully be quick enough on the draw to purchase! If all the previous ones are anything to go by then it will be superb.
Keep an eye out for the second batch if you didn't manage to get one of these from the first.

Sunday 3 March 2024

Celebrating a Landmark With a Best of Year?

Brass Monkey Sixential Discovery Puzzle (aka BM6)


I have absolutely adored the Brass Monkey burr series (which are not burrs) - I have reviewed them (along with a whole bunch of their other releases) over the last few years and some have been awkward to solve whilst others have made me laugh out loud as I did silly things to solve them. This one, the last in the series, made me frustrated, made me laugh and made me gasp in disbelief. It has taken me weeks and weeks to solve! 

I am delighted to be able to show this one off on the same week that my pageview count topped the 3 million mark! I find it totally unbelievable that anyone spends the time to read the rubbish that I write. It even continued and got more popular after my mother died (so it couldn't have all been down to her). Thank you for coming along for the ride and allowing me to justify my "little" hobby to the present wife!

Main site
New additions site
Total page views now 3,017,111 - thank you so much!

If you buy this then you probably should own the set - they are all fun to solve and look great on display:

Six wonderful challenges
They all look the same as six piece burrs with only the markings on the ends of the pieces showing a difference between them. Each of the previous versions have had a significant nod to different puzzle genres and this last one is the most enjoyed puzzle type of all the sequential discovery puzzle. If that is your thing then this is the amongst the best SD puzzles I have ever tried. Go BUY IT!

I was lucky enough to get one of the first of them to be released and set to straight away. The first thing I realised was that nothing moves...nothing at all! I poked and prodded and peered inside the holes that were in the ends of some of the burrsticks. I used a torch and all this told me was that I couldn't see inside. I pushed and pulled and wiggled and found absolutely nothing. Yep! Not terribly bright as always.

I then noticed some movement with something and, as this was the only thing I had found in a day or so, I persistently wiggled and poked it. Suddenly it wiggled more! Hooray! I carried on doing the only thing that worked and after about an hour something came loose. I had found something special! But this just proved that I was an eejit! I should have realised that this wasn't right because Steve and Ali would never have a puzzle that solved that way. Having found something which did not give me any tools, I then inverted what I found and pushed it back only to have it go in and then go rigidly solid and not come out again! Oooh! that's not good, is it? Time to contact Steve over the interwebs and sheepishly admit what I had done and ask whether it might be irreversible. I was reassured that what I had done was not irreversible but I should not have been able to do it in the first place - I dare say that Steve sheepishly admitted that something hadn't been tightened adequately. He would make sure that all the others did not have this move possible.

So I had found a thing, returned the thing and jammed that bit in so that I could no longer retrieve the thing. I hope that you all find that description helpful enough to avoid doing the same "thing"? I guessed that after having my hopes and dreams dashed like that, I should return to solving. My problem? I had pushed and pulled and poked and prodded everything I could think of. Apart from a slight general wiggle caused by the interlocking burr pieces not being too tight, I could find nothing. This state of affairs persisted for weeks! Every day I would risk sanity, kitchen tiles and worktop playing with my very heavy metal paperweight. I kept getting looks of impending violence from Mrs S when she thought I might drop it and crack something. After about 3 weeks, whilst chatting with the genius (yes, Derek Bosch strikes again) he suggested that instead of pushing and pulling and prodding, I should actually look at the bloody thing! Now, why didn't I think of that? The next day, I sat down with it and a nice bright light and properly examined the whole puzzle - if I was a good puzzler, then I would probably have thought of that already. After about 15 minutes, I noticed a detail that I had not seen before - what if I??? OMG! Aha!

I suddenly had a "thing" and from here on progress was a lovely sequence which started with:

  1. I have this - what can I do with it?
  2. I tried that and it didn't work so maybe I could try this?
  3. Aha!
  4. I have another thing
  5. Back to step 1
This 5 step sequence happened over and over and over again. Almost every time there was a new item. I have never seen a puzzle with so many pieces and so many steps. It was totally logical and required a nice bit of think©ing to manage each step. One or two of the tools needed to be used more than once but  mostly there was a new tool for each step. I was having a ball! After 6 or 7 steps, I stopped returning back to the beginning each time I stopped playing because there were just too many pieces and steps to keep reversing.

After another few of evenings of play, I managed to retrieve the part that I had mistakenly freed and then re-trapped in my first attempts. I had a monkey!

I thought that this was it - I'm an eejit!
This was the place I had been at last weekend when I went to write about the puzzle. I did have a sort of nagging feeling that there were pieces that I had not yet explored but I suppressed those doubts and when I sat down to start writing, I looked at Allard's wonderful review and saw his solved picture and also reread the announcement page on the TwoBrassMonkey site. Oh NO!!! I had not completed the puzzle - the ultimate aim was to find the bananas and feed them to the monkey. This seems to be a theme for Steve and Ali. There was obviously at least one more step and I had no idea what to do next.

I could see that there was something inside that deserved attention but I did not have a tool that would fit. Yet again it was time to think© and it hurt. I spent another 5 days looking for the right tool and moves only to not find anything. I then had to look at what I had and realised that there was something that was peculiar about one of the pieces I had. A sneaky idea occurred and I said aloud "what if I do this? Much to the disgust of she who who is thinking violent thoughts about big Steve and Ali (run guys, run!) my thinking aloud led to an Aha! shout! which really upset her. I then had yet another thing to explore and finally after 35 separate puzzling steps (give or take a few) I had my puzzle solved!

The BM6 dismantled and I have bananas for the monkey
No spoilers here
There are a serious number of pieces here! I have never seen anything like it in the 14 years I have been puzzling. It is incredible that the boys managed to fit so many parts and so many steps into one epic puzzle. Not only is this likely to be the best puzzle of the year - you have another 10 months until my 2024 top ten(ish) but this may well be the best puzzle I have ever solved! It is right up there with the Angel box, Opening bat, Katie Koala and Mittan puzzles.

Of course, having dismantled it and spread all the pieces out for photos, it was time to put it all back together. I had enough memory of the steps to not find this too hard but the big challenge was how to place the burr sticks so they could assemble into a six piece burr again. I am not good at burr assembly and this took me a little while to work out.

This puzzle is just plain epic! Don't hesitate - just buy it. I am sure that you will find the first step much quicker than me and not need a genius to help you. But once you have found that first step there is a marvellous journey ahead of you.

Thank you guys! I very much doubt that you can ever top this but I am waiting with bated breath to see.