Sunday 2 June 2024

Chasing the Serpent's Tail - Uroborus

Uroborus by Girish Sharma made by Brian Menold
Another week goes by and I make absolutely no headway solving either the Box of Celts or Vertigo puzzles. Yep! Not even the first step of each! I am truly not terribly bright - but, I will keep at it. Perseverance is definitely my thing. In desperation, I turned to yet another of Brian Menold's gorgeous creations, the Uroborus designed by the incredibly talented Girish Sharma (he seems to be catching up with the master of the TIC, Andrew Crowell). It was Girish' second entry into the IPP design competition in 2022.

This puzzle is a more suitable size to be putting in my work bag for intermittent play when I get a quiet moment. It saw the light of day on several occasions and completely bamboozled me for quite a long time. There are "only" three pieces to be interlocked so should really not be hugely difficult. Despite this "should not be difficult", I really struggle to find an assembly for the 3 pieces even without actually trying to navigate the rotations. I was able to work out how to interlock any 2 of them in a few different ways but each time there did not appear to be any way that the third piece could fit into the 3D structure. This impasse went on for several days until I finally found a possible assembly. Time to navigate the rotations...

This is where it all got a bit frustrating. I am sure that you can all hear Girish laughing at me from wherever you are in the world. All three pieces end with a corner to corner gap and thus appear to be very restricted in how they can be introduced to each other. I figured to myself that I should start with the two larger ones and after a bit of dizziness inducing rotation I managed to get them interlocked in the correct position (yay!). Now it was time to introduce the third one and here lay a big problem. I tried for hours and hours and could not do it. Maybe I should start with a large one and the small one? AT this point, I had a horrible realisation that I had been wasting hours on an impossible assembly! 😱

Had I started with those two pieces from the beginning I would have very quickly realised that I had decided upon and attempted something impossible! This situation is quite unusual for these puzzles. I have previously found that the first difficult stage of finding the possible assemblies usually ends with just one possibility leading to a prolonged attempt at actually getting it together. Here, however, there are obviously (in retrospect) more than one assembly. Aargh! Time to find another one.

Finding the first assembly had taken several days and I was rather anxious that it might take weeks to find the other one (not helped by the fact that I am terrible at remembering what I have tried before). Getting increasingly desperate, I finally found another assembly and set to putting it together. This time I tried to make sure that the small piece could physically be placed (it is very limited in the rotations it can do due to the small hole in the middle). This proved easily possible and gave me the confidence to try assembling the larger pieces. Oh boy! Brian wasn't wrong when he said that the rotations were dizziness inspiring. There were quite a lot of turns involved and a few required very precise placement of the pieces before a particular move was possible. After about an hour, I had what I needed and then got the third piece attached as well - Yeehaw! Solved it!

Uroborus solved!
Dismantling the bloody thing was also a fun challenge. Needless to say, I had completely lost track of all the various rotations required and even had forgotten the direction to move in. I was stuck for quite a while this morning trying to take it apart again. 

This puzzle may look relatively easy but it really wasn't. It took the best part of a week of swearing before I found the solution. It definitely has two phases with almost equal difficulty. Finding the correct assembly was horrendously tough for me and then the assembly almost as hard. I created a BT file to establish how many possible assemblies there are and was horrified to see that there are 5 and presumably only 1 is actually achievable. Girish, you are a genius!

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