Sunday 30 June 2024

It's Not What It Seems To Be...

But It's Still Really Good

Pocket Watch
Designed by Shaui Chi and made by Mr Gao
Having had a really good time with one of Aaron's gift puzzles whilst on my holibobs, but still hadn't managed to solve a puzzle, I was determined to do better with the new batch that arrived whilst I was away.

Telescope (level 7)
The Pocket watch puzzle is "only" a level 8 on Aaron's scale. I really don't know what to make of his scale because I have never seen anything less than a 7 on it and almost all of the puzzles he releases are 10 or 10+. The odd thing is that the single level 7 puzzle that I bought from him remains unsolved and I have not come even close to working it out.

I had high hopes for the Pocket watch puzzle because it immediately screams out to most experienced puzzlers as very similar to the classic Ball and ring puzzle described in van Delft & Botermans' Creative puzzles of the world and, from it,  a whole bunch of variants which add degrees of difficulty and which I have struggled with multiple times over the years. My late mentor Tsy Hung Chein (aka Felix) got me entangled in their delights and made me a large number of them. There have been reviews of them here, here and here.

Classic Ball and chain (Livewire version)
The Pocket watch looks so like a variant of the Ball and ring puzzles except...the ring is not on the string in this one. This should start the alarm bells ringing...why not? My initial thought was that I had to move the ring onto that string and then solve it the usual way. The only problem with that is that I could not find any way to achieve that aim. Luckily the puzzle comes with a nice lobster-claw release mechanism for if you have made a knot and I deliberately reorganised it to have the ring where I desired and started trying to do the classic move (you have to be careful with that classic move because if you get it even slightly misaligned then you end up with a loop around the wire and can then get it more and more looped as you try to backtrack. Being very careful (and practicing with one of my old standard versions) I attempted the solve in the "new" start position. Here again I should have listened to the alarm bells in my head (especially as my head is usually pretty empty most of the time). The classic challenge requires that the ring get passed around the circumference of the puzzle and this is completely impossible with the Pocket watch due to the invagination that is closed off by another ring the same size as the movable one. 

It would appear that my whole rationale for starting the new batch of Aaron's torture devices with this one was based on a false premise. This puzzle is NOT a Ball and Ring puzzle even if it looks like one. It was time to put it back to the start and look for the correct way to solve it. The odd thing is that the moves of the ring are so constrained that it is initially quite hard to get tangled up doing what you feel is the right thing. Now one bonus with these is that it is possible to dismantle it and start with a solved puzzle and work your way back i.e. an entanglement challenge. I took the ring off and started here and tried to get to the beginning with minimal success until I had a huge (yes, HUGE) realisation. The movement of the ring to solve this one is really REALLY easy.

I set the start position the way I wanted it and within a couple of seconds had the ring where it needed to be. My new target was to see how to arrange the string into that require position without using the lobster-claw. It took me a few fairly tangled knots which needed undoing before I had a truly delicious Aha! moment as I worked out a sequence to move my string back and forth from the puzzle start to the solvable position. Once this was easily possible, it is just a matter of repeating that simple 2 second move with the ring and the puzzle is solved.

Solved (without the quick release)
Yes, it is "just" a level 8 puzzle but don't let that put you off. It is absolutely terrific and has a couple of delightful Aha! moments in it.

Hopefully I will have similar success with the rest of the puzzles in the recent delivery. Some look very tough with enormous lengths of string in them!

Some great challenges here!

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