Sunday, 9 August 2020

Aaron Might Just Coin It In With This One!

3 Coins
A nice quick blog post today - I’ve had to work both Saturday and Sunday this weekend and had very little time. This has been done quickly on my iPad on Saturday evening whilst completely saturated with curry so my concentration ability is rather poor and finished off on Sunday evening having just got back from work. Let me know if there are any awful grammatical errors?

Aaron Wang, as I’ve said a few times before is a genius like no one I’ve ever met before! He is a teacher in China and in his spare time he designs and manufactures disentanglement puzzles. How does anyone go about this? I have no idea but from what I can tell it involves having a very twisted mind. The unique thing about the designers of this type of puzzle is that they do it all in their heads! There is no software that helps them with it, they just are able to visualise how the pieces or string or loops of chain can be manipulated to release whatever is required. As a result of this ability to design, they are also able to solve these puzzles...in their heads! I cannot do this for the life of me! I solve most puzzles by many hours, days, months or even years of random movements. I seem to be quite good at random movements because I am successful with a lot of these puzzles...eventually.

When the IPP was going to be held, Aaron was hoping that someone would take this puzzle, 3 Coins, to be their exchange puzzle. He offered it to me if I wanted to participate in the exchange but I personally can not afford to risk the wrath of Mrs S! Can you imagine what she would do to be if I bought 100 copies of this at $10-12 each and then came home with another 100+ puzzles all in one go, PLUS what I would have bought whilst there? A whack! ouch! would not even begin to describe what would happen to me! I suspect the South Yorkshire police might be finding pieces of me for years.

Regretfully, I had to turn Aaron down but he still let me buy a bunch of new toys at the beginning of the year. He wanted to know whether I thought it was suitably difficult.

Now I’m sure that you are wondering, "is it suitably difficult?"

OMG! Hell yes! I received this at the beginning of January and started to play straight away. I found some very interesting movements and thought I found a key move. Then I got in a knot and hastily backtracked to the beginning. Try something else? Maybe a different direction? Still a knot and back to the beginning. A different idea and yes, a knot! All the knots look very similar except this time there was the OMG panic of how the hell to I get out of this mess? Luckily it’s a chain rather than a string and despite getting stuck many times I have always managed to find my way back to the starting conformation. If you are a bit anxious about disentanglement puzzles with fully flexible components then this one is perfect - it doesn’t end up permanently buggered up!

I played with this everywhere I went all through January and February before realising that I was now repeating the same thing over and over again and still struggling every time to reverse it. In March the world went a little crazy and my work-life balance tilted rather emphatically towards work! In between the huge amount of work, I carried the 3 coins puzzle with me and took it out to play periodically but got nowhere.

Recently Aaron has been posting a whole bunch of new designs that he will be making available very soon and when I chatted about them I asked for a little hint to help. He sent me a picture that showed me the general idea. It is exactly what I thought and forced me to focus on a particular technique. It certainly was not a big hint - he basically showed me that it functions in a similar way to this puzzle (don’t look if you don’t want a spoiler):



Armed with the knowledge of a similar puzzle, I duly tried the critical move which, I hasten to add, I had probably already done 1000s of times before. It had a very specific effect which I then had to decide how to utilise elsewhere. Aha! Now that is very interesting! What if I try...

And I have a knot again! Back to the drawing board. I spend the next 3 days trying variations on a theme and also desperately trying to remember what each variation was and inevitably repeating the same mistake many times. At some point I fed some part through and around and over some other part (now you see why I can’t remember much) and something is very different. In fact if I move something in a certain way then it might just look just like the "spoiler puzzle". A few seconds later I have the 'coin' removed From the puzzle:

It only took me 7 months!
Now, putting it back? Despite having been very careful to watch what I was doing during this disassembly, I found it really quite difficult to manage the reverse of the procedure, even having done it just a few minutes earlier. Resetting what I refer to as the 'second lock' requires absolutely perfect positioning and there are lots of ways to muck it up. My first reassembly took me 2 hours and having done it multiple times, I still struggle every time - it’s always the same part that I cannot find the position for. This is a bonus - it adds a frisson of panic to a wonderful Aha! moment which never seems to go away.

All the puzzles from Aaron are wonderful. They are definitely NOT for beginners! Almost every one of the puzzles I’ve bought from Aaron are seriously tough and very well made. If you like a challenge  and want to try one of his wonderful new designs then contact him via his Facebook page or if you are not on FB the contact me and I’ll put you in touch. Alternatively a good few of his older designs are available from PuzzleMaster.



Sunday, 2 August 2020

Aaaargh! A Newbie Teaches me to Look Properly!

Lock Out Puzzle from Andrew Coles
These days I don't often get to torture anyone with my toys. Trainees are being diverted into general practice training and there are less of them about. For some reason my ODPs (anaesthetic assistants) tend to run away when I start to go rummaging for a puzzle in my stash. You might ask..."What about the surgeons?" And my reply would have to be that they don't count! They are basically legalised psychopaths with ultra sharp knives and sometimes a hammer! By and large, you should NEVER trust anyone who approaches you with a knife or your puzzles with a hammer! The surgeons tend to have no interest in my toys or even what I am doing unless the patient is not doing well or they have cut something pulsatile that they shouldn’t have.

What has this got to do with Andrew Coles' Lock Out puzzle? Well, I had been working on it for a few weeks and getting absolutely nowhere until, on Wednesday, when I suddenly found that during a major lower limb orthopaedic list I was accompanied by one of our very senior trainees. In fact, so senior that he starts as a consultant (attending physician) next month, and therefore did not need any significant teaching. This allowed me lots of opportunity for “torture”!

Beautifully presented
Going back a month, on the day that it arrived, I took it to work and showed it to a friend and we marvelled at the quality. I sagely told him that the keys are seldom particularly useful in the way one would expect and to prove the point I inserted one of the provided keys into the keyway and demonstrated that it would not even insert fully - it came to a hard stop. At that point both of us were a little surprised to see that, with the key only 4 or 5 mm inside, the key could turn. Wow! was I going to solve this immediately without trying? Of course not! In wonder, we both watched as the key turned and then there was a click and it stopped dead - no further movement possible. That was interesting, what actually happened? The key now was able to be pushed all the way into the lock and…yes you guessed it, wouldn't turn.

At this point I had what appeared like a normal fairly heavy duty Abus 83 series padlock with 2 identical keys, none of which would turn. Up until the fateful day with my trainee, I had been doing all the usual tricks that one does to a lock. I had tried the keys inserted to varying depths, tried pushing them in the wrong way (won’t work), tried all sorts of angles to hold the puzzle, tried shaking it, spinning it, blowing on or in it, submerging it in gin (which definitely diminished the taste of the gin) and even tried solving it standing on my head. Nothing worked, so in desperation, I took some advice from Allard which you all know is a very stupid thing to do! Celery, of varying freshness seemed to do nothing apart from clog things up.

Taking the puzzle to work, I exhibited all the useful things I had done and handed it my colleague and told him that I write the consultant on-call rotas and if he failed to open the lock (or help me to do so) then he would be on-call every single Christmas day until my retirement. This was adequate motivation and he stepped up to the mark. We started with our first two cases and despite all the mechanical noises of a hip replacement going on to provide motivation, he did not manage anything. So disappointing! Our big case was a redo hip replacement which was going to take quite a lot of hours and whilst I looked after the patient he continued to explore the possibilities.

I have learned over the years and told many other puzzlers that the single most important thing that you can do is to LOOK at you puzzle properly. I had told him that and it would appear that he learned from me. He did learn some medicine too (like how to do a high anterior sciatic nerve block and my approach to decreasing blood loss during major surgery). In fact he proved better than me at looking properly at the puzzle! Something very interesting was found and to my horror, I realised that I must have been completely stupid! I HAD actually seen what he had and not taken it the next logical step forward. In fact I had just dismissed what I had seen and carried on with the celery thing.

We were now in a position where we could think about manipulating the lock further. He handed me the lock and I tried some more celery-free moves which didn't work so I handed it back to him for a while. After about a ½ hour he had not done anything else (much to my satisfaction) and I tried again. Allard’s thinking© process came in handy - I looked even more closely at what I had and realised that something was not right with this lock - it was now obvious why the key would not turn and I tried something new. This was something I would never have thought to do to a lock and realised at that point why everyone at the MPP where Andrew released the puzzle had raved about it.



After this very special manoeuvre, I placed the key in the keyway and BINGO! the lock sprung open. OMG! Both me and my trainee were slack-jawed at the design. That was something really rather clever - I have never seen anything like that done to a lock. It is not even that complex (although I think the manufacturing process will have been pretty difficult) but the importance of looking and thinking© is absolutely critical here. The guys at the MPP managed it within a ½ hour of play but me…I took 3 or 4 weeks! Obviously it's something I am rubbish at and everyone around me is better than me (even newbies). I am hoping to have enticed a new puzzler to the dark side!

The Lock out puzzle is being made in batches by Andrew as and when he has time - contact him at his website and get onto his waiting list. You won't be disappointed. Phew! One down and several dozen more in my backlog to go!





Sunday, 26 July 2020

Those Japanese Chaps Are Really Devious!

4L Basket
5L Box
I am really not sure that I should be writing such a provocative title!!! But in the puzzling world we all know that the Japanese designers, craftsmen and puzzlers are extreme examples of the best on offer! Every time I buy something from one of them, I get a top notch experience and appreciate their devious thought processes - so, in the face today's politically correct thought police, I stand by my statement! 👿👿👿

I know that you all are desperately waiting to find out about my latest escapades! Otherwise why else would you be back here week after week reading my drivel? I'll start with my rower... Man! I became very unfit! 3 months of lockdown where all I could do was walk a bit and work my arse off at the hospital prevented any real exercise being done and then 2 weeks struggling with a life-threatening virus and the de-conditioning associated with that have left me in a very poor physical state. I have tried to use the rower every day if possible (work permitting) and it is coming back slowly. Mrs S has even suggested that on a work day, I get up at 5am to workout before I go to work. I'm not sure whether she is being kind or is trying to cause me a heart attack whilst she is sleeping. Whack! Ouch!

What about the Lock out puzzle by Andrew Coles? Well it took me a few days to pick all the celery out of the keyway after Allard suggested that was the solution and I have worked to find the solution every day. BUT... I have so far been completely unable to find anything new. There are some holes (I'm not sure whether they were made by Andrew or by the lock manufacturer) and that is all I have found. I think Andrew has just given me a lock with the wrong keys as a joke! I will keep trying.

Easy peasy? Not for me!
Today I have to write about a couple of puzzles that I have been playing with from Mineyuke Uyematsu. Every year Mine-san sells a bunch of puzzles at the IPP which have been much sought after due to several of them being big hits in the design competition - some of my all time favourite puzzles (including the 4L packing puzzle) and the Caramel box came to me that way. Unfortunately, the IPP has had to be cancelled this year and as a result Mine-san announced that he was going to be making a bunch of puzzles and selling them directly as well as making a whole load available via Wil Strijbos (helping maintain his name as the premiere puzzle pusher). I placed an order within at most 5 minutes of the announcement being made and was very lucky that the puzzles that I wanted were not going to be in short supply and were not going to a country that had imposed virus-related import restrictions. I received my wonderful new toys relatively quickly and set to playing with them.

I knew that 4L Basket was going to be fun - it had won the Puzzler's award as well as the Jury 1st prize at the Design competition in 2019 and I had a brief play with Allard's copy at the last MPP and failed to solve it after a ½ hour helping me decide that I definitely needed my own copy. I tried a few of the tricks from the 4L packing puzzle but that didn't help me at all - It was definitely going to be fun. The 4L Basket was a design by Koichi Miura who has also designed several others that I have reviewed and enjoyed. It has been beautifully made by Mine from Walnut, Oak and Padauk. Like the 4L there are 4 L-shaped pieces to be fitted into a box but this time the L's are all identical and simple Triominos, the box has 2 identical entry paths separated by the handle of the basket which cannot move and has 2 holes in the sides beneath the handle. I was able to work out a few possible ways to organise these pieces inside the 2x2x3 cavity - so how can you manoeuvre the pieces past the blockage caused by the handle? Even with a little Thought© it is clear that rotational moves will be required but the tolerances of the box are such that it is quite tough to find any possible rotations for anything other than the first piece. The rotations that I had tried with other puzzles had not worked with this one - even the genius, Derek Bosch had not found this straightforward.

Rotations required - not too tough but very clever
I played with this on and off (along with a few other toys) and realised that you needed to use everything that you were given to get the positioning just right. After a week of play, I had a lovely Aha! moment and packed the L's inside the basket. It is actually not as complex as you think (certainly nowhere near as tough as the original 4L puzzle) but you really do need to think why everything was designed the way it was.

A simple packing puzzle? The fixed cubies in the box say no!
The 5L box is another fabulous design from Hajime Katsumoto which also won the Jury 1st prize in the 2018 Design competition. I had never actually seen a copy of it but knew straight away that any puzzle designed by Hajime-san was worth buying. When it arrived, I was absolutely staggered at the sheer beauty of it. I am not sure what it is made of (I am certain that there is a fair amount of acrylic in it but the outer surfaces of the box have a shiny wood grain effect and I cannot tell whether this is a wood inlay or just a really gorgeous acrylic). The wooden pieces look like either Redheart or Padauk. Again, there are 5 triomino L-shaped pieces which need to be fitted into the box and then the lid shut over them. This is very reminiscent of the absolutely amazing Slide packing puzzle by Hajime-san which also won the Puzzler's award in 2016 as well as a Jury honourable mention. Making this much more difficult is the fact that a cubie is stuck inside the box in one corner and another is attached to the lid preventing it from sliding all the way out and also restricting where the pieces can be placed inside.

There are a few ways that 5 L-shapes can fit into the 3x3x2 cavity even with the restrictions placed but the fact that one of those restrictions has to be allowed room to move for the lid to close makes this a really interesting challenge. I played with this one for several weeks and just could not make the jump in thought that was required. It was sitting on top of a sleeping cat with me staring at in disbelief at the difficulty level when the cat turned over, causing the puzzle to roll onto its' side. Ooh! That is interesting...a whole new way of looking at it. I had, until that moment, been trying to solve it with the lid upwards - seems like a logical approach? With the puzzle on its' side I was forced to think a little differently and suddenly an idea sprang into my currently blank head - what if I try...? YES!!! That is really lovely - it is actually not as tough as I thought - I just needed to think differently - there is a lovely sequence of moves and it is solved with the lid shutting beautifully. It is not even trivial to remove the pieces once the puzzle has been solved and sat for a while.

No clues here - a really fun puzzle!
I was chatting to Derek at the time and was slightly horrified when he told me that he had managed to lock his copy up entirely. It had never occurred to me that could happen. Luckily he managed to unlock it reasonably quickly and I gave my advice to think in another orientation - hopefully that will do the trick for my mate.

If you get a offered a try of these puzzles then jump at the chance - they are a very simple premise with only a small number of very basic shaped pieces to fit in a small cavity. Despite the simplicity, they are a wonderful challenge which may take you only a few minutes or if you are thick like me, then may take you many hours over a number of days.


Legal Packing

Tetra Spinner
So far I have singularly failed to solve the others that I bought from Mine-san - hopefully the answer will fall on me soon. Now where did I put that blasted lock???



Sunday, 19 July 2020

Terry Produces Something VERY Smart

Alastor
My health continues to improve but I remain extremely easily fatigued - just walking along a corridor at work or climbing a couple of flights of stairs renders me totally shattered. After 3 months on a waiting list I was finally able to buy a Concept2 rowing machine and I plan on starting some decent exercise as my fatigue allows (the gyms here remain shut and I wanted to continue exercising - yes I know I could go running but I hate running and I get awful shin splints). It was a bit of an epic experience getting the rowing machine upstairs and assembled! It nearly killed me! I really hope that it will help with my continued recovery. The only downside is that the only spare room for it is my second puzzle room!

My friend Terry Smart spends half of his time working off-shore on a North Sea oil rig. This means that he either has a LOT of time on his hands or very little. The usual work pattern for these guys is 2 weeks on rig and 2 weeks at home. A few years ago Terry spent a lot of time teaching himself to use Burrtools to design interlocking puzzles that were just a lot more interesting than the usual. The issue then was that he had to hope that one of our entrepid craftsmen would see his design and choose to make a few copies for the puzzling world. This was too much of a problem for our Terry and he decided in true Scottish fashion (yes, he shares the same impetuous genes that my wife has and which cause me a LOT of pain -  Whack! Ouch!    I rest my case!) to do something about it - he dived headlong into woodwork. I would love to do this but at the moment my livelihood depends on me having the correct number of fingers and after seeing the tablesaw injury 2 weeks ago, I think I will continue like that. Terry went to the internet and bought himself some of the best equipment for small scale woodworking that you can buy - he bought a whole bunch of stuff from Byrnes Model Machines and then had to pay an astronomical customs fee before he got his hands on it. I got a copy of his very first production series - Premiere and loved it.

Terry recently announced a few new puzzles that he was planning on making and asked for people to sign up to buy them to give him an idea of how many to make. He also offered a few of us the chance to buy more expensive versions with fancy woods and, of course, you know I cannot resist the chance of gorgeous wood. It took him a while to get the batch done and half way through he realised that he needed a way to indicate correct orientation of some of the pieces for reassembly. In other words the puzzle has alternative assemblies which are less difficult or less interesting and there needed to be a method to mark the correct way for entrepid puzzlers attempting reassembly without computer assistance. A number of options were discussed and in the end we settled on stainless steel pins sunk into the relevant pieces - I think they look very nice. My version is made from Olivewood (frame), Lignum Vitae (long burr pieces) and Arizona Desert Ironwood (short burr pieces). It is gorgeous and surprisingly heavy for such a small puzzle (8 x 6 x 4cm) - the Ironwood and Lignum Vitae are very dense woods. The puzzle also has a nice musky aroma.

I received the puzzle about 2 weeks ago and after it was released from Mrs S' quarantine, I had a quick look.  Terry was clearly not entirely happy with these special ones because prior to asking for payment he dropped the price and asked for our opinions. I was curious to see why he had been unhappy with them. The one thing that was immediately clear was that the puzzle was really quite loose but not so loose that pieces could be rotated or fall out without the correct sequence being used. When I took it into bright light for photos I could also see that there were some tool marks on the pieces but I did not feel that they detracted too much from the look. I hoped that the looseness would not make the puzzle too hard to solve - I doubted that Terry would send something out that was not going to function.

This puzzle is a really nice level of difficulty with a disassembly level of 16.11.8.5.3.3.5 - not impossibly tough but should be a fun exploration and sequence. It might also be possible to manage an assembly once taken apart. I enjoyed the exploration and it was only made a little harder by the looseness and required me to lift pieces a little to ensure that I could slide them. There are a couple of rotations which can happen and one will allow an early first piece removal but I ignored this. After about 30 minutes of progress, a piece fell out onto the sleeping cat on my lap and rolled off. I had no idea exactly how it had come out and I knew a Burrtools file would be needed for my first reassembly. The second piece came out in a rather unexpected fashion and then the third, despite being a very similar shape to number 2 came out a totally different way - this was lovely. The entire exploration is nicely visible and there are no blind moves to ruin things. After a few more minutes I had my lovely wood separated:

Just look at the gorgeous grain on that Ironwood!
I made my BT file and  back together. I love making BT files and this was a nice easy one. Having solved it the first time I wanted to see whether the reassembly might be possible without the computer. I spent a few hours over a couple of evenings, just exploring - going back and forth to understand how the pieces interacted and then disassembled it and scrambled the pieces and left them a few hours. Attempting the reassembly with a proper understanding of the puzzle was even more fun. I was able quite quickly to work out the intended end position of each piece and from that retrace a path back to the beginning. I seldom enjoy a puzzle reassembly but this one was really quite pleasant. I have done it quite a few times now and it is becoming a bit of a worry bead for me.

The other versions that Terry created using other less expensive woods did also look lovely and the fit was very good for them - this is one craftsman to keep an eye on for the future as his skills improve. It is pretty amazing that he is making pieces like this already and not using any glue at all! Stunning!

Thanks mate, I can't wait for the next puzzle!



Still no further progress on Andrew's Lock out puzzle! Needless to say but Allard's suggestion of using celery did not work. So far I have inserted the keys and tried to turn them several thousand times! Hopefully I can't wear them or the keyway out?




Sunday, 12 July 2020

Alexander Wants Everything Sequenced Properly...Collator

Collator
It’s my 26th wedding anniversary today, so most of this was prepared in advance - only a few edits whilst "she who must be flinched from" is on the phone with the mother out-law. I wouldn’t want to risk a Whack! Ouch! On this special day! Champagne coming soon!

Alexander Magyarics designed and named the puzzle above, Collator, presumably because everything needed to be taken in the right order and placed properly using the correct sequence of moves! It took Brian Menold to take the Burrtools design and to turn it into a reality which had been sitting on my puzzle chair for over a month!

Brian made it into a very chunky 3inch cube with my copy constructed from a beautiful Angelim Pedra (box) with Movingui pieces. When I bought my last batch of beauties from Brian, I couldn't resist it. Just like the Magyarics puzzles I reviewed last week from Pelikan (and like all of Alexander's designs) it is MUCH more of a challenge that it first appears. It bears repeating what I said last week about Alexander:
"a relative newcomer to the world of puzzle design but he has crashed into it and rapidly made a huge name for himself as someone with a huge talent! He doesn't seem to just be a manipulator of Burrtools to make things that interlock, he has a unique knack of finding shapes and challenges that are not only just the right level of difficulty but are also great fun - they require exploration and thought and a lot of movement!"
The Collator is a very special example of this incredible talent. The aim is to fill the 3x3x3 cavity leaving 7 internal gaps such that the rather complex entry slot in the box will be filled completely. Brian seemed to love it - he wrote this in his puzzle description:
"Just three piece to fit into the box through a fairly large opening. This one gave me a workout for a while! I also like the fact that there are 3 solutions in total. But the desired solution gives the nicest finished look with all the openings in the box filled with the inserted pieces. The other two solutions are rather easy and should provide a nice warm up"
Hmmm! If it gave Brian a workout then I was going to be in trouble! At least I was hopeful I might find the 2 solutions that leave gaps visible. Over a 3 week period, I looked to find cubic assemblies outside of the box - one particular shape (the big piece) is a particularly awkward bugger to align with the other 2. I found several possible assemblies and obviously each of those cubes could be oriented in any of 6 directions. BUT, quite a lot of the orientations were such that one or more pieces could not be physically inserted through the slot opening. I kept at it - it's difficult with my Bluebottle memory to remember but I think I must have found 5 or 6 different cubes but couldn't get any of them inside the box.

So Brian thought the two minor solutions were easy? Not for me they weren't! I can't even blame Covid-19 as a lot of my work on this puzzle was before I got sick! After 2 weeks, I found one of the easy solutions. I let out a yell and annoyed Mrs S! She was disappointed in my poor solution - even she could tell that the visible gaps were obviously a sign of a substandard brain. Time to Think©...again. I never did manage to find the second easy solution but I focused on the main challenge. Someone showed off their solved puzzle on Facebook and I inadvertently got a major hint because the positioning of some of the internal voids was visible. Did it help? Nope - not one little bit! I just trudged on. I tried to solve this blasted puzzle every single day for over a month and never seemed to be making any progress at all. In fact, I had reached a point where I could not tell in any way what I had tried before.

Just like with Diamond Hole from Pelikan puzzles last week, I found an assembly that just seemed right. However, it wouldn't assemble in the box no matter what I tried. I kept doing the same thing over and over again until I changed one thing...my point of view. After over a month of trying, I rotated the box through 90° (I have no idea what made me do this, it may have been that balancing it on a sleeping cat led to it rolling down his flank into that position) and I carried on trying. Within about 10 minutes in this orientation, I had a magnificent Aha! moment and 2 pieces were inside in a promising position that I certainly had never seen before. Continuing like this I tried to manoeuvre the third piece into position and saw that there was a very fun little dance of the pieces before my moment of ecstasy:

Solved it at last! No real hints here.
What an incredible challenge! It is just 3 pieces but, despite this, is so so difficult. It is only level 10.4.2 for disassembly but it took me over a month to solve it and required a lucky roll of the puzzle to get there. This was unexpectedly difficult but huge fun. Alexander designed this one to be this sort of challenge and he did it very well. I cannot wait to see what he and Brian come up with next - it is certain to be amazing! Thank you to the pair of you for such a wonderful and beautiful challenge!

Last week a good friend of mine (Jim Kerley) quoted one of the greatest puzzlers in the world and what he said is entirely appropriate for this puzzle (as well as a good few of the puzzles from Jakub that I wrote about last week)
"It's easy to make things hard but hard to make things easy". In a conversation with Jerry Slocum 20 years ago I remember him saying about designing puzzles " It is easy to make a difficult puzzle but not so easy to make an easy difficult puzzle". In his explanation he said the best puzzles are those which look easy but prove to be moderately difficult. A child or adult knows instinctively what needs to be done and feel they must pick it up and solve it.
I found this puzzle very hard indeed but it does look very easy and the compulsive "pick me up" nature kept me trying for weeks! Do you agree with Jim? What puzzles do you think meet this criterion for being a superb puzzle?


Lock Out by Andrew Coles
This week I took some more of Allard's advice and set to work on the Lock Out by Andrew Coles. It is a magnificently well made puzzle - very weighty and solid. I had to try both of the keys because...just because! You all know that it has to be done. Allard tried it and that's good enough for me to attempt that futile manoeuvre too. He did say that it wasn't very useful but I did it anyway! He also told us that we should try a stick of celery. Now I hate celery and consider that sticking it into the keyway of a lock is a better use for it than eating it. Unfortunately Mrs S loves celery and won't let me use it for puzzling. This is probably just as well as I doubt whether Allard was serious with that advice (although with any of the MPP crowd it is very tough to be absolutely sure if they are kidding) and I don't want my puzzle to stink of rotten veg later. I will need to keep trying - I might be some time.......


Keep safe guys! It’s still out there and you really don’t want it. Just as importantly, you seriously don’t want to pass it on to your elderly relatives who may not survive as a result of your carelessness. The mortality in the 70-79 age group is 8% and in the 80+ group is as high as 14.8%! Not worth an avoidable risk to grandma (source).

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Pelikan Packs Them In!

Coming soon to a webstore near everyone!
New toys from the New Pelikan Workshop
Yes,  I am back and raring to go! I'm still pretty knackered and at the start of my first day back at work I thought I would check my O2 sats. I was pleased to say that they were a good 97% but a bit shocked that walking 400m along a corridor had left me with a heart rate of 130! I need to get my fitness back soon. People did comment that I looked rather thin (I'm down to 57Kg) but I'm eating normally again and the weight should come back up fairly quickly. Of course, the idiot who writes the on call rotas had put me down for the Trauma service yesterday (Saturday) and that took it out of me - luckily, all I do on a Sunday is sit and write a blog post! I'm thinking that I will have to shoot the rota service organiser soon - Oh wait....that would be me. Doh! One thing I did see yesterday reminds me that the wonderful wood craftsmen we take for granted risk life and fingers every day - one poor chap decided that he'd put his hand through a table saw. Ouch!!  I suspect he will only be able to count to 8½ from now on and maybe even less! Be careful out there, Eric, Brian, Jakub, Terry, Yavuz et al.

These puzzles are due to be released by the New Pelikan Workshop very soon and I suspect that they will also come up for sale (probably a few weeks later) from PuzzleMaster in Canada or JPGames in the UK. They are ALL worth your hard-earned cash and your choice depends on how tough you like your puzzling to be.

Whilst off sick with the dreaded virus, I was offered a bunch of new toys by Jakub and Jaroslav to review before they go on sale. I was feeling like hell and had not managed any puzzling for over a week but I had more or less decided that I was probably going to survive so the transaction was done and a large package winged across Europe at an unbelievable speed! I was delighted to receive copies of 2 new cube packing puzzles by the "Master of the disturbingly simple", Osanori Yamamoto (PuzzleMad links) as well as a 2 new incredibly gorgeous designs by Volker Latussek (PuzzleMad links) and a new multi-packing puzzle by Alexander Magyarics (PuzzleMad links). They all looked absolutely stunning which is exactly what we have come to expect from those Pelikan boys! The wood choices are great with fabulous grain and contrasting colours. So which ones should I start on? Unfortunately, my spirit was willing but the brain was definitely NOT functioning terribly well - I had a quick fiddle for a day or 2 after they arrived and I just couldn't do anything - in fact, I kept falling asleep! These puzzles are definitely NOT boring but they will need a very good attention span and a well functioning brain! I would need to wait until my brain fog had improved a bit more.

Later in the week, I started to feel a whole lot better and set to work  puzzles again.

Diamond Hole

Diamond Hole by Osanori Yamamoto
This one is made form Wenge and Maple and the name/designer has been etched onto the puzzle
Osanori-san keeps producing designs based on a small cube or cuboid cavity (literally just a 3x3x3 or 3x3x2) within a simple box which has one or more holes at some position and the aim is to insert a small number (usually just 3 or 4) of oddly shaped pieces into the cavity such that the hole(s) are completely obscured - this may completely fill the cavity but often does not. The premise of these puzzles is incredibly simple but the sheer challenge and enjoyment that is achieved with such a simple idea cannot be underestimated. Sometimes rotations are required but mostly it is just a dance of the pieces in a beautiful pattern that is required before they settle into place. Looking at the pieces, you can see that there is going to be a reasonable amount of space left inside the box but the complexity of the pieces coupled with the restriction to movement caused by the diagonal half filled voxels along the edges of the holes make for a really fun challenge.

My usual approach (I assume that everyone does the same) is to make the cubic shape outside the box. Then I find that none of the shapes I make will cover the holes properly and have to make the shapes several (even many) times before it seems to fit properly. My problem is having a memory of a bluebottle (apparently we have been doing a disservice to Goldfish) - I am fairly certain that several times I made the same cubic shape as I did earlier to check against the box but couldn't remember it. I tried at least 6 different cubes but Burrtools tells me there aren't 6 cubic assemblies. 

Having finally found a number of cubes that fill the holes, it was time to assemble it inside the box. Again, I assume most of you take your cubes and try to disassemble them constrained by the holes? For some reason, this was not happening for me! Some of my cubes could be rotated and tried in different orientations and hopefully......NOPE! Try again! I got fixated on one particularly nice cubic assembly and tried it for hours and hours. Sigh! Maybe my cube was wrong? Hell yes! I found another cubic assembly that didn't seem quite as nice but did fit the shape and after trying several different orientations, I thought I had something promising. Time to try getting it into the actual box. Even that is a huge challenge! Which piece to try in which order? I was fixated and kept trying the same idea over and over again and, of course, failing. Aaaargh! In my enfeebled state, I kept trying the same thing and for once, I have disproved the theory - something changed and I had the puzzle solved! Yessss - I loved it!

At last! It took me hours!
I immediately dismantled it and proved that I was a Bluebottle - I could not for the life of me put it back together again! Another hour and I had managed it! This puzzle is one of my favourites - it has just the right level of challenge and looks beautiful. If you have played with others by Oasnori-san then you owe it to yourself and your collection to get this one!

Neptune

Neptune also by Osanori Yamamoto
Mahogany box and Wenge pieces
This puzzle really worried me when I took it out of the packaging! The box contains a 3x3x3 cavity but a very restrictive pair of slot entry/exit holes which looked like they would make it really tough to get the pieces oriented correctly and there were 6 pieces to be packed! I am RUBBISH at packing puzzles and as soon as there are more than 3 pieces then I struggle a lot. I even felt compelled to buy the One piece packing puzzle from Eric's latest releases! This puzzle is COMPLETELY different to the other puzzles from Osanori-san, the pieces are very simple (3 pentominos and 3 tetrominos) and the total voxel count is 27 - no gaps.

Back to the toil - make a cube outside the box. Easier said than done! My first several hours left me unable to even make a 3x3x3 cube from the 6 simple pieces. This worried me because I could tell that the solution would have to include at least one rotation (look at the shapes and the slots and it is pretty obvious). Eventually I found a cube assembly and then realised that I would have to try 6 different orientations before ruling it out as the correct assembly. OMG - this might take me months. My first assembly looked lovely but after rotating it 6 times, it very quickly became apparent that it was impossible to assemble it inside the box. There is one very important constraint that is immediately obvious as soon as you actually try an assembly. OK. Time to find another assembly - Burrtools and Puzzlewillbeplayed tells me that there are 8 possible ways to make a cube and each one needs to be looked at in 6 orientations - 48 possible combinations. I was betting that I would find the right one as number 48. I spent an evening in front of the TV with a still quite sick Mrs S talking to myself as I tried to find an alternate assembly. Luckily Mrs S was too ill to do any more than glower at me muttering the evil painful things she was going to do to me when she got better. I dont really blame her - I was swearing away while she was trying to watch TV and I had given her a life-threatening virus which made her feel bloody awful! At that time I would have murdered me painfully as well! Out of the blue, I found another assembly. I could actually tell that it was different because it met a particular constraint that I had set which should make entry through the slots possible.

Yesssss! This was a huge challenge for me!
Unlike Diamond hole, this does not take a lot of careful planning for the actual assembly as there is no real dance of the pieces around each other. There is a certain fairly obvious order and the rotation(s) are important but not difficult and then suddenly you have an assembled cube inside the box! The Aha! moment is delicious - it is a more "normal" packing puzzle than most of his designs but the restrictive entry and the rotations make it much more interesting than a standard packing puzzle. It also has a fair bit of repeatability - I have been unable to solve it a second time despite trying for a couple more hours. This is well worth adding to your collection but very different to what has gone before!

Hydrant

Hydrant by Alexander Magyarics
3 puzzle challenges in 1
Alexander Magyarics is a relative newcomer to the world of puzzle design but he has crashed into it and rapidly made a huge name for himself as someone with a huge talent! He doesn't seem to just be a manipulator of Burrtools to make things that interlock, he has a unique knack of finding shapes and challenges that are not only just the right level of difficulty but are also great fun - they require exploration and thought and a lot of movement! Every single one of his puzzles that I have tried has been a rapid favourite and Hydrant does not disappoint. Beautifully made by Jakub and Jaroslav from Padauk, Ash, Iroko and Wenge, this rather complex box comes with 6 equally complex  to be inserted inside. Not all at once, I hasten to add - there are 3 separate challenges requiring different combinations of the pieces:

Challenge 1
Challenge 2
Challenge 3
I would suggest that you actually start with challenge 2 and then move on to the other 2. The pieces leave gaps in the 3x3 cavity of the box and the aim is to insert them inside such that there are no holes visible in the H shaped entry slot at the top. These pieces are shaped in such a way that it is actually quite difficult to find a way to put them in the box. Once there are other pieces inside then things get very blocked very quickly and there needs to be a wonderful dance of pieces before they all settle into place. I expected this to be a mass difficult challenge but, as always seems to be the case with Alexander's puzzles, these are just superb! Just the right difficulty level to provide a decent challenge and lovely Aha! moment without leading to a balding puzzler tearing what little hair he has left out! This bloody iMac is causing me to lose most of it without help from puzzles! Small spoiler behind the button - only press if you are not distressed by getting hints:



The solutions took me a few hours to find - I heartily recommend this to anyone who likes interlocking puzzles - in particular, if you enjoy the simple packing puzzles designed by Osanori-san then these will be right up your street. Fabulous!

Yin Yang

Yin Yang presented protruding
6 simple pieces - fit them fully inside the box
My copy of Yin yang has been crafted from Cherry, Maple and Wenge - it is simply stunning. Dr Volker Latussek is responsible for some truly amazing packing puzzles! His mind seems to work very differently to many other designers and he is incredibly particular that his puzzles are beautifully presented in both the unsolved as well as the solved state. The Yin Yang puzzle looks just as its' name would suggest in both solved and unsolved states. There are 6 simple blocks of wood to be fitted through the Yin (or yang) with the aim being to completely fill the cavity of the box.which is a 4x4x3 cuboid. These shapes look pretty simple and there's a decent sized hole which places a small restriction on how pieces can be put inside. Yet again.....make a cuboid outside the box! How hard can it be with such simple pieces? OMG! I am really not very bright! I spent a good few hours over a couple of evenings just trying to make the assembly. It wouldn't fit together and I had begun to think that Jakub was trying to make me look foolish (something I frequently manage without any assistance!) but on the third day of searching, I had a wonderful Aha! moment - my cuboid was complete. Right then place it inside the box. Except it wasn't to be that easy. The shapes and orientation revealed certain requirements for movements which was a fun discovery.

I tried for an hour to get the shape I had made into the box and couldn't for the life of me do it. OMG! was there an alternate assembly that I hadn't found despite 3 days of trying? Time to Think©. So I thunk for an evening and it hit me right between the eyes! Not terribly bright and I hope that you don't have the same problem. I finally got it and was delighted - it looks stunning in the solved shape as well.

Solved at last!
This puzzle is absolutely fabulous - the premise is simple but the execution of it is a lovely challenge. I suspect that most of you hardcore puzzlers out there will find this a lot easier than I did because you are all much cleverer than me. It is well worth the effort being just the right difficulty level.

Dufour

Dufour by Volker Latussek
Out of the box
This beautiful puzzle by Dr Latussek is a whole different level of challenge. One of the features that marks Volker's approach is that he always stipulates a way that the puzzle should be presented to be solved and that is usually just as gorgeous (and often as much of a challenge) as the actual puzzle solution. Dufour arrives in a box with a beautiful cross visible on top and the whole assembly slides out of the box to reveal a 2x2 square on the opposite face. Having admired the beautiful construction - this one made from Oak and Padauk, I carefully took it apart to find 8 pieces which need to be fitted back into the box and ending up with all the pieces flush with the surface. Looking at the shapes of the pieces, I knew that I was going to really struggle - have I told you that packing puzzles are really not my forté.

We have 8 hexominos to fit in a 4x4x3 box
There will be no gaps once packed
I have worked on this for over a week on and off and have so far not even come close to solving it. It may be that this is too difficult for me - maybe too many pieces or maybe the shapes are too complex? For anyone who loves very difficult packing puzzles, this will be a wonderful challenge. I am unable also to put it back to the starting shape either despite the "assistance" provided by the coloured pieces. Yet again, Dr Latussek shows that he is the master of this sort of puzzle!

So, which would I recommend? All of them, of course! It depends on your puzzle type preferences. Are you into difficult packing puzzles? Then you really want the Yin yang and Neptune puzzles and consider the Dufour if you are wanting a particularly tough challenge. Do you like interlocking packing puzzles that require sequences of moves to solve then Hydrant and Diamond hole are must buys! Luckily for me, I have bought them all! Maybe you should too!


Are you into puzzle locks? Of course you are - have a look at my New additions page for a new lock produced by a brilliant new craftsman, Andrew Coles. Allard also received and reviewed his first puzzle. So far I've been working too much to have more than a look and take some photos. First impressions are that this is top notch craftsmanship.

It's great to be healthy again - make sure that you stay safe out there! Social distancing is the main thing you can do and when that is not possible it is worthwhile wearing a mask - it won't protect you but it will protect others from you. If everyone does this then it will generally decrease transmission of this awful disease. Do NOT take any notice of the crazy idiots who claim that masks poison them or that they cause CO2 retention and headaches etc from that. I've worn a mask for over 25 years with no evidence of poisoning and anyone who knows about respiratory physiology and chemistry will tell you that CO2 is a tiny molecule that passes through membranes and materials very fast indeed. You cannot get CO2 retention from a mask!

Take care everyone - keep safe and as my friend Michel says, "keep puzzling".



Sunday, 28 June 2020

Where's My Hammer?

Where's My Hammer? by Dee Dixon
No! I have not taken leave of my senses and decided to use forbidden tools on a wooden puzzle! Today we have a surprise guest blog post from a new friend who I have met at a couple of the recent Midlands Puzzle Parties - Michael Quigley seems to have gotten sucked into the hobby hook, line and sinker and not only has he spent a fortune on lots of new and expensive toys, he's joined us at puzzle meetups, but he has also managed to get himself cajoled into writing something for my silly little piece of Internet! I am very grateful to him for writing up on a puzzle that I don't own and technically cannot justify buying because (horror) it's a box and we all know that I don't collect boxes!

My Covid-19 infection has begun to settle, thank goodness. Last Tuesday, I finally felt like this damn thing was not going to kill me! My progress is slow - mainly now my symptoms are just being very quickly fatigued and with minimal effort. I'm back to work tomorrow which is going to be rather interesting (especially as my first day is doing emergency surgery) - here's hoping that it's not as bad as I'm expecting. Thank you everyone for your support and thank you to Michael for helping me with a blog post. Over to you, mate...


Like Pavlovian dogs, there are certain trigger words that have many a puzzler salivating on command: puzzle box (Ed - nope, not my thing!), sequential discovery and exotic woods to name just a few (Ed - drooool!). So when Dee Dixon released Where’s My Hammer? – a sequential discovery puzzle box, handcrafted from exotic woods, the frothing mouths of the marauding metagrobologists caused a spike in humidity that was lucky not to ruin the very boxes they coveted.

Beautiful wood!
Professionally known as DedWoodCrafts, Dee Dixon has been producing decorative boxes and puzzle boxes for many years in his spare time.  Often tested on friends and family it was the production of a prototype box that led the tester, who was unable to open the box, to exclaim “where’s my hammer?” and the box’s name was born (Ed - was he an orthopaedic surgeon?).
Dee has started to mass-produce a few designs and selling via Cubic Dissection, Where’s My Hammer? was the first of these to be released on there.  The release didn’t last long however with all copies selling out rapidly and leading to Dee’s Blinded II box set for their Cubic Dissection release at the end of June. (Ed - after a little "mishap, this is due to go on sale on Monday 29th June).

The box itself is a hefty piece of wood, which has a weight and sturdiness to it that makes you feel like it is up for a fight. That is not to say it is an ugly box, far from it, it is a lovely crafted box adorned with a plethora of fancy wooden panels, many of which I can’t identify.  It is a tactile puzzle, which is lucky owing to the amount of time I had to handle it. On to the solving experience…

Now I don’t have lots of experience solving sequential discovery puzzle boxes but I thought long and hard and realised that there must be a thing or two to do before the lid comes off.  Instantly disregarding this I try and open the lid to feel that it has some give but nothing much else.  There are a few rattles from within and I start tilting the box from side-to-side trying to uncover its secrets.
At this point my other (much better I’m told) half looks at me.  Usually this means “your toy is making too much noise, go and play in the other room” but this time she asked if she could “have a go” (Ed - gasp! A wife that puzzles? Maybe some wife-swapping is in order? Whack! Ouch!). Here I was stuck in a conundrum, whilst I want to show willing and involve my NPSO (non-puzzling significant other) in my hobby I don’t think she really understands the unwritten rule (someone should really write a long list of rules down somewhere – say on a Facebook page) of the puzzling communities “no spoilers”.  Meaning that the second she found anything I was going to be told.  Luckily after 5 minutes of her playing she was no further along the solve process than when I had handed her the box. Relief!

Any tools here?
My first few minutes were a little more fruitful and without too much trouble I was able to gather together a collection of tools and pieces (at this point I wasn’t sure which was which) before grinding to a halt. A long halt. I tried everything I could think of using everything I had found. I even tried putting the box all back together and going through the solve process thus far in the hope that I would have enough momentum to propel me to the next stage of the solve… but to no avail.  I once read that thinking© helps, so put the box away for the night and tried this approach the following night and the night after that until finally I made my breakthrough.  At this point I should mention that one of the things I was trying was correct, I just wasn’t trying that thing correctly! The final steps came quickly to leave me joyful, relieved and amazed at this wonderful box. I’d say there was only one step towards the end that I wasn’t a great fan of but everything else about the solve was a joy.

In total, and depending on how you count these things, there are probably between 7 and 10 steps for the total solve. There is nothing hugely revolutionary in the construction of the puzzle or mechanics used but the build quality, design and aha moments of this puzzle mean it is a great one to try.  I’m certainly looking forward to sharing this box at the next puzzle party I go to and if my patience wears much thinner I’ll be sharing via the good old Royal Mail before then.  A super box from a new designer that is definitely worth getting hold of.

Thank you Dee for the production of this box.


Thank you Michael,  for sharing this with the "group" - I am very grateful for the effort you put in and a new voice on the blog! Hopefully we will hear from you again before long!

I am back to puzzling and have even managed to solve a few things whilst I have been off work - I am looking forward to regaling you all with tales of acquisition and utter stupidity over the next few weeks and maybe even a puzzle success or two!

Do take care of yourselves in these trying times! I have noticed that the virus has been very much on the upsurge again in parts of Europe and is close to being out of control in much of the USA - be careful, keep socially distant - there is absolutely no need to congregate just now. Masks (and other face coverings) may help protect others from you and certainly don't do you any harm. Your "freedom" should not be significantly impinged by wearing a face covering - think of others!


Sunday, 21 June 2020

Too Stupid For a Life Lesson

Rhombic Tuttminx from Leslie Le's VeryPuzzle
I do apologise for missing a week! I am incredibly proud of the fact that I have posted something here every week for many years with only my mother's death and now my own frailty preventing me keeping a perfect record! Let me explain a little...

There had been a rather large outbreak of Covid-19 on one of the wards in the hospital that I get to visit pretty frequently. Quite a lot of staff and patients who have visited that ward have unfortunately been struck down. I was unaware that they had a problem there and visited to assess patients for surgery as I always do. The aortic aneurysm repair went well and I had no inkling that there was a problem at all until 4 days after visiting the ward. Whilst working one Saturday doing an orthopaedic trauma list, I developed a headache (literally that was it - just a headache!) I didn't think much of it - I was not aware that I had been in contact with anyone infected and I had no fever, no cough, none of the "cardinal" symptoms! The headache got progressively worse and at the end of the day, I was glad to get out of the PPE (7 hours in an FFP3 mask is VERY unpleasant with a stonking headache!) On the Sunday the virus hit me...hard! I had a high fever, muscle aches, feeling very unwell and just a slight cough. Oh damn - here we go! I spent most of the day in bed and arranged for a Covid test the following day. The drive to the testing area at work was unpleasant with a high fever. I was absolutely not going to risk having a false negative test! The false negative rate is 40% partially due to the fact that taking the swabs properly needs a really good swipe and is very unpleasant (I suspect that most people who do that to themselves don't do it properly. Swabs taken, I had to wait 5 minutes before my eyes would stop watering enough to be able to drive away! At 7pm the virologist called to tell me the result - Mrs S was convinced already because, of course, I had managed to infect her already and she was feeling really rotten! She's too weak just now for a Whack! Ouch! but I am sure it won't be long! In my wake, over the next 24 hours, a whole bunch of people were sent home to self-isolate and I appeared to have become the Typhoid Mary of Sheffield - they're calling me "Covid-Kev"!!! In my defence, I had none of the suspicious symptoms until 2 days into the illness. As far as I know, no-one has caught it from me.

This virus is horrific! For many there are no symptoms but for others it kills and you do not know which way it will go until it reveals its' path to you. I had already been a little worried, due to pre-existing health issues, that I might fare badly and was really very worried that I might have killed Mrs S! For me, I have never been so ill in my life! The fever lasted another 2 days and the myalgia with it. Cough has been a relatively mild symptom but the fatigue has been appalling! Every small thing has required me to lie down afterwards. I spent 9 hours or so writing the on-call rotas on Thursday (if I was forced to be at home, I figured that I might as well do some office work) and the following day I felt like I had been run over by a truck. A colleague summed up my stupidity:
"Thanks for summoning the energy to do a rota whilst infected with a life-threatening viral illness"
That sort of puts my stupidity at the forefront! I should have realised how sick I was when I just left a fabulous package of new toys from Mine unopened in my porch! A puzzle parcel remaining unopened for 6 days is an indicator of just how severe this illness can be!

Please continue with the social distancing, wear a mask when you have to be close to people outside your immediate family bubble and, for goodness sake, stay away from Trump rallies!!! Nothing clever will be said there and you may well catch something lethal!

Now, before I got ill I had been playing with one of the wonderful spherical puzzles from Leslie Le's VeryPuzzle. I started with the Behemoth that is the Rhombic Tuttminx - I own an ordinary Tuttminx and have never had the courage to scramble it. Like the original, the Rhombic Tuttminx consists of pentagonal and hexagonal faces but they differ in that the hexagonal ones are not able to rotate through 60º angles, they are limited to 180º turns. I figured that this should make the puzzle a little simpler to solve.

It is an absolute beast at 14.5cm diameter (5.7in) and weighing in at 0.37Kg/082lb. I paid a few dollars for the stickering to be done for me and I have to admit that was worth every penny - it looks like an absolute nightmare to sticker. When I showed it off at work, it got plenty of admiration for being a very attractive puzzle.  Derek, told me that it wasn't that tough to solve but he's a genius and I was really not sure that I would be able to solve it. It finally took me about 2 weeks of carrying it around with me before I got the courage to scramble it:

Just as gorgeous scrambled
It took me about 2 hours to achieve an adequate scramble and move the pieces as far away from their origin as possible. Then where to start? On Facebook someone had suggested that a Megaminx (standard dodecahedron) approach would probably suffice and I tentatively agreed with them. Hence, I started with a pentagonal centre which would leave me as another pentagon as my final face to solve. The movement is stunningly smooth (considering there are 302 visible moving parts) and the initial solve process is nothing more than intuition. The texture on some of the stickers adds a little to the complexity but not too much and the recreation of the solved conformation progresses in a very pleasant and fun manner. I almost found it soothing!

Having reached the equator, I was a little worried that the level of difficulty would escalate but nope...it just carried on as a fully intuitive solve. I really enjoyed it despite the sheer size of the process. Finally, I was left with the last pentagon and surrounding hexagons. Far less movement was now possible and I realised that it was very similar to a Megaminx except for the 180º limitation. This actually made the puzzle rather similar to a 3x3x2 cuboid. Once I had realised this then solving the corners around the pentagonal centre proved to be remarkably straight-forward until I was left with this:

Noooooo!
Just 2 pieces were interchanged! What on earth? I spent an unfruitful hour or so trying out various 3-cycles to unravel it before realising that this scenario is physically impossible! On a puzzle that is "odd order", a 2 piece swap or parity cannot occur without there being an error elsewhere or without someone having peeled stickers off.

I knew that no-one had spent enough time with it to peel any stickers off behind my back so I had to spend a frustrating time hunting for my mistake. Many of the colours are pretty similar and in the end I had to go out into the garden to get really good sunlight and discovered the error of my ways:

So similar - it took me 2 days to find it!
One face has lovely shiny sparkly stickers which unfortunately look almost indistinguishable from each other except in very bright light. Having discovered this, a bunch of set up moves and 3 cycles were quickly arranged and it was solved!

This puzzle is stunning! It is gorgeous to look at, beautifully made and a fun solve which is 95% intuition. If you have any kids who are just getting into twisty puzzles and they may want something that looks fearsome but still within their capability then this is just the ticket! This was the last puzzle I played with before I got sick and I am looking forward to playing with it again when my attention span improves. I also have a few new toys from Mine to play with as well.

Stay safe everyone - do not take any risks! It just isn't worth it! If you work in a hospital then you have no real choice but if you don't have to go and mingle with people then don't do it!

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