Sunday, 18 November 2018

Variants Revisited

I know many of you will recognise these pieces immediately - Hectix original
Mrs S has begun to mutter again about the number of puzzles lying around the house and seems to have developed a murderous look in her eye periodically. That terrible feeling of fear I get from her violent tendencies used to be limited to when she booted me in a kidney at night for snoring my head off. She always calmed my fears by asking whether I had to "breathe like that?" More recently, the feeling of incipient termination has worsened now that she has taken to booting me and asking me when I wake with a start, whether I "had to breathe?" After 28 years as a doctor, I am fairly certain that breathing is not optional and, despite her telling me I am just a vegetable, that I cannot photosynthesise.

Over the last week or so a number of additions to the collection have arrived and I have not had any time to put them into the crap heap which my study has become...again! Occasionally she hears me exclaim after my Aha! moments that one or other puzzle solves just like another. The murderous look reappears and she asks "why have you bought it then?" to which I have to reply that I could not tell until I solved it! She has also continued to ask me why I don't go back and solve my ever-increasing backlog of unsolved puzzles. I don't have a Louis like Allard has to solve all of his puzzles and so have to keep putting them down and returning later. The theme of today's article is on revisiting puzzles voluntarily or inadvertently:

Last week I was contacted by my friend Rob Stegman - he knew that I had been wanting a copy of the original Hectix or Hexsticks puzzle. A cheap Japanese copy had come up for sale on eBay and I jumped at the chance. I did not expect much for the price but was pleasantly surprised when it arrived quickly in a rather small box in the disassembled state and was much better quality than expected.

The 2 versions of the original 3M productions of the Hexsticks puzzle produced in 1970

I already had 2 copies of this puzzle in my collection given to me by a very very good friend and which I have not dared to disassemble partly for fear that over the last 48 years, the plastic might have become brittle and also because if I took them apart I suspected that reassembly might prove impossible - you all know that I am rubbish at assembly puzzles.

The Hectix/Hexsticks puzzle was discovered independently by both Stewart Coffin and Bill Cutler in around 1968 and Stewart patented it in 1973 (You can download the patent here). I have had these 2 plastic puzzles sitting within arms reach and never done more than admire them and be pleased that I had a nice piece of puzzling history.

When this arrived and I had reassured myself that Mrs S was not going to burn either it or me, I set to trying to put it together. As you can see it consists of 9 identical pieces and then 3 more with an additional notch. There was an obvious way to start and I got to the point of having 8 pieces in and 4 more to go. The next piece always proved impossible. Mrs S refused to lend me an extra hand and the cat didn't have the dexterity! Every time I attempted that final piece it would start to collapse and quickly became unsalvageable before dropping on the aforementioned cat who was less than impressed. This ridiculous state of affairs continued for several evenings and eventually the swearing got too much for Mrs S - she forced me to leave it alone for a while. Today it was photo taking time and I was determined to get it done for the blog. An hour of effing and blinding gave me a wonderful Aha! moment and I realised I had been going about it all wrong. Apparently, according to Jim Storer's site, there are 3 solutions - I will be going back to them to see why I had so much trouble.

Assembled - it only took me 5 days!
Now I am very happy to have 3 copies of this lovely puzzle. If you see either a plastic or a wooden one up for sale then don't hesitate, it is perfect for any puzzler.

I do have a copy of the Hectix revisited which I wrote about here and the Improved Hexsticks (from Bernhard Schweitzer) which I wrote about here. Maybe I should try them again?

and I am really not sure when I am ever going to dismantle this monster:

Hexagonal Porcupine

Another Unexpected Puzzle Revisit

At the last MPP, Louis had brought me a few puzzles from Wil's stock to go through and buy if I wanted. There were a couple of extra wire puzzles from Jan Sturm and I took all that I didn't already have. The Sailboat looks remarkably familiar but also has some changes. It looks very similar to the classic Ball and chain puzzle which catches me by surprise every time I attempt it. It requires a very particular sequence of moves and if they are not done right then the puzzle gets very very knotted. You can see the similarity but also the subtle changes. I took this to work to show off and my ODP/anaesthetic assistant grabbed it whilst I was busy checking on the blood cell salvage machine during a case. She managed to get it knotted within just 60 seconds and my heart leapt into my throat! Rule number one - DON'T give a string puzzle to a newbie! I was delighted that I had not lost my touch on this type of puzzle - after I had grabbed it back I managed to undo her knot and then solve it too - all in just 5 minutes! Phew!

It's a very nice version of the classic - worth adding to the collection

...And Another!

Snail-U-String - not the name from JCC. I don't know what it is supposed to be called.
A few months ago I received a batch of Jean-Claude Constantin's wire (and string) from Wil and had been failing dismally. Again after the MPP, I had gone back to a few for a fresh look. The addition of the U pieces to many of his latest puzzles really makes a huge difference to the complexity of the puzzle. It is almost like adding a Möbius strip to a puzzle. Eventually, after months of getting no-where, I had a little thought© which is a very alien phenomenon for me. There was a small hint of a similarity to the simply brilliant Russian Heart and Aaron's Möbius ring that I had reviewed here. Both of those puzzles have a common idea and as you can see they share a feature with the Snail-U-String above. The new features still make a difference but after another few nights of exploration my Aha! moment was complete and I had my 3 pieces:

I hope to God that I can get it back together!
It took me another evening to reassemble the damn thing but can definitely say that if you enjoyed the Russian Heart then get this one too. If you don't have either then go and get both I am sure that Tomas will be able to provide the Russian Heart for you.

I also received a few new ones as a gift from my friend Terry - I am most grateful and pleased that Mrs S didn't mind when I told her that I hadn't paid for them! They will be shown on my New Additions page soon. Don't tell Mrs S but there might be some more puzzles coming very soon! Whack! Ouch! too late!

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Both Metal and Plastic can be Sublime and Ridiculous!

The Two Brass Monkeys - they come with plastic feet covering the ends to protect surfaces
If you are wondering whether my pile of mixed puzzles is sorted yet then the answer is HELL NO! I managed to sort 3 of them out by wood type and was able to reassemble them but the 5 oak Happiness cubes continue to taunt me and make me very unhappy! Partly because I have had no time to even attempt the task.

At the MPP I could not resist picking up the latest 2 sublime creations from the deviant minds of Ali and Big Steve (yes, I chose that word appropriately). Their store on Etsy is called the Two Brass Monkeys and their creation above is Brass Monkey 1 and 2 (there is also the fantastic Hokey Cokey lock for sale as well - review here). These beauties are made of brass, are about 7cm around and weigh 800g each so postage outside of the UK may be a little high. Nick Baxter didn't have to worry about postage having received his at the MPP - unfortunately for him, he did not know that he had received it until he was frisked by the TSA and had to explain what this heavy metal thing was and whether anything was inside of it!

When I showed it to Mrs S the evening I got back from Birmingham she did indeed say that they were very beautiful. The following day, she seemed less enamoured of them when she realised just how heavy they were and what would happen if I dropped one on a large high gloss kitchen tile or the granite worktop! They were banned from the kitchen! I went to work on BM#1 on Sunday evening (in the living room whilst watching TV with the cats and Mrs S. I realised quite quickly that this was a lovely example of a classic burr puzzle. It is not terribly difficult to dismantle and the reassembly is only slightly more challenging. It is a wonderful example of the metal craftsman's expertise!

The attention to detail went even to having a sprung ball bearing to allow the key piece to click into place. Flushed with success, I went to work on Brass Monkey #2 and quickly realised that this burr was much more complex. There was pushing and pulling and lots of grunting and groaning as the weight of the bloody thing got to me! At the end of one evening, it remained intact and I remained frustrated. The next evening, I continued to play and again had no luck. I sort of ran out of ideas and put it down for the next few evenings. No inspiration occurred to me and I started on some other puzzles instead but always having it next to me on my armchair. I could hear Big Steve taunting me! I was on call on Friday night and it was a rather busy night in Sheffield so lost an evening's puzzling. The following morning, feeling rather jaded from lack of sleep, I was reminded by Steve that I needed to actually pay for the puzzle and at the same time taunted by him that George Miller had solved his copy in just half an hour! PayPal did its' thing from my bed and I suddenly had a brainwave - maybe if I look closely at..... At this point, Mrs S told me I had better get out of bed and get to the gym because if I get fat she will get rid of me! Thus I was unable to try out my wonderful idea. At the gym, I managed not to die on the Cross trainer and stepper and thought more deeply on the Brass monkey. Concentration is not my strong point and I quickly got sidetracked and gazed admiringly at the ponytails jiggling about when they turned around, they appeared to be blokes...this was a great disappointment! As soon as I got back from the gym, before breakfast could be made and consumed, I pissed off Mrs S by going straight to the puzzle and bringing it into the kitchen and tried out a new theory. Aha! Mrs S said that Steve and Ali were very "sleekit" (old Scots word c.f. Robert Burns) - yes, it is a very sly/cunning idea and I am slightly ashamed that I didn't solve it quicker.

Of course, I am not going to show the mechanism.
They will look great on the shelf but before I put them on it, I will need to flip it over because my shelf of metal puzzles is starting to bow under the weight!

Huge nail-ball-U - I have no idea whether it has a proper name!
Another really lovely bit of heavy metal came my way a month or so ago courtesy of the wonderful Wil Strijbos. His latest meeting with Jean-Claude Constantin gave him a bunch of new disentanglements which I was keen to try. JCC has been playing with the horseshoe shapes in quite a few of his puzzles recently and they have turned some easy puzzles into something absolutely horrendous. The monster above (it is 232g in weight and 15 x 12cm in size) must have taken quite some machinery to produce...the nail is the biggest I have ever seen! Looking at it, one immediately gets an idea for what one needs to do but, as always, that is blocked. Try it in the opposite direction and...nope! That won't work either. There is no way that you could ever flex it a bit to make something slip past - this requires exactly the right movements to make it happen. The jingling (more like clanking) got on Mrs S' nerves but it was worth it - 30 minutes of noise and my Aha! moment was there. Superb idea and so much better for being made large!

Such a simple design but not a simple solution!

Next up I have to show off what many might consider "ridiculous" - I am a huge fan of N-ary puzzles (something is on its' way over to me very soon) and also a huge fan of probably the greatest exponent of that group of puzzles, Namick Salakhov. Every year Namick enters some of the most incredibly complex designs into the IPP Design competition and I drool over them. He had several entries this year and this is the second of them that I have managed to get hold of. They are handmade from a kind of plastic and are lovely to hold and play with.

Loopy Lattice puzzle
This one is the Loopy Lattice puzzle with the aim being to remove the string...without scissors!

More detail of the lattice
So far the solution has eluded me but Nick Baxter assures me that it is solvable and the solution does fit on a single sheet of paper! Luckily Namick puts a small link in them that allows you to unscrew the loop and reset the puzzle. Without that, I would have had the most awful knot!! One feature that makes it even harder to solve is that every time I start to play, one or both of the cats decides that it is time to play with the string and tries to bite through it! I am determined to get it solved.

Before I do that, maybe I should get to work on my happiness cubes? Don't forget to go buy the Brass Monkey puzzles whilst you can.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

My Happiness Ends With a GiganTIC Bang!

Those of you who are friends with me on FaceBook will have seen that the last couple of weeks have been a VERY happy time for me with the arrival of quite a few new puzzles. Some of them were a delightful birthday gift from "She who occasionally deigns to be nice to me" - they consisted of gorgeous wood from the wonderful Published Professor of Wood, Brian Menold. I also seem to have received toys from Tom Lensch, Eric Fuller and you have all seen the fabulous Happiness cubes made for me by Alfons Eyckmans.

My wife seems to have great taste!
I have had a week off work this week but will be looking forward to going back to work on Monday for a rest! The first thing I had to do was spend the first day of my holiday collating all the paperwork required to fill out my tax return - this takes most of a day (because I am not very organised) and leaves me somewhat disheartened at the end. The following day was my birthday - Derek tells me that I am now the "full deck without jokers" and there was a little R&R for that day at least!

The first of the puzzles from this group that I tried was fairly predictable...Over the years (thanks to the influence of Bernhard Schweitzer) I have accumulated quite a number of the Turning Interlocking Cubes (TICs) and couldn't resist the GiganTIC puzzle. It is designed by Andrew Crowell who has brought us a few fabulous toys recently and he described it as his most difficult puzzle which doesn't have ball bearings inside. Having a level of 10.10, it should be a nice fun challenge. Brian made it from some gorgeous woods (Nargusta, Kiaat, Lacewood, Bolivian Rosewood and Beech) and even Mrs S was impressed by the Lacewood. These puzzles arrived on my birthday and I couldn't play straight away - she wouldn't let me. Despite the restriction on my play, a nice day was had with cinema (movie theatre to you Yanks!), a great meal and some champagne. At the end of the day after too much to drink, I attempted the GiganTIC puzzle. It is a lovely pleasant exploration with a few dead ends and a few Aha! moments. A perfect TIC. I managed to dismantle it whilst under the influence and decided to leave the reassembly for the following day. This proved to be a bit of a challenge as I really had no recollection of anything about the disassembly - in fact, I didn't recall taking it apart until I found the pieces waiting for me the following day. With only 4 pieces, it is a really good challenge to assemble from scratch and I highly recommend getting one if you can - Brian still has them in stock on his New puzzles page.

Having reassembled the GiganTIC on the day after my birthday (thank you to everyone who left messages for me on FB), I was told in no uncertain terms that I had more work to do. All of our paperwork for the last 2 years has been "filed" in a drawer of my study. Unfortunately, the drawer was totally stuffed and would not easily close. If I did "uneasily" close it, then it really wouldn't easily open again (quite a few papers had been lost down the back of that cabinet! "She" said I had to sort it out. Yes dear! It took me a whole day and at the end of the day I had an empty drawer, a bad backache and a MASSIVE pile of papers that I had scanned to a digital copy and now needed to shred. My home shredder is not up to the task as it only takes 5 sheets at a time and after 15 minutes needs a rest...there's also a nasty burning smell from the tired little motor! My pile of shredding is 18" (45.7cm) high and I am not sure I will live long enough to shred that at the current rate. Suggestions anyone? I think a nice fire might sort it.....yes, OUTSIDE the house!

Ordi-NARY burr - it's not ordinary!
At the end of that day, I was finally allowed a little puzzling time and I couldn't resist the Ordi-NARY burr from Tom Lensch (He didn't say who designed it but many of these are produced from the incredible brain of Goh Pit Khiam). Made from a stunning bright Yellowheart with a couple of steel pins inside, this is quite a big puzzle and a fairly simple challenge to take apart. Despite the look, it is not a standard 6 piece burr. It is an N-ary puzzle too and requires a fun series of moves to reach the end of the logical sequence. Then another couple of moves and a piece will come out and then it falls apart on you.

Very simple but not so easy to reassemble
The majority of the challenge with this puzzle comes from the reassembly. As usual, I had paid no attention to how things were arranged before it fell apart and then took me another 45 minutes to establish the correct method to start the reassembly off. Quite satisfying and definitely one I would show to the lads at the coming weekends' Midlands Puzzle Party.

Thursday was a day for gym and then I had to work in one of our private hospitals so no puzzling done that day. Friday, the last day of my week off, was going to be a relaxing day of coffee, junk movies and playing with toys. Whack! Ouch! No! maybe not! Instead of the relaxing day of self-abuse, I was forced to do the pre-winter gardening! Sob! 9-10 hours of hard physical labour and I could barely stand up, bend down, sit down or move my hands! No puzzling could be done that day either! She's a very hard task-mistress is the present Mrs S. At least she allowed a pizza for dinner and then let me get my box together to take for the boys to enjoy at the 35th MPP!

Saturday morning, it all began so well! I was surprised that after so much gardening that I could move at all - I braced myself for pain when I rolled out of bed and oddly, all was fine. Obviously, my gym attendance for the last 3 years has had some beneficial effect. It continued well when "she" gave me some car sweeties for the journey! Ooh! Sugar and then toys! The traffic was pretty good and after a coffee, I caught up with what the boys had to say and then I even solved something! Allard will give the full write up of the MPP shenanigans when he gets around to it, so I will only give a brief tale of happiness followed by horror!

Two brass monkeys
Ali and big Steve have been busy producing some fabulous metal puzzles - these two very heavy brass 6 piece burrs are available from their Etsy store if you wish to buy them. Steve and Derek also gave me a copy of Derek's latest design the Sphere cube for my birthday. We all know that he is a genius and I wondered whether I would be clever enough to put it together:

It's a pile of pieces - how nice!
I might also have purchased the latest Coolen lock and some more stuff from Wil (courtesy of Louis) and was feeling rather good. Nick Baxter (head honcho of the IPP) was over visiting Allard and attended the MPP. He wanted to know about the Happiness cubes that I had shown off recently. I managed to convince him that purchasing a few might be a fun investment and at this point, things started to go sour on me. The boys REALLY enjoyed the happiness cubes and worked their way through them and produced a nice little pile of pieces. After a few threats of extreme violence and pain towards big Steve who was inciting terrible things to be done to my puzzles, one or other of them reassembled the cubes....PHEW!

I should not have been too happy - it went quiet and when I looked back, Steve had encouraged Louis to turn my copy of Juha's 10 from Bernhard into an impossible puzzle. I was in serious trouble:

OMG! What have they done? Can it be undone?
After lunch, I was playing with a particularly clever packing puzzle and was vaguely aware of some hilarity behind me. I was concentrating hard and not paying much (or any) attention until...


An obviously neat pile of something had gotten knocked over. OMG! What had they done? Despite asking/begging Rich Evans (who is a burr/assembly savant) to get to work, the only help I got was when big Steve had pity on me and handed me a Tesco bag! My puzzles would no longer fit in my box:

6 Happiness cubes, a TIC and a Burr!
Of course, I have no idea which pieces belong to which puzzle and do not have a record of how they went together. It's not a simple matter of putting them into Burrtools as some of them require rotations towards the end of the disassembly. Mrs S struggled to not laugh at me when I showed her the evening I got home. I took in a VERY large gin and cried myself to sleep that night.

I really should have realised that they would be up to no good - when I left the previous MPP, they (Big Steve) had let me leave with an extra little challenge:

They fit together nicely even if they shouldn't!
Today, Mrs S is less impressed as this is now sitting on the kitchen work surface and may be there for a long time! Aaaaaaargh!

Lord help me!
Any suggestions? Sob!

Maybe attending future MPPs is not a good idea? Certainly, I will only take a few easy puzzles with me if there is a next time.

Sunday, 28 October 2018

The Happiness Continues and Yukari Placates Mrs S

The second delivery of the week!
There might have been more than one delivery of new toys this week and this, of course, makes me very happy (even if Mrs S is not so sure). The photo above shows two deliveries received yesterday and these were not the first to arrive this week. The 2 leftmost puzzles came from Juno and Yukari's Pluredro store - they are the final puzzle in the "Suits series", the Spade case and the Tangled clip burr. Yes yes yes! I know I don't collect boxes but the suits puzzles are technically called "cases" and so I am allowed (sort of). I reviewed the others here and here (where someone left me a little humorous message inside). The other puzzles in the picture above were my puzzles received from Tom Lensch (OrdiNARY burr, Pushbutton burr, Galette and King box. These should keep me happy for quite a while!

The other package to arrive this week came from the Doctor of wood, Eric Fuller. His recent update on Cubic Dissection had quite a few I wanted to add to my collection but funds and fear of Mrs S kept me down to just 3 new toys from him (one was from the much cheaper Artisan collection which saved me a little money). This delivery also made me very happy - the new toys were lovely and my inquisitive little boys loved the box!

They cannot resist!
Neither can I!
After receiving 3 packages in such a short time I was very happy and Mrs S was thinking of ways to reduce my happiness and maybe even inflict pain! I was still working on the wonderful Happiness cubes from Alfons that I showed off last week. Having solved the first one, I seriously struggled with the next few but alternating with working on that damned Jigsaw 29 puzzle, I began to have more and more success - these are seriously clever interlocking puzzles with a couple so far having rotational moves too for the final disassemblies:

OMG! How awesome are these?
The happiness kept on coming all week as I worked through these and then my deliveries all arrived. To top it all off the coming week is all annual leave and there will be more happiness as a) I am not at work and b) there might be another package on the way......or two! Shhh! Don't let on to Mrs S! I will have to pay for all this happiness with quite a lot of work around the house and garden! My study has degenerated into a shithole again and the pre-winter gardening needs to be done and to top it off, I need to collate my tax return information too! happiness will not be abated!

Spade case
Having received the Spade case from Juno and Yukari, I started on it last night whilst watching TV with Mrs S. This made her happy because there was no jingling and no swearing either! Made from:
"Karri, American Black Walnut, Koto etc."
It is a really lovely little case. The etc. becomes clear only after it has been solved! It measures 89 x 89 x 60mm and at first sight would appear to be just like the Club case in mechanism with a sliding lid and another sliding panel at 90º to that underneath it. There are a few very simple and limited moves possible with the 2 sliding panels and they do seem to interact rather like those of the Club case but within just a few mm of movement it comes to a stop and despite the feel of an interlinked maze on the panels, the maze seems to end in a blind end. I sat watching TV and just did the same 5-7mm of movements again and again and again feeling to see if something different was inside or I was missing an exit. It did not seem to work so I turned it upside down and tried again whilst listening to it much to the amusement of Mrs S. As expected, this didn't work for me either.

What is happening here? I have no idea!
I did notice that there was an unusual feature visible through the spade on the top and contemplated what might be going on for a while. Is the maze blocked by something that needs to be shifted? But then, this does look like a blind-ending is blocked here. Having watched a whole program on TV without getting any further, it was time for a little pre-bed green tea and another period of thought and investigation. Feeling my way around the maze very gently, I suddenly noticed something VERY subtle! He is a very subtle man that Juno! Having felt something strange, I gnawed at that feeling for a while until it became more and more obvious. Within another few minutes, I had made some very significant discoveries and something new was revealed to me (in fact a couple of somethings new) and I can honestly say that I have never seen these before in any other puzzle. The new thing I had found was not the entire mechanism but it allowed me to deduce something that was occurring inside and attempt to use it later on in the solution. Another few minutes and I had the puzzle opened and could peer inside to find Juno's Hanko but there was something else there:

Solved, but what is that?
A little mystified I removed the contents of the box to see that, yet again, Juno and Yukari had been having a hilarious little dig at me! I showed it to Mrs S when she wondered why I was giggling to myself and she was equally delighted - yes, the happiness continued all around!

Yukari sent a handbag!
In the bag was a letter!
Many amongst the puzzling community are aware that Mrs S has a bit of a "thing" for shoes and bags! She might have quite a few of them - I couldn't possibly say on the internet how many there are but "quite a few" is the safest way for me to describe her collection! Her collection doesn't include the very expensive ones like Chanel/Dior/Vuitton but Mulberry has been my/her downfall. Obviously, Yukari knew about this habit and allowed me to capitalise on it! This little addition, yet again, absolutely made my day and made both of us laugh out loud! No loaves of bread this time but what a great way to finish up!

The Spade case is a clever little box with a very unique mechanism - it is not hugely difficult (as Juno has said himself) but the Aha moment and the final understanding, when you get to see the underside of the plates, is fabulous! This is well worth adding to your collection even if you don't get a miniature handbag inside. I am delighted to have obtained the full set and am looking forward to playing with the other puzzle that arrived from him!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

A Frustrating Week Finally Ends in Some Happiness

Jigsaw Puzzle 29
I was staggered in August when the results of the IPP design competition came out and the descriptively named Jigsaw puzzle 29 (yes, it has 29 pieces) won a Jury honourable mention prize! This very nicely made acrylic jigsaw puzzle was designed and produced by a very nice gentleman from Japan called Yuu Asaka. I chatted with a few people who had been there and asked how come a simple jigsaw won a prize? Everyone said that the puzzle was fantastic and deserved to win - they had all enjoyed solving it a lot. No more information could be extracted from them and so I contacted Mr Asaka via Facebook and asked if he had any for sale. He did not have them in stock but was happy to make another one for me and a couple of weeks later a thin package arrived in the post.

The Jigsaw Puzzle 29 includes a nice white acrylic tray and a sealable plastic bag with 29 jigsaw pieces in it. I was still rather sceptical but I set to. I have only once ever reviewed a jigsaw puzzle and enjoyed that one mainly for the sheer quality of its manufacture. John Rausch has, on several occasions offered me a chance to buy other sublime jigsaws which he acts as a distributor of and one day I will take him up on one of these because of their incredible difficulty as well as sheer beauty.

Now I don't know about you but when I start work on a jigsaw puzzle I separate the pieces by type - corners, edges and middle pieces, so I set about doing this and discovered my first problem:

I have studied some Maths in my time (OU maths degree for 7 years of fun) but I definitely cannot consider myself a mathematician like my friend Jim and whilst my studies were a rather long time ago, I am fairly sure that a square does NOT have 5 corners to it! Houston I seem to have a fundamental problem.

Despite this minor(?) setback, I continued in my usual fashion and started working on the edges. This proceeded as one would expect and I did manage to make 2 very nice edges with pieces that fit together perfectly BUT I seem to have found a second problem:

What the @£$% is going on here?
Yes, my nicely assembled edges don't seem to fit inside the tray. YES! I did try the other direction and can assure you that the tray is square! I was beginning to suspect that this puzzle might be beyond me when I looked at the remaining pieces and realised that Houston was trying to get in touch with me - there was a THIRD problem:

I think someone sent me the wrong pieces!
Looking at all the remaining edge pieces (all in the tray in the pic above) it is quite obvious that they are all "female" in form and cannot link together! This is a VERY strange Jigsaw puzzle! AT this point it has occurred to me that maybe it is just a very very difficult packing puzzle where the pieces just need to be stuffed into the tray but not actually interlocked? I started out trying to solve it this way with the pieces just loosely packed together but this really did not seem to be a possible solution as there was not enough space. PLUS, it did occur to me that an incredibly complex packing puzzle with 29 oddly shaped pieces would not win a prize at an IPP.

During the week, after some discussion with the genius, Derek Bosch, about my singular failure to solve a "simple" jigsaw puzzle with only 29 pieces, he let me have the bombshell that his rather gorgeous daughter (age 7!!!!!) managed to solve that puzzle! This made me "rassafrassarickarackets" like Muttley (do you remember that???) and I carried on working on it.

So far, after 3 weeks of working on this blasted award-winning puzzle that a7-year-old can solve, I have singularly failed! I am genuinely no closer to finding the solution than I was when I started!

In desperation, I started work on some wonderful new cubes that I bought from my friend Alfons Eyckmans.

Happiness Cubes - they should make me happy hopefully!
Alfons showed off the Paduak (red) cube on Facebook and after a little discussion, I learned that this was number 169 of the Happiness cubes designed by Japanese puzzle designer, Sekog Yukiyasu. He has produced a huge number of extremely complex interlocking cubes which he published on his website here. There is also a pdf with all of these designs. Interestingly the number 169 is not on the site or pdf and I am not sure where it came from. I had started playing with several of these and on each had found only a move or 2 and then got stuck with nowhere to move. Each evening I tried a few of them in turn and was beginning to wonder whether my puzzle solving days were over? Looking at the cube description for the 9.2 that I was really working on, there is a solution described but for the life of me, I could not make head nor tail of it:

Nope! Not helpful at all!
Every time I lost patience with the Jigsaw puzzle 29, I began again on the Happiness cubes and finally after a week of abject failure, I solved just one cube:

Happiness cube 9.2 finally in pieces
I lurve interlocking cube puzzles and I think that these are amongst the very best! The 9.2 disassembly is level which doesn't sound like much but the interlocking of the pieces is so incredibly complex that finding even a single move is a huge challenge. Alfons has made these puzzles for me from Oak and they are stunning. I have another 5 to solve and they may well take me a good few weeks or more before I manage them. If you would like to try then Alfons may well make some more or you can buy one of the hardest of them from my friend Rich Gain's Microcubology Shapeways store where he has the Happiness cube #20 up for sale in white nylon. Rich was one of the puzzle friends who really led me astray at the beginning of my Puzzle journey and you can count on him to find a good puzzle!

Thank goodness! At least I finally managed to solve one puzzle in a week - my despair ended in happiness! Now I need to have a breakthrough thought about this damned Jigsaw!!!


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