Sunday, 14 October 2018

Shane Starts a Fire in my Brain!

Haleslock 5 - The Firestarter
Please excuse me if I am less coherent than normal - yesterday I spent 10 hours writing the consultant on call rotas for our department and it included the Xmas and New year period. Jaded is a fairly good way to describe me just now and it looks like I will be working on Xmas day  😢! At least today I now finally get to write my review of the wonderful Haleslock #5 aka the Firestarter.

Shane produced this rather complex construction at the same time as he did the 2 others that he was commissioned to produce for the IPP exchange. I picked my copy up at the last MPP at the beginning of September (he also made me some extra keys for my fancy secure door locks - did you know that he is a Master Locksmith?). I set to on this each evening after work whilst watching TV and it has taken me up until this week to finally solve it and then an extra week to understand it.

The lock consists of an unusual design of shackle held within a lump of metal. The key is provided attached to a small sprung ring around the shackle. The instructions are:
1. Open the lock
2. Retrieve the ring
3. Find Shane’s signature
There should not be any random movements and especially no hitting or other force can be used. The hint is to use the shape of the lock to solve it and also to bear in mind the name…“Firestarter”.

It is a nice size - fits in the palm and clenched fist and is pretty damned heavy giving a hint at the solidity of the lock. This must have taken a fairly solid (?expensive) bit of equipment to modify. There were only a limited number available, some direct from Shane and the rest from the usual suppliers of puzzle locks. as far as I know, none remain for sale.

In my initial investigation, I started by flipping the plastic cap off and could not see a keyway until I realised that the top of the lock had a disk which could rotate and after a little fiddling with my fingernail I had the slot lined up with the keyway. Yes I know it’s not going to work but it sort of is the law that you at least have to try and open the lock with the key:

Well, that didn't go very well, did it?
Yes! You guessed it…not only does the key not work - it won't even go into the keyway! Shane has doctored it and left a pin (at least one) blocking the keyway. It can be seen if you peer inside:

There's a steel pin in the way!
And here I got stuck! For weeks! I tried turning it in multiple different directions. I tried doing it upside down - that’s the lock, not me! I tried putting it on a surface lengthways and spinning it. That earned me a sharp rebuke from “she who must be feared” - she really did not want any scratches on our granite work surface and certainly did not want a heavy solid lump being spun on her glass dining table above our high gloss kitchen tiles! Silly me! Needless to say, it didn't work anyway! Shane's not going to make it easy for us. Now, I have a problem with puzzle locks...I don't really understand much about how locks work and so if some bright spark modifies one to make it not work properly then I really struggle to understand how I am going to get around that. The lock that Shane has used is so different from anything that I have seen before that I knew I would have difficulty. Still...I like a challenge!

Gradually, I heard from other puzzlers who solved their copies (Goetz solved his copy pretty fast but he’s a genius as we all know). Then Allard contacted me and let me know that he had solved his and then wrote his review. This just convinced me even more that I am not terribly bright! Shane taunted me occasionally and even suggested I watch his solution video but I resisted! Even if I am not very clever, I still prefer to work at a puzzle for as long as it takes (even if it is months or years) and I kept at it. One of his comments was to encourage me to think about the name “Firestarter”. Do you think that is helpful? No! Neither did I! I spent a few days flipping the cap off and trying to use it like a zippo lighter and of course, this did absolutely nothing apart from to make me look very stupid in front of Mrs S. I did discover that the shackle can turn inside the casing but no matter how quickly I turned it, it also wasn't helpful in opening the damned lock!

It had been a month and I had played with a few other puzzles (and reviewed them) having run out of ideas for Haleslock 5. Allard’s review forced me to pick it up again and in desperation, I thought long and deeply about the name. I fiddled around a bit and tried some new movements based on a sneaky idea and suddenly the key was in the lock!

How did I manage that?
Quite shocked and not very sure how I had done that, I took it out and picked it up to look inside the keyway. I was none the wiser! The pin appeared to be still blocking the entrance and, you guessed it, the key also wouldn't go inside again! What the hell? I tried the movements again and nope! No luck this time. Again, being "a bear of very little brain", I decided to try those movements many many more times much to the annoyance of she who was trying to watch TV! AHA! YES! The key slipped inside again and this time I think I knew how. Time to turn the key. Don't be stupid, of course that's never going to work - so I tried it anyway and...nope! It wouldn't move. He’s a sneaky bastard that Shane!

I fiddled a bit with the puzzle in this state and for no apparent reason the key turned - I had absolutely no idea how I achieved it but I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. Time to move to the next step. I already knew from Allard’s article that the core of the lock could be pulled out of the casing and so I did just that. Yes! It pulled outwards! I had SOLVED IT! Errr, no wait, it would only come part way out! There were some very choice words uttered at that point which involved Shane and his parentage!

Damn that man! Just as I thought I had beaten it!
The ring is still trapped
At this point, a couple of other discoveries occur. One that just happens to surprise you and another that requires you to explore. Once both discoveries have been made then it is a matter of putting 2 together with 2! I expected 5 but for once I had 4:

Over 4 weeks to solve it! That is one tremendous puzzle!
Having gotten it apart, the ring comes off and Shane’s signature is clearly visible inside. At this point, I revealed how dim I was! Yes, I reset the locking mechanism with it in the disassembled position. This meant that a) I could not reassemble the puzzle and b) I had to solve it again without the benefit of the assembled shape to help with the various moves. Another half hour of vigorous swearing and it was finally back together.

I have solved it numerous times and now understand almost all of the mechanism - it is unbelievably clever and I was tempted to completely disassemble it to actually see how he had made the modifications. There are some stories of people doing this and finding themselves with rather a lot of pieces! Shane gently advised against doing that and if he advises something then I take his word for it - it remains fully assembled.

I have all of the Haleslocks (and his other puzzles) that Shane has produced and this is by far the best of the Haleslocks - the sheer complexity of the modifications and the skill in producing such a beautifully made puzzle is breathtaking. If you get a chance to buy one or borrow one to play with then jump at the chance.

I cannot wait to see what he does next - he is qualified as a Master Carpenter and also a Master Locksmith. I would say that he has qualified as a Master Puzzle maker too! Well done mate! I can't wait to see what you do next.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Rex Makes Perplexing Puzzles From Perspex!

Following on from last week's fun with a fabulous maze puzzle (Aguinaldo), I now intend to write about the two puzzles that I actually purchased from Rex. I expected to receive just 2 puzzles but a third was in the package. Before I continue, I should explain to all of you outside of the UK what the term Perspex from the title means. I had no idea until I wrote the term a few years ago that "perspex" is not known outside of the UK - Perspex is a name that we Brits frequently use for Acrylic, Plexiglass or Lucite. Why would I use this word? Because it makes for a properly poetic puzzle title and I'm positively practical in my pleasing and perspicacious approach to my puzzle writing! Gulp!

The Rizal puzzle is either named after a region in the Philipines in which Rex lives or it is the surname of one of the main national heroes of the Philipines, José Rezal. Maybe Rex can comment below for a clarification?

I knew that the Aguinaldo was a maze having played before at the MPP but actually had no idea what type of puzzle the others were. A quick look at them revealed that there are clearly things that can slide in and out and part of me expected to navigate a maze to move them but I was very pleasantly surprised when nothing budged. After spending a few minutes poking and prodding at various parts of the Rizal puzzle I realised that there was something moving around inside and it wasn't the coin. Time to switch the radio off and then listen properly. Mrs S walked into the kitchen to see me holding up an inanimate object to my year with a quizzical look on my face and yet again became convinced that I was losing the plot and having conversations with my toys! She didn't wait to see if I would talk back...she just assumed that I would! I hastily explained that I was listening to moving parts that I couldn't see and she stalked off muttering about crazy husbands and getting me committed to the loony bin (no guys...NOT again!)

Despite her disbelief, the listening was quite useful. I could tell that something would move only in certain directions and it did make the piece that should (but wouldn't) slide feel different. Thinking© about what was changing I formulated a cunning plan and Aha! sliding occurred! After this, the mechanism was revealed and it is deceptively simple but beautifully functioning because of the unique properties of perspex/acrylic. From this point, it is a fairly simple matter to perform another sequence and the coin drops out...very pleasing!

Not too difficult but logical and fun.
Returning it to the start position is not quite a matter of just reversing the moves you made. It is also important to think of orientation during the's not terribly tough but is another part of the Aha! moment. This is definitely worth adding to your collection when Rex makes them available again.

Barasoain is derived from the “baras ng suwail” which means “dungeon of the deviant”. It was the meeting place for revolutionists who were working against the Spanish colonial government in the late 1800s. Their work paved the way for the Philippine Revolution. I do wonder whether the deviant thing is just Rex having a sly poke at us puzzlers?

This rather nice grey puzzle is a bit thicker than the Rizal indicating there might be a good bit more to the solution than that one. Another indication is that on the opposite side to the coin there is a window into the interior. It doesn't reveal anything helpful but sort of implies that you're going to have to look inside or poke about at some point. Rex had warned me not to solve this in my customary armchair with cat on my lap as "things" fall out.

I began working at the kitchen table on it and was pleased that I had. There is a convenient blue piece of one layer poking out and depending on how you hold the puzzle it may or may not be useful. Needless to say, when I first picked it up, nothing would move but after a couple of minutes of desperate twisting and turning, pushing and pulling, I had a movement and...that was it! About 5mm more blue acrylic sticking out. A little more listening and fiddling and something dropped out...not the coin. Now that is interesting! What do I use that for? The shape is very reminiscent of something and gives a big hint (buy one yourself to find out!) but doing what I thought I should, did nothing.

Proving that I am not very bright, I was stuck at this point for 2 hours doing the same things over and over and over again. Of course, nothing ever changed and I put it down for a bit to cook dinner. During my cooking, I thought and thought and thought and for once it occurred to me that I needed to listen to this puzzle as well. It is VERY subtle but with certain conditions met there is a sound, a very small sound but when it occurs you know what you have done and why. At this point, you are still stuck but I would encourage you to listen again and see what you can hear. With all this listening and thinking and pushing, prodding and tilting about, there is a sudden change and BAM! A coin drops out! Now THAT is a very clever puzzle and not at all easy.

Phew! That took quite some time!
It is also a nice feature that Rex has used simple nuts and bolts to construct the puzzles. Once you have solved them it is worth taking the time to unscrew them and take the puzzle apart to see how he achieved what he did. The construction is really quite simple but very difficult to envision. I take my hat off to him for coming up with such a clever idea. I will be looking forward to future puzzles from his rather devious mind!

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Rex and Ali Surprise Me...Again!

We are very lucky that we have a blog post today! Having spent a week on leave, visited the outlaws in Edinburgh and then a very nice trip into central Scotland for some relaxation, I have done very little puzzling for quite a while and certainly not solved anything for ages. I am starting to run out of things to blog about! 😢  I did take my Haleslock 5 with me and spent some hours on it but I am MUCH less bright than the other puzzlers who all seem to be managing to open theirs - I am getting absolutely nowhere! There are some interesting noises inside but I cannot make them do anything other than rattle. I'll keep trying but Einstein's "truth" remains true!

Rex's Halfminx
I have known Rex Rossano Perez for quite a few years now. As a young lad in the Philipines, he began as a cuber and then moved on to making his own puzzle mods and was active on the Twisty Puzzle forum. When he showed off the Halfminx, his modification of the Megaminx, back in 2013, I contacted him hoping to buy one and because of his young age, he had no access to PayPal and a rather elaborate sequence occurred where I purchased some puzzles from MrPuzzle and had them shipped to him as payment. It worked well then and whilst financially the puzzles I bought him were valued higher than the cost of the Halfminx, I actually felt I got a better deal. That Halfminx was great quality and kept me busy for a year before I finally managed to solve it. Over the intervening years, I saw Rex complete his school education and then go on to train and, I'm pleased to say, recently qualify as a radiographer - he has occasionally shown off an X-ray of a puzzle (although none as useful as my X-rays of the Lotus and other Strijbos puzzles). Over the last year, he seems to have had access to a laser cutter and has been showing off on Facebook some of his new designs. I seldom buy plastic puzzles (you all know that I have a fetish for wood) but at the last MPP Ali showed off a few of Rex's latest puzzles. Out of curiosity, I had a little play and was very pleasantly surprised! These puzzles are terrific - the look, the feel and the puzzling pleasure is really REALLY high. One of the designs that I played with was the Aguinaldo pictured at the top.

During my idle exploration at the MPP, I was just fiddling having decided that I was going to buy a few. I had no intention of spoiling my own puzzle pleasure by fully solving at the MPP. Ali and I were chatting when, totally out of the blue, a little piece dropped out of the puzzle. I had no idea where it had come from and did not know whether I had broken Ali's toy. I certainly had not released the coin (obviously that is the aim) - Ali and I exchanged glances...he had never seen that piece before either! After a little more exploration, I worked out how to put it back and worked the puzzle back to the start position. After that, I did little more other than to admire the others. It transpired that after the MPP, Ali contacted Rex to discuss the solution to the puzzle and both of them were surprised at each other! Rex asked Ali whether he had found the little white piece and was surprised back when Ali reported that he had solved the puzzle without finding it but that I had managed it.

In the meantime, I had been contacted by Rex to say that another batch of puzzles was going to go up on Paradise and did I want to buy a copy before he put them up for sale and they sold out? I must have hesitated for a nanosecond and then bit his mouse off! Yes yes yes! Of course I would buy them! I asked about Aguinaldo but Rex said that they were not being made due to difficulty getting the coin. I didn't think about it again but was very surprised when a copy of Aguinaldo was in the package I purchased. It would appear that Ali and Rex conspired to send me a gift. Thank you guys - I REALLY do appreciate it!

After opening the package of puzzles when they arrived yesterday, I could not resist starting straight on with the Aguinaldo. This one is a blind maze puzzle with a clever but simple mechanism to navigate the pathway. I don't recall the maze on Ali's being so long but I gradually worked my way to the end and the coin came close to coming out but just not quite enough room for it to drop. Then I explored a bit further and that extra piece dropped out on me - I still wasn't sure where it came from but suddenly I was able to go further and the coin fell out on the table. (I knew better than to do these in my customary position with a cat on my lap).

Aguinaldo completely solved - not half solved like Ali did!
The puzzle is not terribly hard but certainly is fun and clever. I returned everything to the beginning and did it again a few times (placing the extra piece was just a matter of placing it inside at the correct time but I had no idea what was going on inside. In the end, once I felt I knew the puzzle, I undid the nuts and bolts and took a couple of layers off and enjoyed a view of the maze. AHA! Now that really is clever! Ali had actually not fully solved his puzzle - he had managed the coin release at an earlier stage than intended and had not gone far enough to get the small white square - I am sure that he has enjoyed a second Aha! moment now that he knows there is more to do! This puzzle is rather like a worry bead just now - I keep playing with it.

Thanks Ali and Rex, for the great puzzle, the fun at both MPP and afterwards getting such a nice surprise. I now don't actually know whether to believe that Aguinaldo will not be available again or whether it was a ruse to keep me away. Rex puts his designs up for sale periodically on Puzzle Paradise so keep an eye out in the future or contact him via Facebook. I certainly will be looking for more. I'll keep the other 2 for a future blog post as I seem to be running out of solved toys just now.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

One Dimensional Thinking Courtesy of Diniar

Or should that be one direction(al)?

Sewing Box 'Front'
Sewing box 'Back'
No, I’ve not become even crazier than I previously was! No, I’m not listening to boy-bands and this definitely IS puzzle related! I’m very lucky that Diniar Namdarian contacts me periodically to offer me the opportunity to buy his latest inventions. He does so with a warning that posting about them is Verboten until after they’ve been either exchanged and/or judged at the IPP design competition. This year I received 3 puzzles from him that I can only now write about and only 2 have I solved.

The sewing box pictured above was one of these which was entered in the design competition (and I think was exchanged too). The name comes from the similarity with a single cotton reel as well as the fact that it contains multiple different colours of cotton reel. It is a very nice tactile puzzle - the box is 67mm diameter and 67mm tall. Inside there are 6 lovely brightly coloured cotton reels (and a 7th in the centre if you peek into the interior) which fit nicely inside and are each 20mm in diameter. The lid and the base are rigid and will not unscrew (don't try it as it might snap if you use too much force) but the cotton reels inside will rotate around inside freely - that is, they can all move en mass around the centre of the puzzle and individually they can pirouette 360º. The cotton reels clearly consist of at least 2 pieces each with a very odd looking staggered cut at different heights through them. The different height cuts can be clearly seen in the pictures above.

The aim here is to take it apart and of course, to reassemble it afterwards. It doesn't look that difficult, does it? It looks like it might just unscrew and release its' contents. Maybe the trick would be to unscrew it in the reverse direction? Think again - this will not work! The complexity of the construction makes for a lot of movement variables and hence it needs some thought© - this puzzle will not reveal its' solution with random fiddling - you need to properly work it out. A few of us received copies earlier this year (none of us going to the IPP) and Diniar was keen to hear our thoughts about the solution and how long it took. I played with it for about 15 minutes when I had a brainwave and decided to try out something "one-dimensional". It took me another 5 minutes of fiddling with all the individual components before my Aha! moment paid off:

They would appear not to be cotton reels.
No clues here...move along now!
The reassembly is a little easier than the disassembly but again requires thought to determine which pieces go where and in what orientation. it is also a bit of a dexterity puzzle to manage to get them all together without one or more pieces falling out in the attempt. Definitely quite fun! I cannot really work out whether this is a really complex puzzle which I managed quickly (I was the fastest amongst the early group), or maybe this is a really simple puzzle which I managed as would be expected. It will not be solved by luck or force - you need to focus on your inner Allard and THINK© - It is a really clever idea. Well done to Diniar for producing something so bright and attractive and such a nice challenge.

The next puzzle from Diniar which I received just a few weeks before the IPP is the Gyrotwisty. It looks like an oddly damaged tennis ball (although it is actually slightly larger at 80mm diameter and 65mm tall. It consists of an outer shell which is split into a top and bottom half via a rather complex curvilinear cut around the equator and an inner ball which can rotate freely within the shell. If you rotate the inner ball then it becomes apparent that this is also split into two pieces by another complex yet totally different curvilinear cut. It is oddly rather tactile and soothing to play with. It is vaguely reminiscent of the Cast Marble puzzle but obviously totally different in solution.

Again the aim is to separate the puzzle into its' component pieces and then (again) reassemble it. This one took me a few days to work out. The initial thought yet again is to unscrew the outer layer at least but after trying that I have to admit with shame that just by looking at the picture above it is quite obvious that unscrewing is impossible. Having realised that my complex 3-dimensional approach wasn't going to work, I dropped a dimension and carried on for a day or so. Nope! Yet again, this requires thought©. Before the thinking can occur, one needs more exploring - which is rather tough because only a small section of the inner sphere is visible through the holes in the top and bottom of the shell. There is also just a teeny tiny bit of movement of the pieces against each other to allow further thought. After another few days of swearing at the puzzle and Diniar, I developed a coherent visualisation of the shape and then could formulate a plan - I was down to one dimension yet again. I lined everything up, thought my one-dimensional thought and pop! I had this:

It's beautifully made and very clever!
Only after taking it apart and looking at the pieces did I realise just how clever this is: all 4 components are different shapes and fit together in a certain way without perfect overlap of the edges. It takes the perfect and (again) rather dextrous reassembly to show you that this puzzle works perfectly if done right!

At the last MPP, James Dalgetty, who had received a copy during the exchange asked me whether I knew how it worked. He had apparently managed to dismantle it with force but recognised that this was not correct and wanted to see the correct solution. It had been a while since I had done it but I was still able to roughly remember what to do and it popped open in my hands - I think he liked the true solution. It is really rather lovely and makes for a great (and rather large) worry bead for you.

Both of these puzzles are available from Diniar for a very reasonable price - his email address is linked on the design competition page if you would like to contact him.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Allard Bites Off More Than I Can Chew!

Allard's Exchange Puzzle - The B. Dorstrum Puzzle
At the last MPP just after shaking hands with all the guys who I have not seen for a while, Allard sidled up to me and magnanimously handed me a very nice presentation box. Inside was a beautifully displayed new old puzzle which he had given away to 70 or so other puzzlers in San Diego last month. I say that it is a "new old" puzzle because it actually dates back to 1908 and has been rediscovered by the highly talented Michel van Ipenburg who seems to be making a habit of resurrecting old designs. Michel had worked with the equally talented Robrecht Louage to bring the B. Dorstrum puzzle back to reality.

Rather than just pack it up in a little ziplock bag, Allard has made a really lovely presentation box complete with a sealed leaflet:

Top face
Back/Other face
Notice that on one side Allard has his inscription and on the other is the RL of Robrecht and MVI for Michel.

Yep! DON'T open the Patent application!
Having spent a few days side-tracked by Shane's latest toys, I had completely forgotten about Allard's treat. After I got stuck completely on Haleslock #5 (and I'm still stuck!) I decided to move on to the B Dorstrum puzzle.

It is beautifully manufactured from Trespa which appears to be a high-pressure laminate suitable for cladding buildings in as well as making surfaces of various kinds for interior use. Robrecht has used this stuff for years and years now and all his creations are fabulous to play with. It consists of a rectangular ring held captive by 3 layers of asterisks (* shapes) which, initially at least seem to rotate around a central pin. The aim is to remove the ring and (of course) then to put it back again. Again, my early idle viewing revealed the obvious notches cut into the arms of the asterisk and I thought that this would be a nice little maze puzzle. Lord! Was I wrong about that!

Within just a minute of actually playing with the puzzle, I had a realisation that the notches I could see did not lead anywhere and maze! What the hell is this? I pushed and pulled at the ring and all of a sudden one of the layers moved and moved in a VERY unexpected way! And then both of the other layers moved in a similar fashion - OMG! This was completely unique and I suspected was not going to be easy! I set to last Monday evening and proceeded to explore where the movements went and what they allowed me to do. I very quickly moved to a position that I could not backtrack out of back to the start position - this is always a bad sign for me! Ten minutes after starting I had a huge Aha! moment:

Solved it! Hell NO! I am nowhere near solving it!
Yes, the ring was off and I felt sort of great. Only sort of? Yep! Only sort of! I could hear Allard and Michel whispering with glee in my ears:
"Now put it back...we dare you!"
These voices I keep hearing are becoming a cause for concern - it's bad enough hearing Mrs S chattering at me (Whack! Ouch!) but Allard and Michel too? Now I'm totally crackers!
With the ring removed, I was able to explore the movements of the plates a bit more and was able to reveal this - don't worry about seeing the photo below - it doesn't help you solve it and if you've played with the puzzle for more than a few seconds then you have discovered the nasty little secret:

There's a whole lotta movement possible!
Having listened to those nasty little voices - Whack! Ouch! Not you dear, I meant THEM, I set to the reassembly. Of course, I had absolutely no idea what I had done before and have spent most of the week alternating between this and the Haleslock #5. It is actually pretty easy to get the ring back on and interlocked at the correct place on the asterisks but something tells me that I have gone wrong somewhere:

Lord help me! I keep getting to this point but it's just not right - the central disk is offset.
Today after 6 days at it I cut the seal on the leaflet hoping for a little clue and was greeted by a copy of the original patent diagrams which were horrifically complex and impossible to understand - I'm impressed that Michel and Robrecht could interpret them. Inside that page was a big warning from Allard - a whole page showing this:

Very off-putting!
This put me off for another hour or so and then in abject failure, I opened the leaflet completely. My Jaw dropped! He's an absolute swine! Inside is the text of the patent which (at least to my feeble mind) is of no help whatsoever! My B. Dorstrum puzzle remains like this...probably forevermore!

Never to be solved?
I will keep at it...probably for years like many of my other toys! I know better than to ask Allard for help! In the meantime, I will carry on with the Haleslock #5 in the hope that it will not also be more than I can chew! Thanks, Allard, Michel.......and Shane! 😱😱😜

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Just Meandering About

Meanders Box
Yukari sends out an email to subscribers of the Pluredro blog when new stuff has been made. As well as puzzle stuff she includes her random thoughts on the blog just to hone her English language skills (which are pretty good by the way). At the beginning of August, I learned about the release of 2 versions of the Meanders box - a lovely design with 4 different setups to allow 4 different solutions. There was one version (348 moves) which Juno and Yukari both considered too difficult/arduous to be any puzzler's primary choice and another (172 moves) which they thought would be perfect for almost everyone. I had recently spent my pocket money and decided to wait a while before placing an order and promptly forgot about it. Puzzlers, of course, are a contrary bunch and they immediately homed in on the most difficult one and the puzzle stock promptly began to fall. Luckily for me, I chat with Matt Dawson fairly frequently and he noticed that when he bought his copy they were down to just one left. He notified me and I immediately (within a few minutes) jumped on the last one...PHEW!

This gorgeous puzzle arrived a couple of weeks later from Oz and I have been working on it intermittently since it arrived. Yes, yes! I know it's labelled as a box but it really isn't a box! Firstly there was no bread in it and bread could not possibly fit inside! If this comment mystifies you then read my review of the Heart case from Juno here. I will buy some puzzles that have cavities if there is something else special about them - this puzzle is partially N-ary and partially maze puzzle so perfectly allowable for my collection.

Its' dimensions are 95 x 85 x 84mm and it is made from Burmese Teak, Rose Alder, Silver Ash (citrus family tree) and some metal pieces inside. Juno seems to be developing a certain look - his recent puzzles are instantly recognizable as his workmanship and that is no bad thing.

The aim is (as you would expect) to open the box by following the maze...except the maze that you can see is not the maze you are following. The real maze and pins inside it are inside and invisible so it needs to be done by deduction and feel. This sounds really simple (the mazes are not as complex as a Revomaze) but the difficulty comes from the fact that the movement of the pins needs to be made stepwise due to the plates having small steps cut out of the ends where they interact with each other. The effect of this is that I found I lost track of which direction I was travelling in and also missed a number of choices of direction to travel. The first time I attempted it I got to here and thought I had solved it:

Cavity visible - is it solved? Nope!
Reading on the product page I saw that the aim is to completely remove the maze lid from the box. and I was stuck. Several times I reached this position and tried to continue along the path only to find myself back at the beginning. Finally, after several hours (Yukari wasn't joking when she said that the high-level one was arduous), I found a hidden passage and took that. Finally, I managed to remove the lid:

Solved the first challenge!
To prove that I really understood it, I then reassembled it back to the beginning which strangely was much easier. I tried opening it again and struggled yet again but not quite so much as the first time. I was not able to count the number of moves but I suspect that the puzzle arrived in the easiest set-up with 260 moves. Time to try another one - each maze can be placed in the puzzle in 2 orientations giving a total of 4 challenges (260, 263, 337 and 348 steps to fully open the puzzle box). The only difference with the "simpler" puzzle is that the steps are bigger and there are less of them per side giving a solution level choice of 130, 134, 161 and 172 steps to fully open the puzzle.

I personally preferred to solve this as an "opening" puzzle and therefore chose to use Juno's beautifully implemented reset mechanism - there are screws underneath:

Such a simple reset mechanism
Here you can see the steps on the side faces.
Unscrewing those screws allows you to left the top frame away and place all the pieces back in the closed position and with the maze in whichever orientation you choose:

The quick reset method revealed - clever idea.
Pick the assembly you prefer.
Here are the 2 mazes for you to examine - believe me when I say that having seen them, you are no closer to solving the puzzle - this one has to be solved by feel rather than by sight. Derek has provided me with a Burrtools file for the puzzle but I have refrained from using it so far.

2 mazes each of which can be oriented in 2 ways in the puzzle

So far I have done 2 of the solutions and have still to do the remaining 2. It is quite arduous and I now agree with Yukari and Juno - this puzzle is still perfectly fun with the lower level construction - luckily for you, there are still plenty of these available on their store. It will look fabulous on display with my other Yananose puzzles. I am eagerly awaiting more toys from Oz! Thank you, Juno and Yukari.

Follow up with the Hales puzzles

Silver lock exchange puzzle is open!
Shane's recent puzzles have been kicking my butt! All excited at my success with the Hokey Cokey lock last week (they are still available for sale on Paradise if you are interested), I set to on Shane's locks and after a week of working on them on and off, I have managed to solve just the Silver lock exchange puzzle. The Goldilock and the amazing Haleslock 5 are as they were when I bought them. The Goldilock has one obvious first step and I am stuck, the Haleslock 5 doesn't even have that! I have a key which won't go in the keyway and a lock which rattles a lot more than one would expect for such a solid lock - something tells me it has been "doctored"!

How could I forget Allard?

Allard's exchange puzzle - the B Dorstrum Puzzle
Last week, when I wrote my blog after the MPP, I had not had time to unpack my box of goodies that I took with me and which also contained this lovely and historical challenge given by Allard. My friend Michel van Ipenburg seems to have a knack of finding the patents and descriptions of fabulous historic puzzles and then reconstructing them with the help of Robrecht Louage. The B Dorstrum puzzle is the latest of these. I have been fiddling with this for a day or so now and made some interesting discoveries but not got very far yet - it is telling that the genius that is Goetz Schwandtner has also not got very far either!

I will keep you informed when and more likely, if, I get anywhere with it. Thanks, Allard!

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Big Steve and Ali Make Me Dance

and Joe makes me grub around on the floor!

The Hokey Cokey Lock
I have been chatting with Derek on-line in the past few weeks before and after the IPP and he had mentioned that Big Steve Nicholl's exchange puzzle this year was a new design by Ali Morris and that it was absolutely superb. He didn't tell me anything more than that other than that it was a lock. I was a little surprised because I know Ali pretty well and was aware that he was a master carpenter and very good with burrs and boxes but did not know that he also could design puzzle locks. Obviously a master of all trades! Then I heard that it was called the Hokey Cokey lock and was even more mystified.

Derek had volunteered to be Steve's exchange assistant and there were rumours of much dancing going on during the exchange which mystified me even more! What did a lock have to do with dancing? and if you know Big Steve then you will also know that he is not really built to be light on his feet and nimble! At the end of the exchange day, a video came out on Facebook showing both Steve and Derek (and at least one exchange recipient) actually doing the Hokey Cokey (differently named in the US according to our puzzle box loving alcoholic surgeon friend). This must have been quite a sight to see and apparently almost everyone joined in and received their Hokey Cokey locks with the song written large in their memories.

At yesterday's Midlands Puzzle Party I had an opportunity to purchase a copy myself. If you want one for your own collection then Steve has been posting them up on Puzzle Paradise for a very reasonable price. How could I resist? I put my acquisitions away for the rest of the day and enjoyed the fun at the MPP. Then, when I got home, Mrs S was treated to the delights of me also dancing the Hokey Cokey! Why would I do that? Surely there's no reason for me to dance to solve a puzzle lock? Well, I thought so first! The lock is a standard long shackle padlock which has been "got at". There is no visible evidence of it being got at but someone obviously has. It comes with 2 keys that fit the keyway...2 totally different keys! You know it won't work but you have to try. Of course, neither keys will turn! After this, last night, whilst sitting with Mrs S, I was FORCED to do the dance! I put the right key in...nope! I put the left key in...nope! In...nope! Out...nope! In...nope! Out...nope! Shake it all about...nope! Shake it about with the left key in...nope! Shake it all about with the right key in...nope! Rinse and repeat ALL those steps with the keys ¾ in...nope! and again with them ½ in...nope! and, in desperation, about ¼ in...yep! you guessed it...nope! Hmmm! Maybe I did it wrong somewhere in those steps and yes, much to Mrs S' disgust, I did the whole lot again! I have been fully Hokey cokey'd!

A very innocuous comment from my friend Otis on Facebook made me think - ©. I stared at the lock for another 30minutes and an idea popped into my head. This is quite a feat because my head is pretty dense but it definitely popped in. A few minutes later I was the proud owner of an open lock!

I actually showed the mechanism to Mrs S and even she was impressed which as far as I can remember has never happened before! Well done Ali for a tremendous design and well done Steve for making me, and a large number of other puzzlers (including Derek) look very foolish indeed - that takes great skill! Buy one on paradise whilst they are still available.

Next up, we have a delightful new design by Joe Turner - the Free Me version 6:

Free Me 6
Last year, in Paris, Joe had entered the Free Me 5 into the IPP design competition where it won a well-deserved Jury honourable mention prize.  I recall playing with it in the competition room and really enjoying a well made sequential discovery puzzle which involved wood, ball bearings, steel rods and a fair bit of courage as one had to decide whether to do something decidedly dangerous (at least it was in the eyes of most puzzlers) before eventually releasing the half dollar coin. I loved it!

I missed out on purchasing the version 5 last year but this year, my friend Matt Dawson, informed me when the Free Me 6 came up for sale and I quickly sent off an email and some PayPal.

The new version seemed slightly smaller and for the first few minutes of play, nothing would happen. After a little thought (which hurt considerably!) I managed the first move and released some pieces. It all works very smoothly. I could see another tool but could not reach it so tried closing it and a few other things but that did not help. There are a number of holes around and after a while, one has to resort to poking things in those I have said above a fair bit...nope! Time to examine the puzzle and in doing so I gave my cat a Whack! Ouch! as a ball bearing dropped on his head from a decent height! It does say in the instructions that one should NOT play where parts can roll away or get lost but I am not very bright and who reads instructions anyway?

I now have 4 tools/things and no idea what to do next. The following day, over an hour or so, I do a fun little dance (yes! again!) with a ball bearing! At the end of the BB dance, I have even more pieces - this is SUCH fun! Time to put it down again as it's bedtime. I cannot resist taking it to work the following day as I have a huge long case to do (a 9 level spinal curvature (scoliosis) correction with spinal cord monitoring) - there will be a couple of hours of setting up to do which will give me time to play before the surgery actually starts.

My workstation goes from far left, right across to the right
Once in the operating theatre (OR to the yanks out there) and the spinal monitoring boys are doing their thing, I get the Free Me 6 out and just hold it, contemplating...and they stimulate the patient's spinal cord - they twitch violently about on the table which scares the bejeezus out of me and the BB goes flying! I end up grubbing around underneath everything to find it.

During the ½ hour or so of getting everything ready, I have a brainwave (maybe it was their machinery?) and I try other things with the BB. There are some VERY strong springs in this puzzle and a number of times the BB shoots off across the room and I go grubbing around on the floor again! and again! and again! and again! My surgeon is watching me as if I am completely crackers - which, of course, I am! Then, everyone is delighted when I have my Aha! moment in front of the whole crowd and I free the coin...just in time for us to do an operation! Phew!

The coin is free at last! Awesome puzzle!

Shane has been at it again!

The Haleslock 5 is about to be released! 
Shane Hales is a sucker for punishment! Not only is he trying to run a new business as a Master Locksmith, but he continues to work as a Master builder in his local area too. On top of all of that (whilst bringing up 2 kids and an expensive wife - I know that feeling! Whack! Ouch!) he continues to design and manufacture his own puzzles. I bought some new keys for the amazing Ultion locks from him and also purchased the 5th in the series of Haleslocks - it is very robust and beautifully made! They will be coming up for sale from the usual puzzle lock purchasing outlets quite soon.

Not only has he made his own new lock but he has also made not one but 2 more lock puzzles for others to give as their exchange puzzles at the San Diego IPP. So only another couple of hundred lock puzzles to be made with a short deadline! Yes! He definitely is a sucker for punishment!

Silver Lock Exchange #1
So far I have got absolutely nowhere with either of these 3 puzzles but I will keep at it and will let you know in a future blog post! It may be a while because I am RUBBISH at locks!

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Some Pelikan Beauties

Trap R2
Last week I showed off the recent delivery of puzzles from my friend Jakub, one of the co-owners of the New Pelikan Workshop. He lets me purchase them in advance and as a service for him I solve them as quickly as I can and write a paragraph about some of them for him to put up on the description page for each puzzle when they go up for sale (it depends whether the designer can speak English and feels capable of writing something themselves). The last few times I have been aware that me being so busy has caused a delay in the puzzles going on sale. This time I ignored everything I was supposed to do around the house to ensure that I did not delay the posting of the puzzles for sale and I had my spiel written in just a few days. I try to put my reviews up on my site to help you decide what to buy too.

The first puzzle for me to review is the Trap R2 by Osanori Yamamoto. My copy is made with Purpleheart but it will also be available in an equally beautiful version with Wenge. When you think of puzzles by Osanori Yamamoto you instantly think "rotations". With Trap R2 you won't be disappointed but this puzzle is very different to any other puzzle I have seen. Initially, it looks like a couple of solid boards joined at the corners with a small wide cylinder between them. The cylinder can move about fairly freely with some interesting limitations but that is it. With a little curious fiddling, you will find an unexpected move or two which opens up other possibilities. These unexpected moves can be in several directions and will lead to blind ends. It is extremely unlikely that random moves will end up with this one coming apart. I have to say that this puzzle needs a good bit of careful exploration to get a complete mental image of the shapes involved and then proper planning to arrange them so that disassembly is possible. It almost needs a full mental understanding of the shapes inside to be able to solve it. The first part has to be done blind which makes it a fun challenge. The Trap R2 is an absolutely marvellous puzzle -  it is totally unlike anything I've seen before and a lovely challenge - for me it has made a great worry bead for the last week. As always with a puzzle from Jakub and Jaroslav, the fit and finish of the puzzle is simply perfect - you cannot see any seams at all in the assembled puzzle and they appear to come out of nowhere when things are pressed in the right places.

The pieces are hidden behind the show/hide button - if you are thinking of purchasing one then DON'T look until you have solved it:

Square Target

Square Target
Square Target is another puzzle by the amazingly prolific Osanori Yamamoto, which will, of course, require rotations. There are 4 pieces in a frame and the hole is shaped such that they can only be extricated after turning them to the correct orientation. Having said that, the main challenge of this puzzle is actually to find the correct linear moves to make space for the rotations to occur and working out which order to remove the pieces. This puzzle has a fairly complex set of moves to make enough room to let the rotations/removal occur. The reassembly is also a challenge...especially if, like me, you don't pay attention to all the moves you made in the dismantling process. It is very clever and beautifully made by Pelikan. This is a perfect choice for someone just starting out with puzzles that require rotations.

With this one, I can show the pieces as that will not give too much away:

Pieces of Square Target


The third puzzle by Osanori Yamamoto could easily be called the "Hashtag" - 4 very simple shapes are assembled on a frame in a # shape and need to be removed after arranging them into the correct orientation and position. As one would expect from Osanori, rotations are required...quite a LOT of them! This is trickier than one would expect as the sliding movement and rotation of the pieces is very blocked and requires quite a bit of planning. This one took me the longest time of the three new puzzles. Eventually, I succeeded in my disassembly only to spill the carefully arranged pieces off my sleeping cat! Needless to say, the reassembly from scratch is a huge challenge and involved a good amount of swearing and the odd Whack! Ouch! It is, however, perfectly solvable with thought - the reassembly took me a good hour. A great idea and a worthy challenge to any puzzler.

Pieces of Shield


Alfons Eyckmans designs puzzles ranging from fairly simple to massively complex and Pelikan has chosen just the right level with this one - only a very small number of puzzlers want to work on burrs with 40+ moves to take out the first piece (I personally really struggle when the 1st level goes above 30). Wourie is perfect for the puzzler who is either a beginner to burrs or an enthusiast. It looks stunning in the four different woods and the mix of boards and sticks are interlocked with a fun but challenging sequence which has a blind end or two - it actually took me a good 20 minutes to find the first move. Having found the first move, the remainder of the disassembly is not too hard but then the reassembly becomes a real challenge if you scramble the pieces and leave them a while. It is definitely solvable as an assembly puzzle but maybe that part should be left to experts. The fit and finish of the puzzle is wonderful with moves that are silky smooth - it is perfect to display in any puzzler's collection.

Pieces of Wourie - looks easy? Think again!


Rotacube by Lucie Pauwels
Bernhard's version
Rotacube is another delightful challenge by the very talented and extremely prolific Lucie Pauwels (pwbp shows only a tiny fraction of her designs). I originally had the Rotacube drawn to my attention by the King of the Turning Interlocking Cubes (TIC), Bernhard Schweitzer who contacts me occasionally when he has discovered and made a new TIC and offers one for me to play with. Quite a few months ago Bernhard sent me a copy of Rotacube which I played with, enjoyed and forgot about after a month or so. I remembered about it when Jakub had his Pelikan version for sale. I was interested to see how Bernhard's version, I'm not terribly bright, and had forgotten the solution completely! I think that it does benefit from the several types of wood used by Jakub but I do prefer Bernhard's rotated top cubie as a handle.

There are a couple of simple but unusual moves to remove the first 4 pieces and with the Pelikan version the fit is so perfect that it feels like one is held in by suction! Once the 4 simple pieces are removed then one is left with a cubic frame made from 2 identical pieces which require multiple rotations to be separated. It is a lovely sequence and not too tough. Even after scrambling and leaving the pieces the reassembly is not impossibly challenging and even suitable for beginners to TICs. This is a very nice puzzle and well worth adding to your collection.

Very clever pieces

The remainder of the Pelikan puzzles are yet to be solved. Keylock has been produced for PuzzleMaster in the past and I am not sure whether this production will also be sold by Pelikan direct. It is a very tough burr (level designed by one of the IPP design competition winners, Stephan Baumegger.

The Droid is another fascinating puzzle with a mixture of boards and sticks by Stephan with a level of which also was made for PuzzleMaster and I am not sure whether it is being made available from Pelikan this time. My copy below came direct from Stephan - it took me 5 months to dismantle it!

The 3D Onat Contrast is yet another complex burr by Stephan constructed from some very simple burr sticks into a beautiful cubic design - it has a moderately difficult level of which makes it less suitable for beginners but probably still do-able with some perseverance. It is stunning and I couldn't resist buying a copy myself:

This should be fun!
Excaliburr (available from PuzzleMaster) is another fantastic puzzle designed by Stephan and is definitely not for beginners! At level, it is aimed at real burr enthusiasts or people who are seriously addicted to everything related to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I own an original from Stephan and as yet have never solved it! I might have a bit of a problem though!

Swords in puzzles!

Keep an eye on the Pelikan site as well as look at PuzzleMaster to see when these new toys come up for sale. There is something for everyone here - beginners and burr experts alike will enjoy these puzzles which are, as always, stunningly made!


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