Sunday, 15 April 2018

I'm a Puzzle Assembly Genius.....Or Maybe NOT!

Interlocking #4
At the Midlands Puzzle Party last weekend, we all had a fabulous time as usual and we did enjoy a little extra fun from the Puzzle Pusher who arrived (along with the Puzzle solving machine) from the Netherlands. After my 2.5hr drive from dreary Sheffield, I got myself a much-needed coffee and duly went off to greet a few guys who I had not seen for a while. Louis had brought a few cute little 3D printed interlocking cube puzzles (I don't have any pics but maybe Allard will have some when he posts his spiel). Thanks to the amazing Bernhard, I have become rather addicted to these interlocking puzzles (with or without rotational moves) and had a little poke at them whilst beginning my chat to Shane. Shane, in his usual pugnacious manner, snatched them away and said something along the lines of:
"These are too easy for you if you disassemble them first! Here, I'll do it for you!"
He then proceeded to scatter pieces of 2 cubes over the table leaving me with my mouth hanging open in disbelief. I sputtered that I am rubbish at assembly puzzles and he told me in no uncertain terms to get on with it and stop making excuses! GULP! OK - here goes. One of the cubes was a 4 piece coordinate motion puzzle which took me about 10 minutes. Luckily there are 2 pairs of mirror image pieces and they only fit together a certain obvious way. Also luckily, the tolerances are fairly loose and it didn't require a huge amount of dexterity - if I am bad at assembly puzzles, I am REALLY BAD at dexterity puzzles! This will be a bit of an issue because I received a gift from Wil (so did Allard) - it is a prototype of another of his bottle puzzles. This looks impossible to me - the aim is to put the necklace on the baby in the bottle and have it hanging by its head again:

Of course, the Puzzle machine that is Louis took the puzzle from my display at MPP and promptly solved it in about 5 minutes or less whilst I was not watching. He then unsolved it by shaking it all rather vigorously before I could take a pic! He can be mean that way! As usual, the whole crowd laughed at me - I'm quite used to it now and even enjoy it!

Creepy isn't it? Mrs S thinks Wil might be a secret axe murderer!
The second of the little 3D printed cubes was a 5x5 cube called Interlocking cube #1 which is of interest to 3D printer fans because the pieces can be printed without any support material as there are no overhangs. One day I really will have to buy a 3D printer but not until Mrs S calms down a little. I was rather horrified by Shane's nonchalant destruction but proceeded to give it a go. This was a much tougher challenge and probably took me about a ½hr. I felt fantastic after that - I often tell people that I am not terribly bright and am rubbish at solving puzzles. Most people seem not to believe me but I maintain that I get lucky quite frequently. One thing I do insist on is that I am really bad at solving puzzles in public/company. If someone is watching me then my logical abilities desert me and I look fairly foolish (again!!) Solving the Interlocking #1 in front of the other guys made my day! Even if I solved nothing else all day then I would still be happy.

What those two assembling successes did do was fill me with a whole lot of confidence (probably misplaced) and shortly after that Richard Gain turned up and announced that that puzzle was nice but too easy and I should try the Interlocking #4 which was much more of a challenge. He had a few up for sale and they must have lasted a whole 3 minutes before we cleared him out! I was asked whether I wanted my copy whole or in pieces and with huge overconfidence brought on by my earlier success, I requested that it be taken apart and I would play with it at home. The picture at the top of the post was what I received. Yay!! Brimming with confidence, I set to the evening I got home and was immediately humiliated!

Later that evening a Facebook post from Ali (another puzzle solving machine) revealed that he had managed it. I wasn't surprised that he had done it as he is a seriously talented puzzler. I was a bit more surprised when Allard posted that he had assembled his. Now THAT did surprise me! Allard's usual modus operandi is to buy lots of puzzles that he cannot solve and then whenever Louis arrives for a visit, he solves them for him! Yep! Allard cheats by having help. When I expressed my surprise, I was informed by Wil that Allard had alternative help this time. I suspect that he never actually solves his own puzzles!

Allard has help - Ben is much more intelligent than him!
I proceeded to work on it each evening this week whilst sitting watching TV with Mrs S and the pussy boys! All of whom are no help whatsoever. Mrs S said that I had my "plug face" on the whole time! At several intervals, during the week she actually asked me whether I was in pain to which I had to admit that my ickle bwain was definitely hurting a bit!

Finally, on Thursday evening, I had my Aha! moment and it was fabulous (only 5 days after the other guys managed it). This puzzle is superb as an assembly puzzle and would even be great as a disassembly puzzle too. Maybe I am getting better at assembling puzzles? I certainly really enjoyed the experience and am delighted that I have another dimension to my puzzling challenges.

Filled with confidence, I restarted work on the cubes that I received from Alfons - for some reason, I have really struggled to find the crucial moves to disassemble the first one I chose:

Lili's Cube
I started with Lili's cube because it should have been the easiest to disassemble with a level of For some reason, I could get about 10 moves in but no further. So Friday evening I set to and really thought about it. Aha! again! Yes, my genius is improving....I am just slightly above very dim now! I did take a photo at a halfway point to ensure that I might stand a chance at reassembly:

A reassembly might actually be possible!
I then proceeded to fully disassemble it and realised that my new found skillz definitely did not reach this level - I was stuffed and the only way that was going back together again was Burrtools!

OMG! Reassembly beyond me!
I have ordered another couple of interlocking cubes from Bernhard - I do seem to be just a little addicted! After I've finished writing this post I will get BT out.

Next up is another little challenge that I bought from Wil - it's a string puzzle that Aaron Wang tells me is pretty easy. But then he is a disentanglement puzzle genius who does these things in his head! Needless to say, I have singularly failed so far:

Iwahiro's exchange puzzle with an added Strijbos touch.
Move the knot and the ring to the opposite (short) length of string.
Wish me luck!

Sunday, 8 April 2018

It Looks Horrific But Really is not That Bad

In Fact, It's a Fun Little Challenge

Greg's Multi-cube
I've not had much puzzling time recently due to late finishes at work and on-call duties. Plus yesterday was the 32nd Midlands Puzzle Party (expect a report from Allard sometime soon). This will be a quick review of a single delightful puzzle.

Back in November the incredibly talented (he has 9 pages of designs listed in the Twisty puzzle museum) designer, Grégoire Pfennig, announced that he had collaborated with the Chinese puzzle company YuXin to mass produce his design (which he had previously produced on Shapeways). I could not wait to get hold of a copy - my recent Wormhole 2 (and subsequent Wormhole 3) successes had left me more confident in my ability at puzzles within puzzles. I got my copy from my friend Martin (I'm sure it will eventually be available at PuzzleMaster soon).

Just a couple of turns here and I am confused!
My initial exploration did reveal a little horror! I had read the descriptions when it was announced and even watched the video of it but nothing can prepare you for the true realisation of watching a puzzle within a puzzle when it doesn't turn by face. Yes, this one is not really a is really a Multi-skewb. A deep cut corner turning cube with a 3x3 deep inside. In fact, it is a Master Skewb (higher order than the basic Skewb).

It had been a VERY long time since I had solved a Master Skewb and I, of course, had absolutely no recollection of it and I really struggled to understand what was happening inside the puzzle but I had been reassured by rumours on the TP forum that the solution was fairly straightforward. I was especially reassured when Derek (the genius designer and solver of pretty much everything) told me that he had not had much trouble with it. He told me to "do it now"! So I scrambled it without thinking about the consequences:

Dear Lord! What have I done!

One thing that I had gleaned from TP and from Derek was that I needed to solve the interior 3x3 first and then try to solve the exterior later without messing up the interior. Yeah! Sounds awful! The first problem was how could I solve a 3x3 by turning the corners of an exterior puzzle? After a little nudge, I came to realise that the interior pieces were connected to different parts of the exterior and I just needed to shift my approach slightly! Easy? Actually not that tough once the connection is known. After just a couple of hours in front of the TV with the very generous Mrs S (she has given me permission to go to Ikea and purchase some more display cabinets for a spare room...I might get a whole 2m or more of wall space!) I had a lovely solved interior and the exterior was completely scrambled with even the windowed centres not aligned with the centres of the inner cube.

Next, I needed to solve the exterior Master Skewb without buggering mucking up what I had already done. Now a peculiar feature of this puzzle is that it is possible to make a quadruple series of moves which consist of a pair of moves and undoing that pair and this changes the exterior without affecting the interior. I was extremely surprised to realise this and found that I can extend that 2 6 moves or more! As long as each of the moves is undone then the inner puzzle is unscathed. Time to think© and either work out how to solve a Master Skewb or, rather less likely, remember how to solve it. It took me another 2 evenings of varying success and I ended up working it out from scratch but I had all but the corners solved.

Redi cube after one turn
At yesterday's MPP I did bring along some easier twisties to try and cajole/force the guys into thinking that they are not as impossible as they all think. I showed them the Redi cube (PuzzleMaster link) and the Pyraminx Diamond as examples of puzzles that relied on just simple 4 move algorithms like up, up, down, down or R, L, R, L. I am not sure that I convinced anyone to spread further into the twisty realm (in fact Shane thinks I am totally crackers!) but this is reminiscent of the Master Skewb solution - just a simple 4 move algorithm used in creative ways with simple set up moves and it's mostly done. Those pesky corners being out of position...also not a problem. With some puzzles, one just has to do the 4 move algorithm twice or thrice and BAM! We have a way to swap positions and then a setup move later we have them oriented correctly too.

Pyraminx diamond after one turn
The Multi-cube looks horrific and when scrambling/scrambled looks even worse but it really isn't as bad as you might think. All just 4 move sequences with the odd setup move or doing that sequence several times. If you don't have one of these puzzles then you definitely should buy one - it is FAB!

Hopefully I will have more to write about for you for next week. The puzzles I am working on just now seem to be rather complex and very time consuming!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Wonderful New Puzzles from Pelikan

7 Stunning new puzzles from the New Pelikan Workshop
I am very lucky to be given the opportunity by Jakub Dvořák and Jaroslav Švejkovský to purchase copies of his latest releases before they are generally available for the public. This is partly to allow me to review them in advance and also because Jakub occasionally likes me to write something for his store when the designer of the puzzle doesn't speak English well enough to write something for him. These puzzles have just been made available at the New Pelikan Workshop morning - don't miss out - as a short review...they are FABULOUS!

I received these just over a week ago and have been working my way through them - I have to say that they are all as stunning and as beautifully made as ever. Jakub and Jaroslav maintain their place as probably the best wood craftsmen in the world. The fit and finish of these puzzles is unbelievably good. Despite having such perfect tolerances there is never a sensation of pieces catching on each other as pieces move.


The Apollo is another delight from the mind of Osanori Yamamoto. It consists of 3 shapes straddling a wooden frame to make the shape of a rocket (hence the name). Only 3 pieces in the frame? Easy? Not really! As with many of Osanori's puzzles, this requires several rotational moves to remove the pieces which makes it a nice fun challenge. It is not as tough as the others in this release but certainly requires a fair bit of thought to figure out where to move them so that rotations are possible and then work out which direction to turn. It did not take me very long but there is a very nice Aha! moment when discovering a rather unexpected position to do the rotations and also another fun challenge working out the reassembly after scrambling and leaving the pieces.

Deceptively simple pieces - fun to reassemble after leaving a while

Neo Saturn

Neo Saturn
The Neo Saturn designed by Osanori Yamamoto looks simply stunning made from Acacia, Wenge, Purpleheart and Padauk. The circular planet/sun on the top is there to ensure the correct orientation during reassembly and really adds to the beauty of the piece. This puzzle is classic Osanori - quite a few rotational moves with a maze of setup moves to reach the correct positions. Everything is beautifully made and the sliding of the pieces on the frame is smooth as silk. The Aha! moments are delicious and make this one of the most enjoyable puzzles in this release. Reassembling the puzzle is possible from scratch and is just as much fun. This one has become a fun toy to play with in quiet moments for me.

Stunning workmanship and a beautiful design.

Aqua Toto

Aqua Toto
The Aqua Toto puzzle is my 2nd favourite from the group to be released. This is also a classic Osanori Yamamoto design consisting of a 2 piece frame and 2 Wenge pieces which straddle it. Separating the pieces requires that the 2 frame pieces are moved and the Wenge L's be negotiated through a changing maze to a position which allows the characteristic rotation moves. The rotational moves came to me in a completely unexpected position and there was also something else about it that I found wonderfully startling. Further moves and further rotations lead to another rather unexpected Aha! moment. It took me quite a while to reassemble these after scrambling and leaving the pieces for a while. This is a truly satisfying puzzle. Not for beginners but all experienced puzzlers will enjoy the sequence and the surprise moves in this one.

Such simple pieces - very interesting solution
What is the surprise move? If you have solved it and are not sure what is so surprising or don't plan on buying it but want to know anyway then click the button to reveal the hint.

Mini Lock

Mini Lock - Looks huge but is only 5cm high.
Christoph Lohe has designed many many burrs over the years and they all share the common feature that they have something rather interesting and unusual about them. He has designed several burrs in the shape of locks. The Burrlock E was made by Eric Fuller and reviewed enthusiastically by me here. I was delighted to see that another couple of his locks were going to be released by the New Pelikan Workshop this time. The Mini Lock is so named because of the small number of pieces and supposedly "simple" sequence to disassemble as well as the diminutive size of the puzzle at 5cm tall. It is beautifully made with very tactile curves on the edges.

The unlocking mechanism is a very nice sequence of moves which all follow each other logically. I had 4 pieces lying on the kitchen work surface quite quickly:

Looks easy? Ahem! Maybe for you, it will be!
Having disassembled it so quickly, I decided to scramble the pieces without properly examining them and leave them a while before trying to put it back together. Yours truly showed himself to be not terribly bright when it came to the reassembly as it took me over half an hour to work it out. It is a very logical puzzle and can be worked out from scratch - a great fun challenge. This is a perfect little pocket challenge for every puzzler.

Spiral Lock

Spiral Lock
This is the piéce de resistance of the bunch for me! Christoph Lohe's Spiral lock has been fabulously brought to life by Jakub and Jaroslav with gorgeous woods, gorgeous colours and a wonderful finish. The aim as always is to move the burr pieces and shackle to open and dismantle the lock. There are some very clever moves during the solution and some are quite hard to find. As you work your way through it you discover a fun little dance of the pieces around each other before the shackle suddenly has enough space to come out. After that, the rest of the pieces can be removed one after another. You are left with this and can marvel at the craftsmanship involved:

Absolutely incredible puzzle!
Having taken this apart at work I had to go and do something (I think I had finished a short coffee break and had to wake my patient up before starting the next one) - when I got back to the pieces of the puzzle and took them out of the bag I had used to temporarily store them in, I discovered that the reassembly was a tremendous challenge! In fact, I could not do it until I got home and had a fair bit of time in the evening to play. I had to backtrack my disassembly to work it out and then work out which pieces went where. It is manageable and is a great challenge for those of us not good at reassembly. This puzzle is beautiful and brilliant!


Casino - just put the chips into the box!
Casino is an absolutely fantastic packing puzzle by Volker Latussek, a designer I came across for the first time at the Paris IPP. He had entered another Packing puzzle into the Design competition which I really enjoyed (in fact it got one of my votes). The Bastille is available in continental Europe from Rombol here - I really wish they would find a retailer who would sell in the UK as I struggle to get these puzzles here. The Casino is just as simple a premise as the Bastille - put the pieces in the box so that they don't protrude outside. Easy? Hell no!

The chips and box are wonderfully tactile and just beg to be played with. Everything can be stored nicely in the unsolved position and then tipped out for play when ready. This puzzle would be simple if it wasn't for the lip overhanging the top of the box. It takes a few minutes to work out the arrangement required so that the pieces will physically fit inside but getting them in there is another thing entirely! I couldn't resist this one - I played with it alongside Mrs S at the breakfast table on the morning that it arrived and she watched me with great amusement as I progressively failed to solve it over about an hour. She didn't seem to mind the muttering/talking to myself and at one point exclaimed that it didn't look that hard and snatched it from me to have a try herself! I didn't mind - whilst she is a rather bright cookie, she is not a puzzler and it was soon my turn to laugh at her as she failed to get the last piece inside. To her credit, she did work out the correct arrangement but could not get it past the lip. After 10 minutes she gave up in disgust and said it was impossible! Hehehehe! 

After another half an hour I was able to show her that the puzzle was solvable. The picture revealed by the button doesn't really give much away other than the arrangement but you might prefer not to click to reveal it until after you have solved it yourself.

This one is absolutely perfect to hand to the non-puzzlers in your life. It is so tactile and looks so easy that they just cannot resist it. I have found that even resolving it myself is quite a challenge and have already managed to bamboozle David, my anaesthetic assistant, for a few hours with it. 


The Perforated puzzle is the final one in this release and I cannot really review it as yet - I have so far singularly failed to solve it! It is yet another of the stunning designs by Klaas Jan Damstra and like many of them consists of some very simple pieces arranged in a very complex way. The burr sticks in the rather beautiful frame are all identical and the simplest of sticks possible. Edit - after reading the information on the Pelikan store this version has been modified from the one on and has 2 different sticks. With a level solution, this will be a very complex dance as the pieces wind back and forth around each other before one is released. Over the years many of Klaas' designs have been greatly admired on my blog and I fully expect to love this one once I have a little more time to play with it.

Why have I not solved it yet? I appear to have been sidetracked this week by both long work hours and the arrival of some extra twisties. Plus I did need to complete the Mixup plus/Wormhole series by solving the Wormhole III puzzle:

Wormhole III - a combination of a 3x3x4 Mixup plus with wormhole interior
This is a seriously fantastic puzzle with parities, confusing hidden bits and lots of shape-shifting too. Not for the faint-hearted but worth purchasing if you love your twisty puzzles. I bought mine from Martin's Puzzlestore but is also available from Puzzlemaster.

Greg's Multi cube
Pentacle cube
The latest twisty additions from Martin are Greg's Multi-cube and the Mo Fang Pentacle cube. These look like a fun challenge which I'm told is not too hard (despite being a puzzle in a puzzle. I could do with something a little easier after the Wormhole/Mixup plus challenges.

Finally, I was able to obtain a copy of the Six cube from Evgeniy Grigoriev. This was an entry in the London IPP design competition. It looks like a six-piece burr but is actually a modification of a Rubik cube. At that time it had me completely flummoxed - despite being "only" a simple 3x3 cube, I could not solve it. When Evgeniy put it up for sale, I couldn't resist having another chance to play and put it in my collection.

Six Cube - looks like a burr, works like a twisty!

The puzzles from Pelikan are available now and are mostly in limited numbers. Go get them, get ALL of them and make me feel better that I did too! You will not be disappointed in either the quality or the puzzling!

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Locks, Locks, Locks - Worth the Wait

T11 - It's big, it's heavy, it's tough and it's VERY VERY good!!
Last August at the Paris IPP my friend Shane introduced me to Rainer Popp. I have corresponded with him once or twice over the years but never met him. He is a very low key man! Quietly spoken, unassuming and not prone to boasting. This is a very marked contrast to the loud enthusiastic whirlwind that is Shane Hales, puzzle master extraordinaire and master locksmith. When Shane tells me something, I listen! He knows what he talks about and if he doesn't then he says so. Shane knows locks....he said at IPP that the Popplock T11 was the best puzzle lock in the none! OMG! I got to have a look at it whilst I was there but was not allowed to play with it (no one was). We were told that it would be coming out in early 2018 and would be more limited in number than previous editions.

So we waited, and waited, and waited a bit longer. Shane taunted me periodically by saying how fantastic it was and how I had to be sure to buy a copy. He also said 'sotto voce' that I should expect a rather large hole in my bank balance. Even Google knew it was going to be expensive (see right - when I checked the spelling for that expression it produced the perfect result!) Shane said that no matter what the price, it would be worth it! I spoke to Wil and asked him to reserve me one if I was not getting one direct from Rainer. From early this year, after the newsletter came out, pretty much the entire hungry lock collecting puzzle bunch emailed him and asked for a copy and we were told that there was going to be far less than usual production run and they would be released in batches as they were finished.

I saw quite a few people receive their copies and became hopeful that I would be next. Nope! No email...wait longer you impatient man! Eventually, Wil managed to get his batch from Rainer and mine was released to me with a bill that makes you hide your emails from your wife! This thing is soooo big and soooo heavy that the postage alone from the Netherlands is €25!

The characteristic Popplock motif on the base - a beautiful key too
When it arrived, my usually goodnatured DPD delivery man did comment that it was bloody heavy for a small package and was I importing cannonballs? I unpacked it with glee and Mrs S acknowledged that it looked fabulous ("for a padlock") and looked expensive! She's not stupid is my wife! When I mumbled about the cost she gave me "the look" and, after sniffing at the aroma of burning arising from the area between my eyes, I told her the cost. Whack! Ouch! Whack! Ouch! Whack! Ouch! Yes - the cost was worth 3 Whack! Ouch!s!! She then conceded that it was probably a good buy from a puzzle perspective and discarded that issue. She moved very rapidly to the huge weight (2.5Kg) and the large chunk of metal aspects of it. She said:
"Get that out of my kitchen right now - if you break a tile or the granite then I will break all your puzzles and then break you too!"
She's a strong woman is Mrs S and with the Scottish ancestry in her, she is extra violent too! Whack! Ouch!

The first thing that is noticeable is that there is a rather lovely key, complete with T11 etched into it, but no keyhole to insert it. Interesting! There are 2 faceplates on the front and back and they obviously move or come off or something because there is a teeny tiny wiggle in them but no obvious way to accomplish this. This beast is steel and brass and screws and rivets with no obvious place to start. My fingernails definitely did not enjoy trying to pry those plates off! Not terribly bright! The instructions are specific - open it with no banging or force. I proceeded to play with it each evening in my armchair after dinner whilst watching TV with "her". There are lots of places to focus your attention on and nothing really moves. After 2 evenings I found a small movement - just a rotation and only about 120º. Yay!!! On my way! Nooo! It did nothing at all! It is amazing how many times I can twiddle the same thing over quite a few days and hope that something new will show never does!

After another few days, I found something else which would move. Yay! A whole 7mm! And....still nothing further. With my 2 "thingies" moving I played with them for ages! Of course, I got absolutely nowhere. After about a fortnight I found something else - my "thingies" worked together! Yay! And....still nothing further! I am really not very good at locks OR Rainer is a master! Both of those statements are true. Playing with this puzzle is quite a workout - my arms and fingers were aching from constant attempts to do something. The cat was not amused when I rested and leaned it against him.

After a month, I had to admit with shame and humiliation to Shane that I was not getting anywhere! It was all the more humiliating to hear that Ali had opened his copy in just a week with no help/clues at all (He's a bloody good puzzler is Ali!) I told Shane where I had got to and he placated me by saying that he was amazed I had found what I had! It made me feel a little better but I know he was just being nice. A very tiny clue was given to me which just made me focus my attention somewhere. I had already been focussing on that because something was just plain odd about it. Another few days of doing the same thing over and over again suddenly showed me something new. All of a sudden my jaw dropped and I had released something! I really wasn't expecting that to happen and especially not what followed it:

Knowing that this happens doesn't tell you anything you didn't expect!
Look! A keyhole!
The mechanism for this is astounding! I had made a major breakthrough and found somewhere to use the key! Yes, I know! The key never opens the lock! The key goes in with a lovely satisfying click and turns just a bit and....nada! Think©, you idiot!! So I "thunk" for quite a long time! I thunk and thunk and thunk and did come up with an idea. I couldn't implement my idea so I headed back to Shane who encouraged me to continue in that approach. It was possible to feel things using the key. AHA!!! Something new happened. Suddenly things were happening and I seemed to be on my way. Except the keyhole was no longer usable. Now what? Push, pull, prod! Aha! again. At this point, I cannot give much more away but let's just say we have a Danlock moment and a leap of faith. Shane encouraged me to do what I wanted to.

Suddenly there were some more things going on for approximately 270º before I was trapped and I could neither go forward nor back. Rainer had put a trap in this thing too! Aaaaargh! Shane warned me that this trap existed but he had not been caught in it. Of course, I am nowhere near as bright as him and it was inevitable that I would fall into every trap! I spent another evening playing in this trap. You need good light to notice something crucial and when you do it's not immediately obvious what it's for. It took another few days experimenting with this new feature before I realised it interacted with another feature which was obvious from the very beginning of unwrapping the puzzle. Yes, another Aha! moment! I was out of the trap and I was hoping that I was in the home stretch to opening the behemoth - my arms were now killing me!

A further week went by and I needed to ask Shane for yet another clue. He suggested that I move it to a certain position and play like that. I always do as I'm told and after another few days of feeling all sorts of incomprehensible things going on inside I suddenly had an urge. Normally I am not allowed urges in the house but I was very surreptitious about this one and BAM! there was a big CLICK!

OMG! It's the Carlsberg of puzzle locks - "probably the best in the world!"
In fact, this IS the best puzzle lock ever made.
My conclusion...Rainer's T11 is the most amazing complex lock design ever. So complex that it took me over 6 weeks of constant endeavour to solve it. It is a sequential discovery puzzle made of metal and the engineering feat involved is simply staggering. Even though I needed quite a lot of help from my friend, this actually did not detract from the enjoyment of it. Is it worth the huge cost? For me yes. I am not a lock specialist. Hell! I'm not even any good at them! But this puzzle is simply incredible! It is highly likely to be at the top of my "Best of the Year" list next New year's day.

Thank you, Rainer, for continuing to design and innovate and thank you, Wil, for allowing me to buy one of the very few you received. Finally, thank you, Shane, for the assistance and encouragement, I could not have done it without you.

Haleslock 3
Also at the IPP, Peter Hajek exchanged the Haleslock number 3 with 100 other puzzlers. I watched them all get handed out whilst I was assisting my friend John Haché. Later that day Shane sidled up to me and handed me a copy of each of the 2 puzzles of his that were being exchanged. The Haleslock 3 is a chunky lock with a key that screams "insert me and turn". So I did, again, and again, and again. Of course, nothing happened...the lock remained stubbornly shut. I have been working on this on and off for 8 months and surprisingly doing the same thing over and over and over again never seems to work for me.

I have pushed and pulled on all the rivets and tried to rotate the front plate and used the key in places where it won't fit. I have put it away and picked it up countless times since I got it. During the week, I had another of those urges (I really should see someone about them) and picked it up again. It occurred to me that I don't actually know how these locks work but I did know how the shackle is held closed. Maybe there are other ways to manipulate the locking mechanism than using the key? Out of the blue, the lightbulb above my head switched on and BAM! again:

I have absolutely no idea how he did what he did but it is remarkably clever in its simplicity! It is very repeatable and also fun. Simple? Yes! Clever? Yes! Great puzzle? Yes - it kept me busy for 8 months!

Finally, I have to mention another puzzle from IPP. Boaz Feldman, the son of the very famous Dan Feldman (of Danlock fame) has taken up the mantle from his dad. He has learned the engineering skills required to subtly alter a lock without it being obvious what has been done. He exchanged a new design called the BLock (Boazlock like Danlock) which is based on a Nabob lock just like the earlier one.

Just another padlock? Definitely not!
As with most of this type of puzzle, the key is provided and it is mandatory to try the conventional opening technique. Of course, it doesn't work! In fact, the key won't even go into the keyway. It's blocked by something inside. I never did get to solve this myself - I was at a dinner table with the MPP guys when someone handed a copy to Allard to look at. We were all watching when Allard had the Aha! moment and after a few odd little moves he opened it whilst a bunch of us sat there with mouths hanging open! How on earth did Boaz manage that? It is all in front of you and all there to see if you use your eyes and brain properly. Even though I would never be able to unsee the solution, I knew that I needed (yes NEEDED) a copy.

I met Boaz in a corridor the following day and I am reliably informed by one of the ladies who attended (a wife of an attendee) that the two of us sounded like a drug dealer and junkie arranging for a fix to be sold. The following day, Boaz sidled up to me with a nice little blue bag and I handed him some cash - yes, just like a drug deal!

Just looks like a simple lock - fabulous mechanism!
It was with great pleasure that I opened my lock when I got home from IPP and even Mrs S was impressed with the engineering feat and subtlety of the solution! Dan has retired from making locks but Boaz has definitely taken up the family tradition and I cannot wait to see the next one he produces.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Thank Goodness for a Puzzle that Broke on me!

Wormhole II Cube
OMG! What have I done?
I have a twisty problem
I've not forgotten about my Popplock T11 - I'm just stuck.....still!
Sorry to all you non-twisty puzzlers but I had to follow last week’s post with another one about a rather fabulous twisty puzzle. At the same time as Martin and Paul forced me to buy the 4x4x3 Mixup plus cube, they also bullied me into buying a couple of the Wormhole cubes. I had shied away from these when they first came out because they had frightened me to death! The Mixup plus puzzles with their 45° turns were already too much of a challenge for me at that stage of my twisty career and the thought of adding a puzzle inside of one of those monsters was just too horrific for my teeny tiny brain to cope with. Moving on 6 years, I’d reached an advanced enough stage of dementia to not remember how bad I am and to not remember that I’d deliberately stayed away. I ended up agreeing with their suggestion nearly a year ago and when the Mixup plus cuboid arrived, it was accompanied by the Wormhole II (PuzzleMaster link)and Wormhole III cubes. Having quickly looked at the Mixup plus cuboid and the 2 Wormholes when they arrived, I immediately shied away and put them somewhere “safe” in the twisty puzzle cupboard.

Why did I shy away? Because just turning a single face makes odd things happen inside and on top of that it has Mixup moves too!

Odd things happen inside
This is after JUST 3 TURNS!!!
It took me nearly a year to get up the courage to try any of them and I enjoyed the cuboid so much I felt a little ashamed! Yes, it was time to “screw my courage to the sticking place” and play with the others. It was time to get out the Wormhole II and investigate. Straight away I could see that it looked and worked very similarly to the standard 3x3 Mixup cube (see left) which had been a fantastic and enjoyable challenge but this time there was something extra happening. First of all, the 45° turns were only possible in the 4 equatorial edge regions and in other 8 edge pieces, there were little windows. Through those windows there appeared to be another puzzle… colours were showing through and confusingly the internal colours sometimes moved with the external face and sometimes didn’t! I began to investigate carefully and within a few minutes of exceedingly careful movements I had to call Houston…I had a problem! Yep! I’d scrambled it beyond my ability to get it back to the beginning. Damn! Ok in for a penny, in for a pound… I did the whole thing!

Now what? To be perfectly honest, I had no idea! My first thought was to just solve the outer Mixup cube and hopefully, the inner puzzle would just miraculously solve itself! Yes, sometimes it’s good to be optimistic/hopeful. I had forgotten mostly how to solve the Mixup plus cube so it took me a while. I did sort of realise that the inner cube was not behaving how I’d hoped but maybe it would wait until the very end? After about an hour I was sort of on my way to the outer solve and not really understanding when BAM! Catastrophe! A good few pieces flew out:

The edges separate and ping out en masse
It gives a good view but not helpful
OMG! I did not think I should just stuff them back in because quite a few pieces had shot out and I did not think that I could put them back the way that they came and I might end up with an impossible to solve puzzle. So, I had no option but to remove the rest of the pieces and solve the inner portion and then reassemble the outer cube later. It was time to just go ahead and solve the inner 3x3.

How hard could it be? It's just a 3x3 with big corners....or is it? GULP!
Except, blush, I couldn’t understand it! Things weren’t working right! It took me a half day of playing with my mostly disassembled puzzle before I understood what was happening and why I’d really struggled before it flew apart. It would seem that the sudden suicidal destruction of this puzzle had been a real blessing. Without being able to see inside, there was no way that I would have been able to understand what was happening in this puzzle. I made a video below to show you how it works.

I apologise that I seem to have played with it off to the right side of the video - I'm a rank amateur!

Halfminx - similar idea
It would appear that the internal puzzle is effectively a corner block puzzle or functionally equivalent to the Halfminx puzzle with only 3 usable sides. This means that the interior (and later the exterior) has to be solved without moving the 3 sides containing the green/white/orange corner piece. It sounds horrifying (and it was an awful thought to me when I realised what was going on inside) but in my efforts to solve just the inner puzzle with outer corners in place, I realised that I knew a possible method and it was VERY basic…it involved nothing more than the use of a 4 move sequence - the edge piece series (yes, you read that correctly, just 4 moves!) I can hear you all shouting out in disbelief (I really should restart my meds to prevent those voices) and I reiterate that the vast majority of this puzzle is solved using nothing more than a 4 move algorithm! It’s “easy”!! Having used my edge piece series (EPS) to solve the inner puzzle and then reassembled the external puzzle around it, I quickly rescrambled it and played again.

Having finally understood the puzzle, I set to work on the solution. First of all get it back to cube shape. This is only a little tougher than the Mixup plus cube (due to the fact that only 4 of the edge pieces will split up) and once done the equatorial edges need to be combined with the corresponding colour inner edges. Now we have a recognisable cube! I discovered that solving the external puzzle does not miraculously solve the internal one (DUH!) and it was obvious that the internal edges must be combined with the corresponding external ones (including the ones that have no window). This phase proved a bit tough and I found the parity:

The inner puzzle is solved but a single matching exterior edge is flipped

This is all part of the fun and is very enjoyable - "Just" flip that edge.....except the windowed edges cannot be flipped. Oh dear! A little thought© and I had flipped something and undone everything else! Laboriously matching up and solving the puzzle again showed me that breaking the puzzle the first time had been a very good thing to do - it was solved.

Wormhole III - appears to be a 3x3x4 Mixup plus WITH inner cube! NICE!
I've done it several times now and have to say that yet again, Martin and Paul were absolutely correct! This is a fabulous challenge that involves understanding and then planning an attack with some very serious constraints. I have still got the Wormhole III left to solve and will definitely get to that soon - it appears to be a 3x3x4 Mixup plus cube (which I don't own) with an interior cube visible through the 8 windowed pieces. I might also have ordered a couple more goodies from Martin's store too which should arrive pretty soon. Don't tell Mrs S - Whack! Ouch! Too late!

At some point, I will make a post with videos to show all you non-twisty puzzlers how to solve a cube using nothing more than the 4 move edge piece series. This means there is nothing to memorise and just some understanding and thought to be used. Leave a comment below if you would be interested to see this.


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