Sunday, 13 October 2019

A Board Burr With a Difference

3 Grooved Board Burrs and an Interloper
A few weeks ago, Juno put his third sequential discovery puzzle the SDBBB (Sequential Discovery Board Burred Box) up for sale and sent out his emails at 4am on a Saturday morning (UK time). The whole world had been waiting for it but unfortunately half of the world (the civilised bit!) was fast asleep in its' beds! Consequently, those pesky Yanks bought almost all 40 that Juno had managed to produce within just 3 or 4 hours and when the Europeans logged on they were all gone and much wailing could be heard.

So you could ask how I got one? Indeed, I should have been fast asleep in my bed but...wait for it! Time for a physiology lesson now! I suffer from severe insomnia (have done for decades). I fall asleep instantly as soon as my head hits the pillow but am usually awake and suffering at 3 or 4 am. Now an interesting phenomenon occurs to us humans at night...we secrete ADH (AntiDiuretic Hormone i.e. anti-weewee)) from our pituitary gland at the base of the brain mostly at night to suppress urine production overnight when we should be sleeping. When one wakes up the secretion of ADH slows and we start producing urine. So what we have here is a middle-aged man who already has a micro-bladder, who has woken up in the middle of the night. As a result, at about 4am I need to disturb the sleeping cats who are across my belly and thighs (compressing the rapidly filling bladder) and get up to go, as we Brits delicately put it, to the loo. I occasionally pick up my phone which is on my bedside table and check my emails. That night I shouted AHA!!!! Actually, I darent make any noise at all for fear of disturbing "she who sounds like a drowning hippo" at night Whack! Ouch! There might have been a puzzle purchased and Mrs S knew nothing about it. At 4:15 I am one of the few Europeans who got one just because of insomnia, a hormone and a cat sleeping across my lower abdomen. Lucky me!!! Lord! I wish I could sleep!

In the picture at the top of the post we have Juno's 3 grooved board burrs and in the middle at the back is the much larger (112mm cubed) gorgeous sequential discovery puzzle (yes, I know AND it's a box) disguised as a board burr. It is quite solid and surprisingly heavy made of American Rock Maple, Utile and some "metal parts". It arrived after a rather prolonged stay with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs before they decided to send me a ransom demand for its' release. Viewing it next to the original Sequential Discovery Burred Box, you cannot tell that either of them is not what they seem to be at first sight:

Is it a burr? Is it a Box? No, it's a Sequential Discovery puzzle!  Both of them.
After a visit to the gym to try and achieve a body beautiful (or maybe slightly less horrific), I fetched it from the post office after paying my fees and forced Mrs S to admit that it was lovely and that it was well worth the money (of course, I didn't tell her how much it actually cost! I'm sleep deprived and stupid but not suicidal! Whack! Ouch!). Breakfast consumed with Mrs S and I was allowed to play with my new toy. I'd had a particularly tough week of major surgery and she took pity on me for once and let me relax rather than do chores or electrocute myself doing DIY...again!

At first, I can find only one sliding movement (see, it's a burr) and nothing else. Then I find another few sliding movements and a piece falls off onto the sleeping cat (they never leave me sitting for long) and I discover my first metal piece. Before going any further, I have a look to see what I actually did. It's a rather nice little sequence. The metal piece is stuck inside until I find another one which happens to be magnetic (Juno has used lots of clever ideas). Here I am stuck for a few minutes until I discover a rather unintuitive move and then another. The cat is getting fed up with the rain of wooden stuff on his head!

A few steps later I have a tool and an obvious place to use it. The tool is duly used and I tuck it away from the cat who always runs off with stuff like that and I REALLY don't want it under our fridge along with hundreds of missing cat toys and half-eaten spiders! At this point, quite a lot of stuff happens and I think I'm almost there. The construction of these pieces is superb! Luckily I didn't lose the tool as it needed to be used again. Yet another odd shaped piece arrives and I think I'm almost there.

Nope! Not yet - I have 2 pieces firmly locked together and am not entirely sure what is holding them that way. There are "tool"-shaped holes but nothing in them so that won't work. Time to borrow Allard's brain and Think©. I notice a piece with something that seems superfluous and wonder whether it has any further uses. Aha! Suddenly, I have somewhere to use the tool but it doesn't seem to do anything. Ouch, my brain hurts. After a few more minutes of doing the same thing over and over again, I have one of my rather infrequent thoughts and suddenly I shout aloud...YESSSS!

Opened the Burr/Sequential discovery puzzle/Box
Now that is a very unexpected final step. I don't think I have seen anything like it before! The construction is simply stunning! For once Juno has stopped teasing me with bread to fit in the boxes, this time we have a glass of wine to celebrate or maybe it is a drink of squash (For you Yanks who don't know what squash is in the UK, look at this). I was so dizzy afterwards that I am convinced that it was wine. No, I am not going to show off all the pieces as it is too much of a spoiler. Maybe I will show it off in a few months once people have managed to solve their copies.

Putting it all back together proved to be a fair bit of a challenge as I had pieces all over the place including some stashed under my legs out of reach of the pesky inquisitive cat. After a couple of false starts in which I forgot to put one piece back in place and also where I discovered that 2 pieces are interchangeable until you actually try to close it completely, I got it back together. I LOVED IT!

This puzzle is considerably easier than the previous 2 SD puzzles from Juno (especially the Slammed car which kept me going for weeks. I am not disappointed in the least - it was great fun and beautifully made. I do know that one idiot decided it was so easy that he wanted to flog it for a HUGE profit. My good friend Ed bought it and despite being blind solved it and enjoyed it immensely. Puzzles really don't have to be impossibly hard to be worth a place in your collection - they need to be enjoyable (being beautiful also helps). I will be taking this to the next MPP to allow the rest of the Brits to experience it.

Grooved Board Burr #3
Having solved the Sequential discovery board burr, I figured I really should solve the third in Juno's Grooved Board Burr. I have been attempting it for months and getting nowhere. There are lots and lots of possible paths and many blind ends as well as complete loops ending up back at the beginning. One of the main reasons I had been failing was that I had been using my usual back and forth approach to keep track of my path so I could always return to the start and hopefully be able to remember enough to reassemble it. A night or two after I solved the SD board burr, I really went for it on the burr and decided to be less scrupulous with my attempts to remember the path. I found something promising...possibly and realised I could not get it back to the beginning. I had a board hanging way off the puzzle but still firmly locked in place and could not get it back on! OMG! Panic set in.

Mrs S was rather upset at all the panting and groaning and muttering noises I was making whilst we were watching TV. I was getting increasingly lost in an extremely complex path as pieces moved almost off and onto the puzzle. Finally, after 4 months and many hours of attempts, I removed my first piece. Phew! It should come apart easily now. WRONG! The puzzle remains incredibly stable even after 3 of the pieces have been removed. It took me quite a while to work out how to get the second piece off and even the third. Just before it was time to go to bed (no wonder I am sometimes insomniac!), I finally had 6 boards to examine.

They look so innocuous! That was damned difficult!
Close up I could see the wood choices and construction of the pieces was spot on. It has been made of New Guinea Walnut (Anacardiaceae family tree), European Beech and Silver Ash (Citrus family tree) formed into Juno's characteristic plywood and the grooves and pins are just perfect - the puzzle is 86mm cubed. As all of Juno's puzzle, there is his home-made brand on one of the pieces:

Stunning detail
I had absolutely no way to put it back together from memory and my skills do not lie in the assembly path. I still have Brian Young's craftsman version of the Mega-six burr next to me which I have failed to assemble in 2 years of attempts so there is no way on earth I can assemble this board burr. I went to the amazing Burrtools for help and realised that this was so complex in construction that I would need an 18x18x18 grid to construct it. The solution is an amazing level 34-9-9-6-2. No wonder it took me so long. The Grooved board burr #3 is still available from Juno's store here. I am sure that Yukari will be only too delighted to post one out to you straight away. You will not be disappointed in the challenge.

What should I try next? I have received a couple of new puzzles from good friends this week. From Johan Heyns in South Africa, I bought the Septenary cube which requires 4813 moves for full disassembly:

Septenary cube.
Acrylic and wood - a nice relaxing challenge!
Also, I took delivery of a wonderful puzzle made by the incredible Stephan Baumegger from Austria. I couldn't resist the Pandora burr when he showed it off on his Facebook page! At level 33-24-10 it will be a hugely tough challenge...much less than the 4813 for Septenary burr.

How gorgeous is that? Pandora.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

They Made it Right...

In Fact Probably Better Than Ever!

Yes it’s time for you all to rush back to Pelikan Puzzles again and look at a bunch of gorgeous new toys! Not only have they released new stuff but the mistake they made with the last Yamamoto packing puzzle has been fixed and the replacement box is available for all who purchased it for free.

Back in the mists of time (2014) when I attended my first IPP in London, I remember playing with and admiring the stunning beauty of a puzzle designed and made by Mike Toulouzas in the Design Competition room (he actually had 3 entries that year and won the puzzlers award for his Fairy's Door puzzle box). I did not know at the time that it was one of Mike's puzzles but other puzzlers with more experience recognised straight away who had made it from the craftsmanship. I do remember playing with it briefly and not getting anywhere quickly. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for one possibly being released in the future because it was very beautiful and very tactile.

Number 3 of 60
Now, five years on, Mike has collaborated with Jakub and Jaroslav to produce a limited run (60) of the Trinity puzzle and I can categorically say that it is stunning! It arrived in pieces and the aim is to assemble the 3 identical notched pieces into a shape that entrap the 3 wooden posts. Pelikan has constructed this from a beautiful wood which has been smoothly turned and finished to enhance the grain. The puzzle pieces are a nice chunky size and finished so accurately that the corners are sharp (don't poke yourself with one).  I initially began looking for a way to assemble the 3 pieces whilst ignoring the trio of posts. 2 of the pieces fit together very nicely in a few ways but getting the third to make a nice shape and fit together proved slightly awkward. Eventually, I thought of a shape that looked like it should be nice but was blocked. Aha!!! This is a Coordinate motion puzzle - something that Pelikan do very well indeed (see here and here and here)! I worked out a nice movement that would assemble the required shape - it looks lovely...a sort of knot/trefoil.

Time to assemble it on the posts. Oh boy, this takes the difficulty level up a notch or two! Trying to make that sweet coordinate motion with the posts in the way and constraining positions proved rather awkward. The posts were positioned in just the right way so as to require the pieces to be held at an awkward angle and then moved in an even more awkward direction. I'm not sure about all of you but I don't have 3 hands and Mrs S absolutely refuses to help me solve puzzles by providing an extra hand. My initial attempts were not aided by balancing the construction on the back of a very mobile cat! After the second evening of trying and failing, I took it to the kitchen granite and worked there. FINALLY! It slid together in a very satisfying manner and looks fabulous! DON'T press the show/hide button until after you have solved your copy.

The Trinity will be going on display on the desk - something Mrs S only allows for one or two of the most special puzzles!

YES! They made it right!
For all of you who bought the Petit Pack with the last release from Pelikan, you will all be aware that a mistake was made with the box. Once Jakub and Jaroslav had been made aware they were immediately anxious to make it right for all their customers and they have produced a replacement box to the same standards as all their other puzzles. The rear hole is the right size and perfect for you to reattempt to solve this wonderful puzzle.

Crystal Ring
Also in the upcoming release from Pelikan is another of those wonderfully simple-looking packing puzzles based on a 3x3x2 box cavity with an interesting entry shape. The Crystal Ring has been beautifully made and Jakub has assured me that the final shape has been checked thoroughly by Osanori-san himself. Pack the 3 pieces inside...easy peasy! Nope! It requires a 2.5.7 sequence to pack it correctly and involves a very nice little dance of the pieces around each other. The assembly is made tougher by the shape of the pentomino piece really restricting the placement of the other two pieces and is not helped by the fact that the other two are identical. When I tried my assemblies outside of the box it always felt like the tetrominoes should be mirror images to fit around the other piece. The final arrangement of the pieces is quite counterintuitive - the final assembly is very satisfying! Osanori-san and Pelikan definitely got it right this time - wonderful:

Nothing is given away here!
My absolute favourite from the upcoming releases from Pelikan is another by the amazing Osanori Yamamoto, Bisect Frame which is "just" a 2 piece burr in a rather fancy bisected frame:

Bisect Frame
Available in 3 different finishes, it is stunning. I got the Purpleheart and Maple version which makes a lovely contrast. My early play revealed the rather startling bisection of the frame which is beautifully hidden by the amazing craftsmanship by Pelikan. Moving pieces around revealed that there was going to be a really interesting exploration with several blind endings. I used my usual back and forth approach to ensure that I didn't lose track and explored as far as I could. At times the puzzle pieces start to rotate on each other which can add to the challenge of finding the next move and a few times it looked like a rotation might release a piece. In the end, it is only possible in one place to rotate out the pieces and this is just before the final disassembly point anyway. It took me 2 evenings to get my 4 pieces and another evening to work out how to put it back together. Making my customary Burrtools file was a pleasure as always.

Amazingly complex pieces!
I love framed burrs and this is a wonderful example. It is my favourite from this release batch although Trinity looks stunning on display and is a real challenge to assemble.

Also released (but not bought by me) is Peamaru by Volker Latussek, a challenging looking pattern assembly puzzle and the Harun puzzle also by him. This was recently sold out very quickly by Eric Fuller and was Allard's exchange puzzle at the recent IPP in Japan (where it was named Guillotine). My copy is less beautiful but very much appreciated as a gift from the main man himself.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Puzzles can be Big or Small, Metal or Plastic...

Either way, I struggle!

Tree Box by Diniar Namdarian
Just realised that I too the photo with the tree rotated anticlockwise! Doh!
Quite a few months ago I bought a whole bunch of 3D printed sequential movement puzzles from the Master of that genre, Diniar Namdarian. I reviewed the Mazeburr-L here a little while after purchasing it and was very pleased to see it win a Jury Honourable mention prize in the 2019 IPP design competition. Amongst the other puzzles was an interesting box which Diniar describes as a sequential movement/sliding piece puzzle mixed with box and take apart puzzle and jigsaw. Who can possibly resist that? Certainly not me!

When it arrived, I was a little startled at the's big at about 20cm square 5cm deep. There is a nice Bonzai tree printed in relief on the top. After a few days of playing with other toys, I started exploring. Initially, there seems to be no way anything can slide or move. After thinking© for a few seconds, I tried the obvious and I was then able to slide other pieces around. Unlike the classic 15 puzzle, this has pieces that are not single units in length which severely limits the movements that can be made. Despite this, there are 2 or 3 possible sequences that can be started with and I rapidly started to worry that I might be totally lost. I resorted to my usual to and fro movements to try and keep track...this helped only for a bit! Despite extensive exploring, I was struggling to find any way to remove any more pieces or find another mechanism to open the box. The standard tongue and groove method of holding pieces in place was causing a few problems. After several days of playing in the evenings, I had a lovely little Aha! moment and rapidly followed it by a couple more. I had a nice pile of pieces and an open box.

That was fun!
At this point, I went back to the messages from Diniar about the puzzle and realised that the main challenge of it was to reassemble it and refashion the Bonzai tree. No kidding! I had absolutely no clue at all of the order that I had removed the pieces and only a very vague recollection of which pieces were removed from a specific position. The essence of it is that the puzzle no longer looks like a tree when you dismantle pieces so that even if you can put the pieces in then there is no guarantee (it's actually highly unlikely) that you can move them back to the start position.

This stayed as a pile of pieces in the box for nearly 2 months! Once or twice a week I went back to it and tried again. In the end, I had to position the pieces on a flat surface in the start position and move them around until I found the first exit pieces again. At this point, I was able to memorise the piece positions at which they come out and work backwards. It took ages and I very much doubt I could have worked it out any other way. Very clever and rather pretty - well worth a place in a puzzler's collection.

Having solved a large plastic puzzle, I decided to move on to a couple of very small ones:

I've imaginatively named it Yoshi Katani Small puzzle 1
and Yoshi Katani Small puzzle 2
At the last MPP, I admired in Allard's collection, a couple of little acrylic boxes full of tiny pieces all packed in cleverly. Allard, the monster that he is, saw my interest and instead of letting me idly explore from the solved packed puzzle, he upended it and told me to have fun. Swine! I set to playing with the Yoshi Katani small puzzle 1 and in the 15 minutes or so that my attention span lasted, I got nowhere close to putting it back. I glanced briefly at the other one (helpfully named number 2 because Allard cannot remember the proper names), and he immediately tipped the contents out before I could even look at how many pieces there were, let alone the arrangement! He then said that they were duplicates and that I could have them - Thanks, mate! Do you fancy putting them back in their boxes so that I can explore them gently? That will be a no then! I dutifully came home with my pile of (un)happiness cubes in pieces and these 2 little packing puzzles.

This week, I have had some time off work. To my mind, it was to allow me some puzzling time and relaxation but unfortunately "she who has a cat 'o nine tails tongue" had other ideas! DIY was the order of the week! I have successfully rewired some sockets, replaced my house wall thermostat (with only one teeny electric shock which only hurt a small bit - honest) and then replaced a door handle and tubular mortice latch with one that actually allows the doors to open - where does all that nasty black stuff come from? And thank heavens I remembered to put some newspaper down to catch it rather than getting it on the carpet!

In the odd few minutes of spare time, I had a fiddle with something small! These things are only 4x4x3cm and very fiddly. They are very nicely made from coloured and clear acrylic. As with all packing puzzles, I began with trial and error of random assortments of pieces. You all know that seldom works and I was forced to use my feeble electrocuted brain! The puzzle number 1 (whatever it may be really called) is actually a very nice logical puzzle which even I was able to solve by examination of the pieces and a little thought. It went together very nicely:

Yay! Very logical!
Mrs S dropped it during her tidying up and I had to solve it again - interestingly it still took me about 10 minutes! Small puzzle number 2 looks even more logical but so far after quite a few hours of play, it has completely beaten me! I have a pile of little pieces in the kitchen which the cats periodically move around (but don't solve) and which Mrs S is getting pissed off with. I will need to keep at it but all the obvious things which the offset holes have made me try have not come to fruition.

Another lovely puzzle that I tried this week and actually managed to complete was the Hanayama Cast Slider (reviewed beautifully by the PuzzleMad foreign correspondent, Mike). I very much agree with all of his thoughts.

Cast Slider - very mobile but very hooked together

There are some extreme movements possible and as you do them you get a full view of every part of the puzzle. During the exploration, a couple of ideas will immediately appear in your brain to try and if you do them right in the correct direction then there is a nice logical (again) solution. Perfect for beginners and experienced puzzlers! This can be bought from Nic Picot in the UK or in North America is available from PuzzleMaster.

For once a puzzle only took me an evening to solve!
Go buy one, its a nice pocket puzzle with which to entice others into our habit/addiction!

Finally, as always when one is on leave one catches a cold and feels miserable! I looked so awful that Mrs S had pity on me yesterday and allowed me to create a quick video showing off how to go about Aaron's Chinese soft rings. I don't really like solution videos much - I prefer videos that just give a clue to push start a puzzler towards the solution. The video below is for people who are truly stuck. Try to watch as little as you need before it gives away more than you want.

Now it's time to tiptoe back towards small puzzle number 2 before she notices that I am idle! Shhh!

Sunday, 22 September 2019

I Needed Some Zen Puzzling!

Quadrupled Quadlooplet
Life at PuzzleMad HQ has been pretty stressful the last few weeks! There has been some hard (and occasionally quite sad and harrowing) work at the hospital which has kept my mind from any decent concentration when at home. Plus some general life and health stuff at home has also led to a general inability to work on any puzzles. What I needed was to regain my Zen focus. I don't mean that I should go and read my friend Ken Irvine's blog (which I do religiously)...I needed to do something requiring focus and a certain degree of repetitive movement to help achieve me achieve an inner balance again. I decided it was time for a bit of a focus on N-ary puzzles again!

The first one that I began to work on was from my Azerbaijani friend, Namick Salakhov. Last year (2018) he had 2 entries in the IPP puzzle design competition and I had already bought and solved the amazingly complex Loopy Lattice puzzle and had asked for a copy of his other entry that year. These puzzles are terribly difficult to make and hence the wait can be prolonged. It arrived a month ago - I was surprised by the enormous beauty of it. Called the Quadrupled Quadlooplet puzzle, there are 2 challenges:
  1. Start with the looped rope threaded through adjacent holes of the core plate. Release the rope, and then return it to the starting position.
  2. Start with the looped rope threaded through opposite holes of the core plate. Release the rope, and then return it to the starting position.
If you get stuck or tangled then Namick has included a quick-release link within the string loop which I am ashamed to say that I did use a couple of times. It looks absolutely horrendous but luckily for me, it is quite intuitive and a positive pleasure to work out and I quickly achieved my required trance-like state of puzzle-solving! Very therapeutic.

Phew! That was fun. 
The disassembly was fun but did not lead to a full understanding as I discovered when trying to put it back together. I think that Zachary understood it before me - at least he realised that chewing on the string was very satisfying and had I not snatched it away quickly may have lead to an unsolvable puzzle and kebab shits!

He's studying hard!
After 4 or 5 days of experimentation I think I had the puzzle understood and could move back and forth between end states:

String through two opposite holes.
As usual, Namick has designed something captivating and confusing at the same time but definitely solvable with just a little concentration and help from a cat. His workmanship in this very unique material is wonderful and I look forward to the opportunity to obtain more in the future. 

So far my fevered mind has achieved a very small boost from my first N-ary puzzle. I was still far from soothed and not yet able to concentrate on some of the very complex new puzzles I have received over the last few weeks and months (most of the TICs remain unsolved)! I still needed more relaxation. Next N-ary puzzle to be played with was the White Bow Tie made from 3D printed plastic by Aleksandr Leontev:

White Bow Tie
This version is the smaller version of a puzzle (Black Bow Tie) that I spied in Allard's possession at the recent MPP. This lovely object is a rotational version of the Kugellager. The large one was determined by Goetz to be a 9-ary Kugellager requiring 13,122 moves for disassembly. The one I had bought was a dual puzzle - a ternary and a quinary Kugellager requiring 170 and 1251 moves respectively. I was not sure how it had been made as both possibilities and so I set to find out. There is a lovely sequence of moves to be discovered and of course, it had been supplied to me in the quinary assembly. The interesting feature of the quinary puzzle is how the logical sequence that is apparent at the beginning changes over to another sequence partway through and does it again at least another 2 times. This became quite confusing and caused me to get lost on several occasions putting my move count considerably above the proposed 1251. I discovered that this is not a puzzle to work on when one is sleepy as the zen aspect leads to automatic movements and dozing off and then getting inadvertently backtracked whilst dazed. Having woken back up, I discovered my mistake and continued in the correct direction until I had my 5 pieces and could see how the ternary version could be possible:

Even more brain soothing done here!
A game of 2 halves - the Ternary version is flipped
The ternary assembly is achieved by flipping the ring and assembling from the opposite direction - very ingenious. My savage brow was soothed even more by the 170 moves in the opposite direction! I really couldn't face all 1251 moves in reverse!

Next up was a puzzle that I had initially thought was a disentanglement puzzle but it turns out is actually also N-ary, the Chinese Soft Ring! I can never resist buying any of Aaron Wang's amazing wire and string puzzles even if I struggle to solve many of them - they are all beautifully made and a pleasure to play with. I have one of Aaron's puzzles with me pretty much at all times.

Chinese Soft Ring produced by Aaron Wang
The puzzle is supplied as above with a 3 loop assembly on 2 end rings - needless to say - the string does NOT fit through the little gaps in the rings. There are also 2 more rings and 4 more loops and a sheet of paper with a number of challenges. At the IPP design competition, it was supplied in the 3 loop version.

I am rather ashamed to say that this took me several weeks to understand even vaguely understand how this worked. I honestly thought that it was a simple disentanglement puzzle and set about trying to undo the provided version. I got absolutely nowhere. After a couple of weeks, Michel van Ipenburg shamed me by describing that he had solved it fairly easily and I joined a couple of other people who had failed. In the end, this appears to be a binary puzzle (according to Goetz) and at this point, I had an idea. Maybe I should keep the triple assembled as a reference and try and make a simple one or two with the other loops? It required a little thought© but I managed something easy in an evening of TV (I was supposed to be watching the TV series "Chernobyl" but it was so frightening that I was pleased to be looking elsewhere).

Easy peasy!
OK! I might be understanding
I think I am getting there.
I had quite a bit of help from my own string expert and managed to get up to 6 loops:

Zachary is very good with string!
I said on Facebook that I was thinking of stopping there as it had been quite difficult to get to that point in terms of concentration and dexterity. Unfortunately, the puzzle-solving machine that is Louis Coolen took offence at me being a wimp and taunted me with a photo of his own success. Zachary looked me in the eye and told me in no uncertain terms that we were GOING to do this! The following evening I set to and after only a couple of knots and having to backtrack, I had my Chinese soft ring seven loop set:

Man! That is a really unusual puzzle and very enjoyable to work out!
I even achieved a zen state during it once I had understood what was required.
If you like disentanglement puzzles and are interested in N-ary puzzles then you really cannot beat this as both types in one. Multiple challenges make it even more value for money. I still need to work on the further challenges at some point but I sort of got sidetracked yet again...

Vertical by Aleksandr Leontev
I had been putting this one off for a while because of the sheer number of moves required. However, my mental turmoil demanded yet more soothing repetitive motion. The Vertical puzzle is based on Goh Pit Khiam's Num Lock puzzle but set in a cylindrical frame to be compact. The original was Ternary and I think that this version is too. I discussed a beautiful multiple base version of this made by my Woodmaster friend in South Africa, Johan Heyns but I could not resist a new version. This puzzle is supposed to require 14,999 moves to dismantle.

Tongue poking out!
I started work one evening trying to find the sequence. After about 20 minutes of experimentation, I was on my way and gradually settled into a wonderful rhythmic sequence of moves which I could do whilst watching the TV or otherwise sitting with a blank head! Mrs S did comment on several occasions that my expression during the solve of this puzzle was rather like that of my puzzling guru, Zebedee. We both often sit there with our tongues hanging out having no brain power left over to be able to retract it into our mouths!

At times I was able to solve this one at about 1-2 moves per second but had to rest periodically because my tongue was drying out the most moved piece was actually causing me to develop a callus on my finger which was really quite painful. The puzzle was a mammoth effort spread over 4 evenings. Finally, this morning, I had this just in time for this blog post!

OMG! The effort!
Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to the reassembly! My zen state will need to be re-instated to put it back to the beginning! Lord help me!

I do hope that all this zen-puzzling has helped my fevered mind recover a bit so that I can begin to solve some other puzzles soon - only time will tell.

If you are intrigued by the idea of a lovely N-ary wooden and acrylic puzzle then Johan has one left of his Septenary cubes which require a pleasant 4802 moves to open. If you would like to buy it then let me know and I will put you in touch with him. Don't wait too long!

Septenary cube - last one available

Sunday, 15 September 2019

A New Kid on the Block...

Makes His Premiere Puzzle

Premiere from Terry Smart
I have known Terry Smart for quite a few years now. He appeared in the various Facebook puzzle groups around 2013 (as far as I can recall) and seemed to be as good at buying puzzles as I was and just about as bad at solving them! My excuse is that I am not very bright but his excuse was that he spends a huge amount of time off-shore on oil rigs and and doesn't have access to all his enormous collection for very long. He also freely admits that he is more of a collector/hoarder than a solver. So, not only does he have less time at home than me, but he also doesn't necessarily aim to solve everything.

I remember in 2013 he and I began to develop a little bit of an interest in understanding Burrtools more so that maybe we could use it to design puzzles of interest. I managed to make a couple of designs but really had no idea what I was doing and gave up after a month or so. Terry, on the other hand, kept at it and produced quite a few nice designs and interestingly gave them all wonderful Greek and Latin names...he's obviously much better educated than me too! As far as I know, none of them have been manufactured for the puzzling community to enjoy as yet.

It was with great interest that I watched in the last 12 months as Terry became very interested in starting to manufacture puzzles. Unlike many puzzlers, he chose to try the woodwork route rather than 3D printing which kept me watching with fascination as this is exactly what I want to do on the off-chance that I am ever going to be able to retire from the NHS (at the moment my retirement age is supposed to be 67 which fills me with horror as it is soooo far away). Over the last year we have been chatting intermittently on FB messenger and I have seen him spend ENORMOUS amounts on beautiful equipment from the US and then add a huge customs ransom on top. I was staggered at the amount of spending on something that might go nowhere! In private, he showed me a picture of the design he had produced which I thought was rather advanced for a beginner - the frame was incredibly complex - it would need to be glued to perfection and the tolerances would have to be perfect to get a working puzzle. The trouble with puzzle making is that every tiny error in alignment can be magnified further along a stick until you end up with a non-functioning puzzle once all the tiny errors have been added up.

Just a week ago, he showed off a completed puzzle which looked looked like it had been created by one of the established "masters". A bunch of us expressed interest and Terry wanted a quick assessment by someone with knowledge, experience and puzzle skills. Unfortunately he could only find me and I quickly agreed to evaluate his first produced design which is fittingly called Premiere. I couldn't resist it - it is one of my favourite types of puzzle - a 6 piece burr in a frame! He had attempted to make 4 but, after one broke and the others failed to work, he was left with just the one working copy and during the week it arrived chez moi whilst I was out at work.

So, how is it? I can hear you all screaming at the internet (those voices again!). The puzzle looks lovely - the burr sticks are Maple and the frame is made from Jatoba aka Brazilian Cherry. It has been waxed and lacquered and feels beautifully smooth. The burr sticks have had their external ends all chamfered nicely and amazingly the endgrain all matches perfectly (Terry admits this was more luck than anything else). In the frame, all the glued joints are perfectly aligned and no join can be felt. For a first attempt (or for any attempt) this is BLOODY AMAZING!

What about the solve process? This sort of puzzle is one of my favourites for a is never too high a level and the process always tends to be fun without being too arduous. In places a few of the moves are a little tight but no real force is required and this is no more than I would find happens with puzzles from Alfons or from Pelikan. There are a number of moves possible and a few blind ends. I got to a point where it looked like a stick or two could be removed but the frame got in the way and I was unable to find another move further along that track. A few rewinds to the beginning revealed that one stick was a little awkward to click into place (possibly due to the very sharp/perfect internal edges catching) and I worried that this was the reason that I was unable to progress. Back and forth I went, peering inside the puzzle to see why the move I wanted to make wasn't happening. In the end, I saw that the move wasn't happening because it was impossible and the wrong move entirely! As I have said...not very bright! Now what? Think©!

I thunked and realised that there was another delightful set of moves to try which I had not noticed the first few (10 or so) times. After this, I had a breakthrough and a piece came out followed by a few more. At no point did it collapse in a heap which was very satisfying. I had a lovely set of pieces for a photo:

Even signed and dated like those by Alfons or Eric
Reassembly was just as much fun. I had some recollection of how it had come apart but had scrambled the pieces and lost my orientation on the frame. Nevertheless, I was able to reassemble the puzzle in just a ½ hour. Wonderful! The puzzle is not quite perfect but is 99.99% there - maybe a tiny adjustment of the interior tolerances or an internal chamfer?

So what is my verdict for this "new kid on the block" or "new kid on the burr"?

AMAZING design! AMAZING craftsmanship!

Even though he is a friend, I would say that he is someone to watch. His skills will continue to evolve and I am sure that his puzzles will be very collectible. He already designs some fabulous puzzles but if he can make them too then we might have another Alfons or Stephan on our hands. Just look at the detail on these pieces:

Terry is planning on making another 10-20 of the Premiere puzzle available within the next month or two and I advise that you should all consider getting hold of a copy! I will be watching out for future designs being produced.

An assembly puzzle that I am supposed to solve logically?

Logical progression
Eric Fuller has been at it again! He has produced lots of womnderful loveliness to tempt me. Unfortunately, I have spent all my pocket money over the last few months and only had a little bit of change left over. A difficult decision was required and I made it quickly - I had been facsinated by the Logical progression puzzle that had sold out before I got a chance to buy a few months ago. Eric had gotten permission from the designer, Rick Eason, to make another batch. I had missed out (even in just an hour) on the Walnut version but luckily there were (and still are) a few copies of the Maple version left - I snapped it up and it arrived yesterday.

I'd seen it at the MPP and shied away from disassembling it and failing yet again to assemble something in front of all the guys. At home, I just went for it and now wish that I hadn't:

What on earth have I done?
This is supposed to be logical? Lord help me! The cats were very interested in all the protruding dowels and, in an attempt to prevent a lot of chewing occuring, I quickly reassembled it. Something tells me this isn't right:

Less to chew on!
I'll let you know how I get on...IF I get on.


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