Sunday, 11 November 2018

Both Metal and Plastic can be Sublime and Ridiculous!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Such a simple design but not a simple solution!

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 4 November 2018

My Happiness Ends With a GiganTIC Bang!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Lord help me!
Any suggestions? Sob!

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

Sunday, 28 October 2018

The Happiness Continues and Yukari Placates Mrs S

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 21 October 2018

A Frustrating Week Finally Ends in Some Happiness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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