Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Yak Puzzle - Brian's Nemesis Revisited

The Yak Puzzle
It doesn't look like much does it? I thought so too when I first picked it up but looks can be deceiving can't they? My recent huge Puzzle master hoard included this one and I left it nearly to the last because, having read about it on Brian Pletcher's blog (he actually dedicated two posts to it - Sept 2009 and Jan 2010), I was really frightened of it. I'm sure you are wondering why! Most of you will know by now that I have done quite a lot of disentanglement puzzles over the last year, including almost the entire collection from Livewire puzzles in Canada - all 36 of them! I have also upset one of my local puzzle friends by solving several of his disentanglement puzzles in minutes when he had failed after days or weeks! So after this huge experience of this type of puzzle, why should I be frightened? It is, after all, all wire - no string or anything! So it should be easy, shouldn't it? Oh no its not!!

The Yak puzzle comes in the usual Puzzle Master clamshell plastic container and has the instruction simply to "remove the handle" and then, obviously, to put it back the way you found it. It was designed by the Master wire puzzle designer, Dick Hess. There is no solution provided but it is available for download here - believe it or not, you might actually need it!! It is well made, and actually, if you squint at it, looks vaguely Yak-like! It has good quality wire and two diamond shapes are gold coloured (one of these is not removable). It is also a good size at 13.9 x 11.5 x 5.8cm so is not too fiddly to play with. Puzzle Master rate it as a 10 (Mind Boggling) out of 10 in their difficulty rating! Gulp!!

When you look closely at it, you will see that the 3 "rings" are not actually interleaved! Each one sort of straddles another one and the way they are arranged blocks them from falling apart. This is a mathematical structure called Borromean rings:

3 rings locked but not interleaved
So with some considerable trepidation, I took this one out and really wondered what had happened to Brian. Normally he is a puzzle solving machine! He does admit that wire puzzles are not his forté, but then goes on to solve everything in sight within a fairly short period of time. Brian struggled with this one for about a year before he finally got it!

My initial thoughts were that there were only 2 possible exit points and one was far too small to consider - therefore this was going to be fairly easy! I started jingling just before dinner and quite quickly got shouted at for the noise. "She who must be obeyed" absolutely hates this sort of puzzle. I had to put it down for dinner and afterwards whilst on the phone to my mother, I picked it up again (Mrs S won't shout at me whilst we are on the phone!!)

The very odd thing was that, I had a sudden thought (I'm not known for having many thoughts so I suspect that will be the last one in 2012 and possibly I have used up 2013's allocation too!) and after about 15 minutes of fiddling in total, the freely moving gold diamond dropped off into my lap and then the handle came off a moment later! I was so surprised that I stopped talking in mid-sentence to my mother!! I was able to get it back together fairly easily too. Now in the process I had used a very small amount of force and I suspected that this was a cheat. I didn't want to look at the solution just yet so I left a comment on Brian's page asking him the relevant question (Blogger is quite good in that it informs the owner of a blog when comments are left even on pages that are very old). A few days later, Brian got back to me and he also remembered the forced move and reassured me that there was another way to solve it.

At least I had discovered the correct exit strategy but needed a new way to get to it. This was where things went wrong! I tried for about 2 weeks with no success - I continued to try the same thing again and again and again (Einstein's definition of insanity) to no avail. I later remembered that someone told me that with this sort of puzzle, if there is an odd shape on it then it is there for a reason. The Yak puzzle has quite a few interesting shapes to it and whilst fiddling, I saw how to get it into a new conformation. This opened up a lot of possibilities. Whilst exploring this I had a Eureka moment - it allowed me to do the move I had before but without force. This time the puzzle slid apart with ease.

Three pieces - effectively rings
I have to say that this is one of the most brilliant wire puzzles I have done. It is a great shape and has a solution which is completely novel. If you are into disentanglement puzzles then get this one right away! It is brilliant! If you are new to puzzles then save this for later - you will need some practice at easier ones first. But buy it anyway - you can't go wrong for $12!!!


  1. Excellent job, Kevin! You are the Houdini of wire disentanglements!

    1. Thank you!!! I try very hard not to look to dim to the general public!

  2. Ahh, the wire puzzles... I love them and I hate them. I also have a few of those for review, but I only write like, one a month to rest my brain :P

    1. One day I'll get a brain!!! I think they are over-rated. I'm quite happy being "not terribly bright"!!!

  3. Sounds like I need to buy 36 Livewire puzzles and solve them first, as the Yak has had me going for nearly 6 months now since I bought it from Dick Hess himself.

    1. Yes, it seems there is something to be said for solving progressively harder puzzles to gain experience. For example Brian tried the Yak very early on. I'm currently stuck on Dick's "Outrageous Rings", so I'm not willing to even purchase a Yak until I can solve it!

    2. I think I'm going to have to get some more of Dick's wire puzzles! You can never have too many puzzles - even if they jingle and annoy the wife!!!

    3. Neil,
      I can recommend all the Livewire puzzles - they vary from fairly easy to very very tough indeed (especially the ones that have some string involved).

      Buying the whole lot at once like I did is a little eye-wateringly painful for the wallet!!!

    4. What a blessing I don't have a wife...yet...
      Not ready for the "laser stare".
      I really need to consider buying some of the live wire puzzles.

    5. You don't need a wife! Her shoe and handbag habit will impair your ability to buy puzzles. The Livewire puzzle sets are a good place to start and Puzzle Master's wire puzzles are also very extensive.

      Beware! The laser stare burns burns burns!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...