Wednesday 29 February 2012

Twisty puzzle madness I - TomZ's curvy copter

Tommy and Roxanne, having played with this puzzle for the last few days, I can say that you are both forgiven for getting me so badly hooked on these damn twisty things again!

TomZ's Curvy Copter
I had not intended to start my reviews with this one! But, I can't resist it! It's absolutely fabulous! This particular cube was designed by Tom van der Zanden, an incredibly prolific young Dutch puzzle designer (dare I say, a new Oskar van Deventer?). He has been designing Twisty puzzles for years now and selling them via his Shapeways store - beware there is stuff there that will make your bank account curl up and die! He announced the initial arrival of this puzzle on the Twistypuzzles forums in February of 2010. He had based the initial idea on Adam Cowan's Helicopter cube and added curved surfaces to make the turning easier and  also to allow some of the hidden inner edge pieces to be visible on the surface, making for an extra twist to solving this puzzle!

So what is a Curvy copter? Why is it special? You are all familiar with a standard cube (I think the whole world must know what one is by now!) - a standard cube is a 3x3x3 face turning cubic twisty puzzle - it is easy to visualise and relatively easy to solve. Then we have a skewb (or skewed cube) this is a deep cut (2x2) corner turning cubic twisty puzzle - it is "deep cut" because one turn makes changes on every face of the cube. So the only thing missing from this progression is an edge turning cubic twisty puzzle - the 2 variants that do this are the Helicopter cube and TomZ's Curvy copter. He has also created a deep cut version called the Curvy copter II. The Curvy copter that I own was first mass produced by Uwe Meffert in July 2011 (having been made by a knock-off company before that) and is still available from him. He had been out of stock recently and I bought mine from the HKnowstore run by Calvin Fan who seems to work closely with Uwe. This puzzle is amazingly good value for money at $18 including P&P!!

Saturday 25 February 2012

G Factor

G Factor

Yes I know I shouldn't have! But I really enjoyed the last group of Puzzle Master wire puzzles.  They were beautifully made and most of them were a real challenge without getting me tied into knots! So I have ordered a new batch from Puzzle Master which I will be reviewing over the coming weeks. I really couldn't help myself - I actually blame the Yak for tipping me over the edge - it was so different that I had to try more.

Last Saturday I got up very early for a trip to Devon - yes visiting James Dalgety's puzzle museum, a dream come true! I am actually having serious thoughts about going to live with him - there is so much stuff there that I reckon if I hid in a corner he might not find me for weeks!!! (apart from the sound of drooling and mumbling - Precious!!!) For the journey I packed a whole load of new puzzles to play with and upset the adjacent passengers!!! Also I brought one or two in case James hadn't seen them before (silly me!!)

So, on the train down (2½ hour trip), I thought I'd start with the G Factor, a rather attractive 3 part puzzle in which you have to remove the G shaped wire piece.

It comes in Puzzle Master's usual clamshell packaging with very simple instructions. It is level 8 out of 10 (I personally would put it as a 7 but I have seriously been practicing these puzzles now). It is beautifully made and finished with a very solid construction. There was an odd white residue on it when I took it out of the box but it has polished up very nicely. No solution is provided but if you need one then it is available for download here.

Sunday 19 February 2012

Yesterday I died and think I went to heaven!

No puzzle review this weekend, I'm afraid! Why not - 2 reasons. First I have been working rather long hours and am actually on-call today (Sunday) but secondly (the main reason), yesterday my good puzzle friend, Allard arranged a trip for a small group of us:

One wall of one room!
Yes!!! I went to James Dalgety's Puzzle Museum! James is almost certainly the world's greatest puzzle and associated 'stuff' collector! It is the combination of his own collection added to Edward Hordern's after he died in 2000.

I had missed out on the previously arranged visit and so jumped at the chance when Allard invited me. Devon is quite a way from Sheffield and due to quite a number of late nights recently, I decided to take the train. I managed to get a direct connection to Taunton where a grinning Allard was waiting to take me the rest of the way. He said that I was the navigator!! Apparently this place is so far off the beaten track that a Sat-nav is definitely not to be trusted! Last time they nearly killed themselves on some very narrow windy "tracks". In fact Allard was not using his normal car because it would not be able to manage the rather rough terrain. I gulped and picked up the printout with navigation instructions with some trepidation! We arrived about 30 minutes later to James' rather lovely house and were greeted by James, Lindsey and 2 rather exuberant and noisy dogs. Very odd looking museum, I thought.

Saturday 11 February 2012

Twisty Puzzle Madness - It's Tommy's Fault!

Yes Tommy! You know who you are! If she divorces me, it will all be your fault! Actually, maybe I can blame Mrs S instead! For a joke, at the beginning of my puzzling obsession, for Christmas 2010 she gave me a Rubik's pair of cubes - 3x3 and 4x4. I spent the next few days trying to solve them, much to her disgust. As a teenager, in 1981, when Erno Rubik first brought them to the UK, I had both cubes. At that time I actually managed to solve the 3x3 myself and did part of the 4x4 too! The rest I had to gain from one of the many books that were produced.

So during that Christmas period I worked and worked and worked on these blasted cubes and only got about 2/3 of the way through without finally having to resort to the internet and to find the algorithms I needed to finish them off.

Shortly after I managed the 2 she bought for me - I decided to buy some higher order cubes and went to Verdes international to buy the V-cubes from them (they were supposed to have a fantastic mechanism - they certainly do!) So up until a few days ago I had a collection which looked like this:

My small but perfectly formed collection. Up till recently!
Now, the internet is a wonderful place! But it is also a place of madness! I found a huge treasure trove of cubers out there with dozens of different approaches to solving cubes! One approach needed only 2 basic algorithms and a whole lot of thought! This appealed to me but I just couldn't get my head around what the author was trying to make me do - I tried for days to understand his method but I just couldn't make it work for me at all, so I abandoned it! Other approaches encourage you to learn dozens of algorithms - one for every possible orientation of the cubelets. The advantage of these techniques seem to be that they allow speed-cubing. I remember being able to solve a cube in about 45-60 seconds as a teenager but never the speeds that the guys seem to manage now (sub 10 seconds). I am an old man now (45!!!) and can barely remember who or where I am (I find myself halfway up the stairs, not only have I forgotten what I was going for but also whether I was going up or down!!) so there is not a chance that I could learn the huge number of different algorithms that was required for that!

Tuesday 7 February 2012


The Trigemino puzzle is made by Philos, a German company who, oddly, do not seem to manage to sell in the UK (there are 1 or 2 other European internet retailers who stock a limited amount of their rather huge range of nice looking puzzles). I got this particular copy from Puzzle Master. I quite fancied it because of the rather fabulous looking woods that were used. It is pretty reasonably priced at $28, especially as there are actually five puzzles for the price of 1! My original expectation was that it was going to be similar to the Maze'n'Cubes puzzle designed by my puzzle friend Derek Bosch (aka Smiteo) - his puzzle is available in printed plastic from Shapeways but I would really love a wooden version - hence I chose this! Let me say from the outset, this is totally different to Derek's puzzle (it was designed by Sonja Heinz) with a totally different mechanism. BUT I am not at all disappointed!

It comes in a nice clear plastic Philos package with a leaflet inside containing instructions and the solution to the basic puzzle in the box. But, if you lose it and want a pdf version then it can be downloaded from here. I was careful not to look at the solution!! This leaflet also gives some pictures of the other possible shapes that you can attempt.

It consists of 3 cubes made from 6 pieces of interlocked wood. Each cube is 72mm across a side and when fully constructed the whole thing takes up an 11cm cubic space. It has already been reviewed by Neil on his blog. I don't know how he found out but he states that the woods are Havea (light wood), Samena (mid-brown wood) and Black Palm (very dark striped wood) and I agree with him that they are just beautiful! Puzzle Master rate it as a 6 (Tricky) out 10 in difficulty (remember they start at 5!) and I would agree with this evaluation.

Thursday 2 February 2012

The Last Batch of Livewire Puzzles (#9)

Pine Tree
This is blog post number 9 detailing my adventures with the puzzles from Livewire in Canada!!! These last 4 are supposed to be the most difficult they have on their site (all level 10). I start with the Pine Tree puzzle. This is another member of the ladder ring group of puzzles and is very old in it's design. The originals came from China and were shaped like a Pagoda. These come from Canada and hence are shaped like the national tree!!!