Tuesday 25 December 2012

Christmas wishes and thanks

Limited edition burr puzzles from Mr Puzzle
My good friend Roxanne posted some time ago her Christmas wish list for her puzzling year. Primarily she was hoping to chase down some bargains from the amazing puzzle sculptor Miguel Berrocal. At the end of her post, in the comment section, I added my own wishes for the next puzzling year:

"My wish? Just for the designers to keep on designing, the fabulous craftsmen to keep making me beautiful toys and for those wonderful men in China to keep manufacturing more and more amazing twisties!

I too would like to meet a few more people - hopefully next year I will get to the German and Dutch cube days to meet some people I only know by email. Japan's IPP is probably going to be out of my reach but the year after in Europe? Here's hoping I get nominated/invited."

I have now been blogging for about 2 years now and have met (in real life and virtually) some fantastic people. They are generous with their skills, their knowledge and their time and I have tried to live up to their expectations. I have tried to do this by introducing as many others to the wonderful world of puzzles as I can and to let them play with my own collection to get a taste of what can be done, a few of them have become as hooked as me and I continue to help and encourage them in their solving and collection.

Via this blog, I have been contacted by and made good friends with, puzzlers (both novices and experienced) from all over the globe who speak many different languages. Some have asked for advice on what to buy and I have aimed to help them on their journey (my post on Twisties for beginners was the result of one such series of emails). Equally, some of my friends have encouraged me to start making my own puzzles and have even sent me various pieces with which to start (I will especially be eternally grateful to Felix for all his help). Some have offered advice on tools and craftsmanship. Other friends have offered their time and experience to teach me techniques I can use to solve new puzzles.

I am now in contact with many many craftsmen from all over the world, all of whom are very generous with their time and I have acquired a lot of fabulously beautiful pieces of art as a result of these communications. Yes! The workmanship in many of my puzzles is such that they should be considered works of art - many of my non-puzzling friends who I bore to death with pictures on my phone or on Facebook also tell me that they are really beautiful.

So, as you can see, it's not just about the puzzle, it's the people in this community who make the whole process much more exciting for me and I hope to meet a few more in the flesh next year.

What avaricious wishes do I have? Well I would like to have the complete set of limited edition burr puzzles from Brian Young aka Mr Puzzle. Those are the ones pictured at the top of this post. Brian's work is spectacular and having bought his Opening bat puzzle, I know I cannot resist any of the other limited editions! I do plan on writing a review of it soon!

I would also like some "man tools" as Rox puts it, to help me make something for myself. I am considering the Proxxon modelling range including planer thicknesser, table saw, disk sander and table router as well as some nice hand tools. If any of you have any more suggestions or criticisms of this equipment then do let me know.

Proxxon "Man" tools
Finally my Christmas wish is really to say a big thank you to my lovely wife (of 18 years) for putting up with me and my new obsession whilst I have spent every waking moment thinking about puzzles, solving puzzles or buying puzzles! As many of my colleagues say, she is an absolute saint for putting up with it! I sort of agree with them BUT she has decided that if I can "collect" puzzles, then she can "collect" Mulberry handbags - and over the last few years she has worked really hard on increasing that collection (so you see - she is making me pay for my habit very dearly!)

Sunday 16 December 2012

A Searious Burr!

A Searious Burr
The Searious burr is a seriously good puzzle. I bought it from Brian Young (aka MrPuzzle) several months ago and, when it arrived, immediately had to have a play. As the name suggests it's a burr puzzle and, whilst I'm pretty rubbish at them, I absolutely adore them. Like all burrs the aim is to disassemble it and then put it back together again. It is made from just 13 pieces so should be simple? Is it? Not really! You see, it has a hidden lock in it and that makes it really quite difficult - at least for me!

I managed to obtain the very last one they had in stock for $72AUD and at present there are no more available, but according to the product page they will be coming soon. Here's what Brian has to say:

"Modelled on Chicago's tallest building, the Sears Tower, Brian created this 13 piece interlocking burr.  But it's so much more than just an interlocking burr; incorporating the use of tools supplied as part of the puzzle it's biggest challenge is to open the secret lock.  It will take 13 moves to unlock the secret internal mechanism.   (The elegant solution does not involve force, or banging, or hitting against another surface).
Considering it has no gravity pins or magnets Brian considers it to be the hardest progressive move discovery puzzle he's designed so far. 

Is 13 your lucky number?"

It is part of Brian's Craftsman range which means they tend to be made out of some rather nice hardwoods rather than the usual dyed wood in the cheaper range. This puzzle is manufactured from Queensland Black Wattle - aka Australian Blackwood. It is 60mm x 60mm x 137mm tall to the top of it's communications towers and has brass antennae on top (these metal parts are one of the features that marks Brian as different from other Wood craftsmen - he can work just as well in metal). Allard is the only blogger who has reviewed it so far.

Friday 14 December 2012

A landmark!

Yesterday my total page views passed 100,000!

I am absolutely stunned that any of you would want to read any of my drivel! I started this blog in March 2011 just to chat about some of my new toys! It was also an exercise for me to learn about web domains, hosting, HTML as well as to possibly inform people about puzzles that they might be interested in. I never dreamed that people would actually read it! In fact, according to Google Analytics, I seem to get 200-400 page views every day and if I post something good then considerably more! To date I have posted 163 posts and it has not felt like a chore ever. I have never had a hobby which I have kept going for so long.

Through the comments system, I get great feedback from you about puzzles to try and your own thoughts on those that I've reviewed - all your feedback is greatly appreciated I read and try to respond to every single one. My contact page has allowed some very interesting people from all over the world to strike up some fascinating conversations and I have made some really precious friendships that way - even though I have never met most of them. I correspond with designers, craftsmen and shop owners and am always delighted at how kind all puzzle folk seem to be!

I know I have been a little slower recently with my reviews - I apologise for this and will try to produce more but I'm afraid I do have to work quite hard to support what has now become a very expensive habit (as well as a very expensive first wife). If any of you have suggestions for the future pathway that I should take with this blog then all suggestions will be gratefully received. I have changed track a little over the last few months as I have begun to spread my expertise into the twisty arena.

I am looking forward to the next 100,000 page views! Thank you all for motivating me to keep going.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Hanayama Cast H&H

Hanayama Cast H&H
It has been quite some time since I last posted on a Hanayama puzzle and now I will review this one the Cast H&H. I received it some time ago in my last Puzzle Master delivery (which reminds me that it may be time to get some more - they have such a great variety of puzzles of every type!!)

As with all these puzzles they come in a black Hanayama box beautifully packaged with the puzzle tied to a card holder inside. It is a lovely chromed metal and is a good size at 4.8 x 2.9 x 2.9 cm in size. It has a good heft to it and feels great in the hands - most Hanayama puzzles are nicely tactile but this one is particularly so. The H&H is named because it is made of 2 pieces of cast metal each of which is an H shape. It is absolutely beautiful to look at - I'm afraid my photography setup is just not good enough to make it look as good as it does in real life. The website describes it well - the 2 Hs look identical but they are subtly different from each other and you need to use the differences to work your way through the maze of possible movements to separate it into it's 2 halves. Designed by Oskar van Deventer, this is an absolute bargain of a puzzle at $13!

It is rated as level 9 (Gruelling) on the 5-10 point Puzzle Master scale and by Hanayama themselves as 5 out of 6 and I think that is about right. On the Puzzle Master listing for this page it has been reviewed by many puzzlers and uniformly been given 4 or 5 stars (one person found it too easy!). It has been reviewed by quite a few bloggers before me and they all really enjoyed it - you can find the reviews by the various bloggers by clicking on their names; Will (found a novel solution), Neil, Brian, Gabriel and Gunnar (German) . The solution is not provided in the box. I doubt you will need it but it is available from Puzzle Master here.