Tuesday 29 January 2013

First there was the cube - and then.....

Surely this cannot be real!!!
This is the 3x5x7 cuboid - it was designed by the truly amazing Gregoire Pfennig and is available (not cheap) from Puzzle Maestro’s Shapeways store. At present I think it is probably the toughest cuboid available in the world although I’m sure not for how long - it is my absolute favourite twisty puzzle just now and has stimulated me to write a more general post about cuboids.

As you have probably realised over the last year, I have become progressively more addicted to twisty puzzles. I embarked on this odyssey with some trepidation - I emailed a few of the more vocal twisty puzzlers and asked them “what was their secret?” and “how do you go about a approaching a new puzzle?”. Now Rox was her usual mad self and told me that the puzzzles "talk to her" and she just listened to them and they would tell her how to solve them! Well, if I waited for that to happen, I’d never manage to solve anything - I may (or may not) hear voices but couldn’t possibly say in public for fear of being carried off by the men in white coats. Crazy Bad Cuber and SuperAnonioVivaldi were very helpful but couldn’t really tell me what they do. But they basically said that they had learned basic algorithms and added some more complex algorithms and over time and after experimentation they had learned what other effects they had on the puzzle. After that, solving came fairly naturally with trial and experimentation. All of these “Gods” of the twisty puzzle world were very encouraging, trying to entice me into their world. I was still very skeptical about it but decided to give it a go and buy a “few” twisty puzzles!

Well 85 puzzles later I can categorically say that they were right! I have actually reached a point where I can pick up a new puzzle and after some investigation, I can often (although not always) work out an approach to solving it using just existing algorithms (sometimes used in unusual ways) and am now even starting to understand the process of making commutators (techniques for cycling pieces by combining short sequences). I am far away from the genius of at least a dozen of the guys on the Twisty Puzzle forum but I feel I have reached a point at which I can even consider myself able to teach - at the moment I’m sort of assisting a young man in Australia via Facebook messenger - who'd have believed it?

Enough rambling!!! What are you going to review?

The main focus of this topic is one that a few correspondents have requested that I write about - when you have learned the basic cubes (3x3 & 4x4) then the options I’ve discussed before open up to you. In that article I chose an eclectic mixture of shape mods, crazy cubes and alternative shapes but ultimately my real favourites have been the cuboids of which I now have about 15. A little while ago I was amazed to see that SuperAntonioVivaldi had produced a summary of the different families of cuboid based on approach to solving. I think that this wonderful treatise needs to be shared so I asked his permission (and received it) to publish a summary of it on my blog for all general puzzlers to read. Thanks so much! If you want to watch his original video then visit his YouTube classification video here.

Tuesday 22 January 2013

The Sidewinder and the Teddy!

I seem to be coming to the end of my last batch of puzzles from Puzzle Master - this means that it is definitely time to order some more! You know I can't resist it - they have such a huge selection to choose from! The Sidewinder is one of Puzzle Master's own range of wire and string puzzles - as you know by now, the puzzles with string in them frighten me a lot due to the horrendous knots you can get into. Although I have to say that only one of the Puzzle Master puzzles has ever ended up so badly knotted that I have had to physically dismantle it to solve it.

This one looked fairly uncomplicated in it's construction so I figured that it would be unlikely to end up in too much of a mess. We'll come back to that later! It is really good value at $10 and whilst it doesn't look like much, remember that it is rated at level 10 out of 10 (Mind Boggling) so be prepared for a real challenge. It arrives in the usual nice clamshell packaging with the only instructions being to remove the string and balls from the metal structure. It is nicely compact at 13.3 x 4.1 cm and the string is 35cm long. This means it will fit in your pocket whilst you are out and about and annoy the hell out of your wife at all sorts of inopportune moments (OUCH! - sorry dear!). No solution is provided and if you need one then you can down load it from here.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Puzzle-breaker? I don't think so!

The Lotus puzzle from Wil Strijbos
It may not seem like it from the title, but this is a review of the latest creation to come out of the brilliant twisted mind of Wil Strijbos (aka the Puzzle pusher). This one, which I'm sure you all are aware of, is The Lotus puzzle. It has already been reviewed by 2 of my fellow bloggers so far (Allard and Jerry) but there does seem to be a general clamour for more about it, so here you go.

"Why the silly title of the blog post?" I can hear you scream at your computer. There is a reason for it which I'll come to later!

At the last MPP held in the UK I got to have a very brief look at the prototype of this puzzle. At that time, it was non-anodised but still beautiful. It was handed out to see what we could do with it. I only had a few minutes and got nowhere at all but was intrigued enough to say to Wil that I would definitely want one when they were ready for production. So just before Christmas when Wil's email newsletter came out offering it and a few other goodies for sale I jumped at the chance. It was not cheap - it was €90! But I have to say, for me, I think it was worth it! This puzzle habit is ruining my finances! If you are not yet on Wil's email list and you have fragile finances then stay away!!

Wednesday 9 January 2013

More Than Just a Blogger!!

Ball In Cylinder Puzzle
A young man whom I now consider a good friend despite us never having met has shown that the impossible can occur. Yes! A puzzle blogger and collector can turn into a puzzle designer and producer! He managed all this whilst being a happily married man with a toddler to care for and also learning to play flute!

Who is this paragon of virtue? None other than Mr Jerry Loo! My first contact with him was over a year and a half ago when he contacted me for some advice about adding to his collection which initially was limited to metal puzzles. I encouraged him to add certain pieces, also enticed him into the delights of wooden interlocking puzzles and Burrtools and together we have helped each other solve quite a number of difficult puzzles by emailing back and forth with clues and suggestions. He is a far better solver than me but I think I am a far better collector than him (apart from his having the entire set of Popplocks)!

He informed me some time ago that he had designed a metal puzzle and I was encouraging and hopeful that he would sell me one when it was ready. I was not surprised that he would make a metal puzzle as that is his first love but I was staggered that he would have the wherewithall to produce something as beautiful and well made as he did in metal (after all, working in metal requires some rather special tools and skills) I was also flattered that he would send me one for free to try out (I did offer to pay!!)

Sunday 6 January 2013

A Cube With No Angles?

Golden egg - except it's green!
No! I'm not going to start a discourse on Non-Euclidean geometry! Not unless you ask really nicely! This post is about twisty puzzles that don't have corners! Such things do exist - they don't have to have corners. I have shown a few puzzles that aren't cubic, some have been cuboid and others have been rhombus shaped or dodecahedra. All of these have had some kind of corners to them and the presence of corners at least provides you with something to orient yourself when solving the twisty puzzle.

My last Puzzle Master delivery included something that I really wasn't sure about - a twisty puzzle that had no corners - it's egg shaped. This one is the Golden egg. Yes I can see that it's green! It actually comes in quite a variety of different colours and I think the original version was golden (hence the name) and it was based on the mechanism of the Golden cube designed by Tony Fisher. I would very much have liked to have bought a Golden version but they are only available occasionally when they come up on eBay or someone is selling one on the Twisty Puzzles forum. BUT they usually sell for several $100 and I personally don't want to buy something that is so special and collectible that I'm too frightened to use it - puzzles are for playing with not storage and display! So I got the green one.

Tuesday 1 January 2013

Happy New Year - 2012 A Puzzling Review

Yep! An embarassment of puzzles!
Happy New Year Everyone - I hope 2013 brings health, happiness and friendship to you all! and some more puzzles!!!

The State of the Union Collection

Last New Years Day I posted a quick review to show how much my collection had improved and said that it had gone from a bit of a hobby to a rather bad habit! Well, I'm afraid that according to the first wife it has gone from a bad habit to an all encompassing obsession! Unfortunately, I have to agree with her - I decided to create a proper database to keep track of it and stupidly included prices (complete with currency conversions) and got a bit of a shock. Actually it was a LOT of a shock!! This is now a definite obsession! Not to be left out, the present Mrs S decided that if I can have a collection, then so should she and she was delighted to tell me that Santa lived in a Mulberry store as yet another handbag entered the house for Christmas - apparently that was my Christmas present to her! I justify my puzzling as a way to keep the mind busy - Alzheimer's dementia does run in my family and so I always claim to her that I am just fending it off - that way, the date at which she will be having to feed me and wipe my bum will be delayed (hopefully forever); I knew there was a reason I married a professional nurse!!

And there's more!
I also use my puzzles to keep some of my patients occupied during operations carried out under nerve block or spinal/epidural. They all seem very grateful and some have even requested to be anaesthetised by me again so they can try some more puzzles! I wonder if I can claim them as a business expense?