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!!)

This puzzle is the Ball in a Cylinder puzzle. When it arrived, it consisted of a large aluminium cylinder with a hole in one end and there were obviously at least 2 ball bearings inside - I could hear them rattling around. The hole was covered with tape which I promptly removed and then had to chase a ball bearing around the kitchen! So one ball fell out and the other was trapped inside. The hole forms a shaft that goes the length of the puzzle and has a hole on each side of it. The larger bearing is trapped so what is the aim? (no instructions were included) You discover this quite quickly - put the small bearing inside and roll it back and forth, what happens when it rolls over one of the holes? Clatter! It falls through and is now rattling around inside the cylinder and not visible anywhere! Aha! yep, you guessed it - "try and get the ball bearing out again" presumably via some kind of maze. How do you do this? You can't see anything, you can't feel anything, all you can do is hear it!

Yes, you navigate a hidden maze to extract one ball bearing out of 2 that are trapped by sound alone! Genius!!! Now how good is your hearing? Can you tell the sound of one ball bearing in a pair as it moves inside a metal cylinder? Me neither! As my good friend allard says: "Think"! and when you do that it becomes possible to draw some rather interesting pictures most of which will be entirely wrong and much too complex. Not only should you "Think"! But you should think "clever". After 15 minutes of just rattling about aimlessly (and you know how much the present Mrs S loves it when I jingle/rattle!) Then about 30-45 minutes of of actually thinking about it, and the ball bearing came out and shot across the kitchen chased by me and a cat! both of us really pleased with ourselves!

Ball bearing now extracted
I tried a second time and it didn't take long - this time it helped me hone down my thoughts and I have contacted Jerry with a description of what I think is going on. He has confirmed it and I can say that it is a lovely puzzle - it is beautifully made, beautifully clever in execution and just the right level of difficulty. If you get a chance to play with one then grab it - I will bring mine to an MPP soon!

I am hugely looking forward to the next design from Jerry - apparently he already has some ideas! So read his blog and hopefully you'll get some good ideas about puzzles that are worth buying as well as a heads up if he is going to produce anything for sale.

Sigh! I wish I was creative and skilled! All I can do is collect puzzles, occasionally solve them and write about them.


  1. Your post of this great design lures me into buying one (we might have to blame you with Oli altogether now on!)...

  2. Kevin, thanks for your very positive and encouraging post. I think you give me a lot more credit than I deserve! Just some clarifications:-

    1. I am not that young as you might imagine...certainly not a "young man"...haha!

    2. I am not a better solver than you; just luckier!...and only with respect to a couple of puzzles which we both own.

    3. I don't have all the Popplocks...still missing the T1

    4. While I designed the puzzle, I didn't make it myself with my own hands; a metal fabricator produced it for me based on my specs.

    Thanks once again & Happy Puzzling!

    1. Jerry, you're very welcome! Point by point?
      1) You're younger than me! Ergo a "young" man.
      2) Out of most of the puzzles we both own - you have solved most faster than me! Plus at the MPPs I have been to, I have revealed to all that I'm "not terribly bright"!
      3) Almost no one in the world has a T1!
      4) The design is just the right level of difficulty.

  3. I like the new look of your blog. Keep up the great work. I hope to start again soon.

    1. Thank you Moises! I thought you had been a bit quiet recently! Looking forward to new stuff from you.