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!!

It arrived (along with a couple of other toys) before Christmas and was duly opened and admired. This beautifully blue anodised aluminium puzzle is a really nice weight and measures 11 x 2 x 5.4cm. Everyone I have shown it to thinks that it is gorgeous - the now trademark blue colour of Wil's puzzle is stunning; it features the Lotus name and Wil's signature. The newsletter told us that it is based an a much older design of his which he has improved. The aim being to remove the disk which is captive in the centre. But that is not all - after that, you need to find "things" and eventually open it up and discover where the Lotus name came from.

I carried this around with me for a few weeks and fiddled intermittently but got nowhere and even whinged about my lack of progress on the Revomaze forum. I had been focussing on some new twisties and had not had the time to really apply to it but eventually, I got to it and had a real concerted attempt. The first part of the puzzle consists of removing the aluminium disk on the top. It is pierced by the nail-like structure which obviously won't come out. When Jerry blogged that he had got the first stage done in a 1/2 hour, this pushed me to sit and "Think" ©Allard. How can such a thing be possible? At this stage my rather dim lightbulb switched on and my eureka moment (without the running around naked) was very fulfilling as the disk came free:

This is the only solved photo you can see - but it's NOT solved yet!
Having done this, my colleague who was sitting with me was astounded at the ingenuity (he's not really a puzzler) and was determined to solve the next stage. Looking at the end of the puzzle you can see that the whole bottom half is a long dovetail joint so obviously this has to come apart. In fact, you can peek in a hole at one end and see that there is a coin inside and if you shake it then there's obviously quite a lot of "stuff" inside. Trying to slide the dovetail reveals that it is locked tight - nothing moves at all. The hole in the top must play a part but "how"? No external tools are required/allowed and Wil's initial instructions were that no banging or force was required - just mind power! seeing as I am mostly out of my mind, this was going to be a problem!

Unfortunately, I can't say an awful lot more without ruining it for others. Let me only say that this is a little voyage of discovery - tools need to be found! Then you need to work out how on Earth to use them! Then you need to work out why they don't work! Then when they do work once you need to work out why they don't work again! What the hell is going on in there? He's so devious! But remember: give it a KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid! Simplicity and elegance is the key to this puzzle.

Eventually, I had it fully open and solved but didn't realise it because I wasn't paying proper attention. So having fully opened it, I slid it shut and "oooh! more rattling!" I managed to reopen it and there was another piece mysteriously available to play with. Where on earth did that come from? At this point I realised that I had fully solved it 1 move earlier and now had managed to remove one of the key pieces of the mechanism!

I emailed Jerry to confirm that I had fully solved it and then was left with a puzzle I could reset to the beginning but I could not get that damned piece back inside - I didn't really know where it had come from! I spent a morning thinking and fiddling - it did occur to me that I would need to "pull the black pin"! This black pin is a part of the puzzle which we were all instructed not to pull until after we had solved it as it was holding the puzzle together. Now at that time, I was unable to pull the pin due to lack of tools so I thought that I would just try to put the, lets call it "thingy", back inside. After about 20 minutes of fiddling and looking rather stupid the "thingy" disappeared inside and BOOM! The puzzle was locked shut with all my discovered pieces still outside!

Aaaaaargh! I've broken my very expensive puzzle! Not again! Many of you are aware that I have a history with blue anodised puzzles! A quick email to Wil and he recruited Chris (BlueSign2k on the Revo forums) to help me and also copied in a few other guys who he knew had opened it. Chris, of course, thought this was hysterically funny and christened me "Puzzle-breaker"!

I think that was a little harsh! He explained:       I have replaced some of his words - guess which ones!

"Dear Mr. PuzzleBreaker (aka Kevin),

Once I solved the puzzle I could fairly easily reset and re-open it, but doing it repeatably every time was proving a little tricky. Then I accidentally did a similar thing with mine and forgot to blah blah blah which resulted in a "thingy" suddenly appearing... however, I wasn't crazy enough to try to blindly replace the "thingy"! Instead, I removed the black pin and took it all apart ;)

Having got it apart though, I can't see quite how you've managed to get it stuck....
Are you *sure* you know how to unlock the blah blah blah properly? I still can't find a way to do it consistently and would love to know the intended method.


ps. did you ever get your "special" AlCyl open :p"

This reassured me that I had not broken it, just that I had not truly understood it when I initially opened it! So now I HAD to open it to put all the discovered pieces back! Time yet again to Think©! After about 30 minutes I formulated an idea and drew a picture. This explained where the "thingy" came from and how important it was. At this point I just knew that I TRULY understood the puzzle in it's entirety! I did not need to remove the black pin - I knew it!!! One very deft flick of the wrist and another manoeuvre and it all slid open and I could reset it! Everything put back in place and it was shut tight. To prove my new puzzle-fixing skills I opened it again in under 60 seconds!

So unlike the incredibly talented Chris, I could do it easily every time. 

I emailed Chris (and all the others who had been part of the initial cry for help) my findings and explained my findings. Such relief!

So according to Oli, I'm not a puzzle breaker:

"Thanks for making my otherwise dull day at work far more amusing guys!

Kevin, it seems you're building up quite the reputation now. 

Kevin- 'Special Puzzle Maker Extraordinaire'

I'm glad you've managed to sort it."

I'm not the only one to have done what I did - Chyron from the Revo forum did the same - here is my response to the exchange which explains what to do if your thingy comes out of a puzzle when it's not supposed to:

bluesign2k wrote:
Déjà vu or what guys? :lol: 
Chyron wrote:
...I also located another piece that required me to remove the black pin to replace. It'd be extremely difficult to replace it without removing the black pin because of "the inbetween thingy" being missing.
Kevin Mr. PuzzleBreaker did exactly the same only a few days ago... except he's crazy and tried (and succeeded) with the "extremely difficult" method :roll: :P :lol:

Guilty as charged! :D 
I'm not "PuzzleBreaker" I'm PuzzleFixer!
Like Chyron, I also closed it, and found a thingy in a place where a different thingy had been. It is not necessary to remove the black pin to return the thingy to the thingy receptacle. It can be done by thinking about the shape of the thingy and where the receptacle for it might be. Then you need to carefully orient the thingy and close the puzzle then carefully orient the puzzle such that the thingy enters the thingy receptacle! This often requires several attempts but is ALWAYS possible (yes, I'm a bit dim and have done it twice!)

AFKAN wrote:
Did he blow on it? :lol:

Such impertinence! :shock: You know one should NEVER blow on your thingy in public and certainly I can say that blowing on it does not help the thingy enter its receptacle. The big advantage of having thingy orientation issues is that it makes you think deeply about thingies! Knowledge of both anatomy and physiology of thingies is required to truly understand the puzzle And once you have had deep thingy thoughts, then the solving of the whole puzzle is just a matter of a few very small movements and the knowledge of the Lotus can be found!

Now I should add to my sig: addicted to puzzles and ever so slightly nuts! :lol:

So I'm not Puzzle-breaker! I might be Puzzle fixer! But I'm certainly NUTS!!!

Sorry for the extra long post but I feel better for that!!
Oh and if you are thinking about buying the Lotus from Wil then ignore the price! It's a great puzzle!


  1. You're a puzzle breaker
    Puzzle maker, a Lotus taker
    Don't you mess around with me

    ... sounds like a bad remake of a Pat Benatar song!

    1. Very very bad remake!
      But very very good puzzling!!

  2. Replies
    1. To get any of Wil's puzzles you need to be on his mailing list and then you can order direct from him. I think that these are no longer available but you would need to check with him. If they are no longer stocked then the only way is at one of the puzzle auction sites or by private sale with a collector.