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.

I have carried this around with me now for 4 months! Yes it is THAT difficult. Generally, I am well know as being fairly reasonable at wire puzzles and have solved a huge number of them over the last few years. But this one very nearly had me beaten. There would appear to be only so many moves that you can do with the string in this structure. Quite a lot of moves seem to be blocked very early in your exploration and a few others appear to be heading towards an awful tangle - luckily it is pretty hard to get into an incomprehensible knot because the length of string is such that it can't get too entangled before you run out of length. So why the hugely prolonged solve time? Interestingly I part solved this one very quickly! I think it took me about 30 minutes to separate the string from the wire and I thought that this couldn't possibly be a level 10 puzzle! That is, until it came time to put it back together again! Remember that it is not solved until it is back together again AND understood. I distinctly remember that it was not particularly complex to take apart - it required a few winding moves but nothing very difficult! But could I reassemble it? Hell no!

I carried the pieces with me for months!
So this has accompanied me almost everywhere for months and months now and I have fiddled with it whenever I could (and "she" would let me) and at no point could I get anywhere close to putting it back together! Every time I managed to get the string through the loops in the right direction, I ended up with a half hitch somewhere further along! Things got so bad that I ended up downloading the solution and trying to follow it in reverse order to do it. Oh dear - even with the solution, I couldn't reassemble it! Finally, I got fed up and really had a go at it with a picture of what it is supposed to look like in front of me. It took me a good 3 hours in a single stretch to do it! Now I have the damn thing back together and again no real idea of how it happened.

I intend to have a few more goes at this one - it is infuriating but in a good way. Whilst I really struggled to solve it and even having done so I don't understand it - so according to my previous claim, it is therefore, NOT truly solved yet - I need to repeat it until I can do it every time. Luckily it never got badly tangled and certainly never got to the point where I wanted to chuck it away or out the window!

Should you buy this one? If you are a sucker for a very difficult wire and string puzzle and want something to keep you occupied for a good long time for very little money then absolutely buy it now. If you have a poor attention span or get easily frustrated then I'd leave it!

That's the Sidewinder, so what's this about a Teddy? Surely not a bear? No! I'm not into stuffed toys - this time I am talking about the "2-Ring Teddy". Why put them together? Because the events associated with the Sidewinder reminded me of those around the 2 Ring Teddy wire puzzle - it's another one that I could undo with ease but could not put it back together again for the life of me! I received the 2-Ring Teddy in my last delivery from Wil Strijbos.

2-Ring Teddy - easy peasy?
This is a really simple construction consisting of 4 loops of metal which are interlocked via 2 of them. I had played with this at the last Midlands Puzzle Party which Wil had attended. I very quickly managed to disassemble it and thought I was very clever and had paid very close attention to how it had come apart! At that point Wil took the pieces out of my hands mixed them up behind his back and gave them back to me! Here's the pieces:

How difficult can it be?
I spent the next 45 minutes trying and subsequently failing to put it together! See the common theme here? So I had to have a copy and it arrived in my recent delivery from Holland! This time I did manage to pay enough attention and managed to work out the secret in about half an hour. It is a very clever construction! Oddly my solution didn't work every time until a closer look revealed something that I hadn't initially noticed.

I have carried this one with me for a month now and handed it out to lots of people! Everyone manages to separate the pieces in a few minutes but to date NO ONE has managed to put it back together yet! I love it - next time you order from Wil, ask if he has one of these!

I plan on carrying both of these with me for a while - one to torture myself and the other to torture my friends and colleagues!


  1. Welcome to the club, Kevin. At least, you were able to remove the string. I didn't get so far. I haven't touched it since the review and don't plan on it. I have others less frustrating to solve... In theory, that is :P

    1. Hi Gabriel,

      Don't give up on this one! I have done it now about a dozen times and I love it! I found the disassembly quite easy (although the first time I had no idea what I did). My current system is completely different to the published instructions and is pretty simple. The reassembly is the exact reverse and using my approach is very straightforward although not intuitive.

      As a clue, start to unloop the string from within each of the small metal loops - just pull them through and then deal with the string loop it creates. Don't do both together - deal with each one individually! After that you are left with the string through the ends and this is easy.

      Go on you know you want to!

  2. Hi Kevin, please do you know who is the designer of 2-Ring Teddy?


    1. Hi Alexander, the 2 ring Teddy us now made by Jan Sturm and called the Handcuffs puzzle. It was originally designed by Teddy Sakamoto.