Tuesday 12 February 2013

I love these but maybe I shouldn't buy!

Quintet in F
I have mentioned several times over the last couple of years that the great James Dalgetty, the owner/curator/guru of the Puzzle Museum, advised me at least twice that I really should focus my collecting on just one subtype of puzzle from the great puzzle classification. As you know I have totally ignored him and become a total magpie and collected just about everything I could get my hands on with the exception of jigsaws and dexterity puzzles.

Unhappy childhood
I have gradually worked out that there are some things that I am absolutely rubbish at and so have started to avoid them. For example I have more or less given up on 3D packing puzzles. I started off with the most beautiful of 3D packing puzzles - Make room from Mr Puzzle was a horrendous failure for me (reviewed here) then decreasing the complexity to a puzzle with "just" 2 layers, Unhappy Childhood, made by my good friend Neil was a similar failure. I simplified further to enjoying them when they were simple trays with 2D packing puzzles and wrote a glowing report of David Litwin's Breadbox and also solved the slightly harder classic tray puzzle, Blockhead, which I bought from Brian Menold at Wood Wonders.

Blockhead - only 4 pieces but quite tough
So was I over the hump and finally able to solve packing puzzles? I really hoped so because they are so marvellous to collect, the premise is so easy that anyone can try them and they are beautifully transportable. I did get a copy of Alles Käse from Wil Strijbos last year and despite being only a 4 piece tray packing puzzle, it took me nearly an hour to find the solution! But I DID MANAGE IT!!!
How hard can it be? Alles Käse

I then acquired Stuffing from Bernhard Schweitzer (Puzzlewood) which was his exchange gift at IPP22. This was made by Josef Pelikan and designed by Liu Suzuki and after about an hour I even managed to solve that one too! Yet more of an indication that I might have broken my jinx?

So I moved on and bought some more tray puzzles: I know I shouldn't but I couldn't resist it! I am a magpie! I freely admit it! I ought to know better! But I am addicted to interesting puzzles and also to beautiful wood. When John Devost offered me a very special version of the Quintet in F puzzle (designed by Stewart Coffin - it is his number 253), I just had to say yes.

Quintet in F
This one has a Padauk tray with floating base and double slipfeathers made from Wenge and Spalted maple pieces. How gorgeous is that? So I set about solving it. I was a little worried having read another  review by Allard saying how hard it was, but I was buoyed up by my recent successes.

Let me tell you that I have tried this again and again and again for 5 months now! It looks so easy but nothing I have tried has helped me. The learned George Bell tried to teach me a very analytical approach using Burrtools but I couldn't make it work for me. Oh dear!! Eventually I managed to cram those pieces in and it looked like this:

I'm a genius?? Apparently not! :(
I sent this picture to John for him to confirm my genius! Unfortunately he let me down with a crash. Firstly there are not supposed to be any gaps in the central area and secondly, I had quite clearly taken advantage of the curved corners which were made by the use of spalted wood.

I have been playing with this for ages and ages and I was getting fed up with failing and getting even more fed up of chasing after the cat who kept picking up the loose piece from my desk and running off around the house with it and me in close pursuit! So I kept at it and then on Facebook (which I primarily use for keeping in touch with puzzlers) after a long conversation, a fellow puzzler, Yvon, said he would send me his solution. A few minutes later another picture arrived and I let out my baited breath with disappointment - it was very similar to my incorrect solution. I informed Yvon and he said he would work on it. Imagine how amazed I was when I woke up the following morning to find that he had sent me another solution with no gaps - now he's a genius! That evening, I arranged mine the same way and it went together but seemed very tight!! Yet another email to John confirmed that it was wrong!!

I'm really really sorry, Yvon, but I didn't have the heart to email you back to say that it was incorrect yet again! I felt terrible about it! But, it would appear that you haven't actually solved it yet!

At the 9th Midlands puzzle party, which you have read about here and here, I met up again with my friend Joe and was fascinated to see his tremendous collection of these tray puzzles. He said that he had solved all but one! He couldn't remember the solution to Quintet in F off the top of his head but said he would work it out again and send me the answer. 24 hours later a photo arrived in my inbox and I turned yet again to my copy. This time the pieces fit in the tray with absolutely no pressure and they actually rattle around!! There is SO MUCH SPACE!!! I don't need to ask John whether this is correct - it is obvious. For the life of me I can't figure out where I was going wrong but nothing I did would come to that solution - it is amazingly elegant! No I'm not going to post it on line!! If you really want it then Contact me and I might send you out a photo.

Now the real question is: "Should I give up on packing puzzles?" I'm obviously awful at them but I absolutely adore the woods and the simple idea making such a difficult puzzle. Let me know what you think!


  1. It amazes me that you are good at twisties yet find these difficult! Yipes, I can never remember the twisty move sequences, then I make a mistake and am back at the start. At least with a packing puzzle you don't have to remember move sequences!

    1. George, the thing with twisties is that you can do the same sequences many many times so you get a muscle memory. Also you can use what you learn on many other puzzles! For packing puzzles I just hit a blank and you DO have to memorise s lot. You have to remember what you have tried before!

    2. So I guess I have lousy muscle memory but good mental memory, and you are the opposite? Makes sense, I suppose!

      The thing about packing puzzles is that some (think: Coffin) are deliberately designed so that the solution is not where most people tend to search.

    3. I thought in 5 months I might have searched every place for the solution but obviously not! I do wonder if I should stop trying them. I love the craftsmanship!

  2. You might like "Easy Eight, Hard Eight", "Square Dance", and "Sleazier", all available from Pavel Curtis:

    1. Rob! I take it that you don't think I should be avoiding packing puzzles?

      I will have a look and maybe have a go - but if I fail after another 5 months of trying then I'll be forced to blame you! ;-)

  3. I LOVEEEEEEEEE Packing Puzzles..... arghhhhhhhhhhh :-)

    1. It's a terrible thing this addiction isn't it?