Sunday 26 May 2013

Something old, something new....

Something borrowed, something blue!

No! I have not taken leave of my senses and no! I am not getting married again! I don't think the present Mrs S will let me! I just decided that this might be a nice title to get your attention! I have had rather a lot of puzzle deliveries recently and some are rather special so I thought I would bring a few together into one post.

Hectix revisited
First we start with something old. It's old because I have had it quite some time and because it is based on a very old design.

Monday 20 May 2013

Cast Helix

Cast Helix
Taking a small break from the Puzzle Master wire puzzles, I decided to go back to one of the Hanayama puzzles. This time it's the Cast Helix. I thought I should work out how to solve this one because a friend of mine at work had been attracted to the shiny metal puzzles as a direct result if playing with some that I had brought in. She had bought the Cast Marble which she has so far dismantled but not reassembled and also bought the Cast Helix. She has spent weeks on this one and gotten nowhere and I knew that I couldn't help her if she asked. So it was time for me to work on it.

The usual black Hanayama box beautifully displays this puzzle. It consists of 2 disks of antiqued brass attached back to back with multiple slots in each. A robust metal helical piece passes through both disks. Size is 4.3 x 6.2 x 6.2 cm with a nice solid feel to it. The helix can be rotated around the disks through the holes that appear as you rotate the 2 disks in each other and can get to more or less any position you might want. The disks have a number of shapes on the surface forming the shape of a logarithmic spiral and some gaps which move as the disks rotate. The aim is to remove the helix from the disks. There looks to be a fairly obvious exit point so what can be so tough that has kept her going for so long?

But remember it is a Puzzlemaster level 9 (Gruelling) or Hanayama level 5/6 so it is certainly not going to be trivial - it should be pretty tough. The reviews on the Puzzle Master page are generally good with the only negative that some force is required for the solution. This idea was confirmed in the review by Gabriel. No solution is provided but it can be downloaded from here.

Thursday 9 May 2013

It ain't wood but I love it

Gordian's Knot
As you have gathered by now, I am hopelessly addicted to everything puzzling. I'll read books about them, I collect them, I photograph them, I write on-line about them, I go to puzzle parties and a lot of my favourite people in the world are puzzle people! However, I particularly love my fine wooden masterpieces! Last weekend I confessed to you that I had spent an absolute fortune on Brian Young's (MrPuzzle) 2012 limited edition burrs. My wooden puzzle collection is my absolute pride and joy.

My pride & Joy!
BUT I do still play with puzzles made of other materials - they tend not to stay on show unless they are made of a lovely material like glass or aluminium (like the puzzles from Wil Strijbos) or they are hand-made with huge amounts of skill like Traiphum's Hexaminx, Megamorphinx & cuboids or the special cuboids I have from Hunter. Most of my plastic and wire puzzles tend to stay put away in a drawer or cupboard and are just brought out when needed. I do enjoy owning them - I can safely take them to work and torture my colleagues with them safe in the knowledge that no-one will break them. I don't have to worry about an orthopod and his hammer!!

But now I have finally found a mass produced plastic puzzle that is going to stay on show and close to hand for the foreseeable future despite looking like a child's toy! Yes this is the Gordian's knot burr puzzle made by the educational toy company - Think Fun.

I had seen pictures of this about for the last year or so and never gotten around to buying it. Partly because it looked so garish and "plasticky" but also because I had been focussing on so many others. But recently Sven from the Twisty puzzles forum wanted to sell off a large part of his collection and amongst those he had on offer was this puzzle - it cost me about €10 which is a bit cheaper than the brand new cost and despite being second-hand it was in pristine condition. It arrived a few weeks ago along with a few twisties and I just got around to it this week.

Sunday 5 May 2013


After last weeks excitement of a beautiful wooden puzzle made by a newcomer, we are back to a puzzle by the geniuses at Puzzle Master. Having had so much fun with one of their wire puzzles which had a short loop of string within it, the Eagle, I felt inclined and courageous enough to take on another one with string in it (not a long length however. This time it is Derringer - so called because of it's resemblance to the small handgun.

It is a level 10 (out of 10 - Mind Boggling) puzzle which should always give you a small hint of concern but I was on a roll! What could possibly go wrong?? It consists of the gun shaped piece which is effectively one single long looping segment of wire with the ends joined together by a ring. Threaded through that loop is a small section of string ended by 2 large balls. Further confounding the movement is the ring of wire around the string. It is 9.5 x 5.4 cm and like all their own brand puzzles, it is beautifully finished. The puzzle has received an average rating on the Puzzle Master site of 4 stars but this is purely due to one individual marking it down (incorrectly I believe). The other 2 puzzlers found it rather tough but enjoyable (5 stars). As far as I can tell none of the regular puzzle bloggers has reviewed it before.

The instructions given are to remove the string and the ring - and of course, then put it back! There is no solution provided and you may need it - if so, it can be downloaded from here. The puzzler who left a poor review stated:
I solved it quickly, but I felt as if I had forced it, so I spent almost 2 hours looking for a no force no bend solution. I gave up and peeked at the solution only to find that I had done it right all along. Enjoyable, but it should have been better made.
Let me categorically say that I downloaded the solution and whilst it is slightly different to my own approach, there is NO force required and definitely no bending of parts with either solution - I have no idea why they felt this was needed.

Saturday 4 May 2013

A Christmas Wish Come True

5 Special burrs
At the beginning of the year I made a Christmas wish. I was very excited by the thought of Brian Young's limited editions that year and made a wish that I might get them. Well, it has taken me 5 months of saving up and I have finally received them. Let me say that they are stunning! The workmanship is amazing and they are made form some beautiful Australian woods and all contrast nicely with each other. Each has a different idea behind it and none are so difficult as to be impossible by human being (well at least normal humans - maybe Goetz and Aaron can manage to work through a burr with 150+ moves but to date I still haven't managed it without computer assistance!)

What I didn't expect was for them to be soooo big! I was so excited to place the order that I neglected to read the dimensions and got a rather large shock when they arrived and each one is 16cm across in each direction! I may well have some storage problems for a while - some rearranging is required. But they are so attractive that Mrs S actually said that 1 or 2 may be allowed to stay on show in the living room. Wow! So look forward to some reviews of these over the coming weeks!

There will be a proper puzzle review coming this weekend - I have just spent rather a lot of time today admiring my latest swag!!

Thursday 2 May 2013

I am so very proud....

The Block - being given away
To announce that Shane (with my help) has decided who to give the remaining 2 Block puzzles to!

I am also very proud of the amazing community we are a part of. When I announced that there were two more to give away, I was a little worried that I would be inundated with requests all saying "me, me, me!" Yet this did not happen! I did get a good number of requests, but more than half of them were nominating someone else who is prominent in the community or had been helpful to others. The few personal requests were from people who either carry out a huge amount of research into puzzle related subjects and saw it as a means of improving the community's knowledge or they were some of the most major collectors in the world. I am amazed how selfless you all are!

Enough burbling!! Who are the Blocks going to and why?

First of all, Chris Purssell, one of the founder members of the Midlands Puzzle Party group, a major collector and all round good guy who has personally helped Shane with an aberrant Isis puzzle. He does a huge amount to support puzzlers on the revomaze forums too and is well deserving of a special puzzle.

Secondly, a copy will be going to Neil Hutchison of Neil's Puzzling Parts blog fame. We felt that it would be good to send one of them to another country. I had a plee from Nick Baxter (head honcho of the International Puzzle Party) that one go to the San Francisco group of puzzlers for them to explore. We had to agree that there are many there who would appreciate it (including Nick himself). My own feeling was that it would make a great wedding present for Neil from me too.

Congratulations to you both - we will work out how to get it to you soon.

Thank you everyone for being such good sports.