Sunday 15 September 2013

Parallel Dimensions

Parallel Dimensions
Another disentangle net puzzle from Puzzle Master! Yes I am totally addicted to all puzzles but even going back to the beginnings of this hugely expensive adventure, I loved the challenge (and the price) of the wire disentanglements - although that very first batch of Livewire puzzles really did cost a fortune up front and then I also had to pay the customs officers. In fact, to this day, Mrs S STILL doesn't know what that set cost me/us!

Last week's review was a relatively straightforward wire puzzle from Puzzle Master's own range and I am gradually working my way through as many as I can get my hands on! This time, I can finally write a review of a puzzle that I have been carrying around with me more or less everywhere for over a month! This one is the Parallel dimensions, rated as 10 (Mind Boggling) on their 5 to 10 point scale and like the review on the product page, I can whole heartedly agree with that rating. It arrives in Puzzle Master's usual plastic clamshell packaging and simply has the pictorial instructions to remove the yellow coloured metal ring. It is a good quality anodised wire and the string and wooden ball and cube are nicely painted. My only criticism is that the large brass ring seems to get tarnished quite quickly. It is 9.5 x 7.9 x 1.9 cm in size. No solution is provided with it but it can be downloaded from here - you may actually need it.

For those of you with wives (or even husbands) with laser stares this is not a good one for you!! I now have 2nd degree burns (i.e. partial thickness) over the whole of the right side of my body after playing with it and jangling away for over a month!!

The length of the segment of string is usually a give away of how difficult one of these is going to be. They usually only give you exactly the amount of slack required to achieve what you need and no more. This doesn't mean you are less likely to knot it up - with the length of string on this puzzle there are quite a lot of different moves possible and it is quite possible to get fairly tangled. Luckily the knots seem never too difficult to undo! The reviewer on the product page did say that this puzzle is definitely one he would call intimidating but that he felt it was a very good puzzle that will give real challenge to the solver and certainly an AHA moment when they solve it. This description was one of the reasons I chose it and he was NOT wrong!

Straight away you see how complex everything is. There are small rings and loops, large ones, the string is looped several time around 2 separate pieces of wire and the way everything is linked together means things can be rotated and intertwined in many different ways. In all this is one of the most intimidating wire puzzles I have tried - there are just so many possibilities! For the first week I got fixated on one particular set of moves and tried them and variations again and again hoping to succeed just one time! Yes! I fully meet Einstein's definition of madness!

I put it away for a while to try and let the early burns heal up and after a few days came back to it when I had thought of something else to try. This approach was actually the correct one but I executed it with a very slight incorrect twist and kept producing some rather awkward knots. Stupidly, rather than adjust my technique, I abandoned it and produced knots in a different way for another week! Thank heavens it was always fairly easy to backtrack and undo the mess! I finally admitted defeat and just put it in my bag, hoping that it would one day just come out solved! Periodically I would try again but nothing new struck me.

Recently, it came out for a new airing with the threat that I might have to download the solution if it was going to continue to be so recalcitrant! This stirred it towards a solution!! Just looking at it for a while made me wonder whether something might be possible. This has been a feature of quite a few of my recent solves - thinking is not really one of my strong points but I really must try and do more of it. So in the end I went back to one of my earlier approaches and paid particular attention to which way to hold the ring and which direction the loops of string went and after a series of moderately complex moves which utilised almost the whole length available, I suddenly had moved the ring to somewhere else! This was promising - it then required another fairly simple series of moves and the ring was free. Hooray! A really great Aha! moment.

Free at last - Only a month of puzzling!
As I have said before, a puzzle is never truly solved until it has been done several times and I definitely did not really feel that I understood exactly what I had done. This was revealed to me in no uncertain terms when I found that I couldn't reassemble it! I tried the reverse of my opening moves and ended up with an extra loop in it somehow. Sort of correct but not quite right. Back apart again (another challenge) and try a different orientation. I think I must have attempted reassembly 5 or 6 times before I had returned the puzzle to the beginning! Whew!

It took another 15-20 minutes before I could say that I knew exactly what to do every time and even now, if I am not paying very close attention then I get it wrong!

Is this a very good puzzle? BUT it is a very difficult puzzle. There are very few of these that I spend that long on. For $12 this is a bargain but definitely not for beginners. If you are good at disentanglements or want a real challenge then I can heartily recommend it.

Talking of puzzles that I spent a long time on! During the week, I finally managed to solve Wil Strijbos' bottle number 4. It consists of a bottle with a plastic lid to which is attached a chain holding the keys to a padlock which lies at the bottom of the chain. The aim is to remove the chain and padlock from the bottle but it won't come out because there is a single link across the padlock shackle which blocks it's removal from the bottle neck. I have owned this one for nearly 2 years and never managed to solve it! A recent discussion with a friend encouraged me to try again and "Eureka"! Out it came. Whew! That is now 3 down out of 6 of these bottles. I need to go back to the others again but have to be careful that I don't become victim of Mrs S' laser stare - she absolutely hates the clinking!!!

Bottle #4
Chain removed after nearly 2 years!

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