Sunday 27 October 2013

The Rack

The Rack
Now please everyone be quite - I currently am on day 4 of a visit by my in-laws - absolutely lovely people but I'm not supposed to be sneaking off for a quick surf of the net and definitely not supposed to be taking time to write a blog post! My wife thinks that I have had to do a little bit of paperwork for my work! I don't want any of you being bad and letting her know! No! Before you say it - The Rack is not linking the instrument of torture with my in-laws!!

Keep the mother in-law quiet
with one of these!
My mother in-law is actually quite enjoying doing some puzzles during her stay with us - this at least gives me some time to sit with her and do some of my own all under the pretence of "helping her". She has been working on a globe magnet jigsaw puzzle for the last 4 days and doesn't seem to be getting anywhere at all with it!! I, of course am making lots of encouraging noises and not helping at all! It really does look quite tough - if you want one then something similar can be bought from Puzzle Master. But I have started working on a new kit of twisty puzzles made by Burgo from the Twisty Puzzles forum - it is an astounding kit which expands the idea behind the crazy 3x3 planet series which I reviewed here. It allows the addition of a variable number of non-circle faces to the crazy series as well as having the ability to put segments in that bandage parts together and thus block movements. It will provide hundreds and hundreds of new very tough twisty puzzles for me - You can read about it here. So I am a fairly happy bunny just now but have had to sneak off to get this review out to you.

OMG How horrific does this look? Info at TP.
The Rack is another from my Puzzle Master stash - yet again a wire and string puzzle and yet again a slightly easier one - this time only level 8 (Demanding) on their rather odd scale of 5 to 10 and I would agree with that assessment. This one and the Silent E reviewed as my last wire puzzle have been a welcome relief from the usual horrendously difficult ones but this is the last easy one I have and I have a few more coming from Livewire puzzles - they have released another 5 since my series of reviews 18 months ago and I had to complete the set!! So yet another few tough ones coming your way soon.

The rack is from Puzzle Master's own series of wire puzzles and is packaged nicely in the usual plastic clamshell and the instructions are simply to remove the string with the two balls from the wire. It is very well made from 3mm Nickel plated wire and the string is of good quality. There has been one 4 star review left on the puzzle page which gave a glowing report and suggested that it was perfect for beginners to wire puzzles; a view I agree with. No other blogger has reviewed it yet. No solution is supplied but it can be downloaded from here if you need it.

Sunday 20 October 2013

First Guest Post! Let's Learn About Packing Puzzles

OMG! A packing puzzle!!
So, many months ago, I mentioned in a post that if anyone had anything puzzle related that they thought would be of interest to my readers and if they would write something for my blog then I would be delighted to offer a guest spot! I had very few responses. I did have someone offer to write an article on why all of us puzzlers were crackers! We all know that anyway and when I asked for an expansion on his ideas it never went any further. I then had a couple of others reply and the posts they sent ended up as nothing more than an advert for cheap wooden jigsaw type puzzles that they were selling online. I am happy to provide a sort of sales opportunity for people if they genuinely have something that might interest me and especially you but it needs to be a quality product and something more than an advert - you all want information!

Back in August I was contacted by Matthew Yeoman who was the PR manager for a new company called Puzumi who were about to bring out some new puzzles. Since then it would appear that he is now working as a freelance writer but despite that, he still produced an article about the Puzumi puzzles that I think is worth a read. I was even more reassured when Gabriel produced a glowing review of one of their puzzles. Matthew, as do quite a few of you, loves packing puzzles but for me it is a love hate relationship because I am awful at them and don't really feel qualified to write about them. So please read on....

Sunday 13 October 2013

Cast Delta or Mrs S Shows Her Skillz!

Hanayama Cast Delta
Today's review is of the Hanayama Cast Delta - it has been ready for publication for a few weeks but when Gabriel pipped me to the post, I decided to delay it a while so that you didn't all get bored reading about the same puzzle multiple times. Jerry has also reviewed it back in July - living in the Far East, he seems to have managed to get hold of it much earlier than the rest of us.

I got this puzzle in my last large order from Puzzle Master - I had seen that Hanayama had released 2 new puzzles this year and waited for them to be available in the West - there was NEVER any question that I wouldn't get it, just a matter of when. You all know that I adore my high quality, bespoke wooden puzzles, but I have to say that as value for money the Hanayama puzzles really cannot be beaten. They are all beautifully made, have varying difficulty levels ranging from the fairly easy to the impossibly hard and almost always provide that "Aha!" moment that all us puzzlers crave so much.

The Cast Delta is no different - designed by Kyoo Wong from Hong Kong, it arrived in the usual immaculate black box with the simple instructions to separate the three pieces and then reassemble them. There is also a little mumbo jumbo on the box about stirring up creativity etc but when you get down to it - take it apart and put it back together again! It is made of a metal that looks like an aged brass and is fairly attractive with a nice patina - the name obviously comes from the shape of the greek capital letter which it resembles. Nicely chunky with dimensions 5.7 x 5 x 1 cm and a reasonable weight to it. There is certainly something about it that makes you keep coming back to it to play with. It is rated by Hanayama themselves as a level 3 difficulty (out of 6) and by Puzzle Master as level 7 (Challenging) on their scale of 5 - 10. I would say that I would rate it slight easier than 3 / 7 for disassembly but for a proper understanding they have it about right. There is no solution in the box but it can be downloaded from here.

Sunday 6 October 2013

The Kamikaze Went Kaboom!

Kamikaze Burr
Like last weeks one, this blog post may also be rather linguistically challenged! I spent all day Friday at a Coroners inquest giving evidence - a rather stressful event you'll all agree and then had an exciting day on Saturday solving this puzzle. Needless to say last night's sleep was impaired due to the adrenaline surge as well as having the cats do the wall of death around the house most of the night. It was also not helped by the present Mrs S sounding like a drowning hippopotamus all night as well! Ouch! Sorry dear, I didn't realise you were reading this!

A fine top shelf!
You may recall how delighted I was earlier this year when I managed to spend a large chunk of my income on the 2012 limited edition puzzles from Brian Young (aka MrPuzzle). This fabulously beautiful and fabulously huge set of 5 puzzles has had pride of place in my man puzzle cave most of this year! If you look carefully at the top shelf you will see the entire set in all it's glory! Why the top shelf? Because, if you remember from your youth, the "stuff" you wanted to look at in the newsagent when you were a teenager was always on the top shelf out of reach and tantalising! So I thought that I would mimic this and place my most "delicious" puzzles where I can't get to them! This ensures that I will pace myself and not run through them all too quickly - I want to savour them. So far I actually have managed it and have solved and written about only 2 of the 5 - the Improved H burr and the L burr, both of which were amazingly beautiful puzzles and a great challenge.

The next one I have decided to try is the Kamikaze burr. It was designed, like the others, by Junichi Yananose. From the information page:
In 1995 Junichi developed a puzzle with more than one co-ordinated action. It was introduced in the bulletin of the Academy of Recreational Mathematics in Japan in that same year and has been waiting for someone to make it ever since. Brian soon discovered there was good reason for this. He found getting exactly the correct tolerances so that it moves just right very challenging.
The puzzle has 15 pieces and the motion and movement of the pieces in this puzzle is truly extreme. It might appear that the puzzle is made a little loose, but be assured that it is intentional, because if it fitted firmly the puzzle would go together but getting it apart again with just 2 hands would be near impossible; that is until you get to the point of no return. Then it gets really scary!
Junichi called it Kamikaze because he considers this puzzle extreme. Although many puzzle solvers will know which pieces go where in the puzzle, finding the order to put them in and the motion to get it together is truly extreme. All 5 puzzles this year are quite different and radical but there is no puzzle more different or radical than this one.
It is made from Queensland Silky Oak (I have always called this wood Lacewood) and is absolutely GIGANTIC at 150 x 150 x 150mm and weighing in at 830g (1lb 14oz)!

It has been sitting up there shouting obscenities at me for a few months now and threatening my puzzle manhood! I kept looking at it and averting my gaze because it frightened me to death! Why? Because it is a coordinate motion puzzle as well as a burr and not just any old coordinate motion puzzle - it has 15 sticks! My previous experience of this group has mostly been the incredible artefacts made by the talented Václav Obšivač aka Vinco. These coordinate motion puzzles have just 3 or 4 pieces and require a huge amount of dexterity to reassemble them and sometimes, to me at least, appear to need more than 1 pair of hands. This is awkward when Mrs S has no interest in puzzles and if I ask her for assistance then she taunts me and declines! Here are a couple of examples:

Vinco's Tetrahedron 2
Vinco's Explosion Cube
So I really did not know whether I would ever get it reassembled after taking it apart. The other reason that it frightened me was the report from Burgo. He is an amazing Australian puzzler from the Twisty Puzzles forum who is just an unbelievable solver of puzzles of all types - almost nothing fazes him or slows him down at all. At my suggestion he expanded his horizons to some wooden puzzles for his fellow countryman and his report about the Kamikaze burr was that it made a huge number of movements all at once just as he lifted it out of its packaging! So much movement that he describes a near miss underwear catastrophe! Now if a puzzler of this calibre is frightened, then what am I to think? In fact, despite my taunts, to this day he has not dared to dismantle it!