Sunday 17 November 2013

I freed my angel and I need her help!

Help me! I'm trapped in this prison.
There's a man out there in puzzle world and he's a verrrry bad man! His name is Strijbos, Wil Strijbos! You all know of him as my puzzle pusher! He is the facilitator, the enabler of my addiction and I love him for it! He also is the kind of man who would take a cute little angel and lock her tightly in a metal prison and then leave it to his unfortunate customers to try and work out how to free her!

I look forward to meeting Wil at the Midlands puzzle parties that he occasionally attends and unfortunately I missed out on meeting him at the recent Dutch Cube day! Most of all, however, I love it when he sends me his emails! Every 2-4 months a note drops into my Inbox telling me of his upcoming designs and what he has newly available - and he knows full well that I cannot resist his wares! In fact an email arrived this weekend and he has separated me from yet another large chunk of my money!

Back at the end of August one of these emails arrived with news of something we all knew he had been working on for a considerable time. He finally had it finished and was ready to take orders for the first 27 that were available. We all read with great eagerness about it and all of us then took a huge GULP! when we saw that it was to be €390 plus P&P. But did this faze us at all? Heck no! Within 5 minutes I had responded with a resounding YES and apparently within a few hours another 26 suckers ahem puzzlers had also signed up and Wil had a waiting list of another 22 within days! This shows how good a pusher he really is! There will only ever be 99 of these which you might say will make them an investment, but a few of us discussed the likelihood of this being something that will make a profit in the future and the consensus is that it is not likely at this price to be something that will appreciate in value much! So therefore you can conclude that this is a puzzle for the truly addicted or as I like to put it - "The Connoisseur". And this really is a truly fabulous piece of engineering and puzzling.

Those of us who bought it then received an email with basic instructions - the aims and then the do's and don'ts. Basically it is like most "sequential discovery" puzzles - you need to discover what is possible and find tools along the way that can be used at later times in various places. As with many others the important rules are "NO Banging, No Shaking/spinning, No external tools". The aim in the very first email was:
Challenge: Take my HEART 
Mine arrived just a few days later and the excitement was palpable in the puzzle world as we all scrabbled to open them at the same time - emails were shooting back and forth like wildfire! Wil always packs things very well and this time was no exception - it requires good knife skills to get into the cardboard box and then through the lovely gift box it had been sent in. Lifting the puzzle out came as a bit of a shock and did explain why the price was so high - it is HUGE and VERY heavy!!! Dimensions are 16 x 7.5 x 11 cm and the weight a staggering 1.89Kg (that's 4lb 2.25oz for you Americans!) - even just picking it up now to weigh it I get a shock. This huge weight plus the fact that it is all metal (steel and aluminium) means that you do NOT want to drop it - if it lands on a foot then you will be needing an operation (trust me! I have seen lots of these operations and they are not very nice!) If it lands on your wooden desk then you are going to have a very big dent - the puzzle, on the other hand, will be fine!

I was delighted to see that Wil has signed it and that it has a serial number on it - mine is number 21. The poor little angel is clearly visible peaking out from the window and you can almost hear her calling to you - hence the immediate urge to get started on it despite the fact that you have been told by the present wife to help fix dinner! Ouch!!!!

It even gives the combination!
The first thing to do is to remove the digital padlock on the side - the tag that is on it is very helpful in that it gives a combination! Of course it's not the correct combination - Wil wouldn't make it that easy. But, of course, we all had to try it anyway and fail. I said helpful because at least it tells you how many digits are required. We all tried various mathematical formulae (adding and subtracting etc) - for me it actually worked, but for others no way! As far as I can tell it is purely random as to what your code might be. I was ready to go through all of them systematically - my maths schooling told me that because the order of the digits didn't matter there was 8C4 different possible codes - For those of you unfamiliar with probability and the binomial coefficient this can be given by the formula:
n! / ((n - m)! x m!) where n is the number to choose from and m is the number to choose
From this I concluded that even by brute force there are only 70 possible codes to try! I did feel rather sorry for Louis when I heard that his puzzle was unique in that it required a 5 digit code and had 10 to choose from (252 possible codes)! But he is a superb puzzler and it only took him an hour!! After this there's a whole lot of discovery to do - the first thing to do is poke at everything to see what happens - not much! I was sitting in my living room in the evening with the present Mrs S and watching TV at the same time with the cats (one of which was soundly asleep on my lap). It only took a few moments before the first of the tools became visible - I'm happy to show a picture of these because if you can't find them then you have no business reading my blog!!!

She has balls!
I quickly found some ball bearings and a small steel rod! Of course I was sitting in an arm chair with a cat - the ball bearings fell out and onto my lap and the chair. The cat woke up with a start and shot off and I stood up to try and find what had fallen out. The ball bearings fell on the floor and were instantly a plaything for my 3 cats! After I pushed them away I could find only 2 of them but had no idea how many there should have been. I couldn't find any down the side of the arm chair and I rattled off an email to Wil to ask what the correct number should be. I had seen from others that some had 2 and others had 3 and I had no idea whether I had lost one or not. Wil's response was particularly humorous:
Hi Kevin - Always nice to hear from you :)

Please make a Röntgen picture from your cat to be sure, because I don't know how many balls where inside in your Angel Box.

You also will discover it when you need the third ball. Otherwise you can follow your way with 2 balls.
Obviously Wil is aware of my propensity for having X-rays taken of some of his puzzles!! I have done it for the Cylinders, the Lotus and even a bottle! So I just had to continue with 2 balls and hope that was enough ;-)  The next step took me a very very long time - Quite a few people had used the open padlock as a tool during the solve and were firmly told off for it by Wil - so I had to think a bit. I didn't get any further that night but restarted the following day.

This puzzle just leads you on and on and on - I can't really give any more information about what I did as I don't want to spoil it for anyone. It showed us all as a community because we were all emailing back and forth when things were going wrong but not actually telling each other what to do. Occasionally a little hint was required (even recently I have been able to help a fellow suffer by just nudging the thought processes!) Every step peels away another layer of the onion and lets you discover something new and then stop there whilst you have to think a bit more. It took me a whole weekend and a bit more to solve it and the cats zoomed away in fright when I shouted aloud having finally freed the angel!!!

The attention to detail and the sheer craftsmanship in this puzzle is staggering - it is just beautifully put together and is a real epic challenge to solve. You literally need to dismantle the prison walls to finally get the to the angel out:

I broke her out of her prison!
I'm not giving away anything when I show this - it is obvious from the beginning that the box needs to come apart! I have been very careful not to show any of the workings!

Once you have freed the angel remember that the initial aim was stated at the beginning - first find her heart! Unfortunately might need to hurt her to get to it - this is far to gory to show in the public domain but the true attention to detail shows in that she has a perfectly shaped wooden heart! After that you need to find who has got your lock plate - we are doing this via the Puzzle-Place forum. As yet I have not found anyone who has the lock corresponding to my plate and also no-one yet has admitted to having the correct plate for my lock. But I think the general consensus is that we will be keeping our own locks/plates.

This was an amazing journey and I loved every moment of it - I still open it every now and again to marvel at how well made it is and what a genius Wil is! It was a hell of a lot of money but I am very pleased to have it in my collection! Thank you Wil - I am looking forward to the next amazing design and giving you yet more of my hard earned cash!! Ouch!!!! Mrs S just hit me!! She was reading over my shoulder and has seen what this one cost!!!

5 Platonic Solids
Now I said in the title that I need my angel's help - why is that? Well I'm about to embark on something just a little bit challenging which may well break me - I will need every bit of help from my angel! I received some money for my birthday and my mother has finally resigned herself to the fact that I am not going to buy sensible things - I'm going to buy toys!!! She is Ok at last with the fact that I am addicted to these and will only buy more. With her birthday money I bought several twisties. I topped off the collection of Platonic solids with Eitan's star. It is the first ever mass produced icosahedral (20 sided) twisty puzzle and has been voted by the fellows on the TP forum as the hardest mass produced twisty ever made. Of course I couldn't resist it and bought it from the HKNowstore recently.

20 faces - 13 pieces each face
260 stickers took a while!!
When scrambled it looks even more fearsome!!!

Aaaargh! Help meeeeeee!


  1. Hi Kevin, nice write up on the Angel Box. I can't wait to start on mine but just haven't really been able to find the right amount of time to fully devote myself to it!

    Wil just asked me if I have solved it cos he hasn't heard anything from me or about the Box via my blog.....soon, soon!

    1. Come on Jerry! Get a move on! You're falling behind! ;-)

  2. Very cool! Thanks for the write-up. It is very interesting to us folk who are resistant to Wil's charms.

    I hope you used anesthetic when ripping the poor angles head off! Thanks for not adding any photos of this part.

    1. You need to succumb to Wil's charm, George!