Sunday 26 January 2014

Parity is to be understood not feared!

OMG! A giant cube and a double parity!
Before you all switch off because it's a twisty post, there's a special little treat at the end of this post and DON'T scroll straight there! I saw you!

Yes! I am sorry to all you non-twisty puzzlers but here's another post about them. My aim really is to try and demystify them and encourage you all to have a go. I agree, the learning curve can be steep but, we are all puzzlers here and should enjoy trying something new and to stretch our solving skills! Today I am going to talk about the dreaded "PARITY" problem and show you that it should not be feared. In fact, it needs to be understood and even enjoyed for the added dimension that it adds to your puzzling. In the process, I will show you some new cubes that I bought from a relatively new shop: has sort of burst on the scene with some really good prices and excellent service - go and have a look.

Lovely like this
More lovely like this?
At the top of the article there is a special view of a fantastic new cube on the market. It is the Shengshou 10x10x10 cube and despite its phenomenal complexity it is smooth as butter and an absolute dream to scramble and solve. I took it to work a few times and everyone was absolutely fascinated by it! It looks amazing either solved or (some would say it looks better) scrambled. I have solved it quite a few times and apart from the hand ache caused by it's sheer size and weight it is wonderful - currently it is my favourite cubic puzzle. This puzzle is what is known as a "knock off" and so not listed on most websites so if you wish to buy it from cubez then just contact them and ask (their price is the best by a very large margin). The "special view" in the top picture is of the cube exhibiting not just one, but two parities and it is really not to be feared at all.

So having frightened you to death, what is a parity and more importantly, why does it occur? At the beginning of last year I posted about a classification of cuboids and then recently republished it in print for the CFF journal and in those articles I talk about several different types of parity. I really would hope that most of you puzzlers at least own a 3x3 cube and have made some attempt at solving it! After all if you are puzzlers then you should not just ignore such an important section of our hobby completely - the founding model should be in every collection. For those of you who have done the 3x3 there is NO parity and you should be very pleased with yourself that you can do what the vast majority of the world's population cannot!

Sunday 19 January 2014

Four Deliveries in one week! Is that bad?

It will be dry bread and water only after buying these!
I'm sorry that this is late - unfortunately I had to work today and not only did it interfere with my puzzling, it also delayed me writing this blog post! Dreadful! Only another 19 years to retirement - sigh!!!

I think it was in November that two of the great puzzle collectors in Europe (Goetz Schwandtner and Michel van Ipenburg) both posted news of a few new Jean-Claude Constantin N-ary puzzles about to come up for sale. When I say a few, this is a small understatement! There were 6!! And they all looked beautiful - very finely detailed and very unusual shapes instead of the more usual linear ones I have seen so far. Well you know by now how addicted to this particular group I am and I immediately asked my puzzle pusher, Wil Strijbos, whether he was getting them in stock! Very soon afterwards his news letter arrived with all of them available and maybe one or two other goodies too!

After a short gulp at the a sheer cost, I decided that Xmas was coming and Mrs S was going to be getting them for me for my Xmas present! What I hadn't realised was that Mrs S had already bought herself several pairs of shoes and boots for her Xmas present and was eagerly awaiting the Mulberry sale for handbags! I'm afraid that it will be dry bread and water for the next few months to pay for it all - I will of course, still be buying puzzles but not food - I must get my priorities right!!

Shortly after my very fast reply to the Newsletter, Wil also mentioned some extras that he had available, the Cast Twist came into stock, 2 more of his fabulous bolts also sort of got added to the list. Poor Mrs S didn't know quite how extensive the order was! But it was on a "need to know basis" and she really didn't for her own good!! Now Wil was hoping to get them out before Xmas but with all of his travelling and issues with stock it just never happened. I had plenty of other toys to occupy me and just waited. This week they arrived - Mrs S was very surprised at the size of the box and even more surprised at how much was inside (the extra was a replacement for the Perrier bottle #2 which had been broken in the mail). These N-ary puzzles will be reviewed in the future.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Livewire puzzles part 10 and a little something special

and it begins again!!!
Part 10? How can that be? In February 2012 I posted my final Livewire puzzles post which was number 9 in the series. In the intervening time more than half of those that I considered best in their line up have been discontinued (so now I'm afraid it is up to you to find them on Ebay) but luckily they have also released an extra 5 puzzles.

At the end of last year, I contacted them and managed to buy the 4 that had been released and they told me of their very latest one about to be released for 2014, the Roller Coaster puzzle and offered me the opportunity to buy it early. They arrived in November and after photographing them and realising that all but one was in the "difficult" range, I sort of fiddled and shied away! My excuse was that I had been preoccupied with work and other puzzles.

But, after a few weeks when Mrs S was off visiting her parents and I was alone in the house for a few days, I could play with them and jingle to my heart's content without having to worry about receiving any damage from the laser burning stare and the whiplash 'cat-o-nine tails' tongue! Yes she has been honing her violence skills! I began with the easiest of the 5 new additions - The Ringleader. This one is the only one of the 5 that is on the level 2 page of Livewire puzzles (rated 7/10) and I was reassured by that.


Sunday 5 January 2014

Paperclip and how about a twisty for the weekend?

Yep! It's another disentanglement puzzle from Puzzle Master! I am so addicted to these - they are really shiny and appeal to my inner Magpie and they have that wonderful tactile nature to them. Plus, they are good value for money and really fun for torturing your friends with (that's one of my favourite pastimes!)

Cast Devil/Menace
The Paperclip puzzle was designed by the great Jean-Claude Constantin and is intended to be a new twist on a classic puzzle. I got this because I remember that one of the very first puzzles that I bought when I began to expand from my Revomaze cubby hole was a puzzle by Professor puzzle in the UK called the Menace. It was really big and chunky and rather than go jingle and get me a laser burn from "she who must be grovelled before", it actually was big and bulky enough to clank! This actually earned me a bruise rather than a burn! This puzzle is also available as a Hanayama cast puzzle - it is called the Cast Devil and is an essential in any collection. I remember that the Menace/Devil took me about 45 minutes to solve and was oddly difficult for the apparent simplicity. When I saw that the Paperclip was a new twist on this classic, I had to have it!

Interestingly the Paperclip is rated as level 5 (Easy) on the Puzzle Master 5-10 point scale and yet the Cast Devil is a level 8. My own experience would say that they both should be a level 6 (Tricky). Whilst the Cast Devil comes in the nice Hanayama box, the Paperclip simply arrives shrink wrapped with a tiny label that my aging eyes struggled to read! It is a nice chunky metal puzzle at 13 x 7.5 x 4 cm - even my orthopaedic colleagues aren't going to be able to cut it or bend it without using serious hardware! It makes a nice clanging sound as you play. It comes without instructions - but it is obvious that you need to separate the 2 pieces and there is no solution supplied. I doubt that you will need it but it can be downloaded from here.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Happy New Year - My top 10 from 2013

Happy New Year to all my puzzle friends, designers, craftsmen and anyone else who has clicked through to this post by accident! I must warn you that this post is rather long - I'm not kidding - it's very VERY long! In fact I'm not sure you should bother to read it really - I'm sure you have much better things to do with your time! But if you are going to stay then enjoy my reminiscing about what seemed to be a very good year in 2013.

3 pictures of my study as it appears from L to R - my pride and joy!

Yet again I have been forced to rearrange my study to improve the organisation! Above you can see the group photos of my displayed collection - it looks good doesn't it? It doesn't end there however - the shelves in the cupboard are loaded with twisties too!

Mass produced twisties in a cupboard
But now I have had to break out of the study due to....  ahem.... "space problems"! Now, whenever something new arrives, if it is made from wood and looks gorgeous then I ask the question:
"Is this one lovely enough to be allowed in the living room"?
This year she has actually said yes on a number of occasions! So the rest of my collection is spread out and pictured below - notice the impossible folded card from Louis - Thanks mate!

Sculpture for her (puzzles for me)
A little theme starting - She didn't realise it would end up like this!
Thank you Louis for the impossible folded card!
But this is not all - I also have the wire and metal ones in drawers in a spare bedroom. So as I say many times:
"Houston, we have a problem!"
but never fear, I will rearrange and make room and I have had permission to use the whole top surface of the sideboard in the dining room - yay!!!

As a small treat to myself for the end of the year I have had a rather long look back at the puzzles I acquired during 2013 and tried to work out what my top 10 have been. I have cheated a bit by grouping some together so there are more than 10 but it's my blog and I get to choose. My criteria? Only that I love it! It can be because it gives me a good memory of someone or something, because the craftsmanship is so gorgeous (even if I haven't yet managed to solve it), or it can be because the solution was so epic or had such a marvellous Aha! moment that I continually get the urge to resolve it or shudder away from it but with a smile at the memory!

I have looked at my database and filtered on the puzzles that I have received during this last year and immediately have hidden that screen from the present Mrs S because it includes a total spend for the year! The amount horrifies even me and if Mrs S saw it then I would be a very ex Dr S!! A nurse's propensity for violence holds no bounds!!

So here we go my top 10 puzzles of 2013: