Sunday 23 February 2014

The circle, the MPP and the Aftermath!

My MPP display
I need a small catharsis here! I do apologise, but it's necessary for me to get it off my chest! Recently you have read a fair bit about Shane's latest puzzle 'The Circle'. I mentioned here that it took me over a week to find the first two moves! I worked and worked at it for absolutely ages and earned a 3rd degree burn in the centre of my forehead from the laser stare of the present Mrs S because there's a significant amount of metal inside the circle and it doesn't just jingle - it clangs....very loudly!!! I then read that Allard (who is MUCH older than the puzzling sense!) managed to get his copy solved in just about 1/2 hour! In tears I huddled in a corner and rocked myself to sleep muttering to myself that despite practicing my puzzling skills for about 4 years, I was obviously still rubbish!

Now Shane and I have been communicating frequently for nearly 18 months and when he mentioned that he was qualified as a Master cabinetmaker and was interested in making puzzles himself, I provided lots of encouragement and just hoped that he'd let me buy one of his masterpieces! Over the months we became really good friends and it transpired that not only is he a Master craftsman, he also owns and runs a huge (yes HUGE) building company. As well as that he has a family to maintain too. So I am really flattered that he makes such an effort to communicate with me and has even said on several occasions that I (little me!) am the only reason he wanted to have a go at making these puzzles and this is why I always receive puzzle number 1! So why was I so much slower than Allard? Surely Shane wouldn't have made mine much harder? He's much too good a friend for that...isn't he??? Well it transpires that Shane had moisture problems and not the kind that can be fixed with a prescription deodorant! My puzzle was made to MUCH tighter tolerances than the subsequent copies and this was the reason for my slow progress! That IS my story and I am going to stick to it! Having been told this I was very keen to compare them at the upcoming MPP (Midlands Puzzle Party).

They look identical - mine is on the right - tighter!
Some history..... The Block was shown at an MPP where it went down a storm and even bamboozled Louis (The puzzle solving machine) and Wil Strijbos (The pusher). So it was very fitting that we take the Circle to the next one and test it on the "Machine" again! I also wanted to convince myself that I wasn't a total failure!

 So more or less as soon as the tables were set up I pestered Allard - I told him he could see mine if I could see his! As soon as I caught a glimpse I was relieved! We then spent quite a bit of the day torturing others with it. Louis started with mine and Yay! was unable to solve it!

During the day lots of people played and they all eventually opened Shane's masterpiece but only a very few opened my copy. Those that did had seen the inside of the looser version first. Everyone that saw it admitted that with no clues and no give it was a very very tough puzzle and none had seen such a mechanism before! We all suggested that it is good enough to be entered into the IPP design competition but Shane is too modest to do so! I'll keep working on him!

Not satisfied with 2 unique puzzles, Shane has begun work on his third - I'm sensing a trend here but it's to be called The Parallelogram! Obviously the builder in him spreads into his puzzling too. I cannot wait to see it and am proud to have such a talented man as a friend!

Did anything else happen at the IPP? Well it's all a bit blurry just now and my pictures were awful! But I'll give some highlights. Every single time I go to an MPP, I get asked by the guys whether I have solved "Kevin's bottle" and every single time I utter some nasty profanities and have to admit that I haven't! Kevin's bottle was a very unique gift to me from Mr Strijbos. 2 years ago, at the last moment, I was unable to go to the Dutch Cube Day due to work commitments and the boys came back with a gift for me. It's a bottle puzzle with the usual aim - to remove the marble. I took this to work for weeks to show my colleagues and try and get some fresh ideas and my Orthopaedic colleagues (who are shall we say.....rather course) have named it "Kevin's cock and balls" for erm..... obvious reasons!

Kevin's C...'bottle'

I have my suspicions about this puzzle but at every single MPP I have to admit that I have failed to solve it!

I am famous amongst the guys for "not collecting puzzle boxes" - I daren't because with my singular lack of willpower I would be bankrupt in just a few months. I do have a couple of the Stickman puzzle boxes and 1 or 2 other cheaper boxes but I tend to use my MPP time to have a good go at as many puzzle boxes as I can get my hands on. I managed to work my way through several Karakuri boxes and one of the gorgeous new boxes by Phil Tomlinson, the "Don't shout box" as well as the amazing Ferris' Puzzle Box by Peter Wiltshire that managed to make it's way into the amazing Apothecary's chest that sold recently. Rox has lots of pics here.
Every time I attend an MPP every time my resolve not to buy puzzle boxes weakens! Lord help me at future parties (including the one coming up in August!)

Can you make half an H?
Several of us were amazed at the final solution to a very cheap puzzle from Eric Fuller. A new range that he has released are a little more basic than all his complex interlocking puzzles. The half H puzzle had a few of us going for a while and the solution is enough to make you shout aloud in dismay! I know I did! I will be getting one with my next order.

Knowing that I have a huge collection of the "Turning interlocking cubes" and had edited all three articles about them that Bernhard Schweitzer had published in recent editions of the CFF journal, Chris asked me to look at the beautiful copy of Matador that he had got from Bernhard. This cube was designed by a recent puzzle designer called Kev Irvine who took the Washington DC IPP by storm. Matador was one of the very best of the series. To my shame, I could not solve Chris' copy (which I suspect made him feel a bit better) but forced me to go back to my version at home. Just like the Circle, my copy is a little looser and I was able to make a series of photos to show Chris and hopefully his will now work! I can show you the shapes but it won't help you solve it - even Burrtools cannot solve this puzzle!

A broken matador?
If you REALLY want a challenge then get some Livecubes and make up the Halny puzzle. I think that this is the ultimate turning interlocking cube! I have a wooden copy but I don't know of anyone who makes it as yet.

Looks easy? Hell no!!!
Finally, Allard also mentioned on his blog that he tried one of Steve's beautiful special editions from MrPuzzle. The Cube with a secret was a limited edition from 2003. It was sold out long ago and I have never seen one at auction. It is huge and heavy - 14cm cubed and beautifully made. Allard got one piece out at the MPP and then bottled out after having a horrendous time trying to put that one piece back in!

Cube with a secret
Steve is very trusting and he lets me borrow things occasionally and whilst he says that he doesn't mind them returning in pieces, I couldn't do that to him! Like Allard, I also had that awful initial feeling when I couldn't return the first piece but quickly realised that this was because of a lack of understanding of the very complex locking mechanism. After 2 nights of play I understood it enough to dare go a bit further. Over the last few days I have been experimenting and progressively got further and further. Always ensuring that I could backtrack to the beginning! At one point last night I practically had a heart attack! I had taken out a 4th piece and something inside dropped - at this point it all became VERY unstable! Not only did I have to grab it to stop it falling to bits but I also didn't know what had moved to cause the instability and therefore didn't know how to stabilise it. I was left at nearly midnight with a very pissed off wife complaining that I looked like a lunatic rocking back and forth on my chair and muttering vehemently to myself, whilst my complexion was white as a sheet! Eventually I got it back together, calmed myself down and fired off an email to Steve who just nonchalantly encouraged me to continue!

So continue I did.....

4 secret compartments revealed!
I love it! A totally unique puzzle that I would never have been able to try had it not been for Steve and an MPP. If you ever get a chance to visit a puzzle party - not just ours but anyones then go, Go, GO! They are the most fun in the world - Thank you Nigel for organising it!


  1. Hi Kevin, you are more than welcome to ALL my first edition puzzles. You are the reason for me making them, and I do enjoy getting back on the tools in my spare time to the create them for everyone (well 4 people anyway). I'm so pleased that they seem to go down well. It's just a shame I only get enough time to make 4 of each. But then you do want to see the next one don't you............ Best regards Shane

    1. Thank you so much Shane! It is greatly appreciated. They will all be displayed in my living room - taking pride of place!