Sunday 27 April 2014

Cast W-U and an a-maze-ing update

Cast W-U
I try to show at least one cheaper puzzle for you at least every other week so that I don't exclude people who can't afford the bespoke toys. Puzzling is supposed to be an inclusive hobby in which all can join in. If you can't afford the expensive bespoke puzzles then do try to find and attend a local puzzle party if possible - you will make a lot of friends and get a chance to play with stuff that is either hard to find or out of your normal price range.

Whilst on the subject of puzzle parties - I hope that everyone attending the annual King's day puzzle party at Wil Strijbos' house have a great day - I hope one day to be able to join you.

Today I have already shown a beautiful Turning Interlocking Cube which is easily within most people's reach and now I will follow up with another 2 puzzles that you can afford. First up is the Cast W-U. I got this from Puzzle Master as part of my attempt to complete my Hanayama collection. I have a large number of them and this one had intrigued me for a while. It is rated as level 3 on the Hanayama 6 point scale and level 7 (Challenging) on Puzzle Master's own scale of 5 to 10. I actually disagree with these ratings and feel it should be at least one point lower on the scales. It is based on the classic Horseshoe puzzle which, let's face it, all puzzlers either own a copy of or have played with as a kid. I have 2 copies and, whilst it is no challenge to me, it is still fun to give to non-puzzlers as they remember that they've seen it but cannot remember what to do. Gabriel certainly seemed to enjoy it!

Again, beautifully packaged by Hanayama in their black box, it comes out as a lovely antiqued brass looking puzzle with dimensions 11.9 x 3.8 x 3.8cm. The W-U looks very similar to the original horseshoe puzzle but is made more complex by the fact that instead of 2 chain linked horseshoes there are 4 with pairs at 90º to each other and each pair is capped by a horse's head. The ring is another horseshoe made into a complete ring. No solution is provided and I very much doubt you will need one but it is available to download from here.

Interlocked Kube and one with wheels

I am a huge fan of interlocking cubes (different to burrs but great fun and often very challenging) and during a discussion with my friend Bernhard (you really should visit his store) this design by Yavuz Demirhan was discussed. Bernhard got permission to make 2 copies and one quickly came to me for a few Euros. Made of Maple and Padauk a few movements ends up with it split into 2 mirror halves:

Sunday 20 April 2014

And the winner is.....

A very fancy bit of code - produces a winner
So 2 weeks ago I set a contest to win a Buzzle Ball. Entry to the contest required only that you make a comment under the blog post and follow up with an email using my Contact page to allow me to contact you again.

There were only a few entries. I had planned to use a rather complex system using an excel spreadsheet and a random number generator. A friend at work who is a bit of a whizz with Javascript gave me the following code which will take all the comments and exclude me and then randomly generate a winner.

function getCommentAuthors(from, selector){ var authorEls = from.querySelectorAll(selector), authorNames = []; [], function(a){ authorNames.push(a.textContent); }); return authorNames.sort(); } var authors = getCommentAuthors(document.getElementById('comments'), 'cite.user:not(.blog-author) a'), randomisedAuthor = authors[Math.floor(Math.random() * authors.length)]; console.log(randomisedAuthor);
So a while ago I ran the code on that page using Chrome's javascript console and it produced the winner.

The winner is:
Michel van Ipenburg

My commiserations to those who didn't win but the Buzzle ball will be available on-line soon.

Saturday 19 April 2014

An N-ary puzzle to N'd all other N-ary puzzles!

So exciting - N more N-ary puzzles!
Over the last 2 years I have developed a bit of an addiction to N-ary puzzles. Yes I know I have developed an addiction to ALL puzzles but I really am trying to narrow down my interests a little bit. I'm struggling but promise that I'm trying really hard. Certainly one group that I am particularly keen to get more of, is the group that are mathematically based - i.e. they are based on Gray binary code.

Ternary Burr
I have written about a few of them before - One of my all time favourites is the Hexadecimal puzzle which is still available and beautifully reproduced by Dave Janelle of Creative Crafthouse - I wrote about it here. It is particularly fun because it has several challenges to keep you going over a long time.  Here I wrote about the Binary burr, recreated by Eric Fuller from Bill Cutler's original design and along with Goh Pit Khiam's amazing Ternary burr which Eric also reproduced a few months later - these were also amongst my favourite N-ary puzzles, partly for the craftsmanship, but especially because they combined my love of burr puzzles with N-ary puzzles. So you see, I am particularly keen when one of these beautiful logical puzzles also combines aspects of another subtype too. I did mention a while ago that I had received another small [sic!] batch from Wil Strijbos - they were the latest designs from the amazing Jean Claude Constantin and I am really pleased to say that some of them are also available from Puzzle Master too.

Of course, some of the puzzles in this group are boxes, but many of my puzzle friends know that I don't collect boxes and so would never have one of the magnificent Kcubes in my collection! Would I? Of course not - I have 2 of them! ;-)
The KCubes MMMDXLVI box has such a small cavity that I decided that it wasn't a box and thus I was allowed to own one. It requires 3,546 moves and is made of Kingwood, Tulip wood, Mun Ebony, and brass inlay with Tulip wood. It usually takes me about 90 minutes to open it because I invariably get lost during the process. Mrs S has admitted that it (and it's smaller brother the K419) are so gorgeous that they can remain on show in our living room on the central coffee table.

I am not the only one to have a huge addiction to N-ary puzzles - my very good friends Michel and Goetz often communicate with me about these particular puzzles and I do get informed of new ones often before they hit the market and then we discuss them a little without giving too much away. For more information about this fascinating group, you really should visit Goetz' Compendium of N-ary puzzles - he has analysed many of them in great detail and also have a look at his treatise on the Kugellager puzzles here - these pages are a tremendous resource for us all.

Having received so many at once I did ask for advice about the order to start them in and I started working my way through them. The first one that I played with was probably the most attractive of all.

Sunday 13 April 2014

EZ Atom

EZ Atom
I'm afraid this will be a fairly quick blog post today - I've had very little time for puzzling recently due to my oldest boy cat becoming extremely ill a few days ago. His usual treatment hasn't helped and the inevitable is happening. This meant I could not attend the Midlands Puzzle Party as expected yesterday and certainly have had very little time and concentration for puzzles. Luckily he seems quietly content and he sat on my knee whilst I played with the EZ Atom and typed this post.

I am partial to all puzzles fairly indiscriminately but really luuurrve anything shiny. For that reason I own quite a lot of the lovely Hanayama puzzles but I'm always on the look out for others. I had seen this puzzle reviewed by Gabriel here and saw that it really was lovely - in fact I had seen that there were others in the EZ series so, of course, I had to try a few! This puzzle was designed by Doug Engel who has his own site called PuzzleAtomic - I've only just found this and may have to buy some of his toys soon - don't tell Mrs S!!! It was manufactured for Puzzle Master under their own puzzle label. They can be found in the "Other wire/metal" category - always worth a look for many hidden gems in there. It is shaped like an atom with a nucleus and 3 orbiting electrons in bronze, silver & gold and, like the scientists of the last century, the aim is to "split the atom" - hopefully as a level 6 (Tricky) on their scale of 5-10, it should be a tad easier - certainly easy enough to do with a cat lying on my lap and with no enormous release of energy! Gabriel thought it should be a level 7 and I think I probably agree.

It arrived in Puzzle Master's own packaging and looks great. The shiny metal is not quite as perfect as the photos show on the site but it certainly still looks very nice - it is a nice metal and a decent weight to it. Each electron orbit is 83mm across. The reviews on the page are mixed - I read them after I had solved it and agree up to a point - they are critical of the puzzle because a certain amount of force is required. However, if it was made in such a way that no force was required at all then it would just fall apart. I did not think the force required was excessive and it did not detract from my pleasure when I worked it out. No solution is supplied but you can download it from here if you need it.

Sunday 6 April 2014

Plastic puzzles can be fun too

Something old, something older and something brand new for you to win!

The Orb or Orb-it
Many of you will have noticed that I have a bit of an addiction!
"No!" I hear you cry, "never!"
It's funny how I hear so many voices!

Well I'm afraid to admit that it's true - I seem to have a bit of a wood habit. My study looks absolutely gorgeous because every wall is covered in wooden puzzles made by fantastic craftsmen. I have a single shelf devoted to Wil's glass and metal beauties and a half shelf devoted to Traiphum's hand made twisties. I do have quite a lot of mass produced twisties but not on show! Erm - "quite a lot" means 146 unique puzzles! I have been chastised for only writing about expensive puzzles and gently berated by a good friend for ignoring a whole group of puzzles that are absolutely fascinating and, by and large, very affordable. This group tend to be made of plastic and probably broadly fall into the puzzle classification as "Sequential movement" puzzles if one uses the Dalgetty-Hordern system, these can be sub-divided nicely if you use Rob's system - I have taken a screenshot of the relevant section.

From Rob's fabulous site
I had ignored this group for a long time but had gradually noticed that my good friends Michel and Goetz had frequently published about obtaining many new ones in this group and really enjoyed them. Another friend to whom I am most grateful has gifted me with several puzzles from this section over the last 2 years and every single one has proved to be a tremendous challenge and an awful lot of fun. Some have been so difficult that I have so far singularly failed to solve them despite many many hours of effort. The important thing about these is that they are often 30+ years old and consequently only available on Ebay or other auction sites. They also tend to be much cheaper than the newer puzzles and thus great value for money.

At the top of the post is a fantastic puzzle that was one of the first that I was given. It is The Orb (US name) or Orb-it (UK name) and was first patented in 1981 UK and 1982 US. It consists of 4 tracks - those at the poles containing 8 beads and those next to the equator contain 20. The puzzle is split from pole to pole and can be rotated on itself to move the tracks into different positions - one position creates a single huge spiralling track and another position creates 2 separate tracks rather like the lines on a tennis ball.

1 continuous track
Scrambled - looks awful
It is thus possible to scramble the beads up enormously - Jaap calculated the number of positions as:

which seems fairly horrific to me.
In terms of solving it - I would think that most puzzlers will work it out within a few hours or days and it is great fun to hand a scrambled one to your non-puzzling friends to watch the bewilderment on their faces. Now if you are a real connoisseur or sucker for punishment then you can buy a special version with more tracks in it from Shapeways. They were designed by Jason Smith aka Puzzle Forge and made truly stunning by having them electroplated!