Monday 26 May 2014

Cast Violon

Cast Violon
Yet again I'm late publishing! I'm terribly sorry, but being on call makes it rather hard to concentrate but luckily I am off on the bank holiday Monday and so there's still going to be an update for you. I was planning on discussing the latest heavy metal loveliness from my friend Wil Strijbos but Allard and and Jerry got there first and I very much doubt you want to read three reviews of the same puzzles in a row (especially as they are so simple as puzzles - even if they are truly gorgeous).

Instead, I went out and rummaged around in my drawer containing my stash from Puzzle Master and found something that even the present Mrs S said looked gorgeous when it first arrived - the Cast Violon. This is one of the easier of the Hanayama puzzles which I had seen before at work when one of my friends who I had infected with the bug brought it to show me. At that time I had only played for a short while and gone around in circles for a while despite it being "easy". How easy? Well it is rated as a level 2 on Hanayama's 6 point scale or level 6 (Tricky) on Puzzle Master's scale of 5-10. Usually at this level, I find them fairly trivial but I bought it because of my previous difficulty, my urge to collect them all and also because it is just so beautiful.

It arrived packaged beautifully in the customary Hanayama black box and despite the look of my photo, it was absolutely pristine (my pictures always seem to show up lots of dust and fur - probably because everything I own is now covered in cat fur!) This puzzle is not new, it was originally patented in the US in 1965, having been created by Joseph L. Litle. The Hanayama version was reconstructed by Nob Yoshigahara after playing with a wooden copy built by his close, but now deceased friend, Tadao Muroi. Nob changed the proportions considerably from the original plan and made it look more like a violin and hence the name. It is made from a cast metal and anodised a lovely reddish colour making it look almost like copper (I hope it won't go green with time).

All the reviews on the product page are 4 stars or above and it has been very well received. Gabriel reviewed it here and felt that it deserved a higher difficulty rating. Neil's review was positive and included a video to show how it moved.

No solution is provided and I very much doubt that you will need it but should you collect the solutions then it can be downloaded from Puzzle Master at this page.

Sunday 18 May 2014

These cubes are Mine's (Or are they?)

The second post of the day!!! I just had to get this off my chest - it has taken me a VERY long time to solve these puzzles!

Mine's Cubes?
None of these puzzles are new - in fact I have had them for an embarrassingly long time! This collection of cubes/interlocking solids have an interesting history. They were bought at separate times and from different craftsmen yet share a common theme. From left to right we have Lock-Y-Cube, Disjointed/Accordion Cube and Lock-N-Cube.

All three of these were designed by the incredibly prolific Mineyuki Uyematsu aka Mine. The middle one was also independently designed by a newcomer to the puzzle design world, Ken Irvine, who arrived like a hurricane at the Washington DC IPP in 2012 and caused a real storm (sic!) when one of the cubes that he released to the world was absolutely identical to one produced by Mine. After the furore died down and the community realised that they really had been designed independently (after all, calculus was discovered by 2 great mathematicians simultaneously), they began to appear on the market. Mine had called his the Disjointed cube and Ken named it the Accordion cube - why these names? Because this happens:

Just a cube?
Disjointed/Stretched out
This particular version was made by the amazing Eric Fuller and sold in Feb 2012 - he made it from beautiful woods (Holly, Canarywood, Sapele, Zebrawood and Walnut). The interesting thing about it that makes it fun is that all five pieces move along the same axis, yet nothing seems to want to come apart. This is a very devious and fun design that stumped me for quite a while - it requires you to notice something rather unexpected before a piece comes loose. After that, it all comes to pieces. Reassembly is not too hard as long as you remember the order and position - there are several ways a couple of pieces would appear to go but only one is correct.

Eric makes such gorgeous puzzles!!

A unique challenge from Greece

There's going to be two posts this weekend! Watch out for the next one later today!!!

The 5x5x4 Floppy iCube
I watched in amazement when SuperAntonioVivaldi showed an entirely new class of cuboid - the Floppy iCube. The original icube was mass produced by Calvin as the 3x3x4 iCube and then my friend Dan (CrazyBadCuber) made the 4x4x5 version:

Sunday 11 May 2014

I got lost in the catacombs as well as the KCube!

Catacombs Plus
After last week's mammoth post (which did not seem to be particularly avidly received - do you all really dislike twisties so much?) which must have taken me a total of 8 hours to photograph and write, I am back to a much shorter one on a puzzle you will all appreciate.

The Chinese rings puzzle is a classic - it is one of the "must have" puzzles that all puzzlers should own - partly because it has been around for so more than 2000 years and also because it is such a nice fun one to solve! I have already written about the one I got from Livewire puzzles some time ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. But it only had 6 rings on it and really didn't take very long - let's say it was a beginner version. I also have a lovely heavy metal version which was sent to me by a very kind friend from the US. This version is made of steel by Tucker Jones and is called the Patience puzzle - it is absolutely stunning but not high enough level. I had seen on YouTube and also on Goetz' wonderfully informative site that there were variants that had more rings and hence, many more moves to solve.

I regularly browse through the Puzzle Master wire puzzle section to see if they have anything new for me and realised they had a Chinese ring puzzle so I ordered the Puzzle Master own brand version in my last order so that I could have a "grown up" version to try! The Catacombs plus is a beautifully made version with not just 1 or 2 extra rings - it has 10! For this reason it has been rated as a level 10 (Mind Boggling) on their difficulty scale and despite the fact that it is just based on a binary version of Gray code, it is a real challenge and certainly not something to do when you might be interrupted and sent off to do other chores. It arrived in Puzzle Master's standard clamshell packaging (albeit a much longer one than usual) and the only instructions are to remove the handle. It is beautifully made with really nice thick anodised wire, a good quality handle which makes holding it for prolonged periods much easier than the ones with wires only and, as you can see, has 10 rings on it! Dimensions are 3 x 20.5 cm.

No solution is given and hopefully you won't need one but if required the solution method for an easy version can be downloaded from here.

Monday 5 May 2014

Six faces aren't tough enough? Try these, you minx!

That's a lot of dodecahedra! (25 in all)
Yes! The cubes really ARE dodecahedra.
I'm very late - because "She who MUST be obeyed" ordered me to spend the entire weekend and bank holiday doing DIY and gardening. Unfortunately I am quite good at DIY and so she keeps forcing me to do more. When I mentioned that I had a blogpost to write she gave me a really dirty look and I began to smell burning before suddenly realising that my forehead was on fire! She now can use the laser burning stare without me even being able to tell - no running and hiding until it's too late!

I think it might be time for another little attempt at encouraging you to have a go at twisty puzzles. I WILL keep trying you know! They are just so good that everyone should at least have a try and spend a while learning either the beginners solution or the Ultimate solution.

This is quite a long post (OK, it's a very long post) but I will show you lots of interesting possibilities with links to where you can get them. There is a whole new world out there for all puzzlers to try. In N America I would suggest using Puzzle Master, who have a really good stock of twisty puzzles and in Asia I have begun to use - slightly more limited stock but amazing prices!

So having managed a cube (at least a 3x3 and maybe for the very adventurous the 4x4 too with all it's interesting little parities), what if you'd like to step it up a little? Add a little diversity of shape, give yourself some more movement, or even just vary the collection. After all, puzzlers are very interested in shapes and surely you cannot be satisfied until you have representatives of all the platonic solids!

All 5 platonic solids - all are face turning
In my "advice to beginners post" I suggest that the next steps after a simple cube is to move to different turning mechanisms or to move to shape modifications to skew your vision. But an alternative approach would be to move to one or all of the different shapes shown above. BUT if you would rather keep your path narrow or you have already done the cube and alternative mechanisms then how about falling down the deep spiral of doom into the dodecahedra? It's not just one puzzle for you - it's a whole family of them!

The Megaminx
Ah! This takes me back! It was amongst the first "different" twisties I bought several years ago. I still take it out to play even now. This is the very basic dodecahedral twisty and was designed many years ago by many people independently - Ben Halpern from USA, Boris Horvat from Yugoslavia, Barry Lockwood from UK and Miklós Kristóf  from Hungary, and Kersten Meier (Germany) sent plans in early 1981. I have heard that Dr Christoph Bandelow from Germany obtained  patents. The Hungarian version is notable as actually being in production. Shortly thereafter Uwe Meffert (one of the forefathers of twisty puzzling)  bought the rights to the Halpern and Meier design and marketed it as the Megaminx.

It has 12 face center pieces which are fixed, 20 corner pieces with 3 orientations, and 30 edge pieces with 2 orientations each! The theoretical maximum number of places is therefore 30! x 20! x 230 x 320 positions but not all can be reached because only even permutations of edges are possible (2), only even permutations of corners are possible (2), only an even number of flipped edges are possible (2) and the total twist of the corners is fixed (3)
This leaves:
1.01 x 1068 positions or 101 Unvigintillion/Undecillion.

Now hold on, hold on! Don't run away now! Thats all the maths I'll give! The numbers sound horrific but then they already do for the plain old Rubik cube and you know that the cube is easy. In fact the simple 3x3 face turning dodecahedron can be solved with EXACTLY the same method as the cube! Only a very minor alteration is needed for the megaminx. So it is really easy!! You can make it a bit tougher by giving the centre pieces an orientation - using Pochmann stickers for it from Oliver's stickers.

Still a megaminx - but now a "super" version
So having decided that you love the idea of 12 faces, where could you go next? Well the sky is the limit! The first thing most puzzlers look for is to buy bigger (or smaller puzzles) and I was no exception. Having mastered the 3x3 equivalent, I went for a 2x2 version (called the flowerminx or Kilominx) and originally designed by David Litwin from Twisty Puzzles and manufactured by Uwe Meffert. I also went for a 4x4 version known as the Master Kilominx by David Gugl and produced by MF8 which, like the 4x4 cube has a rather fun parity but also has a very interesting method of solving which does not produce parities and involves 2x2 block building.

2x2 - Flowerminx
4x4 - Master Kilominx
How much pain do you want?

This series continues with Gigaminx (5 layers), Teraminx (7 layers) and even Petaminx (9 layers), all mass produced and available now (if you really want the biggest twisty puzzle there is then get this one and the price from is amazing). If you are loaded down with an excess of cash or have a huge urge to collect a series, then a six layer (Elite kilominx) was designed by Grégoire Pfennig and made by Shapeways and may someday be available at auction. I don't have any of these as yet because I keep getting sidetracked by other toys! and to be honest they don't really add much to the challenge (just as a 7x7 cube is not really harder than a 5x5 once you know the basic process).