Friday 6 June 2014

An Eggcellent puzzle - Much more complex than I first thought!

The Strijbos egg - it's the one on the left!!
Last week I warned the world that Wil Strijbos was going to be releasing a very special new puzzle on an unsuspecting world and oh boy was I right! The first ones have been released and I absolutely MUST write a blog post about it!

People seem to think that working as the "trouble shooter" for Streetwise puzzles (Wil's brand name), I get lots of advance notice of puzzles coming up or even get to play with them early. I'm afraid that is far from true - I hear about them through the same newsletters as everyone else and have to rattle in my order as quickly as possible to avoid losing out! My rôle has simply been to receive emails forwarded from Wil that are asking for help with possibly broken puzzles or sometimes helping people who just cannot solve something.

We have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Egg for a year now, since Wil sent out tantalising photos of the pieces. Everyone had hoped (including Wil) that it would be ready for Easter this year and when Newsletters A-E came out in May after the Easter holiday, we had almost given up hope. But late at night (does that man ever sleep?) an email was sent out that suddenly released on the unsuspecting world the news that "The Egg" was now available. Most of the UK was asleep (including me) and I actually didn't see anything in my usual morning scan of my emails at 6am. Whilst eating breakfast I received an email from my very good friend Shane (famous for The Block and The Circle). Shane and I communicate very frequently about life, families and puzzles and it is always a delight to read his emails - I also hope for news of the upcoming Parallelogram. I opened his email at 06:30 and was horrified to read that Wil's latest newsletter did not appear to have come to me! Quickly rummaging through my Spam folders I was disgusted to see that Google had indiscriminately placed Wil's latest email there! I read through the blurb, gulped very loudly at the price-tag and promptly sent an email hoping that there would be some left. I immediately set up a Gmail rule to ensure his messages are tagged as high priority and then also set up an "If This Then That" (IFTTT) rule to ensure that if ANYTHING came from Wil I would also receive a text message informing me of it asap - do you think this might be the sign of OCD?* Later on I paid a sum of money to Wil that Mrs S still is not aware of and I don't plan to let her know any time soon! I received my tracking number a day or so later.

*Let me assure you that my OCD is actually CDO - it is VERY important to put the letters in the correct order!!

In the Newsletter we were provided with the following information:
After 3 prototypes I managed to get ready the EGG in time, at least
before Easter 2015. Still a lot of work to do, to check all the Egg’s
from the inside. I anyway from the outside they all look wonderful and
if you can not solve the EGG, who cares about the inside?
                Mmmmmmm, probably just me :)
James Dalgety's Egg
          History of the EGG:
See the picture I took when I visited James Dalgety in December 2011.
The date on the bottom from the EGG says 1986, so it is now at least
28 years ago that I created this EGG. This first creation will be also
in the collection from Jerry Slocum, Dick Hess and in some other col-
lections. Maximum production at that time was less then ten. In the
90tys last century a company tried to produce the EGG. The result at
the end was a broken EGG, too difficult to produce they told me. So
when I saw my EGG again in the collection from James Dalgety I decided
to give it a try.
With this sort of tantalising information, how could I possibly resist?

The beautiful new toy arrived on Wednesday and was waiting for me after I came home from work with a:
"You've had yet another delivery from Wil Strewbosh again!"
She now recognises his unique approach to packaging immediately (wrapped in layer upon layer upon layer of parcel tape) and all this was accompanied by the laser burning stare. Whilst she continued preparing dinner, I ripped into the package and inside the big box was a lot of packing peanuts (which the cats enjoy) and.... another box - also very well taped. I think it must have taken me 5 minutes to get to the puzzle! But OMG it was worth it! Absolutely stunning egg shape made from aluminium and anodised in bright pink with a number etched on the side (mine is no. 21) and the word Egg on the bottom half. Wil's signature appears underneath. This is a puzzle for both sexes! My female friends have been immediately taken by the lovely lines and the beautiful colour and the boys have marvelled at the engineering quality.

The puzzle is BIG - It is 9.5cm from top to bottom and 7.2cm across the widest part; made entirely of metal, it is heavy weighing in at a grand 0.5Kg/1.1Lbs - If you drop this it will make a dent in the floor, smash a tile or break a Metatarsal. It oozes quality - feeling cool and, like the recent 4 piece jigsaw, it has a rather nice tactile anodized surface. The aim is to separate the puzzle into 2 halves. I took a photo or 2 and posted on Facebook and of course emailed Shane. It would appear that everyone in the UK was starting work on it at the same time.

It had made a very tiny movement in the post and I followed the instructions in the subsequent email explaining how to ensure the egg is at the start position. I couldn't resist a little play at that point despite the very real threat of physical violence from she who must be obeyed and I quickly discovered the first couple of interesting moves!

Locked solid in this position!
Very quickly the puzzle is partly open - probably about 7-9mm but that is as far as the movement goes! Whilst it initially was possible to rotate the top and bottom halves, when opened this small amount it locks solid - no rotation possible at all and in fact to my horror, it also wouldn't close again! Aaargh! Fearing for my life, I helped Mrs S with dinner and washing up and some other chores and later that evening when we sat down in front of the TV, I had another play. I felt rather guilty as I have the Cutler 66 piece cube partly disassembled on my foot rest and chose the Egg over trying to finish that.

Too distracted by shiny things to finish the cutler cube!
I must have played with it for a couple of hours and during that time I received a photo from Shane showing that he had opened his. My God, he's quick! This spurred me to really concentrate on it and finally something very special happened. Shortly after that occurred, I was suddenly able to separate the 2 halves! Yessss! I was the second to solve it!

Opening it up is only part of the challenge - do you understand it?
I let Shane know and then had a good look at the mechanism before putting it back together again and muddling up all the various internal components. I really did think that my brief look had provided me with an adequate understanding of how the puzzle worked. Oh boy! How wrong was I? I couldn't open it again at all and I sent off another anguished email to Shane who advised me to rest and sleep on it!

The following day I went back to work on it and tried out a few ideas that had popped into my rather empty head that night. Finally with a shout of victory it was open again - picture duly posted on Facebook and I then spent time really investigating how the puzzle worked. It appears that the contents are very simple but the way they all interact is very complex and it definitely requires a strict sequence of moves to open the puzzle. I duly pushed it back together and promptly disassembled it straight away again. Having done this a few times, I shared my technique with Shane and put it away for the rest of the day. It was Mrs S's birthday and I was a good boy and paid her lots of attention and lavished her with gifts, chocolate, cards, a nice meal and lots of appropriate adoration (she was feeling rather elderly!) So, much later that night, when back at home I picked up the egg again and opened it up partway - something did not seem right! I then realised that it had opened up in an entirely different position from the first time I got it. I also realised that this time when it was opened up it was easily able to rotate - this was definitely not right! I separated the halves again and had a really close look!

At this point I realised that there is MUCH more to this than I originally thought! This puzzle is very similar to Wil's Aluminum cross puzzle - many people open it entirely by accident but it is only in the resetting strategy that you truly have to work out it's secrets! and even then it can take a good bit of really deep thought to truly understand it. I can now confirm my old adage that you need to solve and reset more than once before you can claim to have truly solved a puzzle - the Egg is a perfect eggsample of this! Having had my deep thoughts, I went about properly setting all the parts to the beginning positions and it was not an easy thing to do! Subsequent solves now take me about 5 minutes and the positions are exactly like I did the very first time. It is still a really tricky thing to do even knowing in great detail how it works. Whilst the cost was high for this one, it is a seriously beautiful thing, very well engineered and amazingly complex inside. Anyone buying it will enjoy it - I know there are limited numbers and am not sure how many Wil has left for sale but I think once you have really understood the puzzle you will be eggstremely pleased you bought it!


  1. Kevin, nice post! Mine is across the oceans on the way to me. I am already trying to imagine how the hidden mechanism might possibly work inside the Egg and what sort of deviousness Wil was up :-)

    1. I knew you wouldn't be able to resist a new quality metal puzzle despite the high price! You will love it!

    2. Looking forward to it. The Egg is actually cheaper than the Angel Box!

    3. Hi Kevin, nice write up, I'm in your second stage having opened it a couple of times now I'm still struggling with the mechanism to enable consistent solving on demand :-D

    4. Well done Graham! The second stage is the hardest by far! Good luck. K