Sunday 15 June 2014

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Mirror blocks
Boy, I have been so busy recently - work keeps me going, then there's surfing the internet for toys, buying toys, taking photos of the toys, solving those toys, keeping in touch with puzzlers around the world and then we have those amazing but very time-consuming Midlands Puzzle Parties! I attended number 15 yesterday and had an absolute ball! More puzzles were bought, some were solved and I learned NEVER to trust a magician!

Another nemesis!
Laurie Brokenshire (one of the greatest collectors and solvers in the world) was present, as well as the incredibly prolific mathematician cum puzzle designer, Dick Hess and I realised that previous puzzle party attempts to make me look foolish were as nothing compared to the combined efforts of these two amazing gentlemen! They made me into a nodding donkey, doing contortions with my thumbs and having a guessing game on what was the purpose of a plastic thingummy! I have not had such a laugh in a long time - my only consolation was that everyone fell for their pranks. I was also humbled by watching them quickly solve puzzles that I had spent months on and failed - Rox had given me a copy of the Squared Fish puzzle and after year I had singularly failed - it took Dick less than 15 minutes! There are some of my correspondents who think I am an experienced and skilled solver but I am nothing more than a rank amateur compared to them! I did not take a camera so you will need to watch one of the other blogs for that. I've had my little MPP fix of Puzzle boxes so yet again I have no need to buy any myself - Phew cos Mrs S would be very unhappy with me if I started on that route.

We even had some Koala porn!!!

So I'm left rather late on a Sunday afternoon wondering what to write about and not an awful lot of time. I therefore decided that after a sublime MPP, I would write a few lines about my ridiculous fascination with twisty puzzles and in particular about a few brilliant ones I own or have played with.

At the top of the post is the Mirror blocks puzzle - all twisty freaks will have heard of it but probably very few general puzzlers. I got mine really really cheap from but it is also available from Puzzle Master and HKNowstore. I say it is sublime because it is JUST a 3x3 cube and hence brilliantly simple and worth being owned by all puzzlers but instead of solving it by colour as is conventional - it should be solved by shape alone.

Horrifically misshapen!
It scrambles into something absolutely awful but is solved in exactly the same way as you would solve a standard Rubik cube (nothing new is needed and there are no parities) so it is a way for any puzzler to convince his friends that he is even more mad than they already think he is! One thing that reminded me of this was that at MPP a friend of mine brought along a "2 solution" cube. This is a mirror blocks cube which also has colours - it is scrambled and then you can solve it either by shape or by colour - 2 for the price of one! The sticker scheme is available from the amazing Oliver Nagy's store.
How much fun is this?

Solution 1 - colour
Solution 2 - shape
Getting silly I should next mention another cube the Bandaged b344 cube. Another one that I got at a ridiculously cheap price from but is also available from Puzzle Master and HKNowstore.

Bandaged b344 cube
It doesn't look like much and needs to be fairly systematically scrambled using 90º turns of the layers alternating with 180º turns of the faces before undergoing a general cube scramble. As with many of these bandaged puzzles, they are an unexpectedly fun challenge - we all discovered this when, as a group we began to buy the 3x3 Bandaged kit from Cubetwist. This kit was considered such an essential fabulous purchase that it has reached number 6 on the Essential puzzles list from Rline/Twisty puzzling. As with many of these bandaged puzzles the only extras that are required are new ways to solve a 3x3 - nothing very difficult, just utilising the very basic beginners techniques in new ways. I had definite ideas about how to solve the b334 and scrambled it quickly one Friday evening in front of the TV:

Looks pretty blocked up?
My first few attempts showed me that just like the bandaged kit, I needed to really think and plan my solve process but did not need anything new at all - only 3x3 and cuboid skills. It's a fun challenge and really cheap.

Finally moving on to the ridiculous which again brings me back to MPP. A great puzzle friend of mine, Katten Vrienden (she's a Dutch cat lover), who I have met through Facebook as well as the twisty puzzles forum has proved to be a great twisty puzzle modder. At the MPP I played with several of her own designs and they were stunningly well made - some as good as those by the amazing Traiphum. I did not take any photographs so erm... borrowed similar images from around the net! Update - got sent some pics from Katten herself! My favourite looked just like a Siamese cubes:

Siamese twin? I think not!
Look what happens!
However it definitely was NOT a Siamese cubes It was actually JUST a 3x3 cube like the Mirror blocks I mentioned at the top of my post but the siamese part was made of extensions at various places so that when scrambled it became even more of a mess than the Mirror blocks and much more confusing with some very interesting parities and Supercube features. It took me nearly 30 minutes to solve it and I loved it! It took the sublime fun of the MPP along with the classic silliness of a grown man playing with toys, to something truly ridiculously tough (yes I know it's a very tenuous link to bring them all together under one title but bear with me please!) I need to convince her to make one of these for me when she has more time!

I hope that next week I will be slightly more coherent! Now it's time to snooze a while!


  1. Hi Kevin

    if I see the comments on facebokk then I have to plan for one of the coming MPP to participate, shoueld have been a very nice puzzlemeeting there


  2. You will be very welcome, Bernhard. This MPP had a particularly good turnout but in August it should be a good one as it's just before IPP.

  3. Hi Kevin, :wave: I really need to get to another MPP :-( Really starting to feel out of the puzzle loop :-(
    I love the Mirror Cube :-D I have a cheap variation on my work desk, along with a proper Rubik cube. I love the way it screws with your brain :-D

    All the best chap


    1. We've missed you Graham! Come along anytime! We tend to meet on Fscebook a lot. The Revo forum is avoided by most now!