Sunday 29 March 2015

A gift out of the blue!

2 Piece Cube - Home made but very high quality
Just a quickie this weekend - unfortunately I have to work and won't have much time for writing a long review.

One of the things I love about the puzzle world is the people within it! They are always helpful and often go way beyond what one would expect to provide assistance or advice. I regularly am contacted by puzzlers for either advice or for help solving puzzles and do my best to provide what they need without giving too much away and spoiling a puzzle. I was completely surprised when I received an email from Germany, from a relatively new puzzler by the name of Carsten.

My first contact with him was about the Angel box combination plate code and must have been rather unsatisfactory for him because as far as I can tell the plates and codes were assigned randomly. After that we had no contact until earlier this month when he contacted me to inform me that he had designed a puzzle himself and would like to send me a copy. Why? because:
I would like to send you one of them as a little thank you for your great blog which helped me alot finding my way through the jungle of countless puzzles out there!
Aw shucks! Blush! This really filled me with emotion - I do this because I love to puzzle, I love to communicate and I love to help people. I never expect anything in return. I returned his offer saying that it was totally unnecessary but I did give him my home address and thought nothing more of it. Well at couple of weeks later a very big box arrived from Germany and I was completely mystified as my tiny memory had no recollection of anything being on its way. Finally it dawned on me what was inside and I was staggered at the quality of this "home made" puzzle.

8 blocks of Walnut and Maple with a couple of metal things on opposite faces
This is the Two Piece Cube and is made from wood and metal and is beautifully packed with a card giving name and instructions. This was almost like a professionally made puzzle! The card gave instructions:
Challenge 1  Split the two halves 
Challenge 2  Once unlocked, split the 2 halves IN ONE GO using the tool 
Challenge 3  Once unlocked, split the two halves, IN ONE GO WITHOUT using the tool 
Challenge 2 + 3 have to be completed WITHOUT ANY shaking or banging!
I of course only read the first challenge before starting to play shortly after breakfast - much to the disgust of the present Mrs S! There is really not much to go on to start with - it is not a burr or a conventional interlocking solid and there appears to be something or several things inside which move about but who knows what.

After about 10 minutes of fiddling I had a sudden movement and an Aha! moment. This told me the direction of travel and I tried to continue it only to be blocked by something that I couldn't see. Hmm! Now what do I do? Well what does any puzzler do? He shakes it a bit and after a few shakes it moved a bit further before being blocked again! But now I could see that there were several things inside which seemed to be interacting - I couldn't quite make out what they were and so carried on with my initially successful move. Shaking some more didn't help in taking it apart but something dropped on my lap. I had a tool! The little red centre piece that you can see in the top picture had fallen out! I was worried that I had broken it and quickly went back to the instructions and only at that point did I read about the tool. Yep! Not very bright at all!

A bit of play with the tool revealed something interesting about it - lets just say that a compass would go absolutely wild next to the tool and this puzzle. I then tried to work out how to use the tool properly - moving it to various places made things move around inside but none of those things allowed me to separate the 2 halves any further. After another 15 minutes I had a breakthrough and suddenly some further separation occurred but only a small amount before it came to a halt again. Each movement was occurring randomly and I did not appear to be doing anything consistent to achieve it. Perseverance was required and I was doing my best to avoid doing various chores so onwards and outwards(?) - I soon had a little rhythm of movements going and it got progressively further and further apart before it was open enough for me to understand what was actually going on and after a total of about an hour I had this:

Phew! That was quite a nice challenge!
I then read the subsequent challenges and with horror realised that I didn't really understand how I had opened it and certainly didn't think it was possible to do it IN ONE GO! I informed Carsten of my initial success and my trepidation over the next challenges. I managed to put it back together and disassemble it a few times but it was always a challenge requiring a lot of shaking and playing with the tool - certainly not a smooth movement that he wanted.

Finally I had a proper think (c) and experimented with it half open! Suddenly I had a Eureka moment and realised that there was a way to manipulate things logically. 5 minutes later it was reset to the beginning and I was on my way! I was able to open it and close it really quickly in one go without any locking up by just being careful with positioning, orientation and playing with the tool! Even more amazing it is possible (actually even easier!) to do it without the tool! Now that is a REALLY clever - I could never have thought up anything like that! It is really not particularly complex but it certainly understanding to reliably make it work.

I would like to thank Carsten very much for this wonderful gift and I am greatly looking forward to any future designs he may make. I am aware that he has been playing with Burrtools and maybe we will see some other interlocking puzzles from him? I will show the 2 piece cube to the guys at the Midlands Puzzle Party when we next get to meet up - I am sure they will be bemused by it but will probably be able to solve it much quicker than me!

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