Sunday 1 March 2015

Wise Up - He snatches defeat from from the jaws of victory

Wise Up
Why the title? The jaws of victory refers to my epic battle involving blood, sweat, tears and swearing with Eric Vergo's Pentagram twisty puzzle over the last 10 days. It is a corner turning dodecahedron with fairly deep cuts so that, unlike the Bauhinia and Starminx 1 (also corner turning), it has corner pieces. I received it in a recent batch from Calvin's HKNowstore and after stickering it, I began taking notes and hunting for my own algorithms for it. I gradually found various algorithms to allow me to move specific piece types without upsetting others and despite a partial inadvertent scramble during my exploration, I was ready to play! I solved my partial scramble and hence proved to myself that I had it right and scrambled it properly. Oh boy! I was totally unprepared for the battle that would commence! Not only was the turning poor due to so many pieces meeting at a point, but those points gradually sharpened themselves as they moved. During the multiple attempts at solving it I got stabbed quite badly and bled profusely over myself and my puzzle! I kept losing track of my setup moves during the solve and had to start again at least 8 times (once was really close to the final solution too)! I was nearly ready to give up when a final push last night snatched a victory for me!

Phew! I was ready for something a little less painful and hopefully a bit more easily successful! Lord! was I wrong about that!

I adore most puzzles (except packing puzzles and dexterity puzzles) and deliberately don't collect boxes to save the tattered remains of my finances. But one of my favourite types of puzzle is the disentanglement group - they are such a varied group and such a huge challenge at a very affordable price that I just cannot resist them. My favourites are the wire puzzles but having had a bit of success with the string puzzles that I got from Markus Götz I decided to try a few more.

The Wise up puzzle was designed by Markus (you can almost see his signature design in it) and manufactured by Eureka games and I got this from Puzzle Master in their "Other wood" section. It's a level 9 (Gruelling) on Puzzle Master's 5-10 scale and I have to say that this might be an underestimate of the difficulty. It is made of a plain wood (possibly maple) post with a nice sturdy thick string and coloured wooden bits as well as an anodised wire ring. The aim here is to remove the red ring from around the post. Unusually, this puzzle is packed in a plastic tube rather than the usual clamshell box. No solution is provided but it can be downloaded from Puzzle Master here.

My initial exploration revealed that there was a lot of length on the string and the rings would pass through the post and the wire loop but the 2 balls could not. This meant that there was a lot of leeway for wrong moves and a huge potential for knots - my nightmare!

I got stuck after about an hour - I had found a particularly interesting sequence of moves which actually raised the red ring up above 2 of the loops of string and, to my warped mind, seemed closer to an exit. I got fixated on this for a couple of hours until Einstein's adage about not repeating the same moves over and over again and expecting a different result finally sunk in to my dense cranium. With a sigh of regret I started a fresh and thanked my lucky stars that it doesn't seem to get too badly knotted.

After trying a new sequence from the very beginning I suddenly looked at my hand and realised that I had this:

Now how had I achieved that?
Unfortunately I really had no idea what the crucial sequence had been! I could remember the exit moves but that was it. I have spent hours now going round and round in circles desperately trying to put it back together and cannot do it. I even downloaded the solution from Puzzle Master and tried to follow that! Yes I know that's a terrible admission but after my pentagram battle and the resultant hypovolaemia (look it up!!) I was at an all time low ebb and needed some assistance followed by a lie down for a while!

The solution pdf in front of me seemed perfectly reasonable - I followed the steps for reassembly (including the well remembered exit point) and...... the ring kept falling off! Sob! In my weakened state I cannot complete the solve of this puzzle - I've been at it for ages and can't even use the damn instructions! Hence I have snatched failure from the jaws of victory - I am a shadow of the puzzler I used to be! I'm sorry to all of you! Now I need a darkened room to lie down in!

Should you buy this puzzle? I would say yes! It's nicely made, a great price at $18 and a serious challenge! It will also give you a chance to prove (as many have) that you are a better puzzler than me! Snifffff, Sob, bursts into floods of tears! I'm off for a lie down now!

OMG!!! Update update! I managed to put it back together - my technique was nothing like the pdf solution and I cannot remember what I did!!! Aaaargh!

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