Sunday 31 May 2015

Fantastic Five - A Fantastic Puzzle!

Fantastic Five
Getting to the end of my Puzzle Master hoard now, I decided to play with another disentanglement. I am completely addicted to them - they appear so simple and yet can be tremendously complex. They are also, by and large, relatively cheap. The best think I find about them is that the Aha! moment which we all crave so much is very prominent with them - sometimes a puzzle is solved by accident but this makes that final understanding all the more fantastic when it finally arrives. My addiction/habit/hobby has led me to order another batch of them from Tomas Linden at Sloyd where he seems to have a rather huge selection so expect another load of reviews of affordable puzzles to come your way.

Livewire version
I am now going to exhibit the depths of my dementia!! I ordered the Fantastic Five thinking that a level 9 (on their 5-10 difficulty scale) is pretty difficult for a disentanglement that doesn't involve string. I had no real recollection that I had already bought a version of this (called the Pentangle) from Livewire puzzles and reviewed it here. In my defence, I have bought an AWFUL LOT of puzzles since then and it was nearly 4 years ago. In fact, I frequently wake up in the morning and there is a strange woman lying next to me! I have no idea who she is but she claims that we are married! Would I have been that silly? OUCH! There goes another bruise!

Sunday 24 May 2015

The Pentagon - Hales Puzzle Number 4

Four Hales Puzzles - each very different
Earlier this week I left you all in suspense having announced the arrival of Shane’s 4th puzzle, the Pentagon. The letter that came with it informed me that this was a prop, a themed puzzle. It would appear that there had been an explosive device which needed to be defused. Shane declared that he himself had defused the timer but there were other parts including an electronic and a magnetic fuse that needed to be deactivated before the device could be fully opened and the contents revealed. Finally the code within needed to be sent back to Hales Puzzles HQ.

I left you with a picture of the special case that the device was sent in. Obviously Royal Mail could not be entrusted entirely with safe delivery of an explosive wrapped in bubble wrap (as most puzzles seem to) - this required a special case! All very exciting and my first task was to open the case to get to the device/puzzle itself. Undo the clips on each side…. easy! But the lock held it firmly shut and now the chase was on! How to open it? Was the lock a fake? Was there another way in? Be observant is the watchword here! It took me an embarrassingly long time to find a tool. It looked helpful but proved impossible to use - hmmm! Embarrassingly, after an even longer time period, I finally used my observational skills elsewhere, followed some rather subtle instructions and eventually I had a tool that I could use. The case was open:

It took me quite some time to reach this point! I've barely started!

Thursday 21 May 2015

Shane's Greatest Achievement Yet?

There is something top secret in here
Many times over the last few years I have gushed over the creations of a good friend of mine - Mr Shane Hales is a Master Craftsman and has a certificate or two from the Institute Of Carpenters to prove it, he is also a Master of the Worshipful Company of Carpenters and a Master of the Worshipful Company of Joiners & Ceilers as well as The City & Guilds of London Institute too - in fact this young man has as many qualifications and letters after his name as me!

His puzzles so far include:
  1. The Block (reviewed here, here & here)
  2. The Circle (reviewed here & here)
  3. The parallelogram (reviewed here & here)
Each puzzle has got better and better and he promised me some time ago that the next in the series, The Pentagon (he has a shape fetish) would be the best yet. Today, I picked up a package from the post office and was rather shocked at the sheer size and weight of it!

Both cats could fit in this!
Opening it up as soon as I got home was a delight! It was beautifully wrapped and there was a surprise waiting inside - a locked metal case and an envelope with instructions:

Real attention to detail!
This is a sequential discovery puzzle with a set of instructions and tools to be found! Fantastic! Lord knows where I will be keeping this - it is HUGE. The instructions are particularly exciting:

To find out a bit more about Shane and his puzzles - he has a website here. Don't try and wheedle a puzzle out of him - he ONLY makes them for friends and people who have helped him in his puzzling journey - he will not make them for sale and his terms and conditions state that these puzzles, once given away, cannot EVER be sold or given to someone else! They are personal gifts to the recipient and not for redistribution.

I am eternally grateful to Shane that I am the only person other than the man himself to have all 4 of his productions (I have the serial number 001). They all take pride of place in my living room.

Now when I have finished my paperwork.... it's puzzling time!

Sunday 17 May 2015

Wedding Vows

Wedding Vows
I'm not sure that Mrs S wants our wedding vows likened to a disentanglement puzzle! I have to say that she (as are all women) is a puzzle far harder to solve than anything that Puzzle Master has to offer! I'm reaching the end of my stash from them now and am going to have to order some more - there's a few I have my eye on. I can't allow myself to run out of things to blog about can I?

You all know how I love my disentanglement puzzles and I took this with me to London to visit my mother. I needed one that would not take up too much space in my bag and which (hopefully) would not take me too long to solve and write about. She gets rather upset by my habit/hobby - she thinks it's all rather childish and really doesn't approve! Luckily I'm a boy who never really listens to his mother!

This time it was to be the Wedding Vows puzzle. So out it came from the nice clamshell box and the diagram on the back makes it clear that the aim is to move one of the rings on the string to join up with its partner on the other loop. There's a lot of guff about things old, new, borrowed and blue which you can just ignore. I guess you can also ignore the stuff about not giving it to babies aged 0-3 because who would be that stupid? The photo was duly taken on my mum's dining table using my iPhone, edited on the phone using Snapseed, and made ready for upload. Then Google had me stymied - there appears to be no way to upload photos to picasa (where the blog photos are held) - for a web based company they really don't make it easy! In the end I ended up buying an app for 99p - see how much I spend for your pleasure! The picture uploaded, I was ready for puzzle solving.

I was kind of hoping that I'd chosen one that I could manage in a fairly short time and not disturb anyone or at least upset my mother! This particular one was just a level 8 on Puzzle Master's scale of 5-10 so should not be too difficult! It folds up quite small but when opened out it has dimensions of 17.8 cm x 22.9 cm. no solution is provided and I very much doubt that you will need one but if it proves to be too tough for you then download the solution from here.

Monday 11 May 2015

Another Milestone - It Seems to Have Passed so Quickly!

OMG! Look at that!
Well, it would appear that my mother has been really busy! Just today I would appear to have passed the 500,000 pageview mark on this little blog of mine and I'm sure that most of those views must have been her keeping an eye on me! I very much doubt that anyone else could possibly be reading my drivel! It certainly wasn't Mrs S - she has absolutely no interest in what I have to say at all!

500k in just over 4 years! Here's hoping that I can keep it up for another 500k! With your help and support, I'll give it my best shot!

Sunday 10 May 2015

A Cube with a Twist - Like Something from Hellraiser

The Dreidel 3x3 - looks harmless enough!
I was all set to write a post on one of my last few Puzzle Master puzzles when I had a sudden breakthrough towards the end of the week and just had to write about something truly brilliant. Pictured above is a rather innocent looking twisty puzzle called the Dreidel 3x3 produced by limCubes. I have been working on this amazing puzzle for the last three weeks and finally managed to solve it in a repeatable manner.

The puzzle was announced in September last year and released to the world a month or so ago. The immediate response on the Twisty Puzzle forum was of rapture - it looked so cool and the early videos from people who first received it looked fantastic. We had all been really excited and then really disappointed by another recent release (the 2x2 Megaminx) which turned out to be almost non-functional - mine has been sitting in my work bag for months and barely been turned because it is so awful. The Dreidel 3x3 is a combination of 2 mechanisms - it is a standard 3x3 cube but it also has corner turns as well which produces those curved cuts on the surfaces that you can see above. Here's a picture of the basic movement:

Dreidel corner turns.

Monday 4 May 2015

Holey 6 Board Burr - suitably special for post 301!

Holey 6 Board Burr
Two posts in two days - amazing! My 300th post yesterday was about a puzzle made by a superb craftsman (Eric Fuller) and I think that this post (number 301) should also be about a really special puzzle from another superb craftsman (Brian Young). Luckily she who must be obeyed let me come inside from my public holiday chores to finish off this post for you.

I have to own up and admit that I have been extremely remiss and I really do apologise! I have owned my dream set of burrs for over a year and not yet completed the task of solving them, let alone reviewing them! Brian Young (aka MrPuzzle) has brought out his limited edition puzzles almost every year for the last 20 years and I have been only too happy to chuck my cash at him and his lovely wife for the privilege of owning some of the most amazing toys the puzzle world has ever seen!

The gorgeous 5 - even now I can't help drooling when I see them!
At the end of 2012 I made a Xmas wish that I could manage to get a copy of Brian’s limited edition series of 5 burrs and amazingly after a few months - the wish came true! See kids, if you wish hard enough for something then Santa actually does listen - especially if you have been particularly good like I have been! Thank goodness Santa obviously doesn’t read my posts where I admit having been very bad or even really really bad! I gradually worked my way through these burrs and would appear to have stopped at the final one. In retrospect, I realise that Brian had produced burrs which each have something unique to them and involved different thought processes - one was coordinate motion, one involved rotational moves, one forms a box and is more of an assembly puzzle and the last one I reviewed was the Woven burr which is a board burr with a deceptively simple woven structure which was horrifically difficult to assemble after taking it apart!

I had intended to solve and review the final one - the Holey 6 board burr a month or so after the last review in December 2013 but I failed to do so. I actually blame Brian for it because he seems to have produced several other limited editions since then and even a very special exchange puzzle - all of which have kept me puzzling and writing about other things. A few weeks ago when “she” forced me to clean (and in the process to reorganise) the tip that was my study and during that process I had to dust the shelves. This meant removing many lovely toys from the shelves and I realised when I took down the Holey board burr that I had still not solved it - I had to fix this soon.

Sunday 3 May 2015

Not too chicken to pull its' legs off!

Yes! It's a wooden chicken
I didn't realise until after I had posted but this is my 300th blog post since I began 4 years ago in March 2011! What a journey! What a lot of puzzling experience! What a lot of cash gone! Luckily this commemorative post (and the next) are about the work of truly fabulous craftsmen.

Eric Fuller recently put up an update on his Cubic dissection and I was caught by surprise! I had known it was coming up some time soon but couldn’t afford to upset the wrath of the present Mrs S (she’s doing OK for a first wife!) by putting our evening meal on hold until the update occurred. I think she might have stuffed both hot dinner and various puzzles with sticky out bits into a place where the sun don’t shine - and that’s making me ill at the very thought!

The end result was that I missed out on the Oskar’s Matchboxes that came out. BUT there were 2 absolutely gorgeous pieces that I did manage to get my eager mitts on. The Chicken puzzle designed by a relatively new designer Olexandre Kapkan and the rather historic Visible burr designed by the incredible Bill Cutler which was offered in the disassembled state or fully assembled for an extra $10.

The chicken was the one that I went for first - because there had been some chat on FaceBook about how there may be an extra surprise inside. The other reason for doing that first was that the Visible burr was just too intimidating for a weekday night! I had visions of it getting partially solved and collapsing in a heap of pieces just as I wanted to go to bed! (Oh how I got that wrong!!)