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.

When the puzzle was sent out originally, Brian had been very concerned that it might get damaged in the post and hence decided to send it out disassembled. Unlike Laurie B (aka Dad!) I cannot just assemble complex puzzles from pieces and did not even attempt it - my first mission on the day the set arrived was to assemble the puzzle with the aid of Burrtools. I was careful not to pay any real attention to the sequence but of course, an intervening year or so has obliterated any memory anyway.

Brian wrote this about it:
"With 540 false assemblies and only 1 Level 3–3–10–9–2 solution this puzzle is a good challenge. 
Eventually the board burrs were analysed; work done by Frans de Vreugd and Bill Cutler in early 2002. So in 2009 Junichi again added a completely new feature to one of his designs to make this very unusual puzzle. 
The holes in the end of the burr are this feature and they are an integral part of the working puzzle."
Designed by Junichi Yananose, it is made from Tasmanian Oak with Tasmanian Blackwood centre and is gigantic (just like the others) being 200mm x 200mm x 200mm (pieces 200mm x 80mm x 20mm) and weighing in a hefty 1.5 kg! This is one very satisfying puzzle to handle if not store. It is one of the biggest puzzles I own with only 4 others being too big to store on a standard shelf in my study - the Opening bat sits on my desk and there appear to have been a few spill over onto the dining room sideboard because of size "issues"!

Too big for the study - Katie has sustained some injuries whilst fighting!
So out came the Holey 6 board burr and sat next to my armchair in the living room alongside a progressively enlarging pile of unfinished puzzles. Mrs S was getting rather annoyed at this and threatened yet again to insert things into places that are conventionally thought of as “one way” only! When she held up the Holey board burr and made movements towards me menacingly, I quickly agreed to solve it as quickly as possible and put it away. Luckily she backed off!

Playing with this puzzle with a cat sleeping on my lap was quite difficult because of the sheer size and weight and eventually I had to force him off - he sat watching me play with glowering eyes which egged me on to solve it quickly so he could get back on! There are quite a few movements possible from the beginning and none seem to lead anywhere useful but the advantage of a 6 piece board burr is that, by and large, you can see practically all of the interior of the structure and plan your moves. I systematically tried them out and, lucky me, the last one possible happened to be the correct one. It had taken me a while to find it because, to my mind, the second move (involving several pieces) was not intuitive at all.

After finding that the first and second pieces came out quite easily. At this point I expected it to come apart fairly easily but had not remembered that the third piece needed 10 moves to remove it. Because of the sheer size it remained fairly stable with just 4 pieces left and I discovered the pure genius of Junichi! The extra cross bars that he had put in the boards formed a sort of maze that blocked simple movements and it was necessary to move several pieces through that maze to engage them together and then manoeuvre the pair of them together to a place where a piece will come off. Amazing! What is even more amazing is that with just 3 boards left it requires another 9 moves to remove the next and still needs that incredible dance of pieces (a slightly different one) to make it happen! After that you have this:

Such simple pieces with such a fun solution
I put the pieces down for a rest and to let the disassembly fade from memory and immediately the cat was back in place! It was another ½ hour before he got off and let me try the reassembly - I thought I knew what was involved and put it back together until one piece remained and….. It wouldn’t move to the start position to engage that piece! Uh oh! Something wasn’t right! Everything looked perfect but there appeared to be something preventing the crucial move. Another genius aspect of Junichi’s design is that 4 pieces are identical but 2 of them are asymmetrical and it is crucial which way around each goes - it took me another 10 minutes or so to work out what I had done wrong!

The puzzle is sitting on my living room floor ready for me to put it away but I can’t do so just yet - I just cannot resist disassembling and reassembling it each evening! It is just so clever and wonderful in the hands!

Which of the 5 puzzles is my absolute favourite? Well that is really difficult to say because each one has something very special about it. I love the L-burr for the beauty and this Holey board burr for the satisfying maze sequence but I think my favourite is the Kamikaze burr because of despite the incredible simplicity of the overall structure it has 2 completely separate coordinate motions inside and gets very scary very fast! In fact my friend Burgo (from the Twisty Puzzles forum) bought it and has still not dismantled it because when he first picked it up there was so much movement that he “nearly pooped his pants!” His words not mine!

Of course, the Six of one, Half a Dozen of Another that was in the 2013 limited edition release remains another favourite of mine for disassembly and trying to reassemble by working it out from scratch! Now all I need to do is deliver Verne, Katie Koala’s joey - it seems to be taking me a very long time to work it out - you can see how she is suffering in the picture of the dining room above!

So having reached 300 posts in the 4 years since my first post in March 2011, I don't appeared to have suffered "blog fade" and have kept up an average of at least a post a week since the beginning! It amazes me that people continue to read my drivel but as long as you all do, I will endeavour to keep at it!

Thank you all for your support.

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