Sunday 7 June 2015

Not Terribly Bright - My Hall of Shame!

Or puzzles that I just cannot solve! Sob!!!

The Ultimate burr set with a level 1 puzzle assembled
I've been puzzling a fairly long time now (5 years) and have amassed a moderately decent collection of toys. In fact my collection has burst out of my study into the living room, dining room, a spare bedroom and now I've had to put a box of the less beautiful puzzles into storage in my garage! Mrs S has even suggested I just start at the beginning again and resolve all my old ones rather than buy more. My response to that was to ask her to wash her mouth out with soap and I told her that it was too late as I have a whole bunch of new disentanglements coming from my friend Tomas Linden at Sloyd and there might just be a few craftsman puzzles on order too! Whack!! Ouch! Sorry dear - I should have asked you first!

I'm still well behind most other serious puzzlers (I've not yet hit the 1000 puzzle mark) so she should be pleased that I'm working to catch up! Whack!! Ouch! Damn! Despite all this experience and the hope that it would expand the feeble brain that I have, I still have quite a few puzzles that I just cannot solve! To me, this is yet more proof that I'm not terribly bright. One day I hope that I just might manage to solve them.

Assembly of 6 piece burrs

At the top of the post is the gorgeous Ultimate burr set made by Jack Krijnen. It was originally documented in Creative Puzzles of the World by Van Delft and Botermans (1978) and several copies have been produced over the years - one is still available from Dave Janelle at Creative Crafthouse. The set consists of 27 pieces (all unique) that can be used 6 at a time to assemble a burr puzzle and was fully analysed by Ken Irvine. He showed that there are 59 level 1 puzzles that use the solid key piece in which the first move removes the first piece, 255 level 2 puzzles, 127 level 3 puzzles, 75 level 4 puzzles, 44 level 5 puzzles, 33 level 6 puzzles, 33 level 8 puzzles and finally 9 level 9 puzzles. At a total of 635 puzzles I would expect this to keep me busy well beyond my normal boredom threshold and after boredom sets in it will look fantastic on display in my study (which has been turned back into a shithole again!)

6 simple pieces!
That's as close as I can get!
Visible burr - stunning and very tough
After an initial problem caused by my lack of brain power, I finally (after about an hour of confusion) worked out how to go about solving the solid 6 piece burrs with the key piece and I surged through the first 59 puzzles in the list over 3 pleasant evenings in front of the TV with Mrs S. I took a break at that point and the following evening embarked on the very first of the level 2 burrs. I was on a roll, I thought, I would manage these with no problem, I thought and then Mrs S reminded me that I am not very bright and I hit a brick wall! Yep! Or Yip as Allard would say, I couldn't even solve the very first of the higher level 6 piece burrs! You all know how addicted I am to beautiful wood and that I have managed to accumulate a fair number of gorgeous burrs from the various craftsmen around the world. BUT I have always received them assembled and worked for hours, days, weeks or months on the disassembly and then reassembled them after having a lot of fun playing with Burrtools. Only a very few of these puzzles have I managed to reassemble from scratch and when I did do that, it was because of memory! One burr that was reputed to be very tough is the Gordian's Knot and I was proud to report to the world that I had managed to both disassemble it and even reassemble it without aid. BUT I can honestly say that I have NEVER assembled a burr from the pieces without having disassembled it first. In fact when Eric sold the Visible burr recently, I paid the supplemental $10 to receive it assembled so I could have the puzzling experience that Bill Cutler originally intended. In my defence with that I am not aware of any of the puzzlers who bought having assembled it without burrtools.

I have been trying to assemble the first of the level 2 puzzles for 4 evenings now and have not even come close! I have managed to find 2 possible assemblies of the completed puzzle but cannot work out the moves required to get that last piece in place. So far I have resisted using Burrtools - the humiliation is just too much! At this rate it might take me decades to solve the whole set and Lord help me when/if I get another set (there is still the 42 piece set that Allard described for me to obtain). I have been advised also that I REALLY SHOULD get the Mega Six burr from MrPuzzle. Brian says this about it:
The puzzle is incredibly more complicated than the commonly known six piece puzzle. 
Bill Cutler first used a computer program to analyse six piece burrs in 1974 but it took until 1990 to analyse all possible six piece burr combinations. Mega Six is the result of that search for the maximum number of moves for a six piece burr with a unique solution. This does not mean it has a unique assembly, due to the number of internal voids. In theory the pieces should fit together in 20 different ways however, the reality is that you can physically only put the puzzle together in one of the 20 assemblies. 
Mr Puzzle’s version, designed with Bill’s help, has one extra cube removed to increase the number of false assemblies....
The Mega Six is shipped completely disassembled! If I cannot even solve the first of the level 2 burrs in the set then what chance to I stand with this. But...... I really have to have it don't I? Whack!! Ouch! Sorry dear!

An impossible N-ary Puzzle

Another puzzle that I have been playing with for a long time is the Mysterians puzzle! I bought this from Sloyd over 2 years ago and it has been sitting on the shelf above me almost that whole time taunting me. I purchased it when I was told that it is an N-ary puzzle. This was confirmed by both Nick Baxter (the head Honcho of the IPP) and Goetz Schwandtner both of whom are amongst the greatest puzzlers in the world. Apparently this puzzle is a Quinary puzzle - it was designed by the amazing Oskar van Deventer and was Nick's exchange puzzle at the 23rd IPP. Mine arrived with a cracked stem which was easy to fix and I must have tried to solve it almost every month since it's arrival 2 years ago. I did get the solution and proof of its N-ary-ness direct from Nick but just could not solve it myself. Finally yesterday, I gave in and followed the solution and achieved this:

Finally in pieces and I have no idea how!
Even using the solution was tough! I will reassemble soon and try to solve it again without it but I reckon that I will still fail - it requires 60 moves to solve and despite being logical, I cannot see the logic! Sigh!! Whack!! Ouch! No dear, I don't think it was a waste of money - after all that time it must be considered good value for money! Whack!! Ouch! Sorry dear!


Fermium - truly gorgeous and still unsolved
2½ years ago I was absolutely blown away by a discussion on a forum by the burr solving machine that is Guillaume Largounez. Apparently Donald Osselaer published three versions of the Fermium puzzle and he said this of it:
I am very glad ... in fact I am ecstatic ... that it works 'completely' as intended! This means that it uses 100 logical human moves to free the first piece, which comes out in the same rotating fashion as with the Xenon.
He says (and even in a direct communication with me) that it is entirely a logical solution and should be possible by a human. But at level I am completely incapable of solving it. Several times I have gotten completely lost and then spent days desperately trying to return it to the start position. Luckily it is truly gorgeous and looks great on the shelf above me! One day I hope to manage it. Just don't tell Mrs S how much it cost! Whack!! Ouch! Sorry dear! Too late! Who did that?

Bottles, bottle, bottles - Sob!!

My bottle nemeses
When my supplier emails me, I immediately jump and unload the contents of my bank account into his bank account! Whack!! Ouch! Sorry dear! Over the last few years, I have bought almost everything that Wil has suggested to me - as well as a good friend, he is a tremendous puzzle designer and his stuff is just beautiful. I started with his Cola Bottle # 1 which embarrassingly took me over a year to solve despite having seen someone else do it! Of course I couldn't stop just there and have bought several more of his bottle puzzles over the years. BUT to my eternal shame there are 3 of them that have refused all my attempts to solve since I got them - yes it's been years!

I have even muttered to Wil at an MPP whether he could provide just a small hint and on one occasion he did give me a hint in fluent Dutch which of course was no help at all and another time he appears to have completely failed to understand what hint or solution means! Please don't ever ask Wil for a solution - he NEVER gives them out - in fact when people email him for assistance, he sends their emails on to me to help them out. Just don't ask me for help with any of these damned bottles!

Kevin's 'C... and B...' bottle

This particular puzzle has nearly killed me. Every single time I go to an MPP, I get asked by the guys whether I have solved "Kevin's bottle" and every single time I utter some nasty profanities and have to admit that I haven't! Kevin's bottle was a very unique gift to me from Mr Strijbos. A few years ago, at the last moment, I was unable to go to the Dutch Cube Day due to work commitments and the boys came back with a gift for me. It's a bottle puzzle with the usual aim - to remove the marble. Now this particular puzzle is totally unique - I am the only one who owns a copy and I am completely flattered that Wil would produce something unique for me but I suspect there is something mean underlying the gift! I took it to work for a few weeks to show my colleagues and try and get some fresh ideas and my Orthopaedic colleagues (who are well known to be very basic in terms of surgical skills and erm.....rather course) have named it "Kevin's cock and balls" for erm..... obvious reasons! They have suggested to use their own "special" solution on it and I always snatch it back quickly! An Orthopod's solution to anything is to whack it with a hammer and if that doesn't work then to get a bigger hammer!! Hmmm maybe I should let Mrs S try to solve it?? Whack!! Ouch! Sorry dear!

I have even gone as far as to Xray it to see whether there are any hidden mechanisms but nope - apparently it should be solvable by my own brain power!

Nothing hidden inside!


28 "simple" triangular sticks - how hard can it be?
My good friend Steve, sold me something special, something which he thought I could solve, something which several other puzzlers including Oli, Chris and Allard have managed to solve, something which I have failed dismally to assemble! The Tripod was designed by Steve in 2014 and looked like fun - it comes in a plastic container that you need to cut open to get at the sticks and then has lots of nice pieces which, like Lego, you should be able to build into a great shape:

No! Of course that's not mine! 
It looks fabulous and I promise that I have tried many many many times to assemble it but I just don't know where to start! This puzzle sits in it's little box just a foot (30cm to you Europeans) away from me on my desk and I can hear it throwing insults at me - it is questioning my puzzle manhood! Luckily for me, as you can tell from this article, I am quite used to that by now and my puzzle manhood is in tatters. Currently Mrs S keeps it in a pickling jar next to her bedside and taunts me with it on regular occasions! Maybe one day she'll let me have it back or possibly borrow it for a while?

I actually have quite a few more puzzles that I still need to solve but at present I'm calling them a "backlog" and not placing them in my hall of shame. I do really hope that upcoming puzzles won't be in that group as I do have my sights on quite a few more. Whack!! Ouch! Sorry dear!

If you have any suggestions for how to solve any of these puzzles then please either post a comment below or contact me using my Contact page. Hopefully this will prevent any further "Whack!! Ouch! Sorry dear!" episodes!

Now it's time for me to curl up into my ball of sorrow and then try and assemble that damned level 2 6 piece burr! AAAAARGH!!!


  1. Hi Kevin,
    I've tried to solve the 6-piece burr in your picture with Livecubes. Can you tell me where the hidden holes are in the back of pieces 01 and/or 02 ?

    1. Hi Guillaume, I've sent you an email with a couple of files giving the details you want!

  2. Bottle coke on the left seem to be the same as the exchange bottle (hole in the bottom or not? if so, then it's the same^^)

    No need to x-ray the bottle in the middle lol, there is nothing hidden indeed. You can find the solution of this one on the net because Wil designed it and allow Eureka to produce it in mass production.

    1. Nope - bottle on the left is different!
      Nope again! The middle bottle is totally different to the Eureka bottle!

  3. Wil told me that it's exactly the same!

    Here is the solution:

    1. Little tip for you Nick! Don't believe everything that Wil tells you!!!

      Eureka bottle no 4 is a TOTALLY different puzzle and it is EASY, Kevin's bottle from Wil has no ring and no slot in the rod! I think that after 3 years I would have solved it if that was the answer!

  4. It's just an impossible bottle, don't think more (^_^)

    1. I have been assured that Ali solved it first and several of the other boys did too with help! But maybe Wil has lied to me too!!!

  5. lol. Well I just corrected something when I say "Wil said it was the same", actually I did not see that there was no slot in the rod, my apologies.

    perhaps you should:
    -try to take out quickly the rod (in case there is some magnet somewhere)?
    -try to unscrew a ball?

    or perhaps Wil used some external tools to make it, and it's in reality impossible to solve. So a good prank to let you think...forever ;-)

    1. The X-ray shows there's no magnet it it. I have tried to pull it fast!
      You cannot get to the balls to try and unscrew them.

  6. Kevin, first of all, this post cracked me up more than your posts usually do. You are very funny. Second, thanks for admitting all this and making the rest of us feel better. You are a true healer. Even if you are an orthopod. Third, all this talk about pulling it fast and screwing and balls has gotten me fired up. You know I'm a urologist, so I'm just being professional. Speaking anatomically, it's normal for one ball to hang a bit lower than the other. And be gentle, you wouldn't want to cause a torsion ... Or would you?

    1. Me? An orthopod? Aaaaargh! No no no! I have much greater skill and knowledge than them! I'm an anaesthetist who just happens to work with a lot of orthopods!

      I'm glad you appreciate the humour! It has to be funny...... I'm a 48 year old man playing with loads of toys! There's something quite ridiculous about the whole scenario!

      Now I'm off to check things.... gently!

  7. A wise man once said: "Not every puzzle is intended to be solved. Some are in place to test your limits"

    1. Thanks for the encouraging thought, George! My limits don't appear to be terribly far away unfortunately! I'll just need to keep on practicing and working at it and hopefully will improve!

    2. Don't be so hard on yourself! You are a master at solving disentanglements and twisties! I suck at those.

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