Sunday 28 June 2015

Time for a Day Trip - Except......

It took MUCH longer than a day!

The Day Trip Puzzle aka Tricky Dick
Having run out of "affordable" puzzles recently, I decided it was time to get a few more disentanglements to solve and write about and I would appear to have solved all of the selection available from Puzzle Master. So I headed off to the webstore of my friend Tomas Linden whom I met for the first time at last years International Puzzle Party in London. He runs (based in Finland) and has a huge selection of puzzles for reasonable prices. The only downside of his store is that to order from outside Finland you need to email him or use their contact page to ensure that the postage costs can be calculated and then payment arranged. This delays the shopping by a day but Tomas is very responsive. The only exception to this rapid response was for this time when I ordered my current stash! I had caught him suffering a particularly nasty bout of food poisoning and we sent each other some hilarious and rather graphic messages about the state of his gastrointestinal tract!!

I had been particularly interested in the more difficult puzzles in the Bon Voyage series made by Eureka puzzles. I nearly got them from Puzzle Master in my last order but they did not sell them individually, only as a set which I didn't really want (some look very simple indeed). If you are interested in the whole set then they are currently on special just now. I was delighted to see them available individually from Sloyd. I picked the ones that I wanted (just the hard ones) and a few days after Tomas recovered full control of his bowels, my puzzles arrived along with just one or erm... several others:

Toyz, toyz, TOYZ!
My attention was first drawn to this particular puzzle a few years ago when a friend in one of the private hospitals that I work in (he had caught my awful puzzle affliction) brought a puzzle for me to play with that he had bought from Brian Young called the Tricky Dick. I played a bit and loved it and decided that at some point I had to get a copy of my own. I subsequently forgot about it for a year or more when I decided to look into getting some more disentanglements and looking at Rick Eason's (the designer of the puzzle) site and contacting him he told me about two versions from Eureka - one called the Tricky Dick in their Mini-string range and the other called the Day Trip puzzle in their Bon Voyage series. This brought my attention to these series - bad news for my bank balance!

The Tricky Dick is a fairly simple design but is rated by Brian as
      "the hardest rope puzzle around"
It was designed by Rick Eason in July 1999 and presented at the IPP that August and I suspect it must have stumped some of the best puzzlers in the world! Of course, I was unable to solve it during my intermittent attempts whilst anaesthetising for a few hip replacements that morning - my excuse was that I couldn't give it any real concentration! Having failed at it then, this was the first puzzle that I chose from Tomas and of course it led to a few more. A good friend of mine in the Far East was very encouraging about my choices and I trust his judgement without question! The Tricky Dick/Day Trip arrives in a nice purple box with a 3 star difficulty rating and the useful advice that it's for those aged 7 and up. Well my mental age is currently standing at about 9¾ so I should be OK - hopefully! If any 7 year old can manage it then I think they should be either entered for Mensa or locked up as likely to become a criminal mastermind! The aim of this puzzle is simply to remove the metal ring - how hard can it be? Well let me tell you..... Brian was absolutely right! This is one tough tough puzzle! I do not agree with the Puzzle Master rating of it as Level 8 - Demanding! I would certainly make it a level 9 or maybe the same as my age - 9¾! You may well need a solution for this puzzle - it's not provided but it is available from Puzzle Master here or from Rick's site himself here.

I started work on this last weekend after publishing my last blog post and quickly rediscovered how difficult it is! Nothing I could do would work and at several points I was in grave danger of getting into an awful mess. Luckily I was always able to backtrack out of it. I do know that the friend who originally showed me this puzzle seems to have an extra loop in his that he has not been able to fix for nearly 2 years. It looks fairly straight forward until you realise that the size of the ring is made so that it will not go over both wooden rods at the same time and only just reaches the end of the long rod from inside that curious loop of string between them.

I have played with this on and off pretty much all week (of course I have been side tracked by 1 or 2 or maybe 10 other recent arrivals) and I was beginning to think that I couldn't solve it. Eventually I went back to a basic approach where I tried to imagine how I would put the puzzle together from the solved state. It hurt my little brain quite a lot to think that way and I may never recover the use of several million overworked neurons but eventually I ended up with this:

Phew! That is one tough puzzle!
This is a simply phenomenal puzzle and is definitely one of the toughest I own despite the apparent simplicity of the design. At yesterday's 18th Midlands Puzzle Party, I met up with Jamie who seems to have abandoned his blog for a while recently. He has been working on this puzzle for several weeks and so far has failed to solve it. Jamie is a bit behind me in disentanglement puzzle experience and hopefully will get there soon.

Should you buy it? Despite what it says on the box, this is NOT one for children - you will just end up with a knot or multiple irreducible loops. I would go as far as to say that this is not one for beginner adults either - it would be practically impossible (the easier ones in the series would be perfect for them). But if you are reasonably experienced then this is a superb challenge - I would go as far as to say it is a classic and well worth purchasing at just €5 - get it here or here.

Whilst at the MPP yesterday, I was delighted to meet up with fellow disentanglement enthusiast Taus Brock-Nannestad who challenged me (and the great Dick Hess) with a few new puzzles that he had acquired and I was pleased to say that I managed one that they both had failed at! He also lent me a special one which he had bought from Ton Delsing, the advanced version of Ton's Ring puzzle is supposed to be a real challenge and is sitting beside my chair in the living room for me to play with tonight!

It looks familiar but I'm assured that it is VERY tough!
I also bought a copy of the Crossed string puzzle from Dale Overy. He quietly designs loads of disentanglements and hands them out to friends at puzzle parties, he says very little and does not trumpet his skills but every one that I have from him has been a really good challenge. I think this might kill me:

Oh boy! This looks complicated - thanks Dale!
Of course no discussion of disentanglements is really complete without a mention of the master himself - Dick Hess, who's catalogue of disentanglements is effectively the bible to us enthusiasts, gave away a copy of his 4 keys puzzle. I think I own a commercial copy of his 5 keys but this is a very welcome addition to my collection. Both Dale's and this are sitting ready for my attention next.

4 keys from the master himself!
I also received a prize from our very own new dad and super puzzler Oli - despite threatening to lose it in the post he gave me a copy of the Block Head puzzle by Bill Cutler. I have a version from Brian Menold in wood which I reviewed quite some time ago here. Bill always suggests buying the plastic version above the wooden one and I can see why - this is a beautifully made puzzle. Thanks Oli!

I wonder if I remember how to solve it?


  1. Careful with that Tricky Dick, Kevin. Just ask your Orthopedic friends how we deal with metal rings which are stuck on the wooden parts ... it's not as graceful as when you do it.

    1. Graceful? Watching me solve a puzzle is not a pleasant experience! There's lots of random moves, many of which get repeated multiple times despite having no effect! However I'm not risking an Orthopod and his power saw or a Urologist with his unspeakably large needle for aspiration or even (gulp) a Quackel's procedure/shunt! Instinctively crossing legs now!

  2. There is also a "Return of Tricky Dick", but I have not seen one. I have a solution page for the original Tricky Dick here:

    1. Thanks George! The return of Tricky Dick is available as City Trip in the same series. I have it to be solved soon!