Sunday 26 July 2015

City Trip - Dick Strikes Back!

City Trip - aka Return of Tricky Dick
As usual, every second week I try to write about a puzzle that is available to all the “normal” puzzlers out there. I am very aware that I am in a very privileged position being able to buy so many expensive puzzles and I don’t want to limit my reviews to those that many of you can never afford or get your hands on. For the youngsters out there, let me say that if you want to get hold of these expensive toys then make sure you get a good education and then get a really good job to help you pay for this very expensive hobby. For example, I am a doctor, Allard is an actuary and Roxanne is a university researcher and educator. It also helps to only have one expensive hobby and also to have a VERY forgiving spouse! Whack! Ouch! Thank you dear!

This time I intend to review another of the puzzles that I got from my recent order from Tomas Linden’s Sloyd based in Finland - his store has a huge selection of puzzles from all over the world including some of the greatest designers of all time. The prices are good and the service from Tomas is superb. The puzzle I am reviewing today is the City Trip in the Eureka puzzles Bon Voyage range. These are also available from Puzzle Master but must be bought as a whole set.

A pair of trippers or a pair of Dicks? Whack Ouch! Sorry dear!
The City trip was originally called the Return of Tricky Dick and was designed by Richard Eason as a new puzzle to try using the same pieces as the original puzzle but with a different configuration. I have to apologise to Jamie - he had bought the Tricky Dick/Day trip and was under the impression that the Return version could be made from the original. At the recent MPP, I told him that I thought it could not. When I looked at the pictures, I mistakenly thought that the long length of string actually went through the short loop which would be an impossible position from the first puzzle. However, when I opened my copy of the puzzle, I realised that the string actually loops behind the short loop and both puzzles can actually be made from the same pieces without any stretch or cutting. The aim of both versions is the same - to remove the shiny metal ring from the string. Just like the previously reviewed puzzle in the series, it is nicely packaged in a purple box with the instruction/aim given in the form of a diagram on the back. Again, no solution is provided but it can be downloaded from here if you need it. I actually would hope that you won't need it at all but I did come close!

The Grid
I started the City Trip last Sunday evening after posting my rather long blog post on visibility in burrs and as well as noting my mistake I realised that this one shares absolutely nothing in common with the original. It is not a variant at all despite sharing the same pieces. That evening I succeeded in getting a minor knot and spent quite some time trying to get it back. I then took it to work on Monday because I knew I was going to be spending a very long time in the Vascular angio suite watching a mind numbingly boring procedure with no real input from me apart from providing patient stillness and making sure there was no huge blood loss. Thus I had an opportunity to play whilst also watching my monitors. The first order of the day was to continue working on another gorgeous creation from Stephan Baumegger - the Grid is another supposedly visible type burr - it is a 6 piece board burr in a cage and it is pretty much possible to see everything happening inside but, like the others in my discourse, it is very very tough. That day I finally managed to get the first piece out - 19 moves (after probably 4–6 hours of trying) but couldn’t for the life of me find the way to get the second piece out - possibly because it requires a rather tricky further 37 moves!

Having failed to finish the Grid, I moved on to the City Trip and couldn’t seem to make any headway with it at all. None of the moves I was trying seemed to get me anywhere nearer to the solution. I got knotted a couple of times but luckily, it doesn’t seem to get badly or irrevocably tangled. I had to stop because the case came to an end as it was time to go back up to the operating theatre and start another more complex case. Damn! I hate it when the job gets in the way of my puzzling (unfortunately this is most of the time as I specialise in the more complex stuff).

Phew! That was a hell of a challenge - even if everything was visible!
At home that evening I got no further with City trip and was beginning to despair (Puzzle Master have rated it as a Level 8 (Demanding) so it shouldn’t really be quite so difficult) but I finally managed to remove all the pieces from the Grid! I have to say that is a fantastic burr - definitely amenable to a moderately experienced puzzler and beautifully made. I took the City trip in to work the following day and during a nice easy case one of my Vascular surgeon friends came and had a play with it between cases in his OR. I spent a good 20 minutes with my heart in my mouth as he wound things around and around and I had visions of it ending up as a horrible knotted mess! I couldn’t really even watch what he was doing as I had to pay attention to the case I had on the table. Luckily he handed me back an intact puzzle with only a minor knot in it which I easily undid! He then had to take a phone call and my surgeon started to close up the BIG hole he had made (incision approximately 18" long) which gave me a little time to fiddle - within a minute I had a new interesting configuration and I saw the exit point (it was definitely NOT where I expected it to be) and I suddenly had the ring off. You should have seen my friend’s jaw drop during his phone call!!

At last!!!
Of course I had absolutely no idea how I had done it and immediately set to putting it back together before I lost complete track of the starting position. It quickly went back to the start position and I handed it back to my friend. I was very chuffed when he failed to get any further with it! Unfortunately, later that evening, at home when I wanted to take my photo for the blog and my database I discovered to my chagrin that I couldn’t repeat my solve. Another evening was spent in front of the TV with the present Mrs S and after about 1½ hours of eff’ing and blinding I finally had the solution in my head and a very pissed off first wife!

This is a very clever puzzle and interestingly is totally different to the original. Just for fun I put it together into each form in turn to check it was possible and it certainly is. However, assembling something from scratch is much harder than a disassembly (as I discovered with Dick Hess’ 4 keys recently) - so I would definitely suggest you go to Sloyd and buy both puzzles - they are REALLY cheap at €4.90 each!

I still have a few more Disentanglements from Tomas and am looking forward to playing with them and reviewing them for you over the next few weeks.

I have also finally solved a disentanglement that I'm afraid is not routinely available! I bought the Crossed strings puzzle from a friend at the MPP who seems to have a knack of designing some awfully tough disentanglements. It looks horrendously complex and for a month, I tried all sorts of complex moves with no luck but eventually tried something ridiculously simple and suddenly the exit path was clear - The ring came off and it was solved - Ta daa! I love it!

Crossed strings
and solved

In the meantime - please have a look at my New additions page to see something new and rather fun from my great friend Shane - yes he has been at it again - I don’t know how he finds the time to run his huge business, keep a family happy and make all these wonderful toys for us! I am glad, however, that he does!

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