Sunday 29 November 2015

Cast Mobius - Mike Weaves His Magic Again!

Hanayama Cast Möbius - Canadian Loonie for scale
Aloha Kākou once again (Ed - I just lurve that expression). After completing the Euro Falle reviews, I was in a bit of a quandary as to what to write about next. I wasn’t kidding when I said my puzzle collection is modest (Ed - do we believe him? He has reviewed 4 puzzles that I don't own already). Almost everything I have has been well-covered by Kevin and other bloggers. This changed, however, when my friend and fellow puzzler Amanda ordered and received Hanayama’s latest cast puzzle, the Mӧbius. Amanda is quite partial to mazes, labyrinths, and anything route-finding, so she was compelled to get her hands on Mӧbius as soon as possible.

Japanese packaging
Mӧbius is not available in the U.S. yet, and not anywhere outside Japan as far as I know. I haven’t seen it offered by any of the usual retail puzzle sellers so it seems pretty clear that production has not ramped up yet. Amanda ordered her Mӧbius from a Japanese seller on Amazon AND paid for rush shipping. Otherwise it would not have arrived until January. I’m far too lazy to make that kind of effort (Ed - me too!) but I’m really glad that Amanda did because now I have access to it. I don’t know how long it will take for Mӧbius to show up on shelves here in Hawaii, but a one year wait for new release Hanayama’s is not uncommon.  Cast Hexagon, for example, is still nowhere to be seen (Ed - it is available here mate). Mӧbius will become widely available from online puzzle retailers in short order, but for this brief moment in time, Mӧbius is an unknown quantity for most puzzlers. So, casting all self-respect aside, I have rushed to get this review typed up and off to my editor/publisher Kevin before anyone else can review it! I’ll admit it is unseemly behavior, but I make no apologies. I am VERY grateful for your unseemly behaviour! Having this all ready for me has helped me plan future acquisitions and has allowed me to cook the Ragu for tonight's Lasagne. Mrs S is getting a little upset with me spending every Sunday afternoon on the computer!

Sunday 22 November 2015

I Need to Think Outside of the Box

Road Blocks
Today's blog post is to show how two of my new puzzles forced me to change my thought processes and got me back to thinking "outside of the box".

I am pleased to say that I have survived the onslaught of the laser burning stare! In fact the present Mrs S did say to me that she had her eye on a particular handbag that she was waiting for the Xmas sale to start before purchasing. She told me the current cost and I gulped internally but didn't break gaze with her for even a second! After this complete lack of a flinch, she nodded internally and it would appear that my recent spending spree is almost forgiven as it hasn't impaired her ability to buy what she desires. She has also been watching me in the evenings and has seen how much fun I have had with them and grudgingly admitted that I seem to have gotten my money's worth. Phew!!! I haven't dared tell her about the next one that I have ordered! Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear.

Sunday 15 November 2015

Mike Does it Again! Euro Falle 3 & 4

Aloha Kākou, gentle readers (Ed: I lurve this expression). It appears I did not fail completely in my first guest review and was even fortunate enough to receive a pat on the back from some folks I respect very much. Thanks for that! Although you may regret encouraging me, as now I will probably never shut up about this stuff. (Ed: I encourage you to carry on!)

Front of Euro Falle 3 & 4
I am especially happy to be back on Kevin’s blog because I really wanted to finish out my review of the Euro Falle series. In the interim, Jerry Loo has followed up with a nice review of Euro Falle 03  and Jeff has presented a brief sketch of Euro Falle 04. I’ll try not to retread old ground, but it’s probably inevitable. Bear with me on that. By the by, Jerry acquired his 03 the old fashioned way, he exchanged for it! That has to be a lot more fun than filling out a Puzzlemaster checkout form for the 123rd time. And no, I’m not wise enough plan ahead and start an account. Who has time for that?

Back of Euro Falle 3 & 4 (4 is on the left here)
So today I present to you Euro Falle 03 and Euro Falle 04. As you’ve guessed, these are in series after Euro Falle 02, but you will see right away that they are a different beast on a couple of fronts. These puzzles fall into a class that I, as a novice, particularly enjoy. They are puzzles from IPP that have become available on the “open market”. Not all IPP puzzles make it to the masses. But some few do, and when that happens, you should give them very careful consideration. This post aims to help you with that. As for me, I just snapped them up on impulse. That is also a good approach.

Sunday 8 November 2015

How complex can a packing puzzle be?

It's "Odd" how you can be good at some puzzles and bad at other similar ones!
The train of thought for this blog post was started by my really good friend Dave Holt (the Master puzzler in charge of The Metagrobologist on line magazine) when he posted on his Facebook page a few days ago of a picture of the Odd puzzle by Iwahiro as an example of a puzzle that he likes to give to non-puzzlers to provide a nice fun challenge. My version above is one of the most beautiful puzzles I own and was made for me by my friend Neil from Cocobolo and Purpleheart with a box made with Katalox and Holly slipfeathers. This got me thinking whether packing puzzles were always the best thing to give non-puzzlers? So I have looked back at my collection and some of my recent acquisitions to review my thoughts on this genre and what made me buy them.

Now first I should say that I am really BAD at packing puzzles - so bad that I barely ever buy them anymore. The only time I will add one to my collection is if they fulfil one or more of the following criteria....
  1. they are designed by a friend or made by a friend
  2. have an extra something to them
  3. provide a lot of puzzling for the price
  4. they're beautiful!
Hmm! That seems to be quite a few exceptions to my rule of never adding packing puzzles to my collection. But, compared to burrs and wire things, my packing puzzle collection is quite small. A large proportion of my packing puzzles are variants of the 'omino puzzle - they may be tetromino, pentomino, hexomino, or a combination. To add interest and complexity they may have a colour scheme or pattern and if you are a real sucker for punishment they can be 3D or as an ultimate have an odd 3D container to pack them into.

CamelPak by Jerry Loo
Twiddle dum and dee
This puzzle makes it into the collection because of criterion number 1. At the last IPP in Ottawa my friend Jerry who writes a fabulous blog participated in the Edward Hordern puzzle exchange and gave away one of his own designs, a nicely made packing puzzle called CamelPak made from laser cut acrylic. At the IPP he gave a copy for me to Big Steve (that's Mrs S' name for him because he towers over me) and on returning to the UK, Steve promptly forgot about it! Some months later, when I bought the next 2 designs in Derek's helical mind-bending challenge from Steve he suddenly remembered my gift from Jerry and it was a nice unexpected bonus in the box. Thanks Jerry for the lovely gift and Steve for remembering and being so nice to me in general! I played with the CamelPak one evening whilst watching the TV with Mrs S and the cats. She was delighted when it turned out to be less noisy than some of my recent toys and Zachary on my lap was also delighted that it was less heavy, less pointy than others and that I didn't keep dropping bits on him.

The instructions on the back are: 1st challenge - pack all the 5 camels into the tray. 2nd challenge - pack 4 camels, the dog and snake into the tray. Now this has 5 deca-ominos, a heptomino and a pentomino. I usually find that the higher the number in the 'omino the tougher the puzzle but, in retrospect, I guess it should also depend on the size and shape of the tray. I played with this during an episode of "The Strain" and by the end of it, I had solved both challenges. Mrs S only gave me one dirty look when I shouted "Yessss!" after the second challenge and I am pleased to say that this is a really nice fun little challenge - it is absolutely perfect for an exchange puzzle. This is one that I now bring to work to torture people with along with his exchange from last year.

Sunday 1 November 2015

Win some, lose some, come close.....but fail again!

A puzzle for my birthday? Nope! She even made me work when it arrived!
Now if you hear lots of groaning sounds whilst reading this post you must blame the present wife! Mrs S was all very nice to me on my birthday on Friday and even bought me a very nice present (a Kindle Paperwhite and NOT puzzles). The following day it was all back to normal service again - she saw that the weather forecast for Sheffield was good for Saturday (and supposed to be bad for Sunday) and pronounced that it was time for us (me) to do the end of year gardening chores. I did protest that I had a new puzzle to play with that arrived that very morning but she glared at me until my skin began to peel off and I dutifully did as I was told. I absolutely loathe gardening! Many would say that as a very short man, I am very close to the ground and bending down to pick up fallen leaves and pull weeds should be very easy for me! Unfortunately, whilst it is true that I am very close to the ground, it is also true that my recent birthday makes me VERY old and bending down a lot and doing thousands of squats in one day is not good for someone so old! After 7 hours of it on Saturday I was ready to hide away from the "trick or treaters" with all the lights off and drink wine for the rest of the evening and play with my new toy!

Then this morning she sprung out of bed, saw that it was a beautiful day out and pronounced that I had more to do in the garden - time to scrub the patio and paths with bio washing powder to get rid of the algae. Does she not realise that Sunday is a day of rest, writing and puzzling? I moved a few muscles and realised that they hurt quite a lot but that would be no excuse. So I have been scrubbing for 4 hours today and am starting to seize up. If this blog post doesn't end then I am fixed in an agonising position in front of my computer....... please come and rescue me quick!

The topic for today is a mish mash of what happens after you get out of the habit of puzzling (or doing a particular genre) for a while and then start again. Recently after my bereavement, I pretty much stopped puzzling for a while because I had lost my mojo. Once my concentration had begun to return, I started to play again but with mixed success.