Sunday 27 December 2015

Doubly Disentangled

.... or Mike and I form a puzzling tag team!

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and that the coming New Year is a happy healthy one full of friends, family and, of course, puzzles!

Recently a few reviews have come your way from Mike Desilets in Hawaii - he emailed me on Xmas day with another review and having risked life and limb to be ignoring his family that day, I had to publish his review. He seems to enjoy disentanglements just like me and these are puzzles that I don't yet own but will have to add to my collection in 2016. I couldn't resist adding to his review by discussing another entanglement that I struggled with a month or so back. So keep reading for a double dose of joint entanglement. I hand you over now to Mike.....

Aloha Kākou puzzlers. This installment has two purposes:
  1. a thank you to my editor/publisher Kevin for his potato leek soup recipe, and
  2. to give him some extra time to complete his end of year Best in Show puzzle recap due out on New Year’s (Ed - it's well underway). I’m really looking forward to the 2015 top puzzles list and would like him to dedicate as much time as possible to it, the long-suffering Mrs. S notwithstanding. Whack! Ouch! (now look what you did!)
Siebenstein-Spiele Disentanglements
So today we will look at a few new disentanglements. As you know, disentanglements are one of the classic (and quite possibly oldest) puzzle types. All bloggers review them, but I think my esteemed editor/publisher Kevin Sadler has provided his readership with a particularly compendious record of currently available (and sometimes quite unavailable) disentanglements. This has been very helpful to me, especially recently. Since early summer I’ve found myself increasingly drawn into the disentanglement world. This stems from equal parts financial miserliness and intellectual curiosity. As is often observed, this type of puzzle gives enormous bang for the buck. It really is true. Few puzzles will cause you more anguish or greater self-satisfaction than a really challenging wire or string disentanglement.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

OMG! You did it again!

I just cannot believe it! Last night I passed yet another milestone - 600,000 page views!

So many toys, so many friends and so much fun. Thank you every one. Looking forward to the next year of puzzling already!

Sunday 20 December 2015

Eric Makes a Burr and a Maze and a Packing Puzzle in One

It has been a while since I reviewed a burr made by Eric Fuller so I will redress that now! I bought the Packira back in November when Eric wrote that this was his favourite puzzle from the previous update. He looks at so many designs that I just had to take his opinion seriously! Plus of course, this is made from 2 of my favourite woods, Wenge and Bubinga. On top of all that it is designed by the amazing Tamás Vanyó!

Another unusual Vanyó design
I have been friends with Tamás on Facebook for a few years now and every week he produces several new designs to amaze us - he is an absolute master of Burrtools and seems to specialise in unusual shapes or unusual movements in his puzzles. He even makes them himself for sale locally in Hungary or to give as gifts to his friends (one day I hope to buy directly from him). Recently I wrote about his Covalent puzzle which was produced by Pelikan which unfortunately is now sold out. The combination of Eric's workmanship and recommendation, Tamás' unusual design ideas and these lovely woods meant that I just couldn't resist this one. After it arrived, I got rather sidetracked by the other puzzle I bought at that time - the One Hole by Bram Cohen which I reviewed here. After that the Packira sat in my work bag for ages almost forgotten.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Simply Amazing!

Katie Koala
Finally! I have the review I know you've all been waiting for - alright maybe one or two of you have been waiting! Yes it's Katie Koala from MrPuzzle - one of two 20th anniversary limited editions designed and made by Brian Young and Junichi Yananose. This absolutely stunning construction seems to have completely disappeared from their website and the old URL no longer works - hopefully he and the lovely Mrs Puzzle, Sue will put them back on their site for posterity. (Ed - after reading my review and commenting below Brian has put these 2 puzzles back on their website. Katie Koala is here and Six of One, Half a Dozen of Another is here)

In 2013 Brian announced that for his 20th Anniversary later that year, he would be producing 2 limited edition puzzles. The "Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other" made it as an honourable 11 amongst a few other special burrs in my top puzzles solved in 2014. The Katie Koala puzzle was delivered to me at the very end of November 2014 and got a mention in that list but could not be placed in my top 10 because I had not managed to solve her (the list is only for solved puzzles). I think I had only managed the first couple of steps by the end of the year!

Limited edition of 65 - my number is always 28
The notification went out to people on the special list in January 2014 along with an eye watering price tag. Of course, I know Brian and Sue and trust them implicitly - I clicked on the order button immediately without batting an eyelid. There were going to be a few more than usual this time because of the occasion. In view of the fact that their site no longer mentions it I will quote the original description:
There is much more going on inside this Koala’s head than a real Koala even after she’s been eating lots of gum leaves.  Not just a single puzzle. This is a collection of a number of puzzles, all complex in their own right.  The big puzzle for Brian was how to fit all the puzzling experiences into one Koala so that it didn't turn out the size of a small motor car? 
The ultimate goal is to find the 20th Anniversary token. 
Along the way you’ll have to find and assemble Katie Koala's joey named Verne; technically you’re getting two tough Koala puzzles not just one.  To find the joey you'll have to navigate literally a maze of locks that interact with each other.
The final door is actually held shut with 4 separate locks so there will be no fluke to open it.  Once you do open it you'll be rewarded not only with the token, but you'll also get to see a lot of the inner mechanisms that Brian has deliberately left exposed.  We would love to show you some of the brass work inside so you can understand where all the time’s been spent preparing this puzzle but that would give away waaaaaaay too many clues! so you’ll just have to wait until you discover it all for youself.
In the past Brian has left ideas out of puzzles to keep the cost down.  This being his 20th Anniversary he wanted to go all out, and everything he planned just seemed to work well, so he kept going.....  It’s unlikely that he'’ll ever make anything this elaborate again in a single puzzle.  
Do you have the ‘koalafications’ to tackle this one? 
The puzzle was designed by Brian Young.  Special thanks to Junichi and his wife Yukari for their fabulous collaboration on the design for the joey. 
Woods used:  Koala - Papua New Guinean Teak (Vitex) with ear trim from Silver Ash and nose, hands & feet from Papua New Guinean Ebony.  Her joey is made from Sycamore wood. 
The puzzle also includes lots of brass and magnets used to make many tools that you will discover as you progress.
Size:  Height 233mm  Width 150mm at the ears Depth 125mm
The production of these beauties really took it out of him and he did release news that the delivery would have to be staggered and would take all of 2014 and what is more, there would be no 2014 limited edition. In fact Brian did not know when the next LE might be coming! He said:
Brian always knew it was going to be a mammoth project but it’s only now that’s he'’s about half way through that he realises just how long it’s going to take to finish this LE set. 
The schedule has been revised and Brian now expects that in the first quarter of 2014 he will be able to complete about 12 puzzles. 
He will then break to work on IPP exchange puzzles that he committed to last year. After IPP he'’ll resume completion of Koalas through 2014/2015.  Even at that point to finish the other 53 Koala’s he estimates there’s in excess of 7 months full time work for one person to finish them.
Mine arrived at the end of November 2014 - just in time for a mention in my puzzles of the year but not rated in the list. During 2014 Allard posted a "not a review" but as far as I can see it has not been fully reviewed anywhere yet. There were whispers of Katie at puzzle parties and she even appeared in some Koala porn photos:

Ahem! Disgusting isn't it?

Sunday 6 December 2015

It's Not So Hard! Just Look and Think!

Max Out
I started out with the intention to just write a short review of a cheaper puzzle today as it would appear that recently I have tended to focus on the more bespoke, craftsman made puzzles. This would also fit in with the present Mrs S being a bit fed up with all the time I spend on-line on a Sunday writing these posts. She plans to visit the outlaws for a pre-Xmas visit this week and it has sort of become a tradition that she arrives with some food made by me. My father-in-law is quite partial to my leek and potato soup and so yesterday I was informed that today (Sunday), I was going to make a large pot of soup so that a good sized portion could be transported to Edinburgh for them. The stock pot is 11L in volume and preparing everything and cooking such a huge amount of soup usually takes me quite a few hours. I therefore needed something quick to write about.

With these time limits in mind, I rummaged in my "puzzles to be solved" pile yesterday and took out the Max Out disentanglement puzzle from Eureka puzzles' Pastime range. I had been hoping for something fairly easy to solve that would not take too long but I seem to have run out of those. I had bought this from Tomas Linden's Sloyd store some time ago and was a little concerned that the rating on the packaging was 4 stars indicating that the puzzle was for "puzzle geniuses" and that Tomas had rated it with his maximum of "Very hard".

Very hard but the string can be removed
This puzzle is presented in a plastic tube rather than a box and when removed from the packaging, the huge length of string complete with balls, a ring and a jointed wooden board and dowels is revealed. The puzzle is quite large at 14 x 7 x 5.5cm and is very well made - the string is very high quality and there is no way it will break without the use of considerable force. This is good and yet also bad - these string puzzles have a tendency to end up in an almighty knot and the ability to detach the string from it does allow for a quick reset if you end up in a mess (for example Wil Strijbos' exchange puzzle can be taken apart with the use of a pin. So be careful with the Max Out puzzle - whatever you do, make sure you can reverse your steps!

Wednesday 2 December 2015

A midweek surprise!

Slideways Ball
Yes to top off a rather hectic 2 weeks of deliveries complete with the customary laser stare and accompanying burn as well as an occasional Whack! Ouch! I received a couple of new puzzles from Jakub at the New Pelikan Workshop.

First up is the Slideways ball - This puzzle is the third in the series based on Ray Stanton's wonderful Slideways burr. All three have the same mechanism but the boys at Pelikan have skillfully changed the shape to mask the pieces. First there was the Slideways cube and now the ball. It is beautifully presented as a large golf ball with a stand and a turned wooden golf tee. The ball is a delight to handle and finding the exact places to press to start off the fascinating coordinate motion takes quite some time. When I finally found the exact points, it miraculously slides apart and the pieces seem to move an unfeasible distance before disengaging. Assembly is a lovely movement too. I also have to say that this makes a really fantastic (if rather large) worry bead to keep in your pocket.

3 special pieces
Covalent was designed by the incredibly prolific Tamás Vanyó, this is a marvel of interlocking pieces. It initially appears to move only to lock all the pieces tighter together in place before you eventually have a breakthrough and the first couple of pieces can be removed. At this point the amazing quality of the workmanship becomes apparent and you see how some very delicate pieces have been made very robustly and accurately. The contrasting wood colours are stunning.

First moves
Like the namesake chemical bond, the pieces in the "molecule" can wiggle a bit but unless the energy is put into the structure just right the pieces remain firmly attached to each other. After 3 pieces are removed it becomes possible to dismantle fully using a rotation or two. But it is worthwhile persevering and looking for the correct linear move disassembly. It is a stunning feat of design and of craftsmanship.

Just look at the skill in building those pieces!
These 2 puzzles will both be announced very shortly on Jakub and Jaroslav's site and will be available in slightly limited quantities from there. Don't hesitate - you won't want to miss out!