Sunday 14 February 2016

You have nothing to fear......

Except fear itself!

Lucky Clover - it frightened me to death!
It's Valentine's day and Mrs S loves me enough to let me continue my hobby even on this special day! However I had better not take too long at it and risk losing her good will - a Whack! Ouch! would not be good today!

About a year ago I was at an MPP which was held at Allard's house and Wil was also present. As usual, I spent a fair bit of money that I didn't have lining Wil's bank account and at some point that day Wil showed off the Lucky Clover puzzle. This gorgeous thing was designed by Hans van der Zon who seems to have been moderately prolific at designing what I call sequential movement puzzles. When Wil showed me (and Jamie too) the wonderful clickety clack movements and the sheets of paper giving numerous challenges then I (and he) just couldn't resist. I bought it immediately and Jamie did too when he had saved up the cash.

Most of Hans' puzzles are made by laser cutter at LaserExact in the Netherlands and the quality is just superb. It is a great weight to hold (not too light and flimsy but not too heavy) and 13.4mm square. It is sold in a box with 3 sheets of paper with the various challenges/patterns you need to aim for and the extra pieces that effectively bandage the movements to give more challenges and also make it much MUCH tougher!

Constructing another in the series
In the picture above you can see the beautiful accuracy with which these are made. Even the screws are acrylic and turn smoothly. There are 3 square sheets of paper each with 4 conformations to aim for.

Let's just say that I bought this last year and fiddled a bit with it and took the photo above and then shied away from it. This puzzle frightened me to death! I am OK at solving twisty puzzles and they do fall in to my category of sequential movement but I can do them because I have built up experience with them over many months and years. I don't really consider myself particularly skilled at them! But when it comes to these flat puzzles, I have absolutely no experience to draw on and thus was too frightened to try.

A few weeks ago Jamie showed his progress through them all on Facebook and apart from one final challenge he powered through them. This gave me the added incentive to give it a go - Jamie encouraged me that it is not as difficult as I expected (Snort! He has solved several of the Geranium puzzles). He did warn me that there is quite a lot of clickety clack noise from them which might upset "she who must be feared and flinched from". With some trepidation I began work on it early this week and.....

I managed all of these and back to the beginning in a couple of evenings and Mrs S only burnt me a little bit with her laser burning stare. I managed to muffle the sound a bit and hence am still alive! After that it was time to take the clear top sheet off and put in the large square in place of the yellow pieces:

The bandaging is going to be a problem!
Now I had a real challenge on my hands! Jamie said that he found them quite easy but he is much cleverer than me! I was able to move the small squares about OK but I really had a problem - I couldn't even work out how to move the large square to a different place. The sliders only move 1 click in each direction and the pieces can easily get badly blocked. There was a fair bit of 'effing and blinding' which did not endear me to my beloved and another burn was sent my way. A further few days and I managed one more challenge but the movement of the large square was almost by luck. When it came time to move it again I still couldn't do it. Hell! I'm really not very bright!

It was time to do as Allard says and "THINK" - in fact I needed to do it in capital letters. After a lot of pain from inside and out I managed these:

Such Fun! the end!
I was on a roll..... On to the next one and here I have reached an impasse. In fact I need some advice from all you puzzle experts out there. I have moved the big square into the proper place and proceded to rearrange the other pieces. However, I have reached a point where just 2 pieces need to be swapped:

Every piece is correct apart from the 2 pieces that are obviously wrong
Above it is all perfect except for the need to swap just the orange and blue '2's. I am sure that the puzzle requires 3-cycles and cannot be solved from this position. It is possible to swap 2 pairs of pieces and I achieved this fairly easily:

All correct - I also swapped 2 pink pieces
So I ask you, dear reader, do you agree with me? Was the picture of the final challenge incorrect? Or am I wrong and a 2-piece swap is possible. Every move I have tried so far has either swapped 2 pairs of pieces or made a 3-cycle. I really do look forward to hearing from you - use my Contact page or comment below. Jamie solved his like the picture above which is not what is shown on the puzzle sheet.

After that I have set the puzzle up with the pair of 2x1 pieces and apart from having to learn how to move these pieces, I hope that they won't cause too much of a problem! I am aware that Jamie has had an issue with the final configuration, having the same 2 piece swap to be done. It may be that this means that he hasn't set it up correctly:

Look at the blue pieces!
In fact just looking at it I can see where he went wrong - the pair of 2x1 pieces are not equivalent. One is the opposite orientation to the other and the problem he has above may be solved by swapping them around. I am ready to accept the challenge!

Position 1 of the final series! Notice the green pieces are rotated 180º on each other
So..... all you have to fear is fear itself! I should have played with this a long time ago and would have had such fun - these puzzles are absolutely brilliant and definitely manageable without complex algorithms. In fact I don't have a single algorithm as yet. I am solving entirely by intuition and thought..... Great fun. They are available from Wil at the moment (I am not sure of his stock levels) as well as from the LaserExact webstore.

Another pair of puzzles that I was very frightened of was the higher order Chinese lantern puzzles designed and made by Wang Yulong. The level 3 version took me absolutely ages to work out and the level 4 and 5 frightened me to death.

Level 4
Level 5
Now these are just N-ary disentanglement puzzles but they quickly get very confusing. I had attempted them half heartedly a few times and failed but last week and last Sunday after the blog post was published I had another go at them both! I was not hopeful because all the others that I received in that package have proved to be too tough for me. I was all set for failure again but after a couple of hours I had this:

It wasn't so hard!
This was quite tough!
Again, my fears proved unfounded! I solved them both. You should challenge yourselves - find a puzzle that you are frightened of or convinced you cannot solve and give it a go! You might have a good surprise! Now maybe it's time for me to have a go at these:

Supenova by Jack Krijnen
166 moves to remove the 1st piece!
Fermium by Maurice Vigouroux
......Maybe not!!!!

Now as you know it is Valentine's day today and I heartily recommend you read my friend Steve's love related blog post (still about puzzles). Mrs S has been very patient with me and I did reciprocate! We did go for a long walk together in the countryside this morning and I bought her some really special Belgian chocolates. She bought me chocolate doughnuts! Yummy! I will also be cooking her a sumptuous dinner tonight!

If I get fat she says that I'm out! That hardly seems fair when she bought the doughnuts!

I hope you all have a happy Valentine's day and share some puzzling with your loved one(s)!

Remember to contact me if you know the answer to my question about 2 and 3 cycles!


  1. Thanks for the mention, Kevin! Those doughnuts looks delicious!

    1. A pleasure to give a friend a boost! I did enjoy your Valentine's post.