Sunday 19 June 2016

Pachinko Box - A Beautiful Discovery

Pachinko Box
I'm sure you all knew this was coming - after all Allard published his review a few days ago! We have known about the Pachinko box for several years as Wil Strijbos has discussed it with quite a number of members of the puzzling fraternity for quite some time. It always appeared to be not quite ready and many of us thought it was a myth only inside the devious man's head. However at the King's day puzzle party that Wil hosted this year an almost ready prototype was shown around and the buzz amongst us got louder and Wil even sent out an email newsletter telling us it was about to be released. Many of us held our breaths and just a few weeks ago that fateful email came out and many of us drew in a VERY sharp intake of breath - this was a very costly puzzle! Wil went on to explain that the cost to himself to produce it was significantly higher than expected and in order not to make a loss, he had to charge such a high amount.

Now I know that Wil is not one to fleece us, over the years he has shown me that he deals very fairly with me and with others and I will always take him at his word. Puzzlers are a trusting bunch (except when it comes to solutions) and that trust is earned through years of treating people well. So after my initial gulp and sly look at Mrs S to make sure that she had not seen my gasp, I sent off the email placing my order - the decision must have taken me at least 60 seconds! After all I am Wil's official troubleshooter so I need to have a copy of all his significant puzzles to allow me to troubleshoot. I reckon I must get 1-5 emails a week asking for information or help and without playing with them I couldn't provide that help.

Streetwise Puzzles Inc.
    General Manager : Iwahiro
    Product Manager : Tom
    Approbation Manager : Louis
    Trouble Shooter : Kevin
    Logarithmic Analyser : Goetz/Nick
    Jointly Responsible : William

That is my justification to Mrs S and I am sticking with it. Whack! Ouch! I'm glad you're so understanding dear!

When my Pachinko box arrived the packaging had been very badly beaten up by the Royal Mail and hastily resealed by them, so I opened the package with some trepidation. Phew - all seemed intact. Lord it is heavy - it weighs in at a hefty 1425g of Aluminium and Steel and is not quite as big as the Angel box with dimensions 124x95x73mm plus an extra 15mm for the pinball plunger.

2 Strijbos boxes
These are a limited edition and are numbered and Wil was good enough to give me the puzzle denoting my age....21! Ahem! I only received my copy on Monday at 8:30pm after a very long day at work caused by a rather large blood loss and an 8 hour long operation. Mrs S tolerated me ripping open the box to check that there was no damage but she was not going to let me play with it until we had had some dinner and actually had time to chat - yes I do try and chat to her occasionally as self preservation. So by the time I was able to relax there was no time to play....sob!

Captive ball
I did notice that the plunger was partially out and a ball bearing or marble was held inside so I pulled the plunger and immediately received a very nasty burn from the laser stare - oh boy, this is a noisy puzzle and she who must be feared doesn't like noisy puzzles. I was going to have to take it to work!

I put it in my bag for the following day and got an almighty shock in the morning when I picked up the bag - I have to say that I might be carrying too many puzzles! I could barely lift the bag and it really hurt my shoulders and back. I was forced to take it out in a hurry and resolved to play when I finished work that day. Tuesday dragged on and on and yet again I got home late! Damn! The world is conspiring against me. Finally, however, I had a bit of time to play that evening.

Wil's email (and a follow up) gave these instructions:
First  - Free the First Coin, while the box is still closed...
Second - Open the box...
Third  - Free the Second Coin 
Instructions: Please don't use any force! Just turn things over, slide things back and forth carefully, change positions etc. No "external tools" are required. Always play over a clean table (there's a good reason!). No Banging, No Rotational Moves, and No Force Required at all! (I mean it!)
Initial examination revealed:

Presumably this is the first coin?
A nice beveled slot to improve the view inside
2 doors firmly locked shut
There appears to be only 2 panels that aren't held locked by hex screws and so I assumed that this must be the way in but there is no clear mechanism for opening them as yet. I began to play and annoy Mrs S with rattling. The marble was held in one compartment in the box and there were not many places to put it. I tried both and like Allard, found that there seemed to be a blockage to both potential exits. I rattled it all around a bit and could hear inside that there was something else moving (yet another noise to aggravate Mrs S). I jiggled for a while and suddenly the ball disappeared - I had no idea what I had done! Where was it? Zachary knew where it had fallen straight out the hole in the bottom of the puzzle onto his head and he shot off my lap leaving some rather uncomfortable scratches! Oh dear! What had I done? I duly put the marble back in and jiggled around and it fell straight through to the first compartment. I breathed a sigh of relief that I could get it back even if I didn't understand. But after that it wouldn't go back again! At that point I was called back to the hospital as I was on call - Damn!!! Who writes the bloody consultant rota? Whoever it is had made a very bad decision that week - Ooops! it's me who writes it! Blush! That was the end of my puzzling for that evening unfortunately.

On Wednesday I had emptied my bag and took the Pachinko box in to work with me. I was in the angio suite and I sweet-talked the radiographers into taking a few Xrays of my new toy. Of course, I have to say that I have never managed to use these Xrays to help me solve a puzzle but they look fantastic. I have published them here behind a show/hide button - if you don't want even a hint of a clue then don't press that button!!!

That evening after work - I was a bit jaded after yet another long day. I had a long meeting scheduled for 8:00pm and would have only an hour to investigate before it was time to go. The whole world is conspiring against me! During that quick hour, I was able to discover a way to control the ball - I could move it back and forth between compartments at will and lock it in place. Now I needed to find the next step. I am not very bright and it took me most of Thursday afternoon to work out what I had to do.  Even with that nicely bevelled slot, I couldn't quite see enough to do it and I spent a very frustrated hour or so before my dexterity was up to it and suddenly I had the first challenge solved and a 2 Rouble coin fell out. The rest of the evening was spent trying to use Allard's copyrighted method.....Think© but my feeble brain was not up to it!

Friday afternoon is my time for admin - I catch up on emails and phone calls and do all my paperwork. So it is paperwork or puzzling - I'll let you have one guess what I did? I had been emailing back and forth with Shane and Goetz about the puzzle (no hints I promise) and with some encouragement I had a brainwave and I had opened the box. My goodness! Quite some engineering has gone into the design and manufacture of this puzzle! However, there was still no sign of the second coin!

I had only opened one of the two doors and the other was still locked firmly shut. More emails and more effing and blinding in my office and another brainwave! The second door opened a little fraction and the other coin was visible right at the bottom of a deep dark compartment and it would not move at all. I couldn't reach it with my fingers either. This Strijbos chap can be downright mean!! He gives tiny hints and just won't let you get what you want straight away! More thought was required - more tools too but where were they? At this point Shane encouraged me to really examine the puzzle and think© about why certain features are present. So I thunk and I wondered and I had an idea.....but I couldn't do it. In fact I had closed the second door by accident and couldn't open it again! Damn this is a good puzzle!

I did some paperwork and thunk some more before having an idea based on a new discovery. I could feel something but not see it and couldn't work out how to manipulate it at first but got there after another ½ hour. There is a truly wonderful sequence of discoveries at the end (classic Wil) and eventually the 3 challenges are complete - Damn this is a GREAT puzzle!

Box was open and 2 coins released - a magnificent journey and worth the breathtaking cost and the wait!
Of course at this point the whole mechanism is open to be visualised (with the exception of one piece that has to be deduced) and then it can be reset to try again or hand to another victim. The reset is a lovely simple sequence....almost elegant!

So now what? I am sure that Wil has more up his sleeves for us in the future. My Strijbos metal purchases are now quite extensive - in the picture below are some puzzles that aren't his design but were facilitated by him. Even Mrs S thinks it is a particularly exceptional display!

How much Strijbos metal does a puzzler need? More, more MORE!
Thanks Wil - a wonderful odyssey!


  1. Fantastic puzzle. I enjoyed the ride ! Wil never stops amazing us with he's trickery :-)

  2. So you don't get any discount or benefit from being the troubleshooter?

    1. I don't even get advance notice when they're coming out! I get the newsletters like everyone else! Being a help is my pleasure just like writing this blog!

  3. ...and for that,Kevin,we are eternally grateful

    1. Thank you! Feedback is always appreciated!

  4. For the last month or so I've been resisting. Resisting asking for help. Resisting reading this post. And in parallel I've been struggling. Struggling with the Pachinko Box! A couple of weeks ago I freed the first coin and got the box open. But the second coin would not yield, until tonight! What a relief. And it was a pleasure to read through your post and appreciate your story and the ways it matched my own. A great puzzle!

    I will also mention that I just stumbled upon a Strijbos puzzle I don't see in your excellent collection. It's a bolt offered up as an exchange in 1993. It's a lovely puzzle. It's more of a short story as compared to his recent novels.

    1. Hi Keith, it's always great for me to get feedback like this! It proves to me that I'm. Not completely crazy! I'm glad you solved the Pachinko box in the end - it's a really great voyage.

      As for the bolt, I don't have all of them in my collection. I've only been puzzling for 6 years and a lot of the older puzzles are not available any more apart from at auction when they go for massive prices!

  5. You've been puzzling for less than 7 years? I started just this month. I feel something like akin to committing myself to a mental asylum starting this hobby by buying 3 puzzles from Wil Strijbos at once.

    I'm from the Philippines and anything outside the country is expensive, but I just had too, you know. It's like a whole new world. I'm a programmer of sorts and I just love solving problems that I couldn't resist it.

    1. Welcome to the madness! It's great fun this hobby - try to find a specific genre of puzzles you like and stick to them as much as possible. Twisties are generally very good value with a lot of choice and variety (I have another batch coming). But do remember that they are still only toys and a hobby and not worth going bankrupt for.

      Good luck!

    2. Certainly. I am just lamenting the fact that I can only buy 1-5 puzzles per year. Yeah, being new, I don't know what type of puzzles I'm leaning more to, which makes choosing the right puzzle rather difficult over the web.

    3. If you move to the cheaper puzzles like twisties or disentanglements then maybe you could afford more per year? You shouldn't feel that you have to go for the really expensive ones.

  6. Does anyone know where I can purchase this box? I'm getting into puzzles and love this one. Thank you in advance for the help!

    1. It is only available direct from Will Strijbos (and very occasionally at auction). He had them in stock intermittently.

  7. And could you please direct me to his shop? or whee i can buy them, can't seem to find it

    1. You will need to contact me by email. I won’t publish Wil’s email address on this webpage.

  8. nero06492@gmail.com27 June 2020 at 16:51

    Can you link to Allard's method that you've mentioned please?

    1. Allard’s method is nothing more than “Thinking”! It’s mentioned throughout my blog and his!