Sunday 31 July 2016

It's Good to Play With Some More Basic Puzzles

Und plus Kugel
Recently I have been playing with, and failing to solve, some incredibly complex puzzles including Brian Young's SMS Phone, Johan's Moluscub and Jakub's Superhero burrs. So I was really delighted when I received an emailed newsletter from my favourite puzzle pusher, Wil Strijbos, with details of a whole bunch of disentanglement puzzles that had been produced by Jean Claude Constantin just in time for people attending this years' IPP in Japan. This set of beautifully made wire (and string) puzzles looked like a trip back to some very basic disentanglements with very simple shapes intertwined. Looking at these I felt that I was going back to some nice "BASIC" (Blush) puzzles for a little bit of light relief. I knew they wouldn't be really easy because Wil had said this about them:
Most of them are very challenging and hard to solve. But you can "Try when you fly" on your way back home ;)
There were 10 new designs available and I had already obtained 2 of them. One was the U-Twins which had been inside Allard's Loopy box exchange last year. I wrote about that one at the beginning of this month when I called it Allard's Evil Puzzle. From my experience with this puzzle alone, I knew that I just HAD to have the rest in the series! The U-Twins/Evil puzzle had taken me months and months to solve and even then I had needed a clue from Joe at the last MPP. If that was anything to go by then the other new ones were essential buys!

I placed my order last Sunday for all the ones I didn't have already and was hoping that they'd arrive whilst I was home on a Thursday afternoon and "she" was out. They did arrive on Thursday but unfortunately whilst I was out at work.

U-Loop - Derek's current nemesis
Mrs S was not impressed when she answered the door to our postie and a nice box arrived with Wil's absolutely unmistakeable packing tape covering every edge and corner. She was even less impressed when she saw the potential jingliness that I unpacked. She gave me a laser burning stare and threatened me with a Whack! Ouch! if I so much as thought about making a noise during our TV time that evening. Gulp! I promised to be quiet and she covered up the laser. Even with my previous experience I was reminded how difficult these could be by my good friend Derek who had been given a copy of the U-Loop which he had managed to take apart some weeks before but to date had singularly failed to reassemble - he was relying on me to tell him how to put it back together! If a genius of that calibre had struggled then I was going to be in trouble (after all, I'm just a newbie at these puzzles!) We then proceeded to have a discussion about genius and newbieness and I went to bed later that evening chuckling - it is really good to have puzzle friends around the world who can challenge each other and generally take the piss! Derek and I do that a lot!

Sunday 24 July 2016

A Cheat! I'm Sorry!

Axis from Rademic Puzzles
This will be an attempt at a quickie - I know I don't really do short reviews due to my verbal diarrhoea but I seldom get complaints. I'm on call today and hoping not to be called in (sleep deprivation is hard at my age!!) so whilst I have a few moments I'm going to attempt a blog post.

After my triumphant announcement yesterday, I have to admit to something awful.... I have been a cheat and hope you can forgive me. A few months ago I acquired a couple of absolutely beautifully made Hedgehog in cage puzzles from Rademic Puzzles in the Czech Republic and absolutely loved the look and quality of them. Oli had raved about them on Facebook and Allard reviewed a few here. I solved the Gen version quite quickly and enjoyed the process very much and wrote my thoughts here.

The puzzle is 50 x 75 mm in size and weighs 340g. The cage is beautiful having been made from brushed stainless steel and it certainly feels a solid puzzle - drop it on a kitchen tile and you're in trouble with the wife. The hedgehog itself is 6 spined and stunningly made from a vibrant red anodised aluminium with the spines being varying lengths but each is at 90º to the others. It is really beautiful and a great price at 599 Czech Koruna (approx £18.50 or $24.50)

Saturday 23 July 2016

Thank you all so much!

687753 +12530 = 700283
It hardly seems any time at all since I passed my last hurdle and here I am having passed 700,000 pageviews just yesterday! Thank you everyone for reading my drivel - I hope I entertained you and I will try to keep it up. Tomorrow might be a bit hit and miss due to being on-call (which has been rather busy over the last year) but if I don't get called in during the day then I should have a short review for you.

Sunday 17 July 2016

Going Spirally Mad!

Twiddle twins
Last week I mentioned how I had asked Big Steve for some assistance and his memory had failed him (along with mine). Quite a few months ago Derek (yes, the genius) had designed a new pair of helical burr type puzzles and Steve had made a bunch of copies and sold them on Paradise - they were called Twiddle Dee and Twiddle Dum. Quite a few of us had snapped up a copy of each and expected to be bamboozled a bit but eventually to come through with a shout and a solve (plus or minus a Whack! Ouch!). However, this time the shout was very much subdued all around the globe. These puzzles had proven to be very much harder than everything that had gone before.

Nice collection!
This pair was the fifth and sixth of this series that I had acquired for my collection and I fully expected to have a fab time solving them and quickly produce a blog post about them. But it was not to be. I am aware that my friend Ali is the tester of these puzzles for Steve - he has been handed the pieces of quite a lot of them to see whether he can assemble them from scratch and, as far as I know, has always succeeded. This is abso-bloody-lutely amazing!

When they arrived, I dutifully put them on the overloaded tray next to my chair and had a quick fiddle. I quickly discovered that there was a lot more possible moves to them than the other ones and with the spiral nature of the shape it was nearly impossible for me to keep track of what moves I had done and so even back tracking was hard. I got one of them to the point where there was just a tiny overlap between the 2 outer spirals but they weren't going any further than that and I returned to the start. After that, I couldn't even repeat that feat! Which one was it? I think it was Twiddle Dee.

Sunday 10 July 2016

A Gift Extravaganza!

I didn't know what it was!
I do hope that the blog post today isn't too incomprehensible! Having come back from annual leave, I've had a huge mound of paperwork to do on top of my normal clinical work. I stupidly put myself down to do the trauma list on Saturday and so at this moment it time I am absolutely shattered! My ramblings are meandering and full of rubbish at the best of times but today may well be worse than ever! If you think you can write something good like my friends Mike and Otis then write something and contact me to see if you can publish something better. My theme today is to show people my gratitude for some recent gifts.

At the top of this post is a twisty puzzle - one that I did not know what it was. At the last Midlands puzzle party in honour of the great Dick Hess a number of gifts were given out. I mentioned in my last post (focussing on memory) that a few puzzles had been given away. Dick gave everyone a small copy of his 5 keys disentanglement puzzle which I actually did recall how to solve and Big Steve gave me a pile of pieces which he couldn't remember how to assemble into Stewart Coffin's 12 piece separation puzzle.

Half way through the day Dick sidled up to me with another bag of puzzle pieces and asked me (as the only significant twisty solver present) whether I could make this pile of pieces into a working puzzle. He didn't remember what it was. I sat on Allard's sofa and proceded to work on the assembly which is something I find oddly soothing. I managed to produce an almost working puzzle before finding a piece that was broken with the tiny screw having ripped out of the connecting core piece. I handed the partially completed puzzle back to Dick and informed him of the issue that he might be able to fix with glue and some wadding and also said that I could not identify the puzzle. Dick was very generous and gave away his broken puzzle with instructions that if I could fix it then I could keep it! Gee! Thanks!

Sunday 3 July 2016

Does Memory Serve Me?

Allard's Evil Puzzle
At last weeks' special Midland Puzzle Party in honour of the great Dick Hess who was over in the UK for his annual Wimbledon pilgrimage, the topic of memory came up in the conversation with Big Steve (and others). So I thought I might expand a little bit on that subject as it relates to my puzzling.

As a teenager and into my 20s I had pretty close to an eidetic memory which was very useful for O-levels, A-levels and medical school plus the first few years of postgraduate exams. It wasn't without effort but my memory for the written word or visual object was almost perfect. As I have aged, and aged, and aged, and..... you get the drift, my memory capabilities have fallen off. I suspect that it is lack of practice as I can improve it if I have to for work. But, by and large, I now tell everyone that my memory is appalling! All my chores and tasks are on an app on my phone as are birthdays and anniversaries. I tell everyone who will listen that I wake up every morning with a strange woman lying next to me! I always say that I have no idea who she is but that she tells me we are married. It cannot be! Can it? I wouldn't have been that stupid! Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear!

Twiddle Dum and Dee
One of the puzzles that I took with me to the MPP was the Twiddle Dum puzzle made by Big Steve and designed by Derek. I had managed to take it apart many months ago but have not got it back together since - it has been sitting on my desk next to me for months and months and I just cannot reassemble it! I was really hopeful that Steve (who has assembled dozens of them)would be able to remember how it was done and just pop it back together for me. In a chat with Goetz, it transpires that he is in a similar position to me but he has reassembled it once. Having sheepishly asked Steve for help, he even more sheepishly admitted to me that he had no idea how to put it back together. He did have the good grace to fiddle for a while before handing it back to me again in pieces. Damn!!! If anyone does know how to reassemble it and can show it off then please Contact me.

12 Piece separation by Stewart Coffin
Whilst I was sitting with Steve he showed off a plastic version of the classic Stewart Coffin 12 Piece Separation puzzle and told me to pick up a plastic bag next to me. In that bag were some rather lovely plastic pieces that he had printed off and he duly told me that it assembled into a solid piece with 10 identical pieces and 2 extras. He looked at me expectantly and I duly had a play but did not really have any idea what the fully assembled puzzle was supposed to look like so got absolutely nowhere. After 5 or 10 minutes I handed it across and Steve surprised and delighted me by being completely unable to remember how to put it together! Steve is a man I can truly bond with - he has as bad a memory as me - Yay!!! Having failed to assemble it he was good enough to let me have that copy as a gift (thanks mate!) and it sat on my chair for a few days after I returned.

I had no idea how to put it together and had to resort to using Jim Storer's very handy pages to give instructions. After about an hour of fiddling and a lot of effing and blinding I had this:

12 Piece separation in all it's glory
The assembly seems to require 3 hands and a lot of sliding pieces about which is quite tough when it is not really stable until the very last moment. Having assembled it once with instructions and taken the photo, I straight away disassembled it and scrambled the pieces (easy when 10 are identical) and then left it for a day before trying to assemble it again. So another quick memory test! Could I remember the order and the moves used? Hell no! Even though it had only been 24 hours, I had absolutely no recollection of Jim's instructions BUT I did have an understanding of the shape and the way they interacted now. It took me 2 days of work but I did eventually manage to work it out and I have to say this is absolutely FANTASTIC! I really REALLY want one in wood - if anyone knows where I can get a wooden copy then please let me know asap!

I'm sure you're all wondering what is up with the puzzle at the top of the post and why I haven't mentioned it yet? That puzzle is a beautiful disentanglement that Allard exchanged at the last IPP. It was contained in the Loopy box and Allard also gave it away to new IPPers as a "Greenhorn gift". I have been fiddling with it on and off for months and months now and regularly achieving a Whack! Ouch! from "she who hates me playing with metal stuff". I have carried it with me to work for many months too and gotten absolutely nowhere at all. Allard's main description of it is simply:
"It's evil!!!"
Cast Devil
The puzzle is effectively a modification of the Hanayama Cast Devil which I mentioned here. The Cast Devil is a classic puzzle and I seem to recall that I did not find it particularly tough when I first bought it from Professor Puzzle. Now yet again I have to sheepishly admit that my recall is not as good as it should be.... a colleague of mine bought a few puzzles for himself and his kids last Xmas and worked through all of them during a nice winter break but could not solve the Cast Devil. He was convinced that it was impossible and brought it to me to establish whether it had been assembled incorrectly by the manufacturer. I picked it up quickly expecting to just solve it in front of him and Nooooo! I couldn't remember how it worked! After 5 minutes of going red in front of him I gave it back and had to admit that I could not recall the solution but that it was definitely possible. I'm not sure whether he believed me and he must be convinced that I am absolutely rubbish at puzzles!

I took the opportunity to take the puzzle to Allard at the MPP and ask for a clue. Continuing my theme of poor memory, he told me that he couldn't remember how to do it either! Aaaargh! Luckily my friend Joe did have some memory and was able to give me a really good verbal clue for a preliminary shape that I needed to make before getting towards the exit point. I swear that I must have made that shape many many times before because as soon as he told me what to aim for I was immediately able to achieve that conformation but this time I was able to go that next step forward and take it apart:

He's right! It IS evil!
It is really clever and I have now done it several dozen times to try and get it to imprint on my feeble memory cells. I did put it together as the Cast Devil again and the first few times really struggled to take it apart. It is great having 2 puzzles in one even if I cannot really remember much about them!

Finally I do have to mention a gift that Dick gave out at the MPP. He had a beautifully boxed copy of his 5 keys puzzle. There are 5 keys on a trapeze and each is removed using a different technique. I had bought an original copy from him a few years ago and had really struggled with it - it requires simply perfect positioning to get the keys off. Could I recall the techniques I used?

A small and a large copy of the 5 keys! Both work the same.
I sat down on the evening I got home from the MPP and braved the laser burning stare and had a fiddle. Did my memory serve me? The theme of this post is that I have no memory to speak of at all but here I remembered the 5 solutions perfectly and had the keys off before she who must be flinched from could burn my flesh! This is a fabulous puzzle and I am really pleased to have 2 beautiful copies. Thanks Dick!

Luckily the present Mrs S doesn't bother to read my blog! If she did and realised that I can barely remember a puzzle a week after I have solved it then she would insist that I stop buying new puzzles and go back to the beginning and play with the old ones all over again. Don't any of you dare tell her that!