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.

After a week of trying on the other one (Twiddle Dum) - if you have both and cannot tell the difference then look at the top of the inner parts and you will see that there is a small split. Twiddle Dum has only one piece split at each end and Twiddle Dee has both:

Twiddle Dum on the left and Twiddle Dee on the right
After about a week a piece dropped out onto the cat on my lap and then I carefully removed the other pieces and was left with this:

Two pairs of identical pieces
From the picture you can see where the odd names came from - Tweedle Dum and Dee were the identical twin boys in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass written by Lewis Carroll. Above you can see that both the inner and outer pieces of the puzzle are identical - hence Derek named them after the infamous twins. When I first noticed that the pieces were identical I did a bit of a double take and asked whether this was true of the other puzzle. To my surprise, the answer was yes! Amazing! Such a genius!

Having taken it apart, as with many of my toys, I was unable to put it back together again. I have been trying to either disassemble Twiddle Dee or reassemble Twiddle Dum on and off for about 8 months and have failed completely. I am not alone in this - I am aware that several puzzlers around the world have struggled. Even the burr solving machine that is Goetz Schwandtner had managed to dismantle it and only reassemble it once - after that he had also failed and asked me for assistance which I could not provide! A request like that did make me feel just a little bit less of a failure.

I was really hoping that Steve could reassemble my copy at the last MPP but despite having made so many he couldn't recall how the reassembly was done and I disappointedly took it home in pieces. Over a few days of chatting he managed to produce a series of 3D pictures that showed a reassembly method for me. It wasn't particularly easy to follow the pictures as some didn't look like their description but eventually I had my puzzle assembled again. Interestingly I was completely unable to use the pictures in reverse order to disassemble the puzzle and I needed to solve it again. This time I was very careful to memorise what I was doing and over a few days I had it completely understood! Yay! Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear! Having achieved a full understanding, I decided to create a couple of videos for you all. Those of you who have never seen them can use it to decide whether you might like a copy in the future and those of you who are struggling with disassembly or reassembly can use it as step by step guidance. If you don't like solutions then DON'T watch the videos!!!

Disassembly video:

Reassembly Video:

I have continued to work on the Twiddle Dee puzzle but so far have gotten absolutely nowhere! I am actually not aware of anyone (other than Ali) who has managed to solve it - if you have then leave a comment below. I guess I may have to impose on Steve again to provide some of his 3D images again - how about it Steve?

Have a good afternoon everyone.


  1. actually, Steve came up with the names... and the original concept of paired pieces...