Sunday 30 October 2016

I packed something

OMG! So gorgeous! I want to produce stuff like this!
Last week I wrote about my causes for celebration! Today I have a rather large birthday (one with a zero on it - I will be 100!!) and I mentioned that some puzzlers had been very kind! Shane had given me some lovely gin and a copy of his first class Haleslock 2 (congratulations to him on selling the special copy of number 1 for $3600 going to Laurie's special charity) and Yvon Pelletier had sent me a package with instructions not to open until my birthday! Pictured above is the contents of that package. I don't yet know what it is called, who designed it or what level it is but I can tell you that it is stunning. Beautiful woods, great attention to detail with bevels everywhere, this is a burr consisting of a frame that comes apart as well as burr sticks and boards. This is going to be very tough indeed! After I have finished playing, it will have to go on display somewhere special because it is beautiful and it is a gift from a wonderful friend - thanks Yvon!

Chain Store
Today I am going to discuss the latest puzzles I received from Tom Lensch. Above is a picture of a packing puzzle called Chain store. Well that pretty much describes it perfectly - there's a chain (made very nicely from wood and a box (also made of wood) and the aim is to "store the chain in the box". Yes, I know I have said many times that I am not at all good at packing puzzles and do tend to avoid them most of the time because most of the solution process seems to be to be trial and error which I don't enjoy. BUT I couldn't resist this one for a few reasons: First it had won a Jury Honorable Mention for Goh Pit Khiam in the Kyoto IPP design competition and so it must be special - not just a lot of randomness to solve it. Second, it is made of lovely WOOD and like any self respecting bloke I really appreciate wood and things crafted from it (hence my rather embarrassingly large wooden toy collection) and.... Third, there was another interlocking puzzle that I also wanted to buy from Tom and it's pretty much an international law that you cannot just buy one puzzle at a time! Hence I ordered Chain Store from Tom just after IPP and he added it to his backlog of orders. Much to my surprise he completed it and requested some PayPal a little earlier than expected. I had some explaining to do to "she who stares with high powered laser"!

It certainly doesn't fit easily
I discussed this with a good friend when it arrived and he was very interested in my thoughts. This good friend of mine had been struggling for some time with it and had singularly failed. If he had failed then I was certainly going to struggle but I had to see what all the hype was about. The first thing to do is to compare the dimensions of the box with the links of the chain and this definitely reveals something very interesting - the width is exactly the same as a length of a single link. The depth on the other hand is an odd dimension and definitely confused me - it was not really related in any obvious way to the links. The height was also of interest and very useful.

Having looked at the dimensions I decided that this was going to be rather like the 4M puzzle and several others like it and I set about trying to do similar things. After a couple of evenings muttering under my breath I realised that I had been led astray and needed to try something else. It was time to try my hand at chain folding. The chain is a tricky thing to manipulate! Just as you think you might be getting 2 links into a useful configuration and you try to add a 3rd one, you discover that wood doesn't fold and you don't have enough fingers. My Aha! moment arrived on the third evening - I suddenly had a vision of what was needed (yes I solved it in my head first which amazed me - this was definitely a packing puzzle with a difference). It took me a little while to manage to manipulate the links the way I wanted (rectangular links need some special consideration to rotate and orient them properly) and I had an interesting shape in my hands. A moment later I just dropped it all in one go into the box and the Chain was Stored! An amazing design and I can absolutely see why the IPP jury loved it! This is a packing puzzle that you need to think about. I have subsequently teased my friend (who shall remain nameless to protect his reputation even if you all know who he is) about his inability to solve it.

No! There's no picture of it solved - it will give too much away. If you really need help with it then contact me and I will send some clues or even give a photo.

Little Kenny

Little Kenny (notice the TL craftsman's mark)
Little Kenny was the puzzle I had really been wanting to buy from Tom when the "rules" forced me to buy the Chain store too. Ken Irvine has designed (and made) some of the most interesting interlocking solid puzzles that have been seen in the last few years. Amongst his incredible designs are a group that fall into a special subset - the Turning Interlocking Cubes. My very good friend and international expert on the subject, Bernhard Schweitzer, had introduced me to these puzzles many years ago when I edited his series of articles on them for the CFF journal. Bernhard had made quite a lot of these fabulous designs for me and they proudly sit on my shelf to my right and come down frequently to be toyed with. When a new one comes out I just cannot resist them and of course when I saw that this had been entered into the design competition, I knew I had to have this one too.

The Little Kenny differs from the classical design in that it is a 4x4x3 cuboid rather than a cube but the principle is the same. Allard gave a rave review to this (and it's brother Little Bruce which is not available at the moment, sob!) The original had been made from jatoba wood by Ken himself but Tom had been given permission to make and sell copies - mine is a lovely rich Lacewood. It is sent out in pieces and the aim is obviously assembly. The inclusion of half unit cuts on two of the pieces make it really quite easy to establish the ultimate positioning of all the pieces BUT there is a problem:

It won't fit!
The last piece just won't fit in! I have tried putting that one in first or second but nope! Not happening! I have noticed that there is a design feature or 2 on some key pieces:

There corners are all nicely bevelled but 1 or 2 are VERY bevelled
The extra bevelling must be part of the solution but so far I have not been able to work it out. I haven't solved any of these TIC's for a rather long time and am out of practice. Allard mentioned that he has a 5 stage puzzle solving process:
  1. Thinking “this should be easy”
  2. “I must be missing something obvious” 
  3. Thorough bafflement 
  4. Believing it isn’t possible, until finally 
  5. Solving it!  
I am working through his process (it seemed like a good one) and think I have got past stage 2 onto stage 3! I plan on skipping stage 4 because I know that Ken wouldn't be that mean and Tom is far too good a craftsman to give me an impossible puzzle (Ah - I have just remembered that a certain "puzzle pusher" has done that to me in the past!) I suspect that I will be caught at "Allard stage 3" for quite a long time despite also adopting his custom technique of Thinking©.

It may be that I will need to ask Bernhard for a clue. I'll keep trying for a while yet. My previously mentioned very good friend has also struggled with this puzzle too which does make me feel much better! His is locked up in the wrong configuration just now - whoops.

If you get a chance to play with either of these two puzzles then you won't be disappointed. Tom is a fabulous craftsman and the designs by Goh Pit Khiam and Ken Irvine are phenomenal. I am really hoping that Ken decides to make a production run of the Little Bruce for the rest of us or that he gives permission for others to make it and sell it on his behalf. Come on Ken, put me out of my misery!!!

Now it's time to continue my birthday celebrations - she won't let me play with any puzzles though!!

Sunday 23 October 2016

A Cause For Celebration!

Or Shane Does it Again!
Or.... He finally solves a puzzle! Almost!!!

Haleslock number 2
Last week, totally out of the blue I received a box which I wasn't expecting! It took some time to convince Mrs S that I hadn't placed a big order for yet more new toys. This box came from Canada and was not labeled as from Puzzle Master. It appeared to be a gift from a friend, a VERY generous friend! How did I know it was a gift? Well the outside had some very specific instructions on it:

Oooh! The temptation!!

A 43 piece burr!
What happens on 30th October? Ahem! It seems that it might be my birthday on that date. This year it's one of those birthdays that is a bit special....yes it has a zero on the end! I'm going to be 20.....AGAIN! I have been asked what I plan to do for this particular birthday and my standard reply is to "curl up in a ball and hope it goes away". Yes, it's a moderately large number! The gift came from a very generous puzzle making genius called Yvon Pelletier (SPELLING) who has given me a gift before (He gave me one of the very few copies of C2-1 made by Stephan Baumegger which is one of the most complex burr puzzles ever designed and made with 43 pieces). So it would seem that as well as having a big birthday to celebrate, I also have some great puzzling friends and that alone is a cause for celebration! I have so far managed to obey the instructions and the box is sitting in my dining room desperately calling out to me. I know that there will be one or two absolutely fabulously well made burr puzzles inside. I have watched in awe as Yvon has set out on a journey in which he takes many of the designs published on Ishino's site and crafts them out of beautiful woods. He is just an amateur but his skills have just gotten better and better. He still buys them but new ones seem to be made almost every few days - have a look at an amazing picture I stole from his FB page:

Jealous? Yep! me too!
Having returned from visiting the Outlaws in Edinburgh where I received a couple of very nice bottles of gin for my birthday, I opened the door to postie to yet another surprise package. This one came from Shane Hales and contained a card, a rather lovely bottle of gin for my birthday as well as a newly designed and produced puzzle:

More temptation!
Signed like all his previous puzzles
Now there were no restrictions written on the outside of the box, so I tore into it and found the Haleslock 2 which I promptly went to work on (the gin was not started straight away as it was only 11am and even I cannot justify gin at that time of day!) I am sure that my Box and Booze loving friend Steve can give me some fine suggestions for ways to drink the special gin. I am sure that it is frowned upon to drink it straight from the bottle?

Sunday 16 October 2016

Going round the twist

The Vapors
Just a quick post today as I am out and about visiting the out-laws (Whack! Ouch!) and haven't really had much time for puzzling or blogging. I thought I would mention a couple of puzzles I have been working on over the last couple of weeks that I have had varying success with. Both are the brainchild of the combined genius of Derek Bosch and Steve Nicholls. They have been working together on these helical variants of burr puzzles for quite some time now and I have managed to acquire a full set so far. Steve went to the Kyoto IPP this year and had printed about 100 copies of one of Derek's designs as his exchange puzzle. Luckily for me (and a few others) there were significantly less participants than that in the exchange and hence some were left over.

When I was chatting to Steve on Facebook, he mentioned that he had some new helical puzzles to show off and of course I said that I would buy them when I saw him next. At the last MPP a few weeks ago, big Steve was there with a good few new plastic toys and he promptly handed me his exchange as a gift - he is SUCH a gentleman!

Sunday 9 October 2016

Is it a box? Nope! It's an N-ary puzzle!

Some time ago Eric Fuller updated his Cubic Dissection site with some new puzzles and there were a few that I had been looking for having had temptation thrust at me in advance on Facebook. The Bebox was a burr and an N-ary puzzle all rolled into one and (ahem!) maybe one could think of it as a box too. I really wanted one of these because as you well know, I lurve N-ary puzzles and burrs even if I don't (blush) collect boxes. I had been on-call at the hospital the night before Eric went live and his update didn't start until just before midnight UK time. I tried and tried and tried to stay awake for the update but alas, I faded and was unconscious long before the new toys were available!

Maze burr
Eric had made 88 copies in total with at least half had been held back for people who had paid to reserve a copy of one of his boxes (which had been abandoned). By the time I regained consciousness the following morning I was horrified to see that the 2 puzzles I really wanted (this plus the Slant cube) had been totally sold out. I understand that the whole lot of available Beboxes went in under an hour! Luckily when I contacted Eric to see if he might have any left over, he said that if some of the reserved boxes aren't taken then they will be made available within a few weeks. In due course an email arrived offering me one of them and some PayPal flew across the pond. It took quite a while for the UK postal service to deliver but eventually the gorgeousness was mine. The Bebox is gorgeously made from Maple and Walnut and looks rather stunning - it is similar in appearance (if not mechanism) to the incredible MazeBurr.

I had received a few wire puzzles (blogged here and here) at about the same time and was working through them so only had a quick look at the Bebox. By the way if you are interested in those wire puzzles mentioned in the blog posts then they are available just now from Wil Strijbos and it would seem that most are unique to him and will not be available through other stores - so go get them now!

Sunday 2 October 2016

A Constantin Wire Extravaganza

At the end of July, I wrote a little article highliting the most recent wire disentanglements from Jean Claude Constantin. The ones I focussed on were the easiest 3 from that series. I bought my copies from my the wonderful Puzzle Pusher, Wil Strijbos but some of them should be available from PuzzleMaster soon and I am sure that Hendrik will be getting them in stock too. These puzzles are absolutely amazing and relatively cheap so well worth buying even if they may cost you a bruise or two from the inevitable Whack! Ouch! that you spouses may impart. I know that for a while I was covered in bruises and had a mild concussion when she started to hit me with kitchen implements (blunt ones luckily)!