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?

The Haleslock 2 is newly produced by Shane and was not due to be announced until a bit later but Shane decided to add it to the prize in the current auction being run by Nick Baxter. The main prize of the auction is a supersize copy of the Haleslock 1 with a special USB key containing the full powerpoint lecture given by Shane and Rainer Popp at the 2016 international lock collectors conference complete with lecture notes, all the instructions, a solution sheet and video demonstration. Added to the prize initially was a one-off prototype made by Rainer (never put into production) and then to top it off the Haleslock 2 was added. Shane was forced to put out a notice of the new puzzle to keep in line with Nick B's rules. Another cause for celebration is that ALL the proceeds from the auction will be going to Laurie Brokenshire's charity (ABC swim) and with the total so far up at $3600 that is quite something!

I'm sure you want to know a bit more about the puzzle! First of all, let me say that Shane has sold out of his own personal supply and if you wish to buy a copy for yourself then this should be bought from one of the usual puzzle purveyors (you all know who they are). The lock is a standard Squire lock with 2 rather unusual looking keys (both of which are different) linked to the shackle and between the rivets on the top, it has been signed and numbered with the version number.  Of course, you have to try the keys (both of them) and see what happens. You know that nothing happens but you have to try! At this point I was reduced to pulling on the rivets and the shackle. I sat at my kitchen table rattling away whilst Mrs S worried that I would drop the lock on the glass table or the kitchen tiles and had a quick think©. I am not very good at locks (in fact recently I have not been very good at anything much) and I quickly ran out of things to try. Mrs S asked a question when I was stumped and instantly a light went on - there was something new to try and in just a few minutes my Aha! moment arrived and I had an open lock!

Not too tough but a very nice little Aha! moment
The Haleslock 2 is a really nice little puzzle which is unique and shows how much knowledge Shane has of locks and also how his twisted devious mind works. I love it and it sits proudly next to my copy of version one and one of his other lock prototypes. If you can get one it is very worthy of a place in your collection.

A small warning to you all, Shane is an amateur at this and these are done as a hobby in his spare time and hence these are not intended to be thought of as hugely valuable collectors items. A number of us were informed that someone was trying to sell the Haleslock 1 for several hundred Euros and we were all appalled at this price gouging by a supposed member of the community. Shane himself says that they are NOT worth that kind of money! They are a very nice piece of puzzling fun. The Haleslock 2 is also a nice puzzling bit of fun but please don't be tempted to pay massive sums for it. Think of the cost of the basic lock and the time and work that Shane might have put into making it and that will give you a rough idea how much it should cost. If anyone other than the usual purveyors is selling one for a large amount of money then please contact me to ask whether it is reasonable. Don't be ripped off!

Finally I have another cause for celebration! I actually solved a twisty puzzle! Not just any twisty puzzle....this one was my nemesis! The Bagua cube is one of the most recent releases from MF8 that I bought from my friend Martin at his Cube store.

Just a Rubik cube?
Hell NO! ¼ turns are possible
This puzzle is effectively a 3x3 cube but with the addition of ¼ turns it allows for an awful lot of extra scrambling:

Sickening isn't it?
There are a number of phases to the solution process here and whilst it looks horrendous, most of it is not too bad. It needs some thought and planning and an occasional aha! moment but otherwise requires nothing more complex than an edge piece series (EPS)! Yes if you can do Up, Up, Down, Down then you can solve almost all of this puzzle. The edge piece series (a simple sequence of 4 moves of adjacent faces) does a 3 cycle of edges around a corner but also swaps corners and rotates them. This simple fact is close to all you need.

There is just a little bit more to it than that!! Having reduced it back by intuition to basic cube shape and used the EPS to move corners back to corner position and edges back to edges with or without rotations, the next aim is to orient the thin slices that are part of the edges. Again, this is mostly intuition and you have it back to a normal cube shape. After that, it is important to reduce all of the edges back to their correct 2 colours. This proceeded swimmingly at first and I reduced one, then two then more of them until I had 4 left to reduce. Now I had run out of space to work with and everything started to go wrong. After a week I had a moment of enlightenment and tried to get the remaining edges to be the colours arranged around a single corner. BINGO! I reduced them and had a solvable cube. Only the tiny triangles needed to be moved and there is a simple algorithm for this.

Simple algorithm? Ho Ho Ho! It might have a very few moves but it cycles 3 tiny triangles - two from part of the cube centers and the third from the little cutout from an edge. Once I had completed all the centres I tried to do the algorithm with the face turned 45º to move the edge triangles. AAAARGH! It doesn't work that way and I had ruined what I had done. Back to the beginning again for another week. After that next week, I was back to the triangles again and yet another proud moment when I figured out what to do. It was solved after 2 weeks. Phew! So next.....

I tried again and sob, got stuck on the edge reduction yet again. I took another 2 weeks and couldn't do it! No matter how hard I tried it wasn't happening for me! I have been round and round and round in circles making edges but destroying others and I just couldn't do it. Others around me were solving theirs but never me! After 2 weeks I had a minor breakthrough and found a way to swap the edges over and a few hours later it was solved! Phew! Was that breakthrough enough to help me every time? I thought it might be but as of this moment I have my third scramble and am another 12 hours in!

I have celebrated twice with this puzzle but like many before it, I don't yet have a true understanding of it and am carrying on until it I do! Mrs S is worrying that I will have a stroke in my efforts. She says that the look of intense pain on my face whilst I try to solve it is terrible! I don't usually appreciate pain but puzzle pain is good!

This is an absolutely fantastic puzzle! Everyone who is into twisty puzzles should buy one - it doesn't require anything particularly new but is a tremendous challenge! Plus the look of horror on your friends' faces when they see what it will do and the mess it gets into is worth it for that alone!

At least Shane and Yvon have given me something truly wonderful to help celebrate my big birthday! Thank you both so much guys, I am so proud to be able to call you both friends. I will treasure your gifts always.


  1. The Bagua cube is on my short list to buy in the next couple of months. Looks intimidating scrambled! B

    1. You won't be disappointed - make sure you buy the coloured plastic version to avoid problems with tiny stickers!

    2. Will do I quite like the dayan stickerless puzzles, I have the tangram and master skewb. B

    3. Hmm! I don't have those yet! May have to remedy the situation!

  2. Happy 20th birthday....... again !!!! Cheers Kevin, you are always very welcome :-)

    1. Thank you mate! I delight in our friendship as much as the puzzles! I delight even more in the booze - Hic!

  3. Happy Birthday, Kevin! You don't look a day over 70! ;) I'm really impressed by Shane's latest lock. It has become my favourite of his lock creations thus far.

    1. Thanks for that Oli! I think!!!
      Yes - the aha! moment is very nice and it doesn't require lots of blind movements.