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!

When I did get around to investigating I had a lovely little time with the puzzle. Like most N-ary puzzles there is only one path to follow and no blind ends but a whole lot of chance to accidentally lose track and end up back at the beginning. This particular N-ary puzzle requires 135 moves to release the first piece and I am a little ashamed to admit that it took me quite a while to work out the full sequence. Eric and the designer (Pit Khiam Goh) had managed to add some extra and unexpected moves to the final part of the sequence which fooled me for a bit. After a very nice evening in front of the TV and to great relief for Mrs S with no jingling going on, I had the Bebox open:

Bebox with "lid" off - what's inside
Bebox with Reactor box
On removing the first panel of the Bebox there appears to be something inside the cavity. I maintain that the Bebox is "just" an N-ary puzzle/burr and that inside is the Reactor box which is a real puzzle box. It would appear that I have collected a puzzle box but only by sheer accident! I set the Reactor box aside for later and continued to work on the Bebox to try and take it fully apart. The solution level for the Bebox is 135.9.2 and so I expected to be able to find which 9 moves were required for the next plate to come out quite easily. Oh how wrong I was! I actually initially struggled to backtrack those unexpected final moves and eventually having done so, I couldn't work out how to extract the next plate. I must have undone and redone the 135 move sequence 15-20 times and failed to find the exit. I guess that this has given me great value for money but proved to me that I am not terribly bright yet again.

Eventually after a chat with Derek, he suggested that I was trying to go about it in entirely the wrong way.....Doh! Yep, it's not one of the plates that is extracted next. He also suggested that maybe it wouldn't be a good idea to completely disassemble it for fear of having yet another big pile of sticks that I couldn't get back together again. After chatting with him, I spent a rather happy 10 minutes exploring to see where the next piece could be removed from and how I could make that possible. I had a nice Aha! moment and some bits came off. With his warning ringing in my mind, I proceeded to carefully remove a few more bits and then more. When I reached the critical collapsing point I stopped and backtracked. Again, being a Bear of very little brain, I kept heading back and forth to that collapsing point and, you guessed it, dropped a pile of sticks on my very unimpressed cat's head! Gulp!

How stunning is that?
It really does look quite impressive when dismantled doesn't it? I sort of remembered how to build the frame and had a vague recollection of the orientation of a few of the plates but reassembly took me a good 45 minutes. I kept getting stuck with a plate that would not go back to the start! In the end I had to take a page out of Allard's book and actually "Think"© about it. Eventually I managed it without disturbing the poor cat too much more - he really didn't enjoy being a table for all the pieces as I worked out where they went.

Reactor Box

Reactor box with metal rod
The Reactor box is one of  Eric's own designs and was inside the Bebox. It is made from Mahogany and Padauk and fits in the cavity of the Bebox with absolute precision. It doesn't rattle around at all and taking it out of the Bebox requires a little gentle tapping from underneath - the Reactor slips out almost with a suction sound as it is relinquished...the fit is that good. Interestingly the Reactor box does ratttle - something or multiple somethings are inside (or the mechanism is loose). As I've said many times, boxes are not something I have a lot of experience with and this certainly showed with the Reactor box. I noticed straight away that the lid could be flipped from one side to another and in each position it was held in place by a magnet and after upending it once something unexpected dropped out on the cat. The tiny rod shown above fell out and I almost lost it which would have been disastrous. It took me only another few minutes to make another critical discovery and there I stopped. I played with this most evenings for 2 weeks whilst watching TV with Mrs S and I couldn't for the life of me work it out.

Again Derek came to the rescue and suggested that I look very closely at it - pretty much simultaneously with his suggestion, I made a new discovery. It would appear that as a man of a certain age, I needed better light and a pair of reading glasses before I could see well enough to make the new discovery. At this point it was just a few minutes until I discovered the source of the rattling inside:

Eric had put a diamond inside!
I showed Mrs S the diamond in the puzzle box and she was singularly unimpressed - it would appear that she can tell a fake from 5 meters away. The detailing and beauty of the construction is amazing! I now need to decide whether I store the Reactor back inside the Bebox or separately. I do appear to have a bit of a storage problem just now and will almost certainly need to be creative to put everything from the last few months away.

I am hoping to have some more twisty puzzle stories for you soon as I can properly solve the Bagua cube that has kept me going for more than 3 weeks so far! Plus I might just have received a couple of new cuboids to play with.


  1. As always, I enjoyed your review, but I think the last Reactor photo is fairly spoilery. You might want to hide it behind a link so that anyone who is working on the box doesn't get info they regret.

    1. It doesn't show the crucial mechanism - once you have got the main part then the rest is trivial.