Sunday 12 February 2017

Gifts Provide a Real Challenge

Laurie's Three Piece Block Puzzle
Last week Allard reviewed this puzzle from Shane and I was soo soo pleased that he had also struggled with it! I saw the first person to solve it was Oli on his Puzzle Paradox FB page. It looked like he had had it for only a few hours and had managed to solve it straight away! I wasn't terribly surprised because he is a bit good at puzzling (certainly a lot better than me) but I was quite surprised that when I opened my own delivery box the same day, I couldn't even begin to repeat the feat - the first step eluded me!

Yet again, as agent 001, I was very grateful to be in receipt of one of Shane's masterpieces. It is very different from his usual work but as is usual with Shane, he was very self deprecating about the quality. There is a very good reason for his feelings about that....he compares himself to Lee Krasnow, Eric Fuller, Jakub Dvořák, Brian Menold, Brian Young and Scott Peterson! Pretty much every wood craftsman in the world looks bad next to them - these guys produce the best work most of us have ever seen and Shane doesn't stand a chance at producing stuff like that straight away at his first attempt at an interlocking solid puzzle. He knows what is required but freely states that he hasn't got time or the inclination to do that and I don't blame him. For me this puzzle is still absolutely lovely and made to fine enough tolerances that it is fun to play with and looks great on the shelf.

The puzzle is a classic from the devious design mind of Stewart Coffin and has long been the favourite of a great puzzle friend to us all, Laurie Brokenshire (one of the greatest puzzle solvers the world has ever seen). Shane wanted to make something special for Laurie but of course add his own Hales magic which of course has to be a locking mechanism of some sort - yes he looped the pieces on a chain and padlock!

Like Allard, I spent 2 whole days playing with this desperately seeking a way to remove the chain and padlock! I even emailed Shane to ask whether he had put a key inside the box and I had just missed it. He of course said yes but told me not to bother hunting through the box as I didn't need it. By the time I had spent a third days at it I was getting desperate - I poured all the packing peanuts all over the kitchen work surface and scrabbled through looking for the key. I didn't find it, of course but the cats really enjoyed the peanuts and I had to chase one of them around the house to extract one from his mouth before he ate it! Mrs S would have been seriously unhappy with me if there would have been a trip to the vet! So no key and no clue what to do!

I spent a fourth evening in my puzzle chair muttering under my breath about evil genius puzzle designers and just when "she who frightens me to death" spoke up to make me shut up, I made a really big AHA! moment. Shane, you are a very devious B.....! That aspect of the puzzle was so well hidden that two of us had singularly failed to notice it.

Thank goodness! I can now start assembling.
The aim is to make a pyramid from these 3 pieces. How hard can that be? There are only 3 pieces! Yeah well......squirm! That proved a bit of an issue for your not terribly bright puzzle blogger. I had even done this puzzle before - Brian Menold had given me a copy 5 years ago and after solving it (again taking a long time) it had sat on my shelf since then:

Brian Menold's beautiful copy
After another whole day of trying I am ashamed to say that I had to resort to looking at the photo above to give me at least a small hint. So after 4 days of toil I had finally solved Laurie's Three Piece Block Puzzle! What an odyssey and considering that Shane didn't really think much of it, I am very sure that the recipients will be truly delighted and challenged by it like I was. If Shane was ever to decide to take up making interlocking puzzles in the long term then at least one of his agents may end up locked up in a loony bin! I do have to say that at least this puzzle didn't bite me! Phew!

Phew solved it! Only took 4 days!
Answered an interesting question
One question that several people asked on FB was whether it was possible to assemble the pyramid with the chain in place. I can categorically say that yes it is possible but it does make it a fair bit harder. At the end of Allard's review when the question was asked Allard insisted that mine was bigger than his!!! Who am I to argue? I don't like to boast!!! I do promise that we haven't been comparing sizes at the MPP! Shane insists that there is no difference in the length of the chain - get your mind out of the gutter!!

Laszlo's Spherical Packing Puzzle

Laszlo's Spherical Packing Puzzle
A couple of weeks ago I was contacted again by the amazing Laszlo Kmolnar who has designed some of the most incredible puzzles I have had the pleasure of owning and solving. His collaborations with Brian Menold made it to number 5 in my 2016 top 10 puzzles and whilst I am universally poor at packing puzzles there was something about his designs that added an extra something - it wasn't just about trial and error, some real planning and thought was required. Laszlo has a brain the size of a planet and seems to be continuously coming up with new ideas. He offered to send me something to evaluate and give him some feedback. Living in Malta, he doesn't really get to meet many puzzlers and always wants feedback which, of course, I am only too happy to provide.

Midweek a little package arrived with 3 pairs of glued livecubes and a plastic sphere. The aim is to fit the livecubes into the sphere and click it completely shut.

How hard can it be?
Now by and large as I have said, I'm not usually attracted to packing puzzles but the sheer simplicity of the idea is very attractive - it's just 3 pieces in a sphere so how hard can it be? Now I have to admit that as of this Sunday afternoon I've spent the best part of 3 evenings working on it and still not been able to solve it (I had to write the consultant rotas yesterday and so may have been a little below par for one evening).

Looks good? Nope! It just won't quite close in this configuration!
There are lots of "almost there" positions but it just won't quite close - you get just a mm away and the sphere springs open again. It may be me being very poor at packing puzzles but I actually think this is really quite a tough challenge. It is very deceptive for such a simple premise - the confounding feature is the combination of linear elements with a sphere and what looks like it should go perfectly inside just seems to impinge on the wall of the sphere and prevents it from snapping shut.

This has proved to be another marvelous gift from a great puzzle designer and has kept me occupied and almost out of mischief for several days. Hopefully I will manage to solve it one day! Sob!

The Glasses

The Glasses
Each time I have ordered from Tomas Linden's Sloyd store, he has slipped an extra puzzle or 2 in the package to delight me. This time when I ordered the puzzles that Mike had reviewed for me, Tomas added in an extra couple of disentanglement puzzles that I hadn't thought about. This nice little gift is greatly appreciated and I couldn't resist playing straight away with one that looked quite straightforward, The Glasses. It appears that this is one of the puzzles that is particular to Sloyd and may have been commissioned by them. There is a pair of lunettes intertwined with what reminds me of a great toy from my youth - does anyone remember in the 1970's playing with their "Clackers" (they were banned when I was a kid). The aim obviously is to remove the clackers from the lunettes.

No problem, you say? Well I am not as bright as you! I sat down one evening with it and fiddled away - the advantage of a disentanglement puzzle with string and a single piece of metal is no noise to excite the wrath of the "frightening one". I tried a number of different moves and just ended up back at the start or wound up. Just when I thought I was going to fail, I managed to achieve a promising configuration during an episode of NCIS: LA

Obviously halfway there!
Drooling over Kensi Blye did not help me with my solving prowess and I had no real idea how I had achieved the above halfway point. I quickly attempted to put it back to the beginning and somehow managed to do it. After the episode ended I had another go at solving it and, thinking I had it sussed out, I, with great gusto made a few simple moves and.....

Oh ${!t!
OMG! How had I done that? Unfortunately at that point it was bedtime and "she who must be obeyed" forced me to put it down and leave it in that position for another day! By that time I had absolutely no clue what I had done and decided that I would work on the other side of the puzzle (without the loop) and to my complete horror, ended up with both sides looped like that (no photo because I spent a frantic few hours trying to undo it and unable to even think about a camera!) Now with lots of loops through the wire I began to realise that if I carried on I would not have enough length to be able to undo it all.

To my eternal shame it took me another 2 days to get the puzzle back to the start position! The one advantage of going through such hell was that I did manage to gain a proper understanding of how the puzzle works and now can solve it at will:

My goodness - that was a real struggle!
So if you are after a challenge that is cheap (6.10€) and might keep you swearing for a while then go for this. Of course, you are all so much brighter than me that I expect you will solve it in no time at all!

Now it is time to try the Ring Bottle and the 4 Bague (Mike's favourite)

Ring Bottle
Add caption
They scare me to death!!!!! Soo much string to hang myself by!

Puzzle gifts are such a joy! Have a great afternoon/evening/day/month/2017!!!


  1. Another wonderful review. Thank you so much to Kevin. I'm REALLY pleased you approve. As I said the chains are all the same size. It's the holes !!! Let's not start that again, but it's the reason :-) shane

    1. No one goes near any of my holes to compare! If Allard says mine is bigger then I will take his word for it!

  2. Positions !!! Not sizes 😂😂😂😂

    1. I'm not going to try any new positions with Allard! Not until he's had a checkup at the clinic!

  3. As a loyal staffer, and unsanctioned Puzzlemad historian, I have to report that you previously solved spectacles in the guise of puzzlemasters rack back in 2013. But little different structure, and so many hundreds of puzzles in between, perfectly understandable! I do it constantly.

    1. So it is! I had no recollection! I have to say that my statement about the knots being easy to understand is completely wrong! I really got myself in a mess with the glasses!

      I really need a better way to keep track!