Sunday 2 April 2017

2 Great Challenges From Stephane and Pelikan


Tribord by Stéphane Chomine
Having shown off the upcoming pair of puzzles on his Facebook page, my great friend Jakub contacted me to ask whether I wanted to buy them and have a look before he makes them generally available to puzzlers on his store. Of course I have never been able to say no to Jakub and after a bit of PayPal across Europe I received a couple of stunning looking wooden beauties designed by the incredibly talented Stéphane Chomine who seems to have restarted publishing his designs on Ishino's site.

I started off with the Tribord which consists of just 3 burr sticks in a rectangular frame. This puzzle will be available from Jakub in 2 different versions and I chose the one with Wenge, Maple and Mahogany (I think) because I cannot resist dark contrasting woods. The other version is equally stunning though. The construction is simply stunning and finished perfectly with contrasting slipfeathers and the smooth curved white beveling makes it just so tactile. This puzzle has a relatively low difficulty level of 17.3.4 and is therefore suitable for all puzzlers including beginners to burrs. However it is not a trivial solve and there is a particular feature that any experienced burr solver will appreciate when seen - it certainly sets this puzzle apart from other similar ones I have written about or own.

There's something unusual about one of the pieces
It's a nice logical sequence and it is perfectly feasible to reassemble it from scratch after scrambling the pieces. I have kept it next to my puzzling chair for the last week and when I have been struggling with something else I have taken to playing with the Tribord to soothe my troubled brain. A lovely puzzle well worth adding to your collection.

Big Quadrox

Big Quadrox
Next up is the Big Quadrox (also designed by Stéphane) and very different in design and construction. I reviewed the (small) Quadrox puzzle made by the amazing Brian Menold (Wood Wonders) way back in July 2015 and really appreciated the rather beautiful and quite large puzzle. I said this about it:
It is a level framed burr and is interesting because the frame is incomplete but still manages to make the solution far from trivial. A combination of picking pieces up and using gravity to move others will help you solve it. Scrambling the resultant pieces again leaves you with a nice reassembly challenge which is eminently possible for anyone with a bit of burr experience. 
The version by Jakub and Jaroslav's New Pelikan Workshop is a good bit smaller and the fine workmanship that has gone into it is immediately apparent with the contrasting woods. Like the smaller Quadrox, the frame is incomplete meaning that almost everything is visible but the pieces infuriatingly won't come out easily despite such large gaps. The lovely thin planks of the frame are Cherry which have been nicely reinforced with Mahogany and then the joints strengthened with contrasting Wenge dowels. The 4 burr sticks are beautiful Wenge, Padauk, Purpleheart and Acacia.

Mrs S says I look like this when puzzling!
Again the puzzler needs some serious thought and exploration to find their way through the level solution. It still needs gravity and a little dexterity to move through it and in retrospect I would have to admit that the solution is really fairly logical. BUT your rather dim puzzle blogger here got completely stuck after 14 moves. I knew what I had to achieve but, for the life of me, I could not seem to find the specific move that would allow the path to continue. I went back and forth for days and days prompting Mrs S to make a lot of fun of me! She kept looking at the faces I was making whilst muttering profanities to myself and likened me to "Plug" from the classic British comic, The Beano. She even offered (very kindly) to write a guest post for this blog detailing all the varied faces made by your faithful blogger during his puzzling travails - something that may happen but only after I edit it very carefully. There is NO WAY she is going to be allowed to run amok in my website without supervision!

After 4 evenings of toil I suddenly found the move and proceeded through the remaining 14 moves to take out the first piece - phew! The removal of the next 2 pieces is far from trivial. Even though you can see inside where all the notches and blocks are, it was still a good 20 to 30 minutes more work for me! I had my 4 sticks and the glorious details of the frame were revealed:

The pieces are actually quite simple but when put together are a really nice challenge!
Having spent so long on the disassembly, I decided I would just scramble the pieces and leave them a while before attempting the reassembly. Interestingly, this was less difficult than expected and I had it back together in just 15 minutes with great relief. As is usual, I tend to solve these puzzles multiple times before putting them back in my display and to my utter horror, I kept getting stuck at the 15th move. Only after solving it the fifth time did I finally manage to set up enough muscle memory that I was able to do it each time at will. This, to me, makes the Big Quadrox a superb puzzle - one of my favourites of the year so far.

Anyone who bought the original Quadrox should definitely add this more difficult version to their collection. Any burr enthusiast will definitely want to buy this - they will love the solution. There isn't a huge amount of dancing around with the various pieces but they all interact in very interesting ways. I intend to be playing with this for a while yet.

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