Sunday 12 November 2017

Not Jingly But Still Worthy of a Whack! Ouch!

I think that many puzzlers tend to consider most of the N-ary puzzles as more of a curiosity than as a puzzle and I can certainly see why they might think that way. I have to say that I absolutely adore this group of puzzles but new ones tend not to come up for sale very often. The last time I wrote about any of them was back in March when I showed off a fantastic variety from plastic to wood (including hand made and laser cut). One of the fascinations for me is that they can be made as a series of puzzles in one giving plenty of value for money. Are they puzzles? Well it is for better bwains than mine to decide that - I certainly find them puzzling because it is not usually a simple sequence of moves, it often takes (me at least) a good while before the pattern of the movement sequence has been fathomed out. I personally don't like dexterity puzzles and barely consider them puzzles because no thought is required usually, just careful movement and indeed, a LOT of concentration. My N-ary puzzles also take a LOT of concentration - just a tiny lapse can lead one to move along a path all the way back to the beginning and can add hours on to the solve process.

The Numlock puzzle began in the tremendous brain of Goh Pit Khiam (as so many puzzles do) and was an entry in the IPP Design competition in 2014. The version in the competition was beautifully made by Tom Lensch and reviewed by Jerry Loo here. That version only had ternary pieces and only 4 of them to boot - at 143 moves most of us hardcore N-ary lovers would consider that just a beginner puzzle but still a bit of fun. It didn't stay on my radar for long until at an MPP a couple of years ago, Big Steve 3D printed a nice big one with more sliders and over a period of months people borrowed it and spent many hours solving it - a true show of hardcore puzzling strength. I was on the verge of asking to borrow it myself when my South African friend Johan Heyns got permission to make a copy and with help from the incredible Jack Krijnen managed to improve the design with extra pieces of higher 'arity. Kits could be ordered with different pieces. The price for the mega huge kit was too steep for me and I chose the intermediate set.

Numlock at back right
Pic is a little distorted as it was taken as a panarama
I was not disappointed! It is a fantastically beautiful puzzle which screams to be on display - It currently lives on my dining room sideboard as you can see above. The puzzles were made with a mixture of Cherry, Tulipwood and Kiaat (aka African Teak). Having chosen my kit to have both Ternary and Quinary pieces, I was informed that there would be 30 different combinations available to me - who could resist that? When it arrived I was delighted with the look and as always with Johan's puzzles, pleased to have a stand. But where were the extra pieces? He's a genius, that Johan! The stand had a double purpose:

A closer look at the stand was helpful
Quinary pieces held in place.
The puzzle had been sent out with the 8 ternary sliders and one start piece which I was informed would require 34,991 moves to complete. I have only this week had time to play with the long solution and I am ashamed to say that my powers of concentration were found to be inadequate! I probably had to perform well over 1000 more than that due to getting lost and back-tracking quite a long way before realising it. I did this over several evenings in front of the TV with Mrs S. Let us just say that there were plenty of Whack! Ouch!s given but I persisted with the solution despite the terrible fear of reprisals. I eventually had this:

OMG! If the puzzle didn't kill me then "she" nearly did!
Now, a hardcore puzzler would then do the whole thing in reverse to get back to the beginning. Did I do that? I thought about it for just a few moments and received another Whack! Ouch! when she caught me having such thoughts. I backed away and used the very nicely hidden setup/reset mechanism that Johan had designed:

Pull the leftmost piece and the magnets release.
This allows an easy reset
From the left: Quinary end, Ternary end,
Quinary main, Ternary main, Start piece

I have set it up with other shorter puzzles and have definitely had a lot of fun! I just dare not try any more really long ones otherwise she will either murder me or divorce me - none of which sound very pleasant!

Mixed Ternary and Quinary using only 5 sliders.
The above mixed puzzle still took me over an hour to solve! Thank you so much Johan (and Jack).

I Have Several Brains!

The plastic ones are fabulous but my own is NOT terribly bright

I have few brains - but here are some of them!
Having seen one at an MPP, in 2014, with the help of my good friend Michel van Ipenburg, I managed to obtain one of The Brain puzzles produced in 1979 by Mag-nif. I got mine for a brilliant £9.95 on Ebay and have actually taken it out and solved it quite a few times. I find it a rather soothing thing to play with. If you want one now then they do come up occasionally but are now reaching the dizzy heights of nearly £40! I think that is a bit over the top but I guess supply and demand controls the price.

I was contacted a few weeks ago by another good friend from the Far East and told about David Guo who had designed versions of the Brain but with Ternary and Quaternary mechanisms. Yes! I know! I should control myself better's N-ary and I could control myself. A few emails and some PayPal and I waited for a little package. David had 3D printed his own versions and made me a lovely set of 3. Mrs S was distinctly unimpressed as I crowed over them and, after photos, set to. The mechanism is beautifully smooth and exactly as logical as one would expect. After a couple of hours (yes, I did get lost during the solution of the Quaternary version) I had this little photogenic set:

All solved!
I did decide to reset them by working back through the solution process and received another Whack! Ouch! for counting my moves aloud. Having marvelled at the beauty of the set, I couldn't resist dismantling them to see how they worked. This sort of thing really makes me want to buy a 3D printer but at the moment I have no time to play with one and no room to store one. Maybe someday?

Lid off
Plates revealed
Lid off
Plates revealed
Lid off
Plates revealed
It is fun to go through the solution of these puzzles with the lids off to see how the plates interact. I am delighted to add these to my collection. David Guo does have a puzzle website of his own - it is in Chinese so most of you will rely heavily on Google translate but it's worth a look here. Thank you David for the opportunity to own something new and special.

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