Sunday 17 June 2018

Et tu Juno?

Or even Junichi and Yukari wind me up!

The Heart Case - Mrs S lurved this one!
I was delighted to receive a nice package from Australia earlier this week after watching the very quick passage halfway around the world. It moved 20,000km very fast and then went through Her majesty's excise and customs department VERY slowly. In fact, it seemed to go through them twice before I was presented with my ransom. It finally arrived just after I read on Goetz' site (and in a nice email from him) about his enjoyment of the puzzles he bought from Junichi and Yukari Yananose's Pluredro shop.

I am sure that you are all wondering why I have slipped into French for the title of today's post but rest assured that I am not aiming to make this a french blog (my French is very poor to my eternal shame). My title is actually Latin!!! Those few words were uttered by Julius Caesar to Marcus Brutus in Shakespeare's play when Caesar realised he had been betrayed by a friend. When I was emailing Yukari about the purchase and delivery of these puzzles part of the conversation ended up with a cryptic message that there was something very special specifically for me in the Heart case. I was intrigued but not sure what to expect. Little did I realise that the delightful Japanese cum Australian couple would be poking me and laughing at me!

In the package were two of Juno's most recent creations - they looked stunning when announced on their blog and I just couldn't resist - one of them was the third in the suits series which has begun with the Diamond case and the Club case (both reviewed here - remember the title of that post!). Mrs S has been in a very good mood recently because I bribed her for her birthday! Let us just say that her expensive handbag collection increased by 3 and my bank balance went into freefall for her birthday and she will not be able to complain about my puzzle purchases for a considerable period of time (like maybe a year!!)

She was actually quite pleased to see the heart case and wondered whether I had bought it for her. I quickly agreed that it was all hers but I would look after it for her. It is a stunning piece made from Rosewood, Jarrah and Koto and measures 86 x 83 x 56mm (so a nice hand filling size). I was quite intrigued to find out what was inside that was going to be a nice surprise for me so this was the puzzle I started on. Initially, nothing seems to be possible and I had to examine it more closely. In the process of doing so, I was able to make something begin to happen and a pathway of moves was begun. After about 5 minutes I seemed to have made a nice sequence of moves and then no more. At that point more was visible inside and one little feature caused an Aha! moment and I made one final move before it was open. I had this:

The lid off and another heart with Juno's stamp on it
I was very pleased - I am not very good at "cases" and was pleased that this one was solved. It did explain the rather funny cartoon sequence that Yukari had drawn for their site. It was bedtime and off we went with Mrs S pleased with her handbags and the heart-shaped puzzle.

Quite a deep puzzle
I awoke the following morning just wondering whether I had missed something! There was supposed to be something particular for me inside and unless Juno was giving me his heart (unlikely I hope) I had not found it. Then it occurred to me that the puzzle was quite thick and the mechanism I had seen did not use much of that thickness. Then I realised there was something else under the lid that I had not used during my solution...Yes, you idiot, you have NOT solved it! Immediately after breakfast yesterday (after going to the gym with Mrs S) I went back to my intriguing puzzle and explored further. This puzzle is a "sequential discovery puzzle" as it has tools to use! Using the tools for a bit revealed the true solution to the heart case and then all was clear to me. It also made me roar with laughter...

Here is the real cavity of the "sequential discovery puzzle"
The reason for my laughter and the Shakespeare quote as my title? I am now quite famous for claiming that I "don't collect boxes" and many people on Facebook have pulled me up on it. I even claimed in my review of the Diamond and Heart cases that I had really tried to maintain my principles but Allard forced me to break them. At the end of that post, in the comments, my friend George Bell (brilliant puzzler and mathematician) had left a supportive comment confirming my feelings:
"Lol! It's not a box if you can't fit a loaf of bread inside!"
I definitely could not fit a loaf of bread in any of these cavities and hence they are NOT boxes but this time Juno had thought of a way to defeat me again. The "special something" that was in the puzzle cavity was revealed:

Not only a loaf of bread but a fully laden hotdog too!
A rather wild looking George has been twisted into saying something that I don't really want to hear! I could not believe what I was seeing (they had been packed quite well so they did not rattle around and give me a clue that there was a second cavity). I thought that Juno had been on my side calling these puzzles 'cases' and not boxes but he has betrayed me! LOL! I have to repeat:
"et tu Juno?"

(Whilst you are following links, you should visit George's Etsy store. I have played with his Housing crunch puzzle as a prototype as well as the final version and can confirm that it is fabulous. The peg solitaire also looks very interesting and I will need to get a copy of that for myself soon)

Quartet Box

Quartet Box - Yes, a box! Sob!
Next up I have to discuss the Quartet box. This was also released recently by Juno and Yukari and I could not resist it. It's a definite box, so why couldn't I resist it? Firstly, the Ixia box is still beating me and I needed another with these wonderful gears on them...maybe it would help? Secondly, the description said that it took six months to make and looking at it, that implies that there must be something spectacularly complex inside. Finally the description sort of implied that it was sequential discovery and I certainly DO  collect that sort of puzzle. Plus of course, I feel the need to support my favourite 2 Japanese Australians!

Taking this one out of the packaging actually made me gasp aloud! It is simply gorgeous! The colours are fabulous and it immediately becomes apparent that this is a rather complex construction. It is made from Burmese Teak, Jarrah, Koto, eight species of timber for the gears, metal parts and magnets. It is a nice size at 98 x 98 x 58mm. Having recovered from my shock at the contents of the Heart case I moved on to exploring this one.

The gears all turn and interact as you would expect except there is a sensation of magnets taking hold occasionally as you turn them. As I moved things around I pushed and pulled at the lid and of course, nothing happened. I felt the urge to see what was underneath the gears - this may have been a mistake:

Gears off and I was none the wiser
The gears are held on with magnets in the centre and the circular track in the lid holds a little pin. Again, it is not clear what this pin does. I put them all back (randomly because I had not taken a picture first - yes I know...I am not terribly bright). Nothing appeared to have changed but also I was no further forward. Time to investigate other facets of the construction then. The box walls were not solid like the other puzzles I have from Juno; they appear to be created like a brick wall with overlapping sticks and this makes the puzzle just a little bit "squishy". It is an odd sensation playing with a squishy puzzle box and not immediately obvious why. There MUST be a reason for it but for the life of me I could not work out what it was:

Side details
Whilst watching a movie with Mrs S who was pleased that my current puzzles don't jingle ( I have still not solved all of the new wire ones from Jean Claude and Wil). I noticed a little something during my play which led to a further play and then some movement. I wasn't getting any further and decided to move the gears around a bit and try my initial moves again. After a lot of moving "stuff" around something really really surprising happened! I have NEVER seen a box do that before! The move that occurred was astonishing and even Mrs S showed mild interest when I showed her. At this point, the lid had detached from the box but would only lift a tiny bit. Something was holding it on. I was completely bemused by all the movements that had occurred so far and this led me to try an even stranger idea...and it worked! The lid moved more and raised off the puzzle. I had a cavity:

Mechanism carefully hidden!
I was very pleased with myself but something was nagging at me...where was Juno's stamp? Looking at the lid of the puzzle there was an obvious further step to be done but no obvious way to achieve it. I tried using one of the gears but that was not going to work and I obviously needed a new tool. Here I got stuck for quite a while before remembering something that Goetz had written on his site about these puzzles. I tried something new and nearly dropped the puzzle! If the movements before had been unusual then this was simply astounding! A tool was available but not reachable so...try something else/different? Aha!!! Even the tool is beautifully made! Finally, I was able to see the true cavity of the puzzle and Juno's branded mark and a little note:

Thank you for the message
I have opened and closed it a few times and have yet to completely understand the gear section of the puzzle - there is quite a lot to explore and understand with this puzzle.

This puzzle is not cheap at £270 but let me say that it is well worth every single penny! The workmanship is amazing and the construction is totally unique. It looks and feels gorgeous and has a solution sequence that is amazing and fun. I absolutely love it! This was very difficult to make and I suspect will not be available again, so go and get one whilst stocks last - you will NOT regret it.

Are things really that bad?

I love receiving emails from you and welcome them via my contact page (or email kevin@the website). I was delighted to hear from Asher who questioned whether all is Ok between myself and the present wife (she IS doing Ok for a first wife!) and made some suggestions for me. I have to say thank you so much, Ash, for your contact AND your concern and also for suggesting that I try not to put myself down so much. Let me try and explain to him and you a little about me. I don't often do personal stuff but I feel a public reply may help.

Mrs S and I have been together for 28 years and married for 24 of them (as of July). I have to apologise to everyone (and her) if they feel that I have aired our "issues" on this blog - we actually don't have any - the angry violent Mrs S is all a charade for your entertainment! We are very happily married despite the duration and my terrible habit of filling the house with toys and making jingling noises all the time when she wants to watch TV. I love it that she gets so excited about shoes, handbags and jewellery and I encourage her to indulge herself or I indulge her myself as I enjoy them too. She actually enjoys my hobby even if she doesn't participate as long as I don't clutter up the house. We are very playful both together and apart and it has been commented by others who meet us for the first time that our banter is hilarious. The taking the p!$$ out of each other is all part of the fun - we both give as good as we get and have a lot of fun in the process. I really wouldn't be publishing stuff on my website if I wasn't happy for her to see it. In fact, she has actually suggested things to put on the site a few times. We both have different interests but are delighted to support each other in those. I tell her frequently that my habit is much safer than drink, drugs or a motorbike, much more acceptable than gambling or getting a girlfriend (girls tend to run away from me for some reason!) and this hobby keeps me available to her much more than if I took up golf or sports car racing. To that, she has to grudgingly agree!

Ash also commented that I should not put myself down so much. Yes, I am aware that I am a senior doctor and work in a major UK teaching hospital so I really cannot be as dim as I claim! For me, this is all a wonderful piece of fun! I am a 50-year-old (and a bit) man who spends most of his spare time playing with toys and then writing about them online. I am basically a very old kid at heart whose hobby is TOYS! I have to say that I love what I do but do find the whole thing rather hilarious. My solution success rate is based purely on trying sooooo many puzzles and playing for so long that the solution eventually just happens (I have been working on a few of them for over 5 years!) I am quite good at disentanglement puzzles now, but still feel like a beginner at many puzzles (Yes, Derek, I am still a newbie!). To all my readers, please take my writing as a big dose of fun and humour, as it is intended. Enjoy your lives as I do and enjoy your families alongside the toys (just as I do).


  1. That is hilarious! Definitely have to get a copy of that box!

  2. Yukari baked the breads, so she should be blamed.
    Juno @Pluredro