Sunday 2 September 2018

Big Steve and Ali Make Me Dance

and Joe makes me grub around on the floor!

The Hokey Cokey Lock
I have been chatting with Derek on-line in the past few weeks before and after the IPP and he had mentioned that Big Steve Nicholl's exchange puzzle this year was a new design by Ali Morris and that it was absolutely superb. He didn't tell me anything more than that other than that it was a lock. I was a little surprised because I know Ali pretty well and was aware that he was a master carpenter and very good with burrs and boxes but did not know that he also could design puzzle locks. Obviously a master of all trades! Then I heard that it was called the Hokey Cokey lock and was even more mystified.

Derek had volunteered to be Steve's exchange assistant and there were rumours of much dancing going on during the exchange which mystified me even more! What did a lock have to do with dancing? and if you know Big Steve then you will also know that he is not really built to be light on his feet and nimble! At the end of the exchange day, a video came out on Facebook showing both Steve and Derek (and at least one exchange recipient) actually doing the Hokey Cokey (differently named in the US according to our puzzle box loving alcoholic surgeon friend). This must have been quite a sight to see and apparently almost everyone joined in and received their Hokey Cokey locks with the song written large in their memories.

At yesterday's Midlands Puzzle Party I had an opportunity to purchase a copy myself. If you want one for your own collection then Steve has been posting them up on Puzzle Paradise for a very reasonable price. How could I resist? I put my acquisitions away for the rest of the day and enjoyed the fun at the MPP. Then, when I got home, Mrs S was treated to the delights of me also dancing the Hokey Cokey! Why would I do that? Surely there's no reason for me to dance to solve a puzzle lock? Well, I thought so first! The lock is a standard long shackle padlock which has been "got at". There is no visible evidence of it being got at but someone obviously has. It comes with 2 keys that fit the keyway...2 totally different keys! You know it won't work but you have to try. Of course, neither keys will turn! After this, last night, whilst sitting with Mrs S, I was FORCED to do the dance! I put the right key in...nope! I put the left key in...nope! In...nope! Out...nope! In...nope! Out...nope! Shake it all about...nope! Shake it about with the left key in...nope! Shake it all about with the right key in...nope! Rinse and repeat ALL those steps with the keys ¾ in...nope! and again with them ½ in...nope! and, in desperation, about ¼ in...yep! you guessed it...nope! Hmmm! Maybe I did it wrong somewhere in those steps and yes, much to Mrs S' disgust, I did the whole lot again! I have been fully Hokey cokey'd!

A very innocuous comment from my friend Otis on Facebook made me think - ©. I stared at the lock for another 30minutes and an idea popped into my head. This is quite a feat because my head is pretty dense but it definitely popped in. A few minutes later I was the proud owner of an open lock!

I actually showed the mechanism to Mrs S and even she was impressed which as far as I can remember has never happened before! Well done Ali for a tremendous design and well done Steve for making me, and a large number of other puzzlers (including Derek) look very foolish indeed - that takes great skill! Buy one on paradise whilst they are still available.

Next up, we have a delightful new design by Joe Turner - the Free Me version 6:

Free Me 6
Last year, in Paris, Joe had entered the Free Me 5 into the IPP design competition where it won a well-deserved Jury honourable mention prize.  I recall playing with it in the competition room and really enjoying a well made sequential discovery puzzle which involved wood, ball bearings, steel rods and a fair bit of courage as one had to decide whether to do something decidedly dangerous (at least it was in the eyes of most puzzlers) before eventually releasing the half dollar coin. I loved it!

I missed out on purchasing the version 5 last year but this year, my friend Matt Dawson, informed me when the Free Me 6 came up for sale and I quickly sent off an email and some PayPal.

The new version seemed slightly smaller and for the first few minutes of play, nothing would happen. After a little thought (which hurt considerably!) I managed the first move and released some pieces. It all works very smoothly. I could see another tool but could not reach it so tried closing it and a few other things but that did not help. There are a number of holes around and after a while, one has to resort to poking things in those I have said above a fair bit...nope! Time to examine the puzzle and in doing so I gave my cat a Whack! Ouch! as a ball bearing dropped on his head from a decent height! It does say in the instructions that one should NOT play where parts can roll away or get lost but I am not very bright and who reads instructions anyway?

I now have 4 tools/things and no idea what to do next. The following day, over an hour or so, I do a fun little dance (yes! again!) with a ball bearing! At the end of the BB dance, I have even more pieces - this is SUCH fun! Time to put it down again as it's bedtime. I cannot resist taking it to work the following day as I have a huge long case to do (a 9 level spinal curvature (scoliosis) correction with spinal cord monitoring) - there will be a couple of hours of setting up to do which will give me time to play before the surgery actually starts.

My workstation goes from far left, right across to the right
Once in the operating theatre (OR to the yanks out there) and the spinal monitoring boys are doing their thing, I get the Free Me 6 out and just hold it, contemplating...and they stimulate the patient's spinal cord - they twitch violently about on the table which scares the bejeezus out of me and the BB goes flying! I end up grubbing around underneath everything to find it.

During the ½ hour or so of getting everything ready, I have a brainwave (maybe it was their machinery?) and I try other things with the BB. There are some VERY strong springs in this puzzle and a number of times the BB shoots off across the room and I go grubbing around on the floor again! and again! and again! and again! My surgeon is watching me as if I am completely crackers - which, of course, I am! Then, everyone is delighted when I have my Aha! moment in front of the whole crowd and I free the coin...just in time for us to do an operation! Phew!

The coin is free at last! Awesome puzzle!

Shane has been at it again!

The Haleslock 5 is about to be released! 
Shane Hales is a sucker for punishment! Not only is he trying to run a new business as a Master Locksmith, but he continues to work as a Master builder in his local area too. On top of all of that (whilst bringing up 2 kids and an expensive wife - I know that feeling! Whack! Ouch!) he continues to design and manufacture his own puzzles. I bought some new keys for the amazing Ultion locks from him and also purchased the 5th in the series of Haleslocks - it is very robust and beautifully made! They will be coming up for sale from the usual puzzle lock purchasing outlets quite soon.

Not only has he made his own new lock but he has also made not one but 2 more lock puzzles for others to give as their exchange puzzles at the San Diego IPP. So only another couple of hundred lock puzzles to be made with a short deadline! Yes! He definitely is a sucker for punishment!

Silver Lock Exchange #1
So far I have got absolutely nowhere with either of these 3 puzzles but I will keep at it and will let you know in a future blog post! It may be a while because I am RUBBISH at locks!


  1. Another wonderful review. I couldn’t agree more, the Hokey Cokey is a fantastic puzzle design! I love it. I’m off to try my free me 6, can’t wait. Oh and there where a couple of bits from me... you don’t need to be bright to open them Kevin ! Remember who made them :-)

    1. Oh we all know that you are MUCH brighter than me!

  2. Great reviews Kevin. I really enjoyed Free Me 6. So much puzzle packed into a small package. Hokey Pokey lock had me guessing for a week! Very nice A HA moment for me. If only I could finally get my hands on one of Shanes puzzles. Those are hard to get a hold of! :-)

    1. I’m impressed that you managed to get hold of them and solve them so quickly Ryan! Well done! The Haleslocks 5 will be available from a few outlets soon but they go very quickly so keep an eye out for them.

    2. Can you reveal some outlets that would have this? I'm trying Wil, but that's all I know.

    3. The Hokey Cokey lock is on puzzle paradise now.

  3. Do you know when the haleslock #5 will be released? Any idea why Shane does not sell directly?

    1. He does sell directly but only to people he knows and likes and trusts! They are available now but the whole batch is not complete yet.

    2. I see. A batch of how many locks? :)

    3. I have no idea of exact numbers. Probably 50-100 I would guess.

  4. hockey kockey is too simple

    1. It’s fine for you to claim this (with rubbish spelling) and to do it anonymously but the vast majority of the international puzzle community would disagree with you!