Sunday 25 November 2018

Packing In Them Puzzles!

Pin Block Case
Just a short post today - I have had a calamity aka explosion with a twisty puzzle and have completely frazzled my nerves trying to reassemble the damn thing whilst a cat keeps jumping on my lap and playing with the pieces! After an hour of working on it, I am almost incoherent with exasperation.

Last year I missed out on the Pin Block Case which Eric had made in rather exotic woods but was very pleased to see that he was bringing it back as an Artisan puzzle and that it would be in stock for a long time now. The new version is made of less precious woods but is far from a mundane puzzle. It is made from Maple and Walnut and has all the hallmarks of Eric's wonderful workmanship. The joints are perfect and all the chamfering makes the box lovely to pick up and hold. I picked this up at the same time as a few other toys and had a little play straight away.

The quality is quickly revealed when you let 2 of the walnut pieces sink into the back of the case and it slowly glides into place as the air is displaced from behind them. There is something really quite magical about that aspect of these puzzles. I showed just that to a couple of orthopaedic colleagues and they really appreciated the precision. The initial exploration quickly reveals that 3 of the 4 identical pinned blocks can easily fit into the case and the 4th usually seems to end up unable to sink in place:

Not quite right!
This puzzle requires a bit of thought - there is no point in trying to pack the pieces inside as one would a conventional packing puzzle. This requires thought and planning. Even though I am not good at the t-word I did not really struggle too much. About 10 minutes was all that I required to produce a rather attractive photo:

Brilliantly clever and perfect for non-puzzlers
Poor David!
I love these packing type puzzles that don't have too many pieces - they are perfect for beginners/non-puzzlers and experts alike. Of course, I took this to work to torture a few people. David, a regular ODP (anaesthetic assistant) of mine, is a regular victim for me and I am starting to worry whether working with me is good for his health. He seems to start to tremble whenever he sees me! I gave him this whilst I was doing a short(ish) case and he took it away for over an hour and failed to solve it despite me taunting him every 15 minutes or so. At the end of the theatre list, I took it away with him muttering to himself and promising never to work with me again. Needless to say, he doesn't get much say in the matter and I tortured him again a week later and after failing that I did it yet again last Friday. This time after telling him not to try the same thing again and again, he suddenly came back to see me with a very smug look on his face. Yep! Perfect for non-puzzlers. A couple of the girls in the operating theatre wanted to play - they all failed over a 20 minute period but seemed to delight in it.

Don't dismiss the Artisan puzzles, they are made just as beautifully as the signature puzzles but just more pedestrian woods. Well worth adding to your collection.

Pack 3
Pack 3 is one that I couldn't resist from Eric's latest update - I am rubbish at packing puzzles but with just 3 pieces even I should be able to manage it! It is a design by Osanori Yamamoto and stunningly beautifully made by Eric in Walnut and Tamerand (I cannot find this wood anywhere in a wood database and suspect it is a typo - it looks like Spalted Maple. The diagonal cut roof piece on the box really adds to the difficulty.  Within a minute or two, I yelped with success and rocked pack thinking that it was far too easy:

Is that good?
I went back to the description and read the description:
"The trivial solution puts the pieces in the box, while the tricky and intended solution is to put the pieces in as an apparent 3x3x2 with no holes showing from the opening.
Ah! The big hole at the top was not allowed then. Try again, and again, and again! Nope! It was not happening. I took it to the MPP and plenty of other people played and struggled and as far as I remember no-one solved it there which made me feel much better. I worked on it on and off for a couple of weeks with ever-increasing frustration. I even remembered that Osanori is a master of puzzles that require rotations and attempted that in my process. Eric has made the tolerances far too perfect and there is no way for a rotation to occur - back to the drawing board!

Finally, after 3 weeks I had my breakthrough. There are quite a few steps to this and the Aha! moment is beautiful. Even doing it a second time for my photograph stumped me for a bit - the design is made to make you think the wrong way. Another stunning design by Yamamoto-san. The solved state is hidden behind the show/hide button.

They are sold out now but if you see one of these come up at an auction then go for it - it's a wonderful puzzle with just the right difficulty level.

I Even Had Time For A Twisty...or Two

Grigorusha Pentagon
All the faces turn 180º
I couldn't resist the Pentagon that I had received as a gift. It has been 3D printed at iMaterialise and is made from sintered nylon. The turning is fairly good for this type of puzzle although if it is not gripped correctly then the corner pieces can pop off. Luckily they are easy to put back. It only takes a few minutes to scramble and looks just as lovely like that:

It cannot be that hard!
The solve process is very straight-forward. There are no algorithms to learn and it just requires a bit of intuitive thought. 1 in 2 solves I seem to have a "parity" where there are 2 pieces that are 180º rotated and in the wrong place. Again, this is a straight-forward fix after just a bit of thought! These are available from Evgeniy's Etsy page if you want one.

Grigorusha Slim Pyraminx
One face turned plus a trivial tip turned
There is even less to this puzzle but it does have a nice challenge to it. I have solved it a few times and have to admit that I cannot quite fathom a foolproof method to the solution. I find that I get to what I think will be the end and there are 2 pieces reversed. This requires a fair bit of fiddling and Bam! it is solved.

Scrambled doesn't look that different to just turned a couple of times.
Don't be fooled! It is still tough.
This coming week, I have my last bit of annual leave for the year and might have to tell Mrs S that I am expecting a few more deliveries - Whack! Ouch! it would appear that she knows! It's coming up to the festive season so I will be needing more toys, won't I?

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