Sunday 24 March 2019

Simply A-Maze-ing puzzles from Eric and Yavuz!

Split Maze Burr
For several months now I have been chatting with the genius (yes, you know that I am referring to Derek Boscch) about his latest ideas. Some he seems to struggle with but I always know that he will get there eventually. One design that I loved the idea of from the very first mention was the Split Maze burr.

The original Maze burr was a wonderful design by Kagen Schaefer (now Kagen Sound) which predated my puzzling addiction but when Tom Lensch produced his own (more versatile) version I couldn't resist it and it retains a special place in my heart as the first ever seriously expensive wooden puzzle that I bought - I wrote about it here in my two year celebration. I went on to buy a copy of Derek's Rhombic version and absolutely love it even if it fries my brain keeping track of so many faces. It was probably the first sign for me how much of a genius he really is.

When he told me about his exploration of a version with 2 maze pieces per side I was at first amazed and then hopeful that he would be able to 3D print a copy for me to play with. Later on, he showed it to the Doctor of wood, Eric Fuller, who said that he would look into making it in wood and acrylic. Very surprisingly, it did not take Eric long to work out all the kinks of the construction and Derek continued to work on a computer analysis of the best plate/maze combinations and a puzzle booklet to go with the commercial production.

Eric's update (with quite a few stunning puzzles) went on sale just about 2 weeks ago with 61 copies up for sale. I was rather fortunate in that I had been assigned to be the "duty floor anaesthetist" that afternoon, providing cover for the theatre suite (17 theatres) and the recovery room and hence would likely be free when the site went live. At 5pm dead, I had set a todo alarm to check Eric's site and in between boluses of a vasoconstrictor for a patient, I quickly checked the site and made a purchase on my phone...thank heavens for the mobile internet and Apple pay! There were several other simply amazing puzzles going up but I had my eye only on one and after my recent splurge decided that I really should stop there! The rest of them sold out in a few hours as did the simply GORGEOUS version of the Casino puzzle which I had reviewed here and which was last years puzzle of the year from Pelikan.

A week or so later, I had a third Maze burr for my collection:

Maze Burrs - the box is for the fully disassembled Cubic version from Tom with extra plates
The Split Maze burr is made from Granadillo, Birdseye Maple and Acrylic with metal screws as the maze pins and measures 9.9cm across each face. There was a downloadable pdf with a whole bunch (50) of challenges ranging from 31 to 382 moves. Derek has offered to make a nicely printed and wire bound booklet for sale to people who bought this puzzle and I am hoping will also provide a huge bunch more challenges as a pdf to download. This will make this a very good value puzzle despite the $189 price tag. It was set up as problem 1 when it arrived:
The premise is exactly the same as the other Maze burrs. Each face has a shape cut into it with a pin protruding through from the layer beneath. Only one of the faces has a pathway from the shape to the edge allowing a face to slide off completely. As each piece slides back and forth it will make room for adjacent faces to move if the track will allow it.

Even with the low-level puzzles I found this a real challenge - trying to keep track of 2 mazes per side is a huge challenge for my feeble brain and it did require a number of backtracks before I was finally able to get it. Once the first puzzle is solved then the acrylic maze piece with an exit can slide out of the puzzle.

The exit maze slides off
At this point, I discovered a catch - the pin plate could not come out - it was blocked by the acrylic piece on the side (you should be able to see it on the right in the picture above) and I then had to continue the maze movements to allow that blocking piece to drop and then could remove the pin plate. This means that there is often 2 challenges per set-up and thus even more puzzling fun.

Yay! Solved puzzle challenge 1
Inside is a nice little bag containing an Allen key to allow the pins to be unscrewed. After that, the other pins need to be unscrewed and then the plates removed so that the next challenge can be accepted. Having these unscrewable pins is a huge advantage over the original Cocobolo Maze burr from Kagen as it means that at any time that you get lost or confused then it is just a matter of unscrewing some pins and then resetting the puzzle. It also means that the puzzle does not need to be moved through the full solution in reverse to set up each challenge.

Once fully disassembled then one can fully admire Eric's masterful craftsmanship - it is simply superb:

Just gorgeous!
So far I have worked my way through the first 8 puzzles and am enjoying the progression - it certainly starts to get very very tough for me as I approach challenges requiring 50 moves - I suspect that I will never get above 100! If Derek can provide a whole bunch of level 30-60(ish) challenges then I will be a very happy man. Thanks to Eric and Derek for another fabulous toy for my collection!

I do not know whether Eric plans on producing any more of these - he doesn't usually rerun a puzzle unless there is a huge demand - I am sorry if you missed out after they sold so quickly.

Front - the cube is 1 voxel off the frame on each side
My friend Yavuz Demirhan has been at it again! He released a bunch of gorgeous new designs on his Etsy store a few weeks ago and I jumped at the chance having been tantalised by them when he showed them on Facebook a while ago. The first that I bought and solved was the Maze cube (currently sold out) which consists of a cubic maze made from Sapele with Wenge slipfeathers which is partially seated in a frame made from the same woods (but with the woods reversed). The maze is seated on 3 maple dowels on each of the 3 faces and the cube needs to move through 3 mazes simultaneously to be taken off the frame. It is 8cm across each face.

The aim is for it to be seated fully inside and flush with the frame. There is apparently only one solution to this. I initially did not understand and took the cube off without too much difficulty and then put it back to the same position and thought I had solved it really easily! Silly me! I then repeated it and realised that there are at least 2 paths to seat the maze cube in that starting position. At this point, I had my "Doh" moment and realised there was more to it than that. A proper analysis was required!

After a good 2 hours of working my way through numerous starting orientations and playing with various directions, I was finally able to say that I had beaten it. It is a lovely thing to look at and a delight to play with - not too tough but just right. The final position is hidden by the show/hide button. If you don't want to know the orientation of the maze in the final position then don't look:

Mrs S Makes Me Tidy Up!

If you go to my New Additions page then you will see that Mrs S bought me something very special for our upcoming anniversary. After it arrived she rather pointedly told me that my puzzle room/study was a shithole and I could not really disagree with her. She said that until I tidied it up, I was not allowed to play with any of my wonderful new toys. I could not say no after her present arrived earlier this week. The shithole is no longer a shithole!

Yes, I really do need to sort this out!

After several hours I had this:

Much better.
The rest of my collection has been partially reorganised - I will show this off at a later date.
A Whack! Ouch! has been temporarily put on hold - phew!

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