Sunday, 11 August 2019

Jerry Makes a Fidget Toy

Oh, and It's a Puzzle Too!

Fidget Burr
Yep! Free the lady is the aim.
Jerry McFarland and I chat quite frequently and I was most pleased to hear that he is being kept busy making BurrNova 3D (aka Magnetic Madness) puzzles after it won a prize in the Nob Yoshigahara design competition at the 2018 IPP. After the prize was won and I wrote my review (review of the 2D version here) many people contacted Jerry to get copies and he has been kept very busy producing copies for people. At the same time, his mind never stops - he has improved my version 0.8 (prototype) a number of times and is currently on version 2.5. Whilst discussing the possibility of upgrading my prototype to the latest (mine had seized up due to weaker magnets and British high humidity), he also dropped on me that he has been thinking about other ways to use wood and magnets and make fun puzzles. He has a mind like a trap that just never stops! In fact, he told me that he struggles to make lots of copies of older puzzles because he gets easily bored.

After some too and fro by email, a pair of boxes arrived much to the anger of Mrs S and much to the eager pleasure of the furry boy cats who lurve my boxes! The first one contained my new improved BurrNova and I could see the improvements immediately and also appreciated the use of Mahogany in place of Maple:

Version 2.5 on the left and prototype (now returned to Jerry) on the right
The new puzzle was in the second box and when I showed it off to "she who is getting rather pissed off with the constant puzzle deliveries", she did state that she was sure that I had one of those already. I corrected her but I can sort of understand - Jerry's work has a certain look...it is completely unmistakable. Yes, she is right, I do have several of Jerry's masterpieces in my collection and hence a number of puzzles that look similar. I emphatically stated that every single one of them was extremely different and she sort of grumpily accepted it.

This latest puzzle (prototype again) has a number of names: Fidget burr, Dollar burr, Chin burr or BurrNova parallel - reasons for most of these later but I think only the first 2 may stick. Yet again, Jerry added a little whimsy to the whole thing by adding the free the lady in distress element to it. It is very offputting to pick up the puzzle and see a girl staring out of it at you - Mrs S says he's got a sick mind! Immediately I found out why it is called the Fidget burr - pushing that very inviting central key piece results in a wonderfully loud and (if you're not expecting it) surprising automatic sequence of moves of 4 pieces around the edges:

Just one push leads to a whole sequence
After this, something else is possible...or not, depending on which direction you pushed the key piece and then nothing, nada, nichts and bugger all! There are inviting notches in pieces and the appearance that other pieces of the puzzle may move. I spent a day or so exploring these other pieces and realised that all is blocked. It is at this point that the name comes into play. I was singularly failing to get any further in solving this but had a wonderful time pushing it all back to the start and then Thrrrrrrrrp! setting it off again! This is a beautiful fidget toy with the added bonus of making a lovely racket that annoys the hell out of the present wife. I seem to recall that at one point she threatened to throw it out a window - disgraceful!

I fidgeted away with it for nearly a week and thought. This is an exercise that does not come easily to me and I find quite painful. I recalled other puzzles that Jerry had made and decided to try something that had worked in one of them. Suddenly I had a new move! Yessssss! In my surprise, I sat back and reset it by accident. Slightly stupid and disappointing but at least I knew what was required. It would appear that this is a fidget toy, a burr and a dexterity puzzle.

Having made the crucial hidden next move, I wondered whether any more like that might be required. Searching for them just ended up with me resetting the puzzle a few times so I looked elsewhere. The next move requires either knowledge of others of his puzzles or a very close examination of the pieces that are visible. Surprisingly, I managed this step quite quickly and found myself with a partially dismantled puzzle and a frightening step to do next...I had to remove the automatic section with its very strong magnets. All is there to be seen and it quickly came out and was set aside.

Finally, after nearly 2 weeks of play, I had a nice pile of pieces or "kindling" as Mrs S has taken to calling these sorts of puzzles:

Fabulous! The mechanism is edited out so no use peaking!
The attention to detail is wonderful, right through to the initials and year as well as a perfectly cut out hole for the princess to sleep in:

Such attention to detail!
No clues here - all details edited out

Of course, this puzzle was going set me a further challenge! How to put it back together. Jerry expected this to be quite tough and even sent a sealed envelope with a suggested approach on it. I initially tried without the instructions but could not remember what went where and looked at them after a short while. Jerry's approach did not help me at all! After an hour of trying to repeat what he had said, I gave up and went back to searching for my own method. I was eventually able to work out where the specific pieces went and then using a fair bit of dexterity I was able to assemble the automatic section in the centre of the frame in a rather fun 2 or 3 stage process which led to another of those wonderful Thrrrrrrp noises again and the rest of the puzzle was assembled. Finally back to the beginning and I had to report back. Jerry, this puzzle is a winner! Lovely idea, beautifully made and quite a challenge of both thought and dexterity in several places. I loved it.

But...........why is it called the "Chin burr"? Apparently, the reason for this name is that the final step in the reset of the puzzle needs more hands than we have. Jerry solved that by using his chin! I laughed at how dense I was but had to admit that in my case I would have called it a "nose burr" (think about it!)

This puzzle is NOT available as yet - please don't pester/ask Jerry for a copy as he is not making them for sale just yet. He is still working on it and may improve it further and it will probably be seen in an IPP design competition occurring in the next year. When it eventually does reach a stage where he is happy with it, it will definitely be worth buying.

Now I should probably put it away before Mrs S goes ahead with her threat to chop my fingers off if I keep making that Thrrrrrrp noise!





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