Sunday, 13 October 2019

A Board Burr With a Difference

3 Grooved Board Burrs and an Interloper
A few weeks ago, Juno put his third sequential discovery puzzle the SDBBB (Sequential Discovery Board Burred Box) up for sale and sent out his emails at 4am on a Saturday morning (UK time). The whole world had been waiting for it but unfortunately half of the world (the civilised bit!) was fast asleep in its' beds! Consequently, those pesky Yanks bought almost all 40 that Juno had managed to produce within just 3 or 4 hours and when the Europeans logged on they were all gone and much wailing could be heard.

So you could ask how I got one? Indeed, I should have been fast asleep in my bed but...wait for it! Time for a physiology lesson now! I suffer from severe insomnia (have done for decades). I fall asleep instantly as soon as my head hits the pillow but am usually awake and suffering at 3 or 4 am. Now an interesting phenomenon occurs to us humans at night...we secrete ADH (AntiDiuretic Hormone i.e. anti-weewee)) from our pituitary gland at the base of the brain mostly at night to suppress urine production overnight when we should be sleeping. When one wakes up the secretion of ADH slows and we start producing urine. So what we have here is a middle-aged man who already has a micro-bladder, who has woken up in the middle of the night. As a result, at about 4am I need to disturb the sleeping cats who are across my belly and thighs (compressing the rapidly filling bladder) and get up to go, as we Brits delicately put it, to the loo. I occasionally pick up my phone which is on my bedside table and check my emails. That night I shouted AHA!!!! Actually, I darent make any noise at all for fear of disturbing "she who sounds like a drowning hippo" at night Whack! Ouch! There might have been a puzzle purchased and Mrs S knew nothing about it. At 4:15 I am one of the few Europeans who got one just because of insomnia, a hormone and a cat sleeping across my lower abdomen. Lucky me!!! Lord! I wish I could sleep!

In the picture at the top of the post we have Juno's 3 grooved board burrs and in the middle at the back is the much larger (112mm cubed) gorgeous sequential discovery puzzle (yes, I know AND it's a box) disguised as a board burr. It is quite solid and surprisingly heavy made of American Rock Maple, Utile and some "metal parts". It arrived after a rather prolonged stay with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs before they decided to send me a ransom demand for its' release. Viewing it next to the original Sequential Discovery Burred Box, you cannot tell that either of them is not what they seem to be at first sight:

Is it a burr? Is it a Box? No, it's a Sequential Discovery puzzle!  Both of them.
After a visit to the gym to try and achieve a body beautiful (or maybe slightly less horrific), I fetched it from the post office after paying my fees and forced Mrs S to admit that it was lovely and that it was well worth the money (of course, I didn't tell her how much it actually cost! I'm sleep deprived and stupid but not suicidal! Whack! Ouch!). Breakfast consumed with Mrs S and I was allowed to play with my new toy. I'd had a particularly tough week of major surgery and she took pity on me for once and let me relax rather than do chores or electrocute myself doing DIY...again!

At first, I can find only one sliding movement (see, it's a burr) and nothing else. Then I find another few sliding movements and a piece falls off onto the sleeping cat (they never leave me sitting for long) and I discover my first metal piece. Before going any further, I have a look to see what I actually did. It's a rather nice little sequence. The metal piece is stuck inside until I find another one which happens to be magnetic (Juno has used lots of clever ideas). Here I am stuck for a few minutes until I discover a rather unintuitive move and then another. The cat is getting fed up with the rain of wooden stuff on his head!

A few steps later I have a tool and an obvious place to use it. The tool is duly used and I tuck it away from the cat who always runs off with stuff like that and I REALLY don't want it under our fridge along with hundreds of missing cat toys and half-eaten spiders! At this point, quite a lot of stuff happens and I think I'm almost there. The construction of these pieces is superb! Luckily I didn't lose the tool as it needed to be used again. Yet another odd shaped piece arrives and I think I'm almost there.

Nope! Not yet - I have 2 pieces firmly locked together and am not entirely sure what is holding them that way. There are "tool"-shaped holes but nothing in them so that won't work. Time to borrow Allard's brain and Think©. I notice a piece with something that seems superfluous and wonder whether it has any further uses. Aha! Suddenly, I have somewhere to use the tool but it doesn't seem to do anything. Ouch, my brain hurts. After a few more minutes of doing the same thing over and over again, I have one of my rather infrequent thoughts and suddenly I shout aloud...YESSSS!

Opened the Burr/Sequential discovery puzzle/Box
Now that is a very unexpected final step. I don't think I have seen anything like it before! The construction is simply stunning! For once Juno has stopped teasing me with bread to fit in the boxes, this time we have a glass of wine to celebrate or maybe it is a drink of squash (For you Yanks who don't know what squash is in the UK, look at this). I was so dizzy afterwards that I am convinced that it was wine. No, I am not going to show off all the pieces as it is too much of a spoiler. Maybe I will show it off in a few months once people have managed to solve their copies.

Putting it all back together proved to be a fair bit of a challenge as I had pieces all over the place including some stashed under my legs out of reach of the pesky inquisitive cat. After a couple of false starts in which I forgot to put one piece back in place and also where I discovered that 2 pieces are interchangeable until you actually try to close it completely, I got it back together. I LOVED IT!

This puzzle is considerably easier than the previous 2 SD puzzles from Juno (especially the Slammed car which kept me going for weeks. I am not disappointed in the least - it was great fun and beautifully made. I do know that one idiot decided it was so easy that he wanted to flog it for a HUGE profit. My good friend Ed bought it and despite being blind solved it and enjoyed it immensely. Puzzles really don't have to be impossibly hard to be worth a place in your collection - they need to be enjoyable (being beautiful also helps). I will be taking this to the next MPP to allow the rest of the Brits to experience it.

Grooved Board Burr #3
Having solved the Sequential discovery board burr, I figured I really should solve the third in Juno's Grooved Board Burr. I have been attempting it for months and getting nowhere. There are lots and lots of possible paths and many blind ends as well as complete loops ending up back at the beginning. One of the main reasons I had been failing was that I had been using my usual back and forth approach to keep track of my path so I could always return to the start and hopefully be able to remember enough to reassemble it. A night or two after I solved the SD board burr, I really went for it on the burr and decided to be less scrupulous with my attempts to remember the path. I found something promising...possibly and realised I could not get it back to the beginning. I had a board hanging way off the puzzle but still firmly locked in place and could not get it back on! OMG! Panic set in.

Mrs S was rather upset at all the panting and groaning and muttering noises I was making whilst we were watching TV. I was getting increasingly lost in an extremely complex path as pieces moved almost off and onto the puzzle. Finally, after 4 months and many hours of attempts, I removed my first piece. Phew! It should come apart easily now. WRONG! The puzzle remains incredibly stable even after 3 of the pieces have been removed. It took me quite a while to work out how to get the second piece off and even the third. Just before it was time to go to bed (no wonder I am sometimes insomniac!), I finally had 6 boards to examine.

They look so innocuous! That was damned difficult!
Close up I could see the wood choices and construction of the pieces was spot on. It has been made of New Guinea Walnut (Anacardiaceae family tree), European Beech and Silver Ash (Citrus family tree) formed into Juno's characteristic plywood and the grooves and pins are just perfect - the puzzle is 86mm cubed. As all of Juno's puzzle, there is his home-made brand on one of the pieces:

Stunning detail
I had absolutely no way to put it back together from memory and my skills do not lie in the assembly path. I still have Brian Young's craftsman version of the Mega-six burr next to me which I have failed to assemble in 2 years of attempts so there is no way on earth I can assemble this board burr. I went to the amazing Burrtools for help and realised that this was so complex in construction that I would need an 18x18x18 grid to construct it. The solution is an amazing level 34-9-9-6-2. No wonder it took me so long. The Grooved board burr #3 is still available from Juno's store here. I am sure that Yukari will be only too delighted to post one out to you straight away. You will not be disappointed in the challenge.

What should I try next? I have received a couple of new puzzles from good friends this week. From Johan Heyns in South Africa, I bought the Septenary cube which requires 4813 moves for full disassembly:

Septenary cube.
Acrylic and wood - a nice relaxing challenge!
Also, I took delivery of a wonderful puzzle made by the incredible Stephan Baumegger from Austria. I couldn't resist the Pandora burr when he showed it off on his Facebook page! At level 33-24-10 it will be a hugely tough challenge...much less than the 4813 for Septenary burr.

How gorgeous is that? Pandora.



Sunday, 6 October 2019

They Made it Right...

In Fact Probably Better Than Ever!

Trinity
Yes it’s time for you all to rush back to Pelikan Puzzles again and look at a bunch of gorgeous new toys! Not only have they released new stuff but the mistake they made with the last Yamamoto packing puzzle has been fixed and the replacement box is available for all who purchased it for free.

Back in the mists of time (2014) when I attended my first IPP in London, I remember playing with and admiring the stunning beauty of a puzzle designed and made by Mike Toulouzas in the Design Competition room (he actually had 3 entries that year and won the puzzlers award for his Fairy's Door puzzle box). I did not know at the time that it was one of Mike's puzzles but other puzzlers with more experience recognised straight away who had made it from the craftsmanship. I do remember playing with it briefly and not getting anywhere quickly. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for one possibly being released in the future because it was very beautiful and very tactile.

Number 3 of 60
Now, five years on, Mike has collaborated with Jakub and Jaroslav to produce a limited run (60) of the Trinity puzzle and I can categorically say that it is stunning! It arrived in pieces and the aim is to assemble the 3 identical notched pieces into a shape that entrap the 3 wooden posts. Pelikan has constructed this from a beautiful wood which has been smoothly turned and finished to enhance the grain. The puzzle pieces are a nice chunky size and finished so accurately that the corners are sharp (don't poke yourself with one).  I initially began looking for a way to assemble the 3 pieces whilst ignoring the trio of posts. 2 of the pieces fit together very nicely in a few ways but getting the third to make a nice shape and fit together proved slightly awkward. Eventually, I thought of a shape that looked like it should be nice but was blocked. Aha!!! This is a Coordinate motion puzzle - something that Pelikan do very well indeed (see here and here and here)! I worked out a nice movement that would assemble the required shape - it looks lovely...a sort of knot/trefoil.

Time to assemble it on the posts. Oh boy, this takes the difficulty level up a notch or two! Trying to make that sweet coordinate motion with the posts in the way and constraining positions proved rather awkward. The posts were positioned in just the right way so as to require the pieces to be held at an awkward angle and then moved in an even more awkward direction. I'm not sure about all of you but I don't have 3 hands and Mrs S absolutely refuses to help me solve puzzles by providing an extra hand. My initial attempts were not aided by balancing the construction on the back of a very mobile cat! After the second evening of trying and failing, I took it to the kitchen granite and worked there. FINALLY! It slid together in a very satisfying manner and looks fabulous! DON'T press the show/hide button until after you have solved your copy.



The Trinity will be going on display on the desk - something Mrs S only allows for one or two of the most special puzzles!

YES! They made it right!
For all of you who bought the Petit Pack with the last release from Pelikan, you will all be aware that a mistake was made with the box. Once Jakub and Jaroslav had been made aware they were immediately anxious to make it right for all their customers and they have produced a replacement box to the same standards as all their other puzzles. The rear hole is the right size and perfect for you to reattempt to solve this wonderful puzzle.

Crystal Ring
Also in the upcoming release from Pelikan is another of those wonderfully simple-looking packing puzzles based on a 3x3x2 box cavity with an interesting entry shape. The Crystal Ring has been beautifully made and Jakub has assured me that the final shape has been checked thoroughly by Osanori-san himself. Pack the 3 pieces inside...easy peasy! Nope! It requires a 2.5.7 sequence to pack it correctly and involves a very nice little dance of the pieces around each other. The assembly is made tougher by the shape of the pentomino piece really restricting the placement of the other two pieces and is not helped by the fact that the other two are identical. When I tried my assemblies outside of the box it always felt like the tetrominoes should be mirror images to fit around the other piece. The final arrangement of the pieces is quite counterintuitive - the final assembly is very satisfying! Osanori-san and Pelikan definitely got it right this time - wonderful:

Nothing is given away here!
My absolute favourite from the upcoming releases from Pelikan is another by the amazing Osanori Yamamoto, Bisect Frame which is "just" a 2 piece burr in a rather fancy bisected frame:

Bisect Frame
Available in 3 different finishes, it is stunning. I got the Purpleheart and Maple version which makes a lovely contrast. My early play revealed the rather startling bisection of the frame which is beautifully hidden by the amazing craftsmanship by Pelikan. Moving pieces around revealed that there was going to be a really interesting exploration with several blind endings. I used my usual back and forth approach to ensure that I didn't lose track and explored as far as I could. At times the puzzle pieces start to rotate on each other which can add to the challenge of finding the next move and a few times it looked like a rotation might release a piece. In the end, it is only possible in one place to rotate out the pieces and this is just before the final disassembly point anyway. It took me 2 evenings to get my 4 pieces and another evening to work out how to put it back together. Making my customary Burrtools file was a pleasure as always.

Amazingly complex pieces!
I love framed burrs and this is a wonderful example. It is my favourite from this release batch although Trinity looks stunning on display and is a real challenge to assemble.

Also released (but not bought by me) is Peamaru by Volker Latussek, a challenging looking pattern assembly puzzle and the Harun puzzle also by him. This was recently sold out very quickly by Eric Fuller and was Allard's exchange puzzle at the recent IPP in Japan (where it was named Guillotine). My copy is less beautiful but very much appreciated as a gift from the main man himself.


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