Sunday, 10 November 2019

If It's Spherical Then There Must be a Little Trick to It

Maybe I Need To Give it a Little Hug?

Spheres from Stephan Baumegger
A month or so ago I stopped dead in my tracks/iPad whilst on Facebook when I saw an update from Stephan Baumegger. He had produced a new batch of his entry into this year's IPP Design Competition, Spheres. At this, he had won a Top ten vote award from the puzzlers who played with it. Interestingly, when I had initially perused the puzzle list, it had not been a puzzle that had sung out to me at first and I could not even tell by looking at it who was the designer and craftsman. The beautiful inlay, the carving/routing work on the lid and the stone balls did not scream out Stephan to me. When the results came out with a notification that it was my friend who won, I took more notice and decided I would wait for him to announce availability and then pounce on it. Then in October, he announced that a batch was made and I immediately asked for a copy.

Now in early October and September, I might just have had a "few" new arrivals (who can blame me for a post-IPP splurge? I hadn't been to Japan and felt I had to do something to maintain my puzzler status. Mrs S had got just a "little" fed up answering the door to the various delivery men and had little words in my ear about behaving myself and not spending so much. There may or may not have been a laser-burning stare involved and she may also have inflicted a Whack! Ouch! upon my person. I decided that I could not risk the wrath of a "woman of a certain age". The age adds a whole new level of extra "psycho" to boost the extra copies of the violence gene provided by her Scottish ancestry on top of the 2 copies of the X chromosome where said gene resides! Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear! As a result of her admonition ringing in my ears, I asked Stephan to wait until the end of October before sending it. He ended up sending it just before the alleged Brexit date was due to occur in order to avoid any new customs fees.

I took my customary photos and marvelled at the incredible craftsmanship - he had sourced a beautiful inlay made in a similar way to the Japanese techniques and created his usual sticks from lovely woods:

It is just stunning!
Mrs S seemed to have been mollified by the small gap in additions to my collection and I escaped serious physical harm this time. I set to playing with it that very evening and the cats were particularly fascinated by the 3 stone marbles inside. I did struggle on a few occasions to prevent them from zooming off with a beautiful ball. It might have made the solution easier but having played with it for quite a while, I am not entirely sure that it would!

There are 3 copies of each of two sticks which are mirror images of each other, two large balls and one small one. Trying to pack them into the box proved pretty tough from the beginning as I always seemed to need 4 of one particular shape to make a nice packing. Of course, I only had 3. To my chagrin, I then discovered that I could not even get the pieces back into the box in the state that it had been delivered (picture at the top). I had to store it between attempts in a much more precarious way and hope that it didn't tip over and lose any pieces. Stephan suggested that I should "Count the Voxels" which I did with enthusiasm and without any idea how it might help me...It didn't help me!

After almost a couple of weeks without progress, I took it to the MPP and after my shock at having all the pieces of my (un)happiness cubes liberally spread amongst Rich's boxes of disassembled puzzles, I displayed my new toys and let people play. I was rather shocked when Oli said it had only taken him 10 minutes to work it out! OMG! How awful am I at packing puzzles? He gave me a helpful nudge:
Pack the pieces outside the box and ignore the balls.
Ignore my balls??? What kind of a man did he think I was? Mrs S is the keeper of the balls! I get to look at them wistfully every year or so when she lets me! Despite this odd idea, I decided to have a try using his idea the following evening with the aid of 2 boys, I had my wonderful Aha! moment. I could not have done it without Oli's idea and the cats help:

I could not have done it without help.
Masked to hide the solution!
The lid fits on with all inside!
Take my word for it!!!!
If you get a chance to buy this puzzle then BUY IT! It is beautiful. It is the perfect level of difficulty and you need to think without your balls! I adore it and will be challenging some colleagues with ut at work.

Next up we have another couple of beauties about to be released by the wonderful New Pelikan Workshop - Little Trick and Little Hug both by the amazing Klaas Jan Damstra.

Little Trick
Little Hug
These two lovely puzzles will be available soon along with the Osanori packing puzzles that I reviewed last week. These have taken Jakub and Jaroslav a little longer to produce and hence I received them a bit later than the others. They have been stunningly made as you would expect from Pelikan and are rather fun to explore and play with.

Little Trick, is 48x48x60mm made from Ovangkol and Maple and consists of three oddly shaped pieces inside a frame. The movement is silky smooth to explore. The disassembly is not terribly tough at level 10.4.1 and only a couple of short blind ends. It is a very nice challenge if you scramble the pieces and leave them for a while and try the reassembly after you have forgotten how they go together. I often am too frightened to do this but I dropped a couple of the pieces on the floor and could not disturb the sleeping cat on my lap to pick them up and hence forgot how it had come apart. I could have asked Mrs S to pick it up for me but she was already pissed at me for another delivery so soon and I didn't dare risk it. The reassembly probably took me another 20 minutes to work out when I finally got around to it. Not too tough but definitely beautiful and fun.

Little Trick pieces - you could use Burrtools but it should not be necessary.
Little Hug is tiny but gorgeous - it is 40mm cubed and stunningly made from Wenge and Ovangkol with absolutely wonderful grain in it. This puzzle hides the pieces very well and only after a little fingertip poking can you find where one piece stops and another starts. After the first move has been found then all sorts of sliding is possible and then it would appear that rotations are possible. Ignore the rotational sliding and carry on exploring the moves from in 2 dimensions to 3 and then there is a rather clever little move available if you spot it. Suddenly you have separated it into 2 pairs of similar pieces which had been held on a ring - the level was

Little Hug pieces - Burrtools could help you but don't bother - work it out!
I had been planning on keeping the orientations in place on my lap after I disassembled it to make reassembly easier. For some reason that never works out for me...a cat knocked them all down the side of my seat cushion and by the time I had fished them out, I had no idea which was which! The reassembly is a really fun challenge - I sort of had an idea roughly what was required but it took me a good hour of effing and blinding at the cat before I had worked out how to place the pieces without blocking the required moves. If I can assemble a puzzle from scratch then it is definitely possible for all you decent puzzlers out there. It is a brilliant but tiny challenge and looks gorgeous!

These puzzles should be available soon from Jakub and Jaroslav's site. Also well worth buying at the same time as the Osanori packing puzzles!

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Taking Osanori to the Next Level

Belt Cube 3
I am extremely fortunate that Jakub (joint head honcho of the wonderful Pelikan puzzles) asks me to write reviews for him and thus gives me the opportunity to buy most of his creations a week or so early. About 10 days ago he offered me the chance to buy another bunch of puzzles by the incredible Osanori Yamamoto. As well as a review he wanted to know whether these would be best sent out as assembled (for dismantling) or disassembled puzzles (for assembly) and so you can blame me for the extra special challenge you will be receiving because I most definitely think these are a MUCH better challenge as put-together puzzles - and that is coming from a rather dense man who is rubbish at assembling things (I might have a problem with the new arrivals from Brian just posted on my Newstuff page.

This time, thanks to Jakub avoiding standard post and using UPS instead my delivery arrived in just 2 days! I immediately set to so as to try and avoid any delays in the release of the new toys to the puzzling community. These are a seriously challenging set of puzzles!!! It has taken me a while to solve them and get the review to you (and Jakub).

I began with Belt Cube 3 (my copy came with a gorgeous Purpleheart box and Wenge pieces but it will also be available with the reverse colouring). This takes the usual packing puzzle which we love so much to a whole new level of frustration and cleverness. With a box/frame and holes in it and a few simple pieces to be placed inside which completely fill the aforementioned holes leaving no gaps visible, we usually have to create a 3x3x2 shape inside which, despite such simple shapes, is quite a tremendous challenge. This time we have a 3x3x3 cube to be constructed and two HUGE diagonally opposite windows to put pieces in and then fill. There is so much space to use that I expected this not to be much of a challenge...Oh, how wrong I was!

I began playing with the pieces inside the box and got frustrated that they kept falling out of the enormous holes so moved on to assembling my cube outside it. Your usual play outside of the box reveals several simple shapes that can be used to fill the visible 2x2 cubes on opposite sides. Getting these 2 cubes opposite each other proved quite a challenge. I found a few possibilities quite quickly and began to try assembling them in the box. Oh boy! That doesn't work quite so easily! I spent a couple of days playing with this with my Bash Street Kids, Plug face on and amusing Mrs S before I had a very unexpected Aha! moment. What I realised was really very clever and just perfect Osanori - he has made a bigger better version of all the puzzles we have tried before. You really don't want to miss this one - the fact that it is beautiful also helps - it will look fabulous on display in one of my 2 (yes TWO) puzzle caves (Whack! Ouch!)

No clues here!
How gorgeous is that???
Not content with giving us one 3x3x3 cube in a box puzzle, Osanori and Pelikan have released another, even more difficult version, rather descriptively named W-Windows. My copy is made from Oak and Wenge:

This one will also be made available in Apple and Ovangkol. The name clearly comes from the fact that it has a nice cubic box with 2 windows in it (not the usual diagonally opposite holes) and two of the pieces have a definite W shape to them. For transport, I made an interesting storage arrangement which Jakub may adopt for sending these puzzles out. At least with this puzzle, the pieces don't keep falling out when you play with them because you WILL be playing with this one for a VERY long time! To my eternal shame, it took me a whole week! There are lots of interesting ways to fill the windows but filling two of them simultaneously is really really tough. Then when you have found all the simple ways of filling those windows, it becomes quickly apparent that you cannot get them inside the damned box. You can get one (occasionally 2) but definitely not all 3 pieces inside. Mrs S suggested after a particularly furious episode of swearing my head off that maybe I should rest for a while.

The W-Windows is a huge challenge (at least for a dimwit like me) and you will love it. Don't be tempted to use Burrtools to CAN solve it eventually but you really need to think outside the box before the solution will come to you.

2 filled windows
The Aha! moment is phenomenal when it arrives and then later when you try to disassemble it, there is an extra challenge...sometimes a piece rotates inside when manipulating the pieces which effectively makes it unsolvable until you realise this and rotate it back to the correct orientation. It is a fun additional dexterity challenge to disassemble the puzzle.

The final Osanori puzzle being released soon is a beautiful thing, Rattle Twist V which will be available made from Mahogany and Maple:

Sent out like this - pull the middle 2 pieces out
to get this
The Rattle Twist V is very reminiscent of the Wing Hanger and the King Box also by Osanori and produced by Pelikan and Tom Lensch respectively - I reviewed them both here. Like the other puzzles reviewed, it takes the older puzzles to a whole new level of difficulty and fun. The premise here is a frame with holes in it and a couple of complex burr sticks which need to be slid into position inside the frame but with an impediment to the sliding process making for a more complex dance of the pieces before assembly is complete. I would usually have preferred these puzzles as disassembly puzzles but at the Paris IPP, I was convinced by John Rausch that the best part of these puzzles is the assembly from scratch - as usual, he is right!

This puzzle is unlikely to be solved by simple trial and error, it requires first looking at the pieces and the frame and making a plan for how to go about it. A few false starts will teach you where the pieces can and cannot go and thus the dance begins. The level is only 8.2 (for disassembly) and thus is not impossible - I managed it in a single evening and ended with a huge grin on my face - the end result is lovely:

Solved it! Phew!
Osanori has taken the basic premise of his older designs to a whole new level and made them even more fun than before. These puzzles are not just more challenging, they are also full of Aha! moments and are definitely solvable as assembly puzzles - if I can do them then so can you! They will be available from Jakub and Jaroslav's wonderful site very soon.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend guys.


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