Sunday 15 December 2019

Pelikan Prepare Perfect Presents

Ribbon made from Zebrano and Bubinga
Sorry that this is late, we have had a kitchen appliance emergency that called me away to try and repair things!

As it approaches Xmas and you are thinking that your loved one needs to buy you something that you will really appreciate more than the customary clothing that no children really want (let's face it, all of us puzzlers are just rather overgrown old children!) Jakub and Jaroslav arrive in the nick of time just to provide something reasonably priced, great fun and beautiful too for a late Xmas present.

They gave me advance access to the latest batch of their puzzles which they hope to release very soon from their website, Pelikan puzzles and they will also be available at the same from PuzzleMaster if you live in North America (I have seen that they have already received these and are waiting for the go-ahead to sell them - they do have stock of the ones I reviewed from the last batch). This time we have another 3 wonderful packing puzzles from the incredible mind of Osanori Yamamoto as well as another genius challenge from the rather warped mind of Dr Volker Latussek.

I will start with the easiest of the 4 puzzles, Ribbon. I received a copy with a Zebrano box and Bubinga pieces (and they kindly gave me a gift of another one in Ash and Bubinga which I will use as a giveaway next year). Osanori has moved into slightly bigger puzzles with the last challenges and these having to fit a 3x3 cube shape inside the boxes of ever-increasing complexity. The box here has two full height corners missing which, as with all previous puzzles, need to be filled completely. The premise is the usual simplicity of just 3 odd-shaped pieces:

Just 3 pieces
The pieces are quite interesting W shaped pieces which require multiple moves to insert through the restricted openings in the box and a block which also cannot just slide easily inside. My usual approach is to make the shapes outside the frame and then attempt the insertion. This one can form a cube in a few ways but the key feature of filling the corner gaps completely severely restrict the options and as far as I could tell left just 2 to try and place inside. There is a very nice exploration and 2 pieces fit in quite easily. Fitting the 3rd shape inside is a bit more of a challenge but perfectly manageable within a nice ½ hour of puzzling. In all the puzzle requires 17 moves (the disassembly is level 8.5.4)

Ribbon in Zebrano solved
And again in Ash - I'll give this one away next year
This one is perfect for both beginners and advanced puzzlers alike and, of course, like all of the Pelikan puzzles it is made beautifully.

Tulip 1 in Padauk and Wenge
After my early triumph with Ribbon, I moved on to the next one, Tulip 1 - my copy made from a vibrant red Padauk and contrasting Wenge. The name seems to allude to the shape of the opening in the box. At first glance, it appears like a standard 2x2x2 shaped gap but after a moment of play with the puzzle, it rapidly becomes clear that the opening is severely restricted by a diagonal segment covering 2 of the interior corners. osanori has used this method of constraint quite a lot over the last year or so and it really ups the level of challenge. Having taken the pieces out from the frame (Jakub packs them nicely to keep them safe but give no clue as to the solution), I discovered that one of the pieces was particularly complex and should severely restrict the ways the pieces can be inserted. Maybe that will make it an easier challenge? Who am I kidding?

Just 3 pieces - how hard can it be?
With this one, I even struggled to find a 3x3x3 cube assembly which covered the large hole at the front and the unit hole opposite at the back. Eventually, I discovered 2 possibilities and set to trying to insert it into the frame. At this point, I realised that this was a serious challenge! That large complex piece is heavily constrained and if I place it first (there are not many positions it can go in) then the placement of the other 2 pieces is made very difficult. The key to this is to think© (damn! That is tough for me!) and try and use every single feature of the puzzle. The holes are not only for covering they are also intended to aid the movement of the pieces. Once I had thunk about that then my positioning was constrained further which both helped and hindered. I worked on this one for 3 days before my Aha! moment hit me and I packed the puzzle properly - it is a genius challenge. The total move count is 18 which is an indication of the difficulty (disassembly level 13.3.2).

That is one hell of a challenge
especially if you are not good at assembly like me!
I took this one to work to torture my ODP (anaesthetic assistant), Dave. He never seems to get fed up with the torture but I do wonder whether I detect a slight flinch every time we work together now. I should probably stop when I see him start to sob in the corner of the operating theatre!

The day that I tortured Dave, I also had a senior registrar with me to gain experience of major revision/redo arthroplasty techniques and during a quiet moment, I brought out one puzzle for Dave and another for my trainee. She seemed quite captivated but did exhibit a rather alarming orthopaedic tendency by requesting access to a hammer and a saw! Aaargh! The puzzle that I tortured the lovely Kerry with was the toughest of the 3 in this batch, Eggplant 1. I have no idea why it's named that way, we don't use the term eggplant in the UK, we prefer the French Aubergine but either way, it does not look like that particular vegetable.

Eggplant 1
The Eggplant 1 that I received has a lovely complex frame made from Wenge and 3 Maple pieces inside. This looks at first glance like it should be the easiest of the 3 puzzles and it actually was the first one I attempted. It took me an hour in an evening to realise that it was actually bloody difficult and I moved on to the others instead and came back to it. The frame has 3 giant 2x2 holes as on 3 faces surrounding one corner and a single unit hole at the opposite corner. There is so much room to place pieces that it appears rather easy but as I did initially and Kerry did at work, this is a really big challenge.

There is a big set of holes to cover with relatively small pieces
My first challenge which stumped me for quite a while (because I am not very bright) was to construct a cube which would cover all 4 holes in the frame. This was very tough - taking an embarrassingly long time and then, of course, I expected that it would be relatively easy to pace the fairly simple shapes inside through the large holes...except, I couldn't get it to work - there was always a piece which would not go inside. After 2 days, I had a rather sneaky suspicion that the master Osanori had done something nasty to us! I expanded the "sphere" of what I considered allowable and Aha! I had a breakthrough. Having done that sneaky move the rest of the assembly was a challenge but not too hard. I was not sure whether I had cheated and asked Jakub - he confirmed that I was correct and Burrtools also showed me the truth.

One damned tough puzzle
poor Kerry didn't stand a chance!
This is a VERY clever challenge and maybe a little unfair to give to my poor trainee - she probably will never come near my operating theatre again!

Euklid by Dr Volker Latussek
The final puzzle in the upcoming batch is another of the packing challenges by the incredible Dr Volker Latussek who's other puzzles are available from PuzzleMaster here. It is a "straightforward" packing puzzle where 7 blocks need to be placed into a box. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well yes, it should be since the pieces can pack into the volume inside the box in hundreds of ways (Burrtools found 2444 assemblies). The problem here is that like the incredible Casino puzzle (available here - BUY it - it was my number one in 2018), the box has a lip on each side and the pieces need to be inserted through a slot. This restriction severely restricts the moves.

1 box and 7 blocks - how hard can it be?
Having taken it out of the box for the photo and failed over the first evening to get anywhere, I wanted to put it back in the box in the clever way it was supplied...with 2 pieces filling the top slot completely, just proud of the top surface - Embarrassingly, I was unable to manage even that straight forward feat - it took me 2 days to work that out! Jakub did post about this one on Facebook a week or so ago and an interesting comment from Bernhard stated that this was an amazing mathematical puzzle. This did get me thinking and rather worried. I brought out my ruler and measured away - the puzzle is based on a 7mm voxel with every side of every piece being a multiple of 7. I started to work out the ways that a cube shape can be made with these pieces (the final cube is 9x9x9) but, having found a few, I realised that getting them into the box with that awkward lip was going to be very hard and a brute force approach was definitely not going to work.

My next approach was to think about how the final piece or two could be inserted into the puzzle once all the rest had been placed. This was a very helpful idea as it narrows down the pieces that should be considered as final pieces - I thought that the bigger pieces could not possibly be inserted last. I found something which I thought was absolutely ingenious but ended up stuck being unable to get piece 5 inside. I spent a week on this and under the pressure of having a deadline to get a review to Jakub, I asked for some help. A pdf was sent to me with the solution which confirmed that my original idea had been perfectly correct (I AM a genius) but I could not follow the solution to get the pieces inside and had to ask for help. A video later and it was packed!

Euklid solved
Carefully edited so as not to give anything away!
This puzzle by Dr Latussek is a masterpiece! It is not for the fainthearted because it is seriously difficult but the eventual solution is simply superb! Anyone who is interested in packing puzzles needs this in their collection and should expect to spend a very long time on it.

The latest batch from Pelikan should be up for sale very soon.

1 comment:

  1. I purchased a used copy of Euklid and just spent several hours solving it. Great packing puzzle!!