Sunday 12 July 2020

Alexander Wants Everything Sequenced Properly...Collator

It’s my 26th wedding anniversary today, so most of this was prepared in advance - only a few edits whilst "she who must be flinched from" is on the phone with the mother out-law. I wouldn’t want to risk a Whack! Ouch! On this special day! Champagne coming soon!

Alexander Magyarics designed and named the puzzle above, Collator, presumably because everything needed to be taken in the right order and placed properly using the correct sequence of moves! It took Brian Menold to take the Burrtools design and to turn it into a reality which had been sitting on my puzzle chair for over a month!

Brian made it into a very chunky 3inch cube with my copy constructed from a beautiful Angelim Pedra (box) with Movingui pieces. When I bought my last batch of beauties from Brian, I couldn't resist it. Just like the Magyarics puzzles I reviewed last week from Pelikan (and like all of Alexander's designs) it is MUCH more of a challenge that it first appears. It bears repeating what I said last week about Alexander:
"a relative newcomer to the world of puzzle design but he has crashed into it and rapidly made a huge name for himself as someone with a huge talent! He doesn't seem to just be a manipulator of Burrtools to make things that interlock, he has a unique knack of finding shapes and challenges that are not only just the right level of difficulty but are also great fun - they require exploration and thought and a lot of movement!"
The Collator is a very special example of this incredible talent. The aim is to fill the 3x3x3 cavity leaving 7 internal gaps such that the rather complex entry slot in the box will be filled completely. Brian seemed to love it - he wrote this in his puzzle description:
"Just three piece to fit into the box through a fairly large opening. This one gave me a workout for a while! I also like the fact that there are 3 solutions in total. But the desired solution gives the nicest finished look with all the openings in the box filled with the inserted pieces. The other two solutions are rather easy and should provide a nice warm up"
Hmmm! If it gave Brian a workout then I was going to be in trouble! At least I was hopeful I might find the 2 solutions that leave gaps visible. Over a 3 week period, I looked to find cubic assemblies outside of the box - one particular shape (the big piece) is a particularly awkward bugger to align with the other 2. I found several possible assemblies and obviously each of those cubes could be oriented in any of 6 directions. BUT, quite a lot of the orientations were such that one or more pieces could not be physically inserted through the slot opening. I kept at it - it's difficult with my Bluebottle memory to remember but I think I must have found 5 or 6 different cubes but couldn't get any of them inside the box.

So Brian thought the two minor solutions were easy? Not for me they weren't! I can't even blame Covid-19 as a lot of my work on this puzzle was before I got sick! After 2 weeks, I found one of the easy solutions. I let out a yell and annoyed Mrs S! She was disappointed in my poor solution - even she could tell that the visible gaps were obviously a sign of a substandard brain. Time to Think©...again. I never did manage to find the second easy solution but I focused on the main challenge. Someone showed off their solved puzzle on Facebook and I inadvertently got a major hint because the positioning of some of the internal voids was visible. Did it help? Nope - not one little bit! I just trudged on. I tried to solve this blasted puzzle every single day for over a month and never seemed to be making any progress at all. In fact, I had reached a point where I could not tell in any way what I had tried before.

Just like with Diamond Hole from Pelikan puzzles last week, I found an assembly that just seemed right. However, it wouldn't assemble in the box no matter what I tried. I kept doing the same thing over and over again until I changed one point of view. After over a month of trying, I rotated the box through 90° (I have no idea what made me do this, it may have been that balancing it on a sleeping cat led to it rolling down his flank into that position) and I carried on trying. Within about 10 minutes in this orientation, I had a magnificent Aha! moment and 2 pieces were inside in a promising position that I certainly had never seen before. Continuing like this I tried to manoeuvre the third piece into position and saw that there was a very fun little dance of the pieces before my moment of ecstasy:

Solved it at last! No real hints here.
What an incredible challenge! It is just 3 pieces but, despite this, is so so difficult. It is only level 10.4.2 for disassembly but it took me over a month to solve it and required a lucky roll of the puzzle to get there. This was unexpectedly difficult but huge fun. Alexander designed this one to be this sort of challenge and he did it very well. I cannot wait to see what he and Brian come up with next - it is certain to be amazing! Thank you to the pair of you for such a wonderful and beautiful challenge!

Last week a good friend of mine (Jim Kerley) quoted one of the greatest puzzlers in the world and what he said is entirely appropriate for this puzzle (as well as a good few of the puzzles from Jakub that I wrote about last week)
"It's easy to make things hard but hard to make things easy". In a conversation with Jerry Slocum 20 years ago I remember him saying about designing puzzles " It is easy to make a difficult puzzle but not so easy to make an easy difficult puzzle". In his explanation he said the best puzzles are those which look easy but prove to be moderately difficult. A child or adult knows instinctively what needs to be done and feel they must pick it up and solve it.
I found this puzzle very hard indeed but it does look very easy and the compulsive "pick me up" nature kept me trying for weeks! Do you agree with Jim? What puzzles do you think meet this criterion for being a superb puzzle?

Lock Out by Andrew Coles
This week I took some more of Allard's advice and set to work on the Lock Out by Andrew Coles. It is a magnificently well made puzzle - very weighty and solid. I had to try both of the keys because...just because! You all know that it has to be done. Allard tried it and that's good enough for me to attempt that futile manoeuvre too. He did say that it wasn't very useful but I did it anyway! He also told us that we should try a stick of celery. Now I hate celery and consider that sticking it into the keyway of a lock is a better use for it than eating it. Unfortunately Mrs S loves celery and won't let me use it for puzzling. This is probably just as well as I doubt whether Allard was serious with that advice (although with any of the MPP crowd it is very tough to be absolutely sure if they are kidding) and I don't want my puzzle to stink of rotten veg later. I will need to keep trying - I might be some time.......

Keep safe guys! It’s still out there and you really don’t want it. Just as importantly, you seriously don’t want to pass it on to your elderly relatives who may not survive as a result of your carelessness. The mortality in the 70-79 age group is 8% and in the 80+ group is as high as 14.8%! Not worth an avoidable risk to grandma (source).

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