Sunday, 27 September 2020

Pelikan's New Puzzles Reveals Mrs S' Warped Mind

Upcoming releases from Jakub and Jaroslav
They are absolutely stunning!
I really don't know how they do it! Jakub and Jaroslav at the New Pelikan Workshop seem to produce a nice big batch of gorgeous new puzzles every few months. Despite this prodigious production schedule, they never seem to compromise on quality at all. These are all absolutely stunning!
The current batch of puzzles arrived at the end of last week whilst I was on annual leave. Time off work is not the same as it used to be...we no longer seem to go anywhere due to the virus and my only movement has been from kitchen to conservatory to living room (with a bit of exercise on my rowing machine in between). Unfortunately, I did still have some work to do - I had not done any paperwork filing for 2 years and the overflow was everywhere. Sorting it, scanning it and putting everything away took me the best part of 3 days and left me with my ears ringing from Mrs S shouting at me for being so badly organised. I also needed to continue to move all my "stuff" to the new computer. Despite this work requirement, I have been able to work through as many of these new toys as I can as quickly as possible. The pressure is always on to get to it so that Jakub can release the new puzzles to you all.
A caged 5 piece burr by Stephan Baumegger is always something to be excited about. He has designed a lot of these (several with a King Arthur theme) and they have so far all beaten me. This gorgeous burr consists of a frame made from Oak, an Acacia vertical 5th burr piece with a gorgeous mushroom planted on top. Mrs S spent a whole morning making lewd comments about it, frequently reducing me to tears of laughter which did not help me solve it - NO! I will not tell you what she said (use your imagination and remember she has been a nurse!). The horizontal burr sticks are made of Wenge completing a stunningly beautiful puzzle (even Mrs S said so). This is a caged burr intended for all puzzlers and NOT just the diehard burr-freaks. The movement is very smooth with no catching and the solution reveals itself to gentle exploration. Of course, there are some blind ends but they are not so deep and involved that one might end up stuck in a dark alleyway unable to get out. As more and more moves are made the interior shapes are revealed and it is possible to plan your pathway.
A perfect difficulty level
After about an hour (and 20 moves) I managed to remove my first piece and then stopped and back-tracked to the beginning. Back and forth movement through the solution allowed me to understand what I was doing and even after the first piece had been removed, it was not a trivial sequence to remove subsequent pieces. The end result was laid out in front of me for my photo and I actually managed to reassemble it from scratch a ½ hour later. A lovely caged burr for all puzzlers which will look fabulous on display once you are done. Just keep your minds out of the gutter!

See the complexity of a piece
For me, this is my absolute favourite of the batch from Jakub. There are several reasons for this: it’s a burr and I lurve burrs (especially if they have something special about them which you’ll see later), I lurve beautiful wood and the Jatoba here is gorgeous (there will also be a Zebrawood version), I lurve burrs with captive pieces inside (Goetz describes this as the Burr zoo) and finally this giant 6(7) piece burr is the next one in the group published by Stephan which I have described in the past as being a 6 piece burr based on a 3x3x8 burrstick. 3 of them had been in my top 10 of the year in 2015. Just like the Talisman burr, this has just the right difficulty level. There’s a lovely maze to explore and a few blind ends to get caught it. This burr took me a few days to find one of the key moves - it was just a little tight and I kept catching an edge but eventually I found it and proceeded until it was in pieces - at one point during this the alligator comes out snout first as if to bite you for entering his lair - lovely touch as it even has a mouth.
Such complex pieces and the detail on the alligator is delicious
The assembly is huge fun as well. Working it out from scratch is beyond me but having spent a while with the disassembly a scramble and reassembly is a fun and definitely possible challenge for any decent puzzler.

The question is - do I put it on display with the other Pelikan puzzles? Or should it go with the other 4 of Stephan's special 6 piece burrs?

Gorgeous aren't they?

Pumpkin 2
Pumpkin 2
I had seen on Facebook that Osanori Yamomoto had added a version 2 to the Pumpkin 1 puzzle and immediately wondered whether Jakub and Jaroslav would be producing it. I wasn’t disappointed when they they said they were and it arrived in the current batch. I couldn’t resist trying it straight away. The box to be packed has a similar opening at the front but the presence of a unit hole diagonally opposite tells me there’s going to have to be a fair bit of dancing around. Again, this puzzle has only 3 pieces which, for me, adds to the attraction. The entry is limited by the diagonal roof making things potentially tougher...but another effect of this is that it could also allow for a cavity to be hidden underneath - my initial exploration found quite a few possible assemblies into a 3x3x3 cube shape with a few of them excluded straight away by the fact that they required an impossible orientation of the pieces (it cannot be inserted through the hole that way around). I got sidetracked by a nice assembly that would require a rotation of one piece but couldn’t make it work and went back to the drawing board. 
He loves puzzling!

In the end the solution to this one is a nice combination of logic and thought along with some random experimentation. I find it best to start in the solved position and try to hypothetically work my way out of the cage rather than the other way around.
The whole process was made much tougher by a wildly enthusiastic cat constantly blocking my view by lying down on my hands! Eventually he solved it for me and posed triumphantly for a photo. This puzzle is extremely logical once you visualise the constraints that Osanori has set.
I have previously described the Galette by Osanori as the hell part of packing “heaven and hell”. I had first come across the Galette puzzle as an entry in the IPP design competition in Paris at which it was one of the top ten vote-getters. I had spent quite a lot of time on it in the competition room in Paris and had singularly failed to find a solution. I had bought a copy from Tom Lensch and solved it by pure luck after months of effort back in May last year. I was interested to see whether this beautiful version by Pelikan would still be a challenge.
It looks like a simple packing puzzle with 5 tetromino pieces to be inserted into the covered rectangular space inside the frame. Rotations are possible (even required) around the z-axis but there is no way to stand a piece up on its edge. This is explained by the name - Galette is French for Wafer. The extra little twist to make this really tough is that the entry to the packing space is only through a 3x2 unit space in the lid or through a 1 voxel space in the lower edge. The extra interesting feature is that the bottom edge entry is part of the packing space - there are 21 voxels available and 20 voxels in the pieces - where is the gap supposed to be?
Still a very nice challenge
This time, I found it quite a lot easier to solve but only because I knew where that crucial gap needed to be. If you don’t know this then you have 11 possible assemblies to try and insert in the 2 holes and only one of those is possible. Here, there is the challenge of finding the assembly and then working out how to put it in the box through the 2 small openings. Even knowing where the gap needed to be, it is still a significant challenge - well worth the puzzling effort plus the woods that Pelikan have chosen are gorgeous for display purposes. Anyone who buys this will see straight away why it won the accolade at the IPP design competition.
Shrinking Soma
Shrinking Soma by Dr Volker Latussek
When this unusual puzzle by Volker Latussek arrived, I was rather at a loss of what to do with it and I sent off an email to Jakub to ask and a few hours later received an email from Dr Latussek with instructions. There is a lovely diminutive complete Soma cube (everyone should have one) in a box that is far too large for the completed cube (it is 4x4x4 to the Soma's 3x3x3) - the pieces just seemed to fill the bottom half in a haphazard manner.

The explanation was that this is an “anti-slide puzzle” which is something I’ve only ever attempted maybe once in my puzzling history. The aim is to place all the pieces in the box so that the entry to the box (4x4) is filled and held up by a pile of the other pieces. However this isn’t the entire story…the solution is only complete when the construction that you have made is completely stable and will not slide at all. Once you have created your potential solution then shake the box vigorously in all directions to see if any pieces can move. If they can then you’ve failed. This doesn’t sound too difficult does it? Well maybe for you, but constructing an upside down flat mushroom in a box proved a massive challenge for me! I managed fairly quickly to find a shape that will not slide inside the box but if I placed it upside down it was not going to fill a 4x4x4 space and the "hovering" pieces would drop down - yep, complete failure!

I love this addition to my Soma collection but have so far in a week of trying completely failed to assemble a non-sliding shape. It’s really really difficult. The pieces of a Soma cube are very simple and this does not allow many shapes that can interlock and hold up a stable roof. If anyone knows of a general approach to this sort of puzzle then please let me know.

Euklid for Nick

Euklid for Nick
Stunning Purpleheart and Padauk blocks
That's not right!
You all remember that I struggled hugely with the original Euklid by Dr Latussek but really really enjoyed the significantly less difficult Euklid for Kids. Every now and then the puzzling genius that is Nick Baxter contacts me to ask a serious question about a puzzle that I have reviewed. Somehow he never understands that my approach to puzzles is NOT logic and's just random movements and hence, everything is difficult for me. He really wondered why I had had difficulty with Euklid because apparently he had found 22 different solutions (to my shame, I still cannot find any extras). Volker then decided to create a new variant especially for Nick that DEFINITELY only had one solution and should cause him to sweat a little to solve it. It is gorgeous, it seems to have the same box as the previous 2 versions but this time has 4 identical Purpleheart blocks and 3 smaller Padauk blocks which need to fit under the lip of the box entry. I have not had much time with it so far but - it is worthy of the name - I know that he has solved it and a post will appear about it on my friend, Steve's blog before long. 

The collectors amongst you will need to buy this to complete the set. The rest of you will want this because it is a bloody good puzzle that has a unique solution and is damned difficult. I hope that one day I will manage to solve it.
Which are my favourites? It is difficult to choose but I adore the complex 6 piece burr from Stephan and cannot resist the Talisman because a caged burr that is not too difficult is a wonderful thing (I need to try and get the images that Mrs S left me out of my head) and I cannot resist the 3x3x3 cubic packing puzzles by Osanori. The Euklid for Nick is my next favourite as it is just so difficult for me and the pieces are so beautiful and simple. You, of course, should buy them all when they come up for sale soon.
As the second wave begins to ramp up in Europe (the first wave never stopped in the USA) I hope that you all manage to stay safe and keep puzzling in your nice comfortable homes as far away as possible from the madness that lies outside.

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