Sunday, 25 October 2020

A Picturesque Challenge

Ansel by Brandon Wolf
Brandon Wolf (aka Puzzled Wolf) started out as a puzzle blogger (and still writes some very interesting stuff pretty regularly but as a gentleman with talent (unlike me) he took the jump into designing his own puzzles and then even creating them (I am not sure whether he actually has the machinery to do the creation or has a tame craftsman who does it to his specification) and Ansel is the first of his designs to be released.

The rear surface - not much to see here.
It was announced in May and I somehow completely missed it and a reservation list started in June (also missed) before the first copies being sent out back in July. Yep! I missed that too!

The first that I heard about it was when a review showed up on the Five Sinatras review site and Brandon received a magnificent score of 5 Sinatras for the overall puzzle. Of course, by this time the whole lot had sold out and I figured that this was one I would have to leave on my wish list without any real hope of ever getting a copy - I don't do auctions any more to protect my finances. Luckily for me and a further 80 puzzling punters, Brandon decided to create another batch and, by this time, I had gotten myself onto his mailing list. A week ago, a copy showed up and after my dalliance with Juno's masterpiece, I quickly moved onto this.

The Ansel (named after the famed Ansel Adams) is beautifully presented in a lovely box (which I duly threw away because space is an issue) and inside a lovely walnut reproduction of what looks rather like an old Kodak Instamatic 133 camera (Mr Adams certainly didn't use one of those for his iconic artistry). Damn! I'm old! I actually remember using one of these and putting flash cubes on top for indoor photography (those cubes were bloody expensive and were limited to 4 uses each!) The aim is to open the viewfinder to allow you to take a photo. There's a nice thumb cutout on the bottom to allow you to manipulate the viewfinder but at the beginning nothing works - it is all locked solid.

In the lens opening there is a drilled hole which obviously needs manipulating somehow but in the absence of having sharpened talons/claws, there was no way to use it. The instructions warn the puzzler not to unscrew the nuts and bolts so I didn't. The only other clue is a tiny hole in the side of the puzzle which the use of a torch reveals a dark hole and maybe something shiny inside. Now what? There really isn't very much you can do at the beginning but remember that it has been classified as a sequential discovery puzzle and therefore, by definition, a tool or several needs to be discovered to allow progression. As someone who is not terribly bright, it took me 3 days to make the first move and discover the tool. 

Once the tool has been found, there is an obvious next step and after that I found myself real confused. I managed to make stuff happen and then make it unhappen. Yay! Sometimes I could make it happen and then not unhappen and sometimes it would happen in a funny direction and un or not unhappen. Lord! I was confused! Time to get systematic and maybe draw a diagram of what might be happening inside. This sort of forced me to properly think© about it and helped me discover the next key feature:

Viewfinder partially open
I had opened the viewfinder but all old photographers know that there's no way to take a photo like this so there's obviously more to do. Pull the tab harder? Yes, I did that quite a few times but this does not help even if it does make you feel like you are at least trying something. After thinking a little more, I realised that I couldn't actually get out of this position. A flurry of furious moving and shaking and wiggling and tilting and swearing ensued and phew, I could reset the puzzle. My sketch of the internals was clearly wrong...there is obviously a lot more to the internals than I had thought. Try again and think© harder - do what Allard would do! Yes get stuck on it for a long time with something caught inside! I was so glad to see that he's not terribly bright either. 

Back to the drawing board and I had a really improbable idea of what must be inside. So if I do the first moves like this and carefully move the viewfinder slider like this and wiggle the cat on my lap in a certain direction and ooooh! Look at that...I have an old configuration but it 's not quite the same. What next? At this point there is a really lovely set of moves that make my diagram much more complex and AHA! Oh that is unexpected - I can take my photo:

Viewfinder open - no spoilers here
In fact there is something extra to it but I cannot tell you what. 
I love it and agree about the Sinatra count. I would categorise it more as a sequential movement puzzle but there is definitely an element of sequential discover to it. Back-tracking to the very beginning took me quite a while as my diagram had not been quite correct and it took me some time to work out my error. I think that after a further 2 or 3 solves, I had it fully understood. This is a nice clever puzzle with just the right difficulty level - once the social distancing thing is no longer necessary (hopefully early 2021) I will bring this to work to torture surgeons, nurses and medical students with.

Take care out there guys! The second wave is well on its' way here in the UK and hospitals (including my own) are gradually being overrun with cases again - less critically ill so far but that always lags a couple of weeks behind. A lot of Europe looks to be in terrible trouble again and the US has well and truly lost its' paddle. Hopefully the upcoming removal of the orange stain on America will lead to some decent health/pandemic management policies. Don't under-estimate the severity of this virus - I have a mild version of "long Covid" and Mrs S is also stricken. Even if you don't get ventilated or die, you can be ill for a very long time! Keep your masks on and keep a safe distance from others.


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