Sunday 24 January 2021

She Told Me I Should Stop Slabbing About

Six Slabs
Way back in October (seems like a lifetime ago with the way I am living just now) I saw Eric offer the Six Slabs puzzle for sale and I was lucky enough to grab a copy before they all sold out a few minutes later (it does seem very hard to buy these days!). I couldn't resist the beauty of the Curly Maple box with corner detailing and blocks made from Wenge. 

Apart from the look I was enticed by the text in the description that said it was reminiscent of the Hexahedroom puzzle from years before. I had never managed to get old of an Artisan copy of that puzzle but a very very good friend of mine had been kind enough to make me a copy so that I could experience it. I had absolutely adored that puzzle and the mere mention of a similarity to this was enough to send me running to my trackpad to click on the buy button.

Having said they were similar, I have to admit that the similarity is purely in shape and intent...they do not even remotely share the same solving method. The aim of Six slabs (designed by Brendan Perez) is to insert all "six slabs" into the box such that they all fit properly inside with nothing protruding out into the window left for the purpose. Unlike Hexahedroom, the pieces are all the same shape, cuboids (NOT cubes) and the holes for insertion have a specific orientation. 

Inside the box at diagonally opposite corners there are 2 cubes glued in place which significantly hinders you. In fact, it is these blocks that turn the assembly into a puzzle:

Diagonally opposite fixed cubes causing an obstruction
The effect of these cubes is that the slabs have to be oriented the correct way so as not to be protruding out the hole and they hinder the movement inside. When this arrived back in November, I was a bit busy with work and had had my butt kicked by Volker Latussek's Euklid for Nick. This made me rather fearful of all packing puzzles and I put it aside on my puzzles to be played tray in the living room. The cats were particularly fascinated by the ties of the bright orange bag that Eric had put the 6th block into and that alone kept me amused for a little while.

Finally, Mrs S was starting to agitate about the ever increasing number of puzzles on my pile and she told me in no uncertain terms that I should either solve them or file them in one of my cupboards and stop slobbing about! This forced me to pick it up when I finally had a couple of days over Xmas and New Year and have a little play.

I have recently been reminded by a superb Dutch puzzler that the secret to these packing puzzles is to think© outside the box (Theo was discussing the Euklid for Nick puzzle which I WILL be going back to soon). So for the Six slabs after a very quick play which failed I decided to do as Theo told me (as well as Mrs S). A little experimentation with individual slabs inside revealed the constraints that were required on the possible orientation at the end and I was "just" left with the task of finding a way to end up in that orientation. I had not paid any attention to the solution level quoted on Cubicdissection and imagined that with the 3 holes to be filled, I would have to insert the last 3 pieces at the very end of the sequence. This had me fooled for a while and after an hour of play I realised that there was more to it. The number of moves (for disassembly) are indicating that there is quite a lot of moving pieces around inside before the final insertion is possible.

Finally I have solved something!
This is a lovely little puzzle which took me a couple of hours of off and on fiddling to work out the correct sequence. It is really quite satisfying when the last piece slides into place. I will need to store it in the unsolved state and bring it to work to challenge my colleagues at work when we get back to working normally. Maybe it is time to return to my nemesis from Volker? Maybe Theo has pushed me the correct way and I will finally manage it?

If anyone has an artisan copy of the Hexahedroom puzzle they are willing to let me buy then please contact me and I will be very grateful.

Stay safe out there guys! The new Covid variants are running amok amongst the UK, European and American populations and there is some evidence that not only are they much more easily transmissible but they are also more deadly. We are now frequently seeing people in their 20s and 30s needing ventilation and even dying. Once you are on a ventilator you will be on it for at least a month and then need a very prolonged period of rehabilitation after that and who knows whether you will ever return to completely normal! My own health has not completely returned to normal yet and I am 7 months after my bout with the virus. If you can keep away from others at all then make sure you do so and if not take precautions - masks are cheap and easy to wear - they DO help. 

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