Sunday, 21 February 2021

Pillar - Just Perfect...

By Alexander Is The Great!
Brian is pretty incredible too...

Pillar by Alexander Magyarics
Whilst my experience cannot be compared to what has been going on in Texas recently, I am now on day 8 or 9 of no working boiler - I have had 3 engineer visits and still not fixed. Mrs S is going to murder someone if this isn't fixed soon and my worry is that it will be me! It had been suggested by a rather mean Facebook friend that I could burn some wooden puzzles for heat whilst my boiler is not working - I am seriously considering unfriending that person and certainly not showing that post to Mrs S!

I reviewed Ennui last week from Brian Menold's Wood Wonders recent releases and you know that I could not possibly resist and just buy one (or two)...I bought a bunch of them - my addiction to glorious wood is being fed by Brian and Eric and Brian and Alfons and...

Houston, if you weren't covered in snow with a power outage then you'd see I have a problem!
I bought the Pillar puzzle for two reasons:
  1. I saw Brian show it off on Facebook and was stunned by the glorious grain
  2. It was designed by my friend and "master puzzle designer", Alexander Magyarics
  3. It's a combination of interlocking and packing puzzle which I absolutely adore
This beautiful puzzle has been fabulously crafted from Pistachio wood making the walls of the box, topped and bottomed with a wonderful creamy Holly. The remarkably simple pieces are stunning in very deep red Pau Rosa. I love beautiful wood grain and this Pistachio (a wood that I have never seen before) is a wonderful example. Even Mrs S admired the beauty of the box. Of course, she did not admire it enough to want to play with the puzzle much to my relief as it would be quite humiliating to have her solve it in just a few minutes and be much faster than me!

The aim (as with many of Alexander's creations) is to pack the 4 easy pieces into the box through the rather limited opening and also have the opening completely filled with no gap. I picked this one up immediately after my success with Ennui and was sure that I would solve this fairly quickly and rack up a puzzle to write about on the next blog. So I thought that this would be quick? I never seem to learn do I? This puzzle should not be that difficult but it took me 4 evenings of toil and swearing at myself to solve it. Initially I couldn't even find a 3x3 shape that would fill the holes and then none of them had piece orientations that could fit through the holes. Yes, the genius of this is that 2 of the pieces have a very limited number of ways they can fit in through the top and then, due to the 3 unit length of all of the pieces, it is really tough to find a way to get them to move around each other.

On day 2, I found a very nice 3x3 assembly which met the requirements and focussed on that. How could I get those pieces in place. I couldn't do it! I must have become fixated on that assembly because every time I abandoned it because I couldn't move the pieces around each other or get one of them into the box then I would try to find an alternative arrangement and still come back to my original. I am sure that Alexander must have known this would happen. I spent 2 days muttering Alexander's name under my breath along with some other choice expletives and got nowhere. 

On Friday evening watching some TV I had a marvellous Aha! epiphany. There is an alternative assembly and maybe that would go...yes it does - everything is arranged so it fits inside. I managed to get 3 of the pieces in the box and was left with the L shaped piece outside and wondered how to get that in with it blocked so much. There was an L shaped gap left for it to go into but I couldn't see how to move it in. Time to Think© outside the box. I often find that this is what is required with these puzzles - make the assembly and see whether I can work out how they come out and then try and remember what I did and do it in reverse inside the box. I am not very bright and reversing a series of steps gets me terribly confused. Just in time for a blog post, I had it solved - Phew!

Beautiful whilst packed
The disassembly of the puzzle requires a sequence of 20 moves (10.4.3.3) and takes advantage of the unique shape of the pieces and the box. It is very clever. I really don't know how Alexander keeps finding such simple yet such challenging designs. They are stunning - I think he needs to be given a title as I have at the top of the blog... henceforth he shall be "Alexander the Great" (hopefully this won't go to his head and make him attempt to take over most of the civilised world). 

I am greatly looking forward to more puzzles from this amazing duo - Brian and Alexander work together so well.

Keep safe everyone. The new infection numbers are going down in most places around the world but this requires constant vigilance and attention to social distancing/mask wearing. The vaccines will start to have an effect (at least on hospitalisation rates) soon as well.



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