Sunday, 28 March 2021

PuzzleMad Saved by Something Out of Stock!

...or Don't be lulled into a false sense of security
the suffering still continues

Phew! I cannot buy it just now!

Now that must be one of the most confusing of my blog titles! What on earth am I driveling on about this time? It has been quite some time since I had some time off work (5 months) and whilst the government has said that NHS workers can carry over unused/cancelled annual leave, my employer has said "use it or lose it". Gulp! I booked some time off and hoped that  it would be approved (I write the on-call rotas and not the day to day rota). Luckily the boss said yes and here I am with some time to myself - yay! Then the "real boss"...the one with the violent Scottish genes and the nurse training to make full use of them told me that I was not going to be sitting on my arse (ass to the Americans) playing with toys - boo! She has a full list of DIY for me to do including putting up blackout blinds, redoing the silicone seal in a bathroom, tidying the shithole/study and most importantly repairing the toaster. Yes, you read that correctly! We have a 20 year old Dualit toaster which is now failing to toast or burning stuff. At £190 to replace, I have been putting up with it and then realised it can be fixed at home with a suitable screwdriver set and some Cajones. I know I have the screwdrivers and I can see my cajones in the pickling jar on her bedside table. I was a little perturbed that she said that it was vital that it be fixed this week and when I did it, I was NOT allowed to unplug it from the electricity supply when I did it and in fact, to be absolutely certain of a perfect outcome, she wanted me to sit in a full bath of water whilst I performed the essential maintenance! She said "it would be fine". After a little hesitancy, I went to the website to buy the required heating elements and timer. 
YAY! Out of stock! I will survive to blog another day.

5 Mononoke
A few months ago, Mine posted a bunch of new tray packing puzzles (and a special wooden 3D packing puzzle) on FB and took orders from a lot of eager puzzlers. Every time these sorts of tray puzzles come up I prove to be absolutely dreadful at them and swear not to buy any more and every time someone produces some more that look interesting from a distance across the internet I fail to hold my discipline and buy them in the hope that I will find the skills to solve them. Usually I am wrong and end up buying yet more stuff that I cannot solve! The tray puzzles offered by Mine looked really interesting in that most of them had quite low numbers of pieces and they had very interesting shapes which would make for a nice challenge to work out how they might interlink.

I started with the 5 Mononoke - until I looked it up for this blog post, I thought a Mononoke was a sheep or goat or something like that but apparently they are vengeful spirits who can make people suffer. As a tray packing puzzle this is quite appropriate in my hands! These pieces can interlock in very clever ways but in doing so they leave some ½ spaces which then leads to difficulty packing the next one(s) into the tray. There will obviously need to be some gaps after the packing is done but there is very little spare room. I spent 2 whole evenings swearing under my breath at this before I had my aha! moment. It should be fairly easy I thought, but for me - it wasn't and I struggled. Nothing new there then but at least it was better than repairing an electrified toaster whilst in a bath!

5 Fennec Foxes
Again, I couldn't resist this one! It was only 5 pieces and they were so cute! Actually, if you search YouTube for the real Fennec foxes then they really are cute. The pieces are quite long and complex with the legs offering some interesting interlocking opportunities. Oh boy! This one nearly beat me -  I could not work out any logical way to save space here at all. It is possible to get 4 in place in lots of nice interesting interlocked ways and then always get stuck with plenty of room in the tray but always spread over several areas. Swearing is mandatory despite Mrs S glaring at me with disapproval written all over her face. But I do find that the swearing helps - after another couple of evenings, I found the correct combination of swear words (in appropriate languages) and the 5 foxes settled into place. Another puzzle solved before electrocution.

6 Ayakashi
I am a little worried about Mine! He has named another puzzle after monsters. This fabulous packing puzzle again consists of interesting shapes that can interlock in interesting ways. Each of these interlocking approaches tends to leave small gaps between them making for the real challenge. The tray is quite large and the 6 pieces will fit in that with ease but the aim is to decrease the size of the tray by using one of two inserts. This immediately makes the puzzle a whole lot more challenging. 6 pieces should be harder to place than 5? I thought so but going against that thought, the pieces were much less complex than the previous 2 puzzles. Maybe I would have more/faster success with this one? Hell no! That definitely was not going to happen. It is interesting how the human brain works (OK OK maybe just my feeble brain). Whilst playing with these pieces I got fixated on finding the most space saving ways to interlink them that I could and very rapidly found this:

Beautifully packed with minimal space wasted
Bloody useless!
I found several variants on the picture above and it was very exciting - unfortunately it was also of no use whatsoever and I couldn't for the life of me get it out of my head. I kept going back to variants of these combinations in varying positions in the two possible tray shapes. Yes, there was more swearing and no it didn't help. It took me 4 days before I solved the first and even then it did not help with the second solution. Amazingly the second solution was very different to the first and took me another couple of days of work!

I am truly awful at these puzzles and yet I keep coming back to them for extra suffering. This batch have actually been great fun. The low number of pieces and the interesting interlocking shapes meant that there was more to it than random trial and error. Of course, I did start with random trial and error but then realised that thinking© would be more useful. It was really quite tough to get into Mine's mind (which is quite warped) but very rewarding when I got there. As always I got fixated on a dead end that I am sure was placed there deliberately. I have a few more of these tray puzzles to play with but they look considerably tougher with more pieces or non-orthogonal shapes:

All three of these puzzles are double sided for twice the suffering!

Whilst I have your attention, you should go to the Pelikan store and buy one of the last few remaining Chamburr puzzles. I am amazed that they are still in stock as that particular puzzle is one of the best of the last release (reviewed here).


  1. You work for Jamie MacDonald?

    1. Whilst I lived and worked in SE Scotland for 18 years (including working in Kirkcaldy), why would I be working for the Raith Rovers goalkeeper?



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