Sunday 23 May 2021

Noisy is OK in a Conference

A Nice Quiet Puzzle?
Helical (L) and Hellical (R) burrs
Last week
I wrote about the Brass Monkey 4 and raved about it (have you bought your copy yet? Hurry up!) but what I didn't show off was that in the same package Steve had sent me the latest 4 piece burr design from the genius that is Derek Bosch. Yeah! I know that 4 piece burr doesn't sound like much but this is one of those Helical burrs - in fact it is the "Helical burr 2" which they have decided to call "He'll lick all bare, too" - a name which makes me shudder ever so slightly and I cannot bring myself to enter it into my database like that. 

This new design is not currently on the Two Brass Monkeys store but I am sure will be there at some point - if you are in a hurry then it is available from PuzzleMaster whilst stocks last. It looks just like the original Helical burr and the name sort of sounds like it too but, believe me, it is NOT like the original puzzle! I enjoyed the original puzzle a lot and even used to use it as a worry bead. Even Derek describes this version as a BEAST - although I always thought that I should take that statement from him with a pinch of salt...Derek often admits to me that he is completely unable to solve his own designs! However, in this case the numbers tell all - Helical burr requires 11 moves to remove the first piece whilst v2 here requires 39 moves! OMG!

Just 3 moves!
I should have realised how tough it was going to be early on when after just 3 moves thisgs had moved a very long way. But I didn't get much chance to work that out early on. After my initial failure with the Brass Monkey 4, I did my usual "put it down and stare blankly at it for a while" before deciding to have a try at the Helical burr. After approximately 1.2seconds Mrs S stared at me with daggers, or maybe I should say sgian-dubhs as she is Scottish (I actually wore one of these on my wedding day as I got married in a kilt). Straight away she warned me that there was no way I was going to play with this puzzle whilst we were watching TV - it is too noisy! The 3D printed plastic is quite smooth but they layers do scrape on each other quite loudly and was making "she who scares the bejeeeezus out of me" ever so slightly annoyed. Gulp! I put it down and went back to BM4.

I do the vast majority of my puzzling in the evenings in front of the TV with Mrs S...when was I going to be able to play with this? Luckily, last week I actually managed to get some study leave approved to attend an anaesthesia conference (now that Covid seems to be improving in the UK, we are being allowed time for annual and study leave in limited numbers). Things are not quite so great here that we are all heading to hotels and attending meetings in person but quite a lot of conferences have moved to a virtual format. It's not as much fun but certainly is convenient and slightly cheaper. 

Aluminium washer cylinder
I therefore spent two days last week sat on my bum staring at a computer screen for 8 hours! Lord, that is bloody tiring! In fact the only way I could stay awake at times was to pick up various puzzles that are around me and have a fiddle whilst listening to the lectures and watching the slides. I worked my way through almost my entire Strijbos collection and even managed to solve the Aluminium washer cylinder which gave me so much trouble all those years ago when I initially bought it. Yay! The conference was proving very worthwhile! Eventually, after I ran out of Strijbos puzzles, I picked up the new Helical and figured that noisy would be OK in a virtual conference.

I knew this that this puzzle was going to be tough after Allard showed off a picture of it half solved and the comment that it was never going to go back together again. This was a little worry as I have had a similar issue with the very difficult TwiddleDum (or is it TwiddleDee?) - one of those is currently in 4 pieces and has not returned to assembled puzzle in nearly 5 years! The Helical burr 2 has a very interesting loop in it's early pathway. At least I found it interesting for the first few hours. It kind of got a bit boring at the end of my first conference day as I had traced the same path many hundreds of times and not found a way out of it at all. On day two of the conference, whilst fully fortified with coffee and a rather sugary breakfast, I listened avidly to a discussion on the effect of anaesthetic agents and pain killers on cancer recurrence and restarted the Helical with little hope.

At some point during the first couple of hours, I had had no complaints about the noise and looked down to see that it looked different. What had I done? Could I return it to the beginning? Cue slight panic... my usual modus operandi is to go back and forth and effectively memorise the moves of most burr type puzzles. I had not been paying attention and had no memory of what I had done. I tried to backtrack and realised I had an "Allard situation" - this was only going in the forward direction! Oops. I resigned myself to adding another 4 bits of plastic to my 'pile o pieces' in a box but at least I could say I had dismantled it if not actually solved it. Even having found that hidden move it was still not an easy progression to the end. I continued to be noisy for a large proportion of the rest of the conference before I had this:

He'll lick all bare, too solved
I might as well lick it as I stand equal chance of reassembling it with my tongue as my hands!
The puzzle is a beast. I have spent several days trying to reassemble it and can't even get to the place where I had my unfortunate realisation. I contacted Derek and he sent me a nice little pdf. Apparently big Steve is a dab hand with the OpenScad software and has created a step by step reassembly diagram in it. I can barely draw a cube in it and yet he is performing miracles. I am going to try and reassemble the beast after I've uploaded this blog post.

You are all MUCH better puzzlers than me! You definitely should buy this one - it will be a nice challenge for you and I know for certain that you will manage it in just a pleasant couple of hours. Go on I dare you!

I have received a new batch of puzzles from Jakub and Jaroslav - I am going to power my way through as fast as I can so that they can be put on sale soon!

1 comment:

  1. Do you still have the reassembly instructions? I can't put it back together for the life of me