Sunday 15 August 2021

The Best Helical Ever - Polar Burr

 aka Twisting the Night Evening Away

Polar Burr
Over the years of this blog you will have seen quite a few of these. They are helical burrs all designed by the genius, Derek Bosch. It is quite a telling thing that out of all the incredible puzzlers in the world, only he has designed this sort of puzzle - this is for several reasons...primarily he is a genius but also because he thinks in 3D in a non-linear way that the rest of us normal human beings cannot think and especially because he has a very twisted mind! I personally would be grateful to have a mind at all let alone an evil twisted genius one. Mrs S often berates me for my lack of brains and she is absolutely right (see, I admitted it and she is not standing behind me brandishing her lochaber axe!)

I had reviewed the "He'll lick all bare, too" a few months ago and described how I had dismantled it whilst having gotten lost in the move sequence and then had no idea how to put it back together again. I survived the daggers (aka the Sgian-dubh - my, aren't I full of the Scottish weapons of violence??) that Mrs S threw at me with her glare at the noise. The nature of the 3D printing process always mean that these are built up in layers and they make a rasping noise as you move the pieces about and this noise is particularly annoying to wives (or is that just my wife?). 

Big Steve (from the TwoBrassMonkeys store) showed off the latest creation from Derek's twisted mind and claimed that the Polar burr (named for the snowy white peak) had the highest number of moves yet for any of these helical puzzles. Of course, how could I resist and a short chat with Steve had me sending some PayPal his way and he posted me the next in the series the following day. "Yay!" said Mrs S. Except she didn't. In fact when the box was opened and I gleefully showed of the puzzle that was supposed to have 36 moves to remove the first piece she stared at me long and hard as if to dare me to play whilst we watched TV. GULP!!!

Being extremely frightened of Mrs S and her assorted weaponry, I took the puzzle to work and annoyed a few surgeons with it but couldn't really work on it there because the stuff that I tend to anaesthetise requires a lot of concentration and attention to what is going on (I probably cannot afford to lose focus when doing an AAA repair). This meant that I had to risk possible retribution from Mrs S and play in the evenings. I would wait until she had a cup of tea and a cat on her lap to pin her down before I would get the puzzle out and hope that she had not brought her throwing knives into the living room.

Over the next few evenings I explored the burr in a back and forth manner as I usually do to lay down the pathways in my memory. There is quite a lot of movement in this puzzle which makes it a lot of fun. I personally find that burrs with too many false paths rapidly become less fun to play with because it is really tough to keep the decision tree in my head (I have a minimal capacity brain). The Polar burr is nice because it has quite a few false paths but none are so deep or have multiple branches to leave you getting lost. Several times in the process, I got very close to removing the first piece but it was always blocked. One problem with these rotational puzzles is that false movements are sometimes possible if pieces are rotated in an unintended way. With Polar burr this is not possible - a few times it did become a bit rickety and nearly ready to fall apart but remained stable.

Nearly there? Not for a while yet.
During the process there are several lovely moves that make you almost gasp in delight. Back and forth the pieces dance around each other gradually moving towards the exit. I say "almost gasp in delight" but remember that "she" is armed and dangerous and I cannot afford to risk upsetting her any further. 😈

Finally after 4 evenings I removed the first piece and yelled silently (see my reasons above). I was slightly concerned that I had not really understood the last few moves as I had been watching TV at the same time. Without moving anything else, I decided to put it back together again and relearn all the steps...except I could not reverse the 2 or 3 moves that I had done to take the piece out. Damn! Swearing at my stupidity I spent a rather fraught ½ hour desperately trying to put the loose piece back in much to the amusement of Mrs S who delights when I am in pain. Eventually it went back inside and I returned to the beginning. Now, how did I manage that last move? It took me one more evening to finally solve it and completely take the puzzle apart with the confidence that I could return it to the beginning again:

Just 4 pieces but rotational moves make for a huge challenge!
I have to say that I think this is the very best one yet - the level 36 is huge but this is very solvable even for a puzzle idiot like me. If you want to play with it then Steve has put a few up for sale on PuzzleParadise - they take a very long time to print so will only be made in small batches - keep an eye out for Steve's items there if they are sold out - the Twobrassmonkeys store is kept for metal puzzles and the plastic goes up on Paradise. I seem to have been quite busy with these over the year:

Lots of helicals (one might be lost somewhere in my collection)
The one in pieces is either TwiddleDum or Dee - I can't remember and can't reassemble it

Stay safe everyone - despite what the UK government has said, it's probably too soon to be abandoning masks in public - the Delta variant is extremely infectious so every little thing you do to protect yourself will help. The numbers in our hospitals here are increasing inexorably and this includes the younger population. If you can have a vaccination then take it - any of the vaccinations are effective. We have had hundreds of millions of doses now with almost no significant adverse effects (a few hundred blood clots out of hundreds of millions of doses is insignificant). We know for certain that the vaccine works - pretty much ALL the patients admitted to hospital with Covid now in the UK are the un- or partially vaccinated or those with immune compromise. GO GET A JAB...NOW!


  1. Isn't the helical in pieces Oliver twist as it is bigger than all of the others?

    1. Yes you are absolutely correct. I’ve been told that by Big Steve. I cannot resemble it and One off the Twiddle twins I have never managed to take apart!
      I’m rubbish at these.