Sunday 31 October 2021

Gifts Are a Wonderful Thing!

Latest board burrs from Juno
Mrs S' birthday present
Things have been a bit busy at PuzzleMad HQ recently. Work continues to be horrendous and made worse by the awful state of the NHS in pandemic times and as winter sets in. Increasing numbers of the non-vaccinated keep getting admitted to the hospital where they are now preventing us getting the elective patients into hospital. This is preventing hip and knee replacements, elective aortic surgery, reconstructive surgery. Basically, I spend my days doing either urgent/emergency cases, trauma or cancer cases. This doesn't leave much time or energy for puzzling. It doe NOT, however stop the puzzles arriving!

Six so far
Mrs S didn't know it until I told her but she had bought me some gorgeous wood for my birthday (yesterday) when I celebrated being extraordinarily old! Junichi Yananose had created 2 more in the Grooved board burr series which of course would be essential and an extra that was not part of the series but I/she couldn't resist. I had been reminded of these when I saw the sudden return of Mike to blogging with a review of the first two in the series over on Puzzlepusher (#1 here and #2 here) and the hurried over to Pluredro to ensure that Mrs S got me a good present. Needless to say, she is delighted with her purchases! Whack! Ouch! These were only unwrapped yesterday so I cannot say how good or how hard they are. I hope that they are easier than the reassembly of last week's Sweeney Todd which remains in pieces on my puzzling chair. I have the assembly solution from Big Steve and think I will need to admit defeat and go for it.

Another gift came to me a few weeks ago from the wonderful and incredibly generous Frederic Boucher:

Frederic Boucher collection
ResQ on loan
Frederic contacted me after reading that I had missed out on the ResQ from Eric (this is based on his Visitor Q which Eric added to). I am extra-ordinarily lucky to have received a unique enhanced version called the Visitor Q+. Frederic specialises in packing puzzles but not exclusively and he decided to send me a selection. I have been playing away since they arrived and have seriously struggled. Several of these are limited editions which he has made himself revealing fabulous woodwork skills and a few have been made as a collaboration with Osho using laser cut wood. 

I immediately tried the Tsubomi because it was gorgeous but quickly put it down due to the extreme difficulty, I then moved on to something I felt was more manageable with the Puzlin packing puzzle:

How hard can that be? 6 pieces to make a 3x3x3 cube to get through a small entrance in the top of a box. I have solved lots and lots of these courtesy of my friends Osanori Yamamoto and Alexander Magyarics. The difference here is the apparent simplicity of the pieces. It shouldn't be terribly tough, I thought. Then I realised how many ways there are to form a cube with these pieces. How many of these cubes can be inserted through the limited opening? Trial and error started at first until I realised that was a stupid way to go about it. I needed to Think© - something I am not very good at. There is a single cubie fixed inside the box in a really awkward position and this was both a curse and a blessing. Initially I cursed it because it really got in the way. Having finally realised how stupid I was being, it ended up as a blessing when I thought about how it would interact and restrict the placement of the pieces inside. I significantly reduced the number of cube shapes to try and then went about out of the box planning of sequences. Oh that is really quite clever! I think most puzzlers will get it fairly quickly if they think© but not if they try brute forcing it.

Really enjoyable
Having exhausted myself with packing, I couldn't resist a coin maze puzzle:

Based on a design by Osho
The Take 1 has a 1 yen coin inside and 2 sliders at different levels with holes in them. The coin can be moved into a hole in the slider and then shifted elsewhere inside the tray. At this point it is no longer visible and it requires dexterity and deduction to think where it could be moved to as it works it's way through an internal maze and then out. This is another fun challenge with the added frisson of fear when you move the coin and it is completely out of sight and doesn't appear to be anywhere where you expect it. I tried a series of moves and thought it would be released didn't! On top of that realisation, I couldn't return it to anywhere where it could be seen. I had absolutely no idea where it was inside the tray or even what level it was on. OMG! After a bunch of swearing and desperately turning it over and over it reappeared in the start hole. Phew! Time, yet again, to think©! This time I planned it through and decided what layer I needed to be where and what way around it had to be before and after each movement. Suddenly I had my coin - I was RICH!!! Except 1¥ is just $0.0064 so maybe not rich in cash - just rich in experiences:

Very satisfying!
Putting the coin back is just a "simple" matter of reversing what I had done. Except I hadn't written it down and had to work out the reverse path - very satisfying!

Next up a "simple" tray packing puzzle. 

Shark Attack
Another puzzle made in collaboration with Osho - this reminded me of a few that I had bought from Mine. I am truly awful at tray puzzles but this one also looked like there would be an initial trial and error period before having a realisation and a more focussed attack to finally get the solution. I was absolutely right about it - I did this whilst watching TV and it seemed impossible until there is an understanding of how the pieces can lie amongst each other. It took about half an hour and was a delight to sove something without swearing at it. No the solution is not going to be shown! 

Thank you so much Frederic! You have been too generous! I am truly amazed that you would give me the opportunity to own and play with such wonderful puzzles and especially to have one that you have adjusted to be a challenge specifically for me. I look forward to playing with the rest over the next few weeks and months.

Now this one was not strictly a gift. I had been contacted by Ksenia from the Quezzle Kickstarter campaign and they asked my opinion of their idea. I told them that it looked beautiful but seemed to me to be just another jigsaw. They insisted that there was more to it than that and would I take a look? I was happy to do that for them and a large package arrived on Tuesday last week (much to the disgust of "she who frightens the Western world"). Unfortunately, due to work I did not get a chance to even open it until my birthday yesterday. 

So my opinion here is based on just the opening and photography and handling the pieces. I have still not had a chance to start the puzzling. I did not pay for this - it is a sample provided for review. My first impressions are that this is absolutely gorgeous! I am not a jigsaw puzzler and have only reviewed one before on my site (it was an extremely high quality puzzle). These are right up there with the highest quality jigsaws that I have ever seen. It is beautifully packaged. The boxes are laser cut wood which is colour printed all over. 

Under the lid

Beautifully made pieces
The attention to detail is perfect. they have packaged 2 feet to stand up the lid of the box whilst you are working on a puzzle. The pieces are wrapped in a jute sacking. Just looking at some of the pieces it is obvious that they also make a 3D shape as well as are part of the jigsaw.

One thing that appeals to me is that the larger puzzle of 1000 pieces has been split into 4 puzzles of 250 pieces which can later have edges removed to be replaced with provided cross-linking pieces. So is it just a jigsaw? Initially I thought so but then I opened out one of the "documents" that are packed on top of each of the internal the jute wrappings:

There is a LOT more to it
There are multiple challenges and even an app to be downloaded. I have to say that I have never seen anything like it before and despite not being a jigsaw puzzler, this actually really interests me. I did see that my friend Ivan Danik had showed it off on Facebook as well as on his YouTube channel. He also seemed to really like what he saw.

The Quezzle has only one day left on Kickstarter before it then goes on to other crowdfunding sources. I know that Kickstarter can seem risky but they do seem to be able to manufacture these based on what various reviewers have been sent. If jigsaws with extras are your thing then I think you will love this puzzle. Who knows, I might even get Mrs S to join in!

Take care everyone - it's still dangerous out there! Wear your masks in public and get your vaccine and booster as soon as you can.

Sunday 24 October 2021

Plastic Fantastic!

 Or...Perpetual Plastic Puzzlement is Positively Propitious

Switch cube pieces
Switch cube failed yet again
You may remember the suffering of the poor puzzler from last week? He had foolishly ordered a plastic interlocking puzzle from the rather clever Richard Gain and decided to take the advice of another rather clever puzzler that it would be a really great fun challenge to accept this in pieces as an assembly puzzle. This advice and decision was simultaneously absolutely brilliant and, paradoxically, also a powerfully preposterous preference!

Ok! Ok! Even I am getting fed up with the P words and it's getting tough to find new ones that make sense.

I was left after last weeks' blog post with a bunch of vibrantly red pieces that were supposed to make up a 5x5x5 cube. I had worked out where they all were supposed to go but, for the life of me, I was unable to find a sequence that would lead to an assembly. No matter what I did, I always had one or other piece that I could not insert. On Facebook it was suggested that Burrtools might help but I was loathe to try that and cheat. Dammit! I wanted to be a good successful puzzler for once and actually solve something myself. Richard, chimed in to that conversation to say what I had already worked out - BT would not easily solve the puzzle - it was a TIC (Turning Interlocking Cube). I had noticed that one pair of pieces could only be interlocked with a rotation but I was worried that there might be a whole load of them. Richard said there was only the one rotation - Phew!

I persisted at it. Every evening this week until Thursday, I worked at it. I tried every possible starting sequence and wasn't getting anywhere. Finally on Thursday evening whilst watching TV I realised the source of my was me! I had got fixated on which piece was going to be the last one to be inserted and that simple insertion would complete the cube. To be honest, I don't know where the fixation began. It did seem like a perfect end to the puzzle as it slid the piece into the cube very nicely but, after days and days of failure, I forced myself to reset my methods and expectations. I began to place this piece earlier amongst the others and kept the blue piece out to be the last one. This still failed me but led to a realisation that there was a fabulous sequential locking movement involving multiple pieces. I couldn't put the blue piece in last but this spurred me to find a way to insert it earlier without blocking the locking sequence. On Thursday evening I thoroughly pissed off Mrs S with a shout:


OMG! It is absolutely incredible!
The closing sequence meets the "switch cube" name perfectly 
I have subsequently dismantled and solved this cube dozens of times and absolutely adore it! An amazing design - the TIC element is a nice touch to prevent a puzzler just giving in and resorting to Burrtools but really the puzzle is almost a pure linear assembly puzzle but with multiple steps. The disassembly is level which doesn't sound like much but for a puzzler of poor prowess it was a humongous (and very rewarding) challenge. I have made a BT file which solves it using groups but that is just for the fun of it and because making these files is part of the fun. All that I need now is for someone to make this in wood and I will throw money at them! If you get a chance to add this to your collection then don't it and ask for it to be sent in pieces.

Sweeney Todd - complete with stand
Oh yesssss! I never thought I would be typing such a thing but again I have perfect plastic puzzling on my kitchen granite to play with! The genius that is Derek Bosch has done it again  - he has designed another helical burr puzzle but one with a real difference. The last one I absolutely raved was so difficult that Allard surprisingly failed at it and of course, who could resist yet another one which was supposed to be the "highest difficulty level yet".

The name is spot on - it has been 3D printed to look like a classical barber's pole and I guess that because it might just kill you to solve it, the murderous barber of Seville is appropriate. I hadn't properly realised until I picked it up (yes I bought it without even looking properly) that it has been designed differently to all the other helical burr type puzzles. Yes, it has 4 pieces like most of the others (the Vapors and Pole Dancers have 3 pieces) but instead of 2 inner and 2 outer pieces, it has a single central pole and 3 outer helical pieces. This monster apparently needs 43 moves to remove the first piece! How could I resist? 

Mrs S was not particularly amused when yet another puzzle delivery interfered with her day - I did reassure her that one of those deliveries was her birthday present to me but she seemed unmoved by it. Following my enormous (but slow) success with the Switch cube, I decided I had to jump straight in with another plastic puzzle. This has been printed by the ThreeBrassMonkeys a bit differently to the others. The inner pole seems to be a different material to their usual - it has silver flecks in the grey plastic and is textured as well. It makes for a surprisingly pleasant tactile experience and something quite nice to look at. The stand stops any of the outer pieces sliding whilst stored upright as well as making it stable for storage on a shelf.

The previous puzzle (Polar Burr) was a wonderful sequence with only a few blind ends and was a very nice discovery puzzle as the correct path needed to be found. This monster, on the other hand, has multiple blind ends right from the beginning and several loops in which you miraculously find yourself back towards the beginning of the puzzle without realising how one achieved that. 

I did my usual to and fro approach and explored the blind ends and back-tracked each time before advancing further. The "maze" has been printed on a smaller scale than most of the other puzzles and so you will require smaller moves each time as part of your exploration. Some of the moves are unexpected and complex which definitely justifies using the to and fro method and at times some of the moves are of the central pole and the interactions with the outer pieces are hidden. At one point about 15 moves in there is a way to remove a piece using an illegal move. It is quite clearly a cheat so I resisted the urge and put it back to continue with the proper solution.

On several occasions I got stuck - I could not back-track and I could not advance. This frightened me to death and really annoyed Mrs S because apparently when this occurs I start to heavy breathe and mutter to myself about being lost! There is nothing more annoying to a wife of 27+ years than a husband who still breathes so I tried my best (unsuccessfully) to do it quietly. Each time I got stuck, after a frantic 10-20 minutes of trying everything I could, I managed to get back to a place that I could remember...

Until I couldn't!
Probably about 25 moves in I did something that I couldn't undo! Not because it got jammed, not because something went wrong with the puzzle. It was my own stupid fault - I do most of my puzzling in the evenings after dinner whilst watching TV with Mrs S. Now I am a bloke which means several things:
  1. I snore sleeping on my back (little clue to all you girls - you do this too! I have a huge experience of sleeping women - it's my job!)
  2. I enjoy watching violent crap on TV
  3. I cannot multi-task! Well we sort of can but it doesn't end well (as we will see)
I was watching TV and doing an extremely complex multi move puzzle! This was one task too many and something happened - I reached yet another place where I could not backtrack. I spent all Friday evening trying to work my way backwards and a fair bit of Saturday as well. Nope! That was not happening. Time to try just to advance only - except I was in a loop. For a couple of hours I went round and round in a circle getting more and more desperate. Suddenly, whilst explaining to Mrs S that the heavy breathing was necessary, I was out of the loop and had no idea how. OMG!

Interestingly, at this point the pieces all had reversed their order on the pole and started to dance in the opposite direction - I was having fun again. I had given up all attempts at keeping track of my path - there was no way in hell that I was going to reassemble this without help. I know Ali had managed it but it had taken him 6 hours and he is a savant! Apparently these things can be modeled in BT as well (I have never managed it).

It's very pretty like this which is just as well
I suspect it is going to stay like this!
After about 6 or 7 hours of fiddling, swearing (and being sworn at), the 3 outer pieces slid off one after another. Photos taken this morning and I now have to contemplate asking Big Steve or Derek for a solution file to help me reassemble it. After that I will have to do it again, and again and again. Until I can say that I actually understand the solution.

This is a fabulous addition to the series - I have a lot of these now and I think this plus the Polar burr are the very best yet. The series has been progressing nicely over the years in difficulty and fun factor. You definitely should add one of these to your collection whilst they are available (Polar burr is available whilst you are there). Steve and Ali sell the plastic puzzles via Puzzle Paradise and keep the TwoBrassMonkeys store for their metal marvels. If you are in North America then you may prefer to use PuzzleMaster for purchasing.

Stay safe guys and gals! It is still taking huge measures to keep things under control around the world. As you can tell, in places where mask use and vaccination levels are low the virus is running amok. Even here, where our idiot government won't do what they are advised, our numbers are going through the roof and our hospitals (including mine) are filling up. This is making the work extremely difficult. It is a really simple thing to do - keep socially distanced as much as possible, where a mask when in public places, get your vaccination (and booster if offered and eligible) and this will keep you and your loved ones as safe as they can possibly be. Unfortunately Coronaviruses don't behave the same way as other viruses and transmission can still occur after vaccination but it is decreased and the level of illness suffered is hugely diminished.

Sunday 17 October 2021

False Sense of Security

Let this be a lesson to me! 

Dig Ears
Only level 9?
I received a bunch of wire puzzles at the beginning of September from Aaron and thought to myself that I might manage to solve a few at least. I started on the Dig Ears puzzle which was "only" a level 9 on Aaron's Richter scale which goes up to 10+. How hard can it be? It would be a lovely gentle reintroduction to this sort of puzzle and might give me some confidence. 


I worked on it for over a week and managed to move the shuttle around and about but never even close to coming off. I was obviously missing something and tried all sorts of shenanigans which often seemed to be instinctively wrong. Aaron offered me a little hint and this was a big help. I had actually tried what he had suggested on quite a few occasions but it felt wrong and I back-tracked every time for fear of doing something silly. Now with new confidence, I was able to persevere and finally after 2 weeks on a single puzzle I had my long sought after Aha! moment. Phew - I was beginning to think that puzzles weren't my strong point!

Thank goodness!
At least there is one that is not going onto my list of shame:
List of shame!

I have had very little time for puzzling this week but I have had yet another go at a rather wonderful challenge from Rich Gain (Microcubology). This one is called the Switch cube - Rich had shown off a few copies that he had printed on Facebook and I realised that despite having bought loads of cubes from him over the years, I had never even heard of this one. Some bright spark chimed in that this was a really fun challenge as an assembly puzzle so like a fool I requested it be sent to me in pieces! Doh!

Oh dear - a little more complex than I had expected
The aim is to make a 5x5x5 cube - how hard can it be? There had been no mention of rotational moves or that it was a TIC so I set to. Oh boy! This has beaten me - my success with the wire puzzle had given me a false sense of security - I should have realised because I have failed ALL of the other wire puzzles that I bought at the same time and have not managed to solve this one! I have gotten somewhat close but never quite manage to get the last piece in place. The puzzle has so far been a fun challenge but it is terribly frustrating to always get it all assembles with one piece sticking out.

Close but no cigar
I have so far resisted the lure of Burrtools but I'm not sure how much longer I can stand it. I love interlocking puzzles and it is only recently with the arrival of lots of TICs on the market that I have dared to try them as assembly puzzles. Maybe I should go back to easier ones?

Sunday 10 October 2021

Painful But Very Worthwhile

I'm Not Talking About Mrs S! I Mean The Butterflower Cube

The Butterflower Cube by LanLan
Yes, two twisty blog posts in a row! I have really not had a lot of time for puzzling since I went back to work after my time off and I figured that it was time to finally play with something that I had been carrying around with me since it arrived back in July. I had immediately worked on and solved the Skewb puzzles which were a fun challenge - just the right difficulty level for someone who had not been solving twisties for a while. I had not worked on it because it sort of frightened me as there seemed to be so many parts to scramble and solve and my twisty prowess was at a low ebb. I showed it to several colleagues who just shuddered and shook their heads at me. 

I had thought when I bought it that it was a combination of a Clover cube (a cornerless Curvy copter) and a Dino cube. I have always adored edge turning cube - starting with the Curvy Copter and moving up to the incredibly difficult Skewby Copter Plus. I was sure that this would be a lot of fun and hopefully not too difficult - I was right after a little pain and a little thought (some of which was painful).

Independently edge turning and corner turning
The Butterflower cube turns very nicely and has corner and edge turning properties which includes the usual edge turning jumbling moves. Luckily for me the corner turning and jumbling moves cannot work together otherwise the puzzle would have gotten much too deformed and complex for me to be able to follow. 

Last week, whilst waiting for an intensive care bed for a patient to be made available, I had a little time. I scrambled the little bugger in front of people at work. They looked on with almost as much horror as I did. Stupidly I went straight for a full jumbling scramble and quickly had a dreadful mess:

Believe me, it is properly scrambled - you cannot separate every coloured piece from all their neighbours.
To jeers of disbelief, I set to work and initially just returned it to cube shape - it was less difficult than I remember the Curvy copter being. Then it was time to Think© - I realised the diamond shaped central pieces were more or less fixed and could only rotate through 180º so I assembled what were effectively edges. Then it became clear that the true edges were split in half and spread all around the place - next job to move them into place by intuition and the puzzler's favourite algorithm ("up, up, down, down") with twists of whole edges in between. It took a while and appeared fascinating to my audience that I could achieve such a thing but was not very difficult. When I explained what I was doing, they looked at me like I was some sort of magician but it really is not that tough - I would go as far as to say that a standard Rubik cube is harder than what I had been doing thus far. 

Having recreated inner edges and outer edges it was time to work on the oval "petals". These are split into a large segment and a small triangle which needed to be combined before being put into their correct position. Again, I worked on this entirely using intuition and the 4 move algorithm. Basically, the petals can be moved around using Curvy copter moves until the ones that you want are arranged around a cube corner. Then the corner is rotated to connect the parts of the petal and the formed part then moved away for use elsewhere before turning the corner back and recreating the edges as they had been. Each completed petal could be moved into place and I worked my way from the white face up the cube. Over the space of a day, I managed to do the whole lot until I was left with 4 or 5 incomplete petals and I was stuck. I could not seem to complete them without breaking other things. 

Time for a Think© again! Maybe I had been going about it wrongly? I was fairly certain that my general approach was fine but maybe the last part was doing too much at once? Probably reforming the petals at the same time as moving them into their places on the cube was just too much to do at once? My problem was that I gradually placed myself into a position where there was no room to manoeuvre and then I was unable to complete either of the remaining processes. As is usual, thinking told me to separate the processes. I re-scrambled and did my early sections again. This time I decided to just recreate the petals and store them somewhere safe rather than try to actually place them in their final places. This was much easier and still almost entirely intuition. Once I got to the last 2 or 3 petals it was just a matter of moving them around into appropriate places around a corner, turning the corner to make the petals whole and moving them out. If I replaced them with 3 petal of the same colour then I could turn the corner and realign the outer edges without breaking any petals up again. Yesssss!

I just had a Curvy copter to solve, complete with jumbled moves that had taken them out of their proper orbits which, as I have stated many times is one of my favourite puzzles to solve. It had taken me 2 days and a fair bit of pain but I had conquered the Butterflower cube.

Why painful? For once, it was not down to a Whack! Ouch! from Mrs S (even if she had accused me of looking like Plug again). Well, my very small brain hurt quite a bit but also this puzzle can be lethal on your thumb nails - I think the sharp corners must have nearly torn them off nearly 50 times in the first solve:

See that pointy corner at the back left and right?
Imagine getting that under your thumbnail many many times!
Apart from the pain the Butterflower cube is a wonderful puzzle for anyone who has mastered the basics of the beginners twisty puzzles and wants to go beyond the simple edge turners. This would be another puzzle that would be added to my advice to a beginner twisty puzzler. Once the alternative puzzles have been mastered then this would be an ideal next step up.

Remember to get your vaccines (either first doses or boosters if you are eligible) - they are a LOT better than getting Covid - believe me because I have had Covid and looked after people with it in hospital). They do provide a significant protection from death and significant illness - plus it is everyone's duty to protect the members of society who cannot protect themselves. No, the vaccines are not perfect but they are up to 93% effective for at least 6 months. The only way out of this dreadful pandemic is for people to get vaccinated. Do it! They do NOT affect your DNA! Anyone with knowledge of physiology and genetics knows that is a bloody ridiculous claim. They do NOT affect fertility (also utterly stupid). They are not injecting microchips! Have you seen the size of the needles used to put microchips in pets? They are ENORMOUS! Also most of you carry a phone with you everywhere you go - tracking is pretty easy with that and remember that in your homes Alexa, Siri or Bixby are listening to everything you say anyway!

Sunday 3 October 2021

Twistytex' 3x5x7 Masterpiece Gives Me a Hell Of a Challenge

But Using Basic Techniques Got Me Through

Twistytex' 3x5x7
That was really silly!
I have been chatting to my friend Casey Weaver, a wonderful generous Texan, for a couple of years. He had seen that I had a copy of SuperAntonioVivaldi's amazing version of the 3x5x7 cuboid and wondered whether I would swap my original copy for one that he had made by 3D printing extensions and hand finishing to a very fine polished surface. SAV had classified this puzzle as an "ultimate shapeshifter" - you can see why from the picture above. It was a collaboration between SAV and the incredible Gregoire Pfennig to create something truly wonderful and ground-breaking. I had solved it way back in 2013 and had incorporated it as one of the ways that a new twisty puzzler could go if they wanted to expand their puzzling skills in a logical progression. I had really enjoyed the approach to the various types of cuboids but very seldom solved them because this one as a Shapeways puzzle still dropped black powder from inside every time I played with it. This completely drove Mrs S crackers and so I had put it aside for a rather long time and when the opportunity came from Casey to obtain a still very limited edition version which I could actually use without threats of violence, I jumped at the chance. I had managed to obtain a couple of others in the interim period:

Ultimate cuboid family (3x5x7 by SAV, 5x7x9 by Traiphum and 4x6x8 by Jeremy)  
and we even had a mass produced version made by Calvin's puzzles after a design by Hunter Palshook. I was lucky enough to get the hand-made prototype and after giving it back so that the puzzle could be mass produced I was one of the first to receive the actual puzzle:

Calvin's 2x4x6
It has been several years since I had played with any of these puzzles - in fact I have not done a twisty for several months! I thought to myself that I should still be able to manage it despite the time gone by - so I scrambled it and admired the chaotic beauty that I had. Then, having scrambled it, I realised that I had forgotten every single one of my cuboid algorithms! I also had not even solved a 3x3 or 4x4 for many months.

It was going to be back to the basics for this one. I have refreshed my abilities with basic cubes and decided that I would try and use a technique that did not require any special algorithms at all. Yes, it "should" be possible to do this using nothing more than techniques used for a 3x3 and 4x4 cube and a bit of block building to reduce the puzzle to a rather beautiful but misshapen 3x3x3. The technique is reminiscent of the 4x4x4 AI cube that took the twisty world by storm:
Original AI cube
GRcubed AI Megamorphinx mod
These very difficult puzzles are solved by organising the 2x2x2 blocks onto the top two layers and manipulating these layers to recreate the correct piece positions. It actually is mostly done by intuition apart from the last few pieces. If a similar thing is done for a standard 4x4x4 cube then the fancy algorithm can be skipped because there are so many pieces in the last layer with the same colour and if really struggling the centres can be easily placed alone using standard 4x4x4 methods.

Obviously the 3x5x7 was going to be slightly difficult - I was going to have to make it into a 3x3x3. First thing to do is to recreate the edges:

Here we have longer edges - you can see where the 2 central edge pieces need to be moved to align with the green and red true edge. All edges of the correct length need to be moved onto the top half - this is easy and then the corners placed to allow the 2nd and 3rd layers to turn:

A corner is placed alongside the edges and if not oriented correctly then using just beginners 3x3 method (Ri, Di, R, D repeated ad nauseum until correct). This needs to be done until all the to corners are oriented to allow movements and then the central edge pieces are moved into place. Easy peasy...sort of! It definitely works but takes a lot of thought and planning:

All edges done - placing them like this is just for the photo
Once all the edges have been recreated then the same thing needs to be done for the compound corners. First create the outer 3x1 column and then the inner one. Then line them up and stash them in the bottom half for safety whilst continuing to use the top half for work:
OYB outer column formed
Outer column combined with inner
All Yellow corners done - start on white
Getting the final corners recreated is quite a logic challenge - it requires multiple movements of corners to different places and then rotation using the standard 3x3 algorithm and then rinse and repeat...many many many times. After several days of swearing and huffing and puffing (Mrs S said it sounded like I was doing a very painful workout and it certainly hurt my bwain), I had a 3x3x3 to solve:
Layer 1 solved
Layer 2 solved - top to go
After 3 or 4 days of blood, sweat, tears and threats of violence (again!) I finally had solved the 3x5x7 using nothing more than 3x3 and 4x4 techniques and a lot of thought. It is definitely not the most efficient way to do it but requires minimal specialist algorithm knowledge and is very rewarding!

Solved in front of a Cactus
Probably a lot smaller than the ones that Casey has near his home.
I always recommend to newbie puzzlers that they should seriously consider incorporating twisty puzzles into their repertoire. They are fabulous fun, a huge challenge and very repeatable. They are also collectible and can be worth a lot of money if solved later (so not a bad investment in terms of time or money). There are loads of really challenging puzzles out there for us all to play with and learn from. It is not necessary to memorise lots of algorithms for the vast majority. If you wish to try an Ultimate Shapeshifter then a few of the 2x4x6 cuboids are still available and they can be solved in this way (although reducing to a 2x2 cube instead will be much less arduous) and maybe I will give that a go next.

Thank you so much Casey for making such a wonderful challenge for me and reminding me of the fabulous puzzling that can be had from twisty puzzles. Amazing quality!

I got my booster jab a few days ago and, apart from a sore arm for a day, I had absolutely no adverse effects at all. This will help the world get out of this pandemic so if you have the chance to get your vaccine then please do so - it may save your life, it has an even higher chance of saving someone else's life - do it, the science says so. Reading a few crackpots on Google, Facebook and YouTube is NOT "doing research" - if you want to do research properly then get a research degree and then start reading all the scientific literature before joining a PROPER research institution and doing it well and publish your data in a journal not on the web!