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.


  1. Dear Kevin

    I'm really happy to know that you had fun with these few puzzles!
    Your reviews are a pleasure to read every time,
    and I am very honored that my puzzles are part of this one.
    Thank you so much!


    1. I am humbled by the experience. Thank you - I am trying to solve the tougher puzzles now.