Sunday 26 December 2021

A Simply Incredible Gift!

It lasted a year!

         The Stickman(no 35) - the One Hand PuzzleBox aka Pandora's Box
At the end of 2020 I received a fabulous gift from the incredibly generous Asher Simon. I offered money but Asher wouldn't say yes and insisted that this was a gift for the effort I had put into my blog and he wanted to know my opinion of it as a puzzle. He had been working on it for quite some time with Robert Yarger aka Stickman. After I said yes thank you lots and lots of times and offered again to pay, I waited and watched the tracking and waited and waited. It arrived in the UK and got stuck somewhere. Now, those of you who have had dealings with customs department will all get that chill in your bones. 

Instructions/Info included
I don't know what they saw but I guess their X-ray machine may have thrown up some red flags. There are, after all, a LOT of magnets in this puzzle and Asher had said there was something inside especially for me (maybe this enticed them as well?) After being held hostage for quite a few weeks my package arrived with another sign to chill the bones...there was the "inspected by customs" tape on the box. In the meantime, Allard had already received his copy and solved and reviewed it. He is a MUCH better puzzler than me which is another reason that I have had to wait the best part of a year to be able to write about it. Mrs S kept the package in quarantine for a few days, as she has for all our post since the pandemic began. I can't really argue with her logic and am too frightened of her to even think about it.

Slide the lid and a grenade pin pops up!
The box lid will not slide any further
A few days after it arrived I got to open the box where the full horror of the situation was revealed. Customs had slid open the box, and pulled all the pieces out and then proceeded to try and force things back in and tried to force the mechanism. OMG! Instead of 9 pieces, I had 11 and a very unhappy PuzzleMad. I couldn't even work out where the broken pieces were supposed to fit together...Sob! I reported the catastrophe to Asher and he was mortified! It was not his fault at all but he felt guilty and was determined to make it all good. Luckily for me he had a spare copy which he packed up and a couple of months later sent out to me with dire warnings for the customs department and he included a set of instructions/solution specifically for the customs meatheads so that they would not need to force anything like they had before. This time it arrived completely untouched by any other human hands. Thank goodness for that! I take the obligatory photos and marvel at the design and craftsman prowess that went into making this. The lid slides inone direction only and meets a little resistance. Encouraged by the comment to Allard that a little force is required to open the lid, I gave it a push and could see that presumably a hollow in the lid had housed a bevelled piece that was pushing up into it. The little force pushed the lid over that bevel and what can only be described as a grenade pin pops up. Oh boy, the temptation is huge! Do I pull that pin? What will happen? Hopefully nothing will break. 

Whilst part of me wants to just admire the puzzle for the rest of eternity, that is not going to help me solve it or even understand why it's a puzzle. It's time to be a brave little boy and pull the pin:

After the "explosion" there are 9 pieces with lots of magnets pushing and pulling all over the place. 

Look at the precision of those pieces! Look at all those magnets!
Even arranging the pieces so that I could take the photo was a challenge...they kept moving and either clicking together or repelling out of the correct placement. No Stickman box is complete without the Stickman logo somewhere inside and here it is - branded onto the beautiful wood box.

The usual logo inside the box
OK, here goes! Not only is it a box but it's also a packing puzzle. Apparently, if I pack the pieces back in and get them in the correct orientation then the magnets will trigger a hidden mechanism that will unlock the covered compartment. Yay! This should be fun. But let us not forget that I am rubbish at boxes, rubbish at packing puzzles and generally rubbish at puzzles! Mrs S often asks why I keep buying puzzles that I cannot solve and I shake my head and tell her that I don't know - I have to own up that I have an addiction. My name is Kevin and I am addicted to puzzles! There, I feel much better for that.

One of the main "features" of this challenge comes from the name..."one hand". Yes that dastardly designer did not just make a complex 3D packing puzzle which would be tough enough for a man of my limited skills. He also insisted that this puzzle should be solved using just ONE HAND! OMG! I discovered almost immediately that the way I thought some of the pieces should fit together was quite difficult - they really wanted to spring apart from each other and as soon as I added an extra piece or two, I found that either I didn't have enough fingers or my joints didn't point in the right direction to hold everything together - maybe it should be called the Stickman double-jointed box? After a few days of attempting the impossible I read the rest of the instructions and realised that I had been doing it all wrong (this explains quite a bit of my home life). The puzzle should not be solved by dexterously holding together a bunch of repelling pieces before stuffing them in the box - they can/should be inserted into the box with one hand one piece at a time. Aaargh it gets harder and harder! The last paragraph of the instructions says:
"This puzzle is far more diabolical than it appears"
No kidding! I have spent MONTHS on this - it has been sitting on my desk since it arrived in March. I have had it right next to me ever since then so that every week after writing my blog, I can pick it up and try again and again. Hell! For most of the last 9 months I have been completely unable to put the pieces back into the box! Yes, it is that difficult. At some point during the first couple of months I spent a happy few hours making a Burrtools file from the pieces so that at least I might be able to leave the pieces in place. Except, to my horror, I discovered that there are 900 different assemblies of those 9 pieces in the box cavity! In the end I had to go back to my photos to and the video to at least find how to put the puzzle back to the start. Yep, this might take me quite some time.

One thing that bothered me about reading Allard's review was that he mentioned a distinct Aha! moment and I had not come even close to one of those in many months. I was not trying to exhaustively work my way through the BT solutions as that might be construed as cheating and to me was just too much like hard work...especially as I frequently had to retrieve pieces from under my chair as they shot off when I ran out of fingers in my "one hand" to hold them inside. What was I missing?

In the end I opened up Asher's beautifully illustrated solution book which he had left for the customs guys should they need it. It walked me through the reassembly back to the beginning. Well that was very nice but wasn't getting me into the second compartment. Over the last few months I have become quite accomplished at reassembling the puzzle back to the start (I must have done it 50 or 60 times).

Last week, I looked at the next page of the booklet which I had been studiously avoiding and OMG! You sneaky bugger! How had I missed that? Rule number one of puzzling...Look at everything, don't trust the designer at all, things are often not what they seem. The booklet showed me something new and I had a whole new avenue of puzzling open to me. Immediately after that Aha! moment there was another. I think that if you don't try something straight away then you might get lost amongst the possibilities but luckily I did and then I made a major breakthrough. Sheer genius! 

The lid is off and there is a very ancient coin inside
It appears that this is an ancient Greek coin because Pandora's box is Greek mythology. I do wonder whether it was this coin that might have excited the customs officers and made them take my puzzle apart.

The mechanism of the lock is absolutely ingenious and absolutely foolproof. It works every single time.  If you are offered the chance to play with one or even better, to buy one than jump at the chance - it is a Stickman and it has been designed by a master.

Asher, thank you so much for a whole year of excitement, complete with highs and lows and a monumental Aha! moment. This is probably one of the most difficult puzzleboxes that I have ever seen. It will certainly end up in my top puzzles of 2021!


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