Sunday 9 January 2022

Brian Tops the Chart Again

The best of 2021 - Abraham's Well
Yes, I am ever so slightly ashamed of myself that my review of this amazing puzzle has happened in 2022 and not when it arrived in July 21. Somehow Allard managed to obtain and solve his copy within a few days of receiving his copy and yet mine remained next to my puzzling armchair for months and months in various stages of solving until New year's day. My excuse? A small virus thing sort of impeded me, an abundance of other distracting toys got in my way and a lack of brains got in my way. BUT primarily I took so long because I kept getting stuck and could't work out the next steps and did not want to cheat by asking for help or, heaven forbid, use external tools or force. The solution videos were sent out to owners after a few months of letting us stew and I even kept away from those too. In the end I managed almost all of it without help but did need a sneak peek to see whether I had done it right according to Brian's rules (I had broken one or two, sob!)

When this thing arrived in July, the first thing that springs to mind is that it's surprisingly heavy for an object of only12x8.5x8cm in size - it weighs in at 425g. Whilst there is obviously a bit of brass in it, the external view must hide a rather decent volume of metal. The next thing that springs to mind is the sheer quality of the product - it is simply stunningly made. The brass parts are polished beautifully, the wooden exterior has been laser etched and everything fits together beautifully. The well looks like a...well. There is even a piece of rope hanging inside. The cats showed an annoying interest in the rope and at one point in my puzzling it was distinctly wet giving a hint that someone/thing had tried to swallow it. In fact, I was fairly certain that it was frayed and slightly shorter one evening when I returned to play.

Initially nothing moves apart from the bar holding the rope (which rotates freely) and all that you can do is turn it over and over in your hands and admire it. In examining it carefully something changes (you can hear it happen) and suddenly a piece can move. It's not fact, it is the obvious thing to happen even if the reason why is not obvious. I quickly put the moved piece back and lock it back in place. Try again and find that the move is repeatable. Examine further and more movement occurs. Put it back to the beginning and it's not repeatable every time. Why not? What am I doing differently when it works? I cannot quite understand it so I proceed with the discovery. More movement and I have pieces - Yay! I need to understand how that happened so I try to reset to the beginning and I cannot! Stuff is in the way now. Oh boy - we're really on now. Time to continue and hope that I can get instructions later for the reset.

I find a tool and get more pieces - quite a LOT of pieces. I have no idea which of these pieces will be useful to me either next or later. I use one of the tools and and use it to move more "stuff". In the end when I watch the solution videos, I realise that I used the wrong tool at that time. I don't actually think it was cheating as there was no force. I just did not notice something that would have provided a clue about which tool would have been useful. Partly I blame my middle aged eyes for that oversight - it was a pretty subtle clue and without exceptionally good light and a magnifying glass, there was no way that I was going to see that. In any case, I had made my next discovery.

More movement but not in a useful way. Had I missed anything? Turn it over and over and have a look at every surface. I did see some oddities that I did not know what to do with (no tools would fit) and I was left moving it again and again. Time to put it down for a while and come back to it fresh. I got side-tracked by other things and came back several weeks later. Playing again, I am left doing the same movement over and over without any change (yes madness is never very far from me). Suddenly =, for no obvious reason the movement stops - I have no idea why. Panic! Wiggle stuff. Turn it over and over and wiggle more and phew, I can now move it again. Definitely time to think©.

Thinking doesn't get me very far because I am not good at it but I manage to lock the puzzle up again several times before a little observation comes in useful. Doh! Why did I not notice that? A combination of moves and I have a new tool...except it is just out of reach. Don't bash it he said but the temptation is high. Those little spikes on the surface of the puzzle are quite effective at stopping you thumping the puzzle - they hurt! Think© you fool - Aha! Clever bastard!

Now my small pile of pieces is getting quite big. I have to keep them in a little bag to stop losses down the sofa or cats swallowing them. Here I get stuck again for a quite a while - months in fact. In the end, I complete the next step in the wrong way. I would be very surprised if many people manage to do it in the way that Brian intended. The process I used relied on me realising that certain pieces were the exact size and shape to be used as a tool when in combination (yes, Brian intends you to actually build your tools as well) and having worked out the tool construction, I ended up using a little force to complete the next step. As the instructions state, no force is needed but there was absolutely no way that I would have deduced that. I would be very interested in hearing how others achieved that crucial step - drop me a line via my Contact page or leave a comment below. Once I had seen the solution, I saw that the intended approach was incredibly elegant but there was no way I would ever have thought of that.

Now I have even more pieces and am not sure what to do to go further. Observation is absolutely crucial here and I had run out of brain power. More months go by...I pick it up every few days/weeks and cannot find a tool to do what I need to do. The temptation to make my own from something not included with the puzzle is high but I avoid it. Until New year's day - I decide that I have to right my review and I look up the final part of the solution. OMG! That is very well hidden. The movement that I wanted to do is correct and I feel slightly vindicated. The puzzle is finished and I have found the artifact that was hidden inside. 

Reset is "just the reverse" of what you have done before. JUST? Easier said than done. I have managed to reset it a few times and at this moment, it sits next to me with me unable to complete the final movements - I just cannot seem to visualise what is required and we will keep trying it.

Should you buy this puzzle? Hell! Yes! It was my number one for 2021 for a very good reason - the quality is superb, the puzzling challenge is incredibly varied and fun. Allard certainly loved it and recently Steve has also written positively about it. I am certain that most of you are better puzzlers than me and will be able to solve it the correct way without assistance. It has taken me ages to get to the end and I loved it. Now I need to get back to the Ages puzzle which has taken me even more of an age...I have found only 2 moves so far and the elusive 3rd still evades me after 2 years.

Ages has taken me ages!

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