Sunday 13 February 2022

How Hard Is It to Get a Cup of Coffee?

It would appear to be bloody awkward!

Caffe Latte puzzle by Bruno
I have been chatting on and off for several months with a lovely Parisian puzzle designer, maker and seller, Bruno Hemon. This has probably been a rather frustrating experience for him as my communication ability over the last couple of years has been rather hit and miss due to my rather high and extremely unpredictable workload. A few years ago he wanted me to give my opinion on a couple of his designs and I ended up pointing him at my expert friend Michel to get a really decent assessment of his puzzles. Michel writes a regular newsletter and gives his quick assessments of puzzles that he has bought each month. I was very pleased to see that a couple of Bruno's designs featured in them and was really delighted to see that Michel had put one of Bruno's designs in his top 3 acquisitions of 2021 - for a puzzler and collector of Michel's standing, this is a huge tribute to both quality and puzzle standard.

The very prolonged conversation ended with Bruno telling me that he was sending a couple of puzzles as a gift to evaluate. I was a little mystified when I received a notification of a German parcel being sent to me and could not understand why this could be or who it could be from. Mrs S clarified it for me earlier this week when she kindly opened the package for me to find out who had sent me something. Nicely packed with a little card was the Caffe Latte puzzle (complete with sugar cube) as well as the Swiss cheese and grape puzzle which I have yet to explore. He has quite a few other puzzles on his site and I will probably head back there to make a couple of purchases when my finances settle a little. I couldn't resist the Caffe latte as my first challenge. I loved the shape and idea as it reminds me a lot of the type of packing puzzles that I adore designed by Alexander Magyarics - it's a simple idea made difficult by having a very restricted entry hole. The addition of the sugar cube which may end up mobile within the puzzle is a nice extra touch. Having a cylindrical shape was also going to make it more difficult due to the fact that pieces could swivel around the central axis.

Whilst waiting for a critical care bed before a big operation would be allowed to start, I was going to have a little while with nothing to do but be bored twiddling my thumbs. I am NEVER bored! I always have lots of toys with me, either to confound my colleagues or, more usually, to solve for the weekend blog post. Out came Caffe latte. 

The usual approach is to assemble the shape outside and then work out how to place it through the restricted opening...a third stage here will be to do the whole thing with the sugar cube in place. As part of my being rubbish at packing puzzles, I start of trying lots and lots of random ways of assembling pieces. This usually gets me absolutely nowhere and I have to actually Think©!  Yes, it happened again. After a good 30 minutes amusing my colleagues with my choice of swear words, I stopped and thunk about it. The shape consists of centres with both inner and outer rings all split into quarters. Two of the pieces straddle 3 layers which is an added problem. Aha! number one, lets me work out a way to assemble the pieces into a full coffee shape (there is a nice gap inside for the sugar cube which I will work on later). Whilst the outside of the cup is conical, the interior is just a cylinder so there will be two possible ways up. Needless to say, I start working on the wrong orientation and have to stop to start my big case...pesky patients always getting in the way of a good puzzling streak!

At home later that day, I work out how to disassemble the shape through a limited entry and decide it's time to put it all together. Problem number 2...2 of the pieces will not fit through the hole in the top at all! I am not sure how this wasn't immediately obvious to me from the beginning but I now have to work out how to get these quite large pieces inside without snapping them. Each needs a rather accurate rotation to place it and once one is inside then the other gets tougher too (especially if you place some of the smaller pieces in first). I finally work out how to get these pieces inside and realise that I cannot remember the assembly. Sigh! I'm a bear of very little brain! Time to remove everything - a real struggle to do and then take notes on each required move. One of the most interesting features of this challenge is that the whole of the assembly needs to rotate inside the cup to align pieces to accept and move subsequent pieces. This puzzle probably cannot be modelled in burrtools for this reason.

Next, using my notes and working everything in reverse, it's assembly time. This needs bit of dexterity and a bit more swearing. After 2 days, it is assembled but without the sugar cube. Time to start again. Another batch of swearing and I restart the puzzle with the extra piece and realise that it gets in the way a bit. A very specific couple of moves are required and these are even more fiddly but the end result is a perfectly sweetened Caffe Latte ready for a photo and a drink:

What a wonderful challenge!
Disassembly is also a challenge once you have left it a while because the view inside is extremely restricted.

Bruno has outdone himself - this is a fun challenge and is definitely worth you all having a look at. Whilst you are on his site, there are quite a few other challenges - a similar type of puzzle, the Espresso coffee and Michel's winner, the Hexabox. I will be going back soon!

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