Sunday 28 August 2022

Pelikan Summer Release Part 1 - How do they do it?

Coming soon from a Pelikan near you!
Last weekend, luckily whilst Mrs S was away from home at the outlaws, I took delivery of another big box from Jakub and Jaroslav. The delivery man knows us very well and he is so frightened of Mrs S that he had put the box on the front step and was hiding behind our garden hedge! Once he realised that he was not going to be lambasted for bring me more toys, he came out and we had a nice chat. Unfortunately we both forgot that Mrs S was able to listen in using our Ring camera. She was not terribly pleased! But I, on the other hand, was delighted. I had new toys to play with. I have not yet completed all the puzzles yet as it has been a big week for me at the hospital doing a single giant operation each day and having no time or energy when I got home to really work on anything. I have managed to play with four of them and plan to work on the others this week.


It's quite hard to take a good photo of this
Triumph is a classic design form Stewart Coffin (design number 15). He made quite a few of these which are based on the classic Diagonal star puzzle with alterations in the extension pieces at each end. The star is made from Acacia and Purpleheart and looks stunning. Jakub has decided to send this out in the classic tower formation and this is relatively easy to work out what to push/pull to separate it into two pieces and then completely dismantle:

Six identical pieces
The precision with this is superb! There are no gaps anywhere and the sliding motion as you separate the halves is delicious. I used Burrtools many years ago to exhaustively examine all the possible assemblies and there are quite a lot of assemblies (approx 1200) but most are not attractive even though they fit together. I found just 3 or 4 particularly attractive ways to put the puzzle togther and you should have a nice time experimenting with this one. 

Be careful! The corners are so perfect that they are sharp and whilst you are unlikely to cut yourself, you may find handling it uncomfortable. The pieces fit so perfectly that it can be quite difficult to get everything aligned perfectly to allow the final assembly to slide together. It is very satisfying when it does. 

He came in useful at last!
I did not think that anyone could make this puzzle as perfectly as Scott Peterson who made me a copy many years ago and which sits dead centre in my display cabinets in pride of place. I actually think that this one from Pelikan is pretty much as perfect as his! You will need to keep these well temperature and humidity controlled to keep them moving well but it is worth the effort.

Triumph in tower form from Pelikan and Scott Peterson
I do hope that Pelikan choose to make the Triumph companion and the Fusion confusion as well because they really should be considered as a set.

Four Corners

It's also quite hard to take a good photo of this
Four corners is another of Stewart Coffin's Diagonal star based designs (this one made from Acacia and Wenge) and seems to be a less common one to be made judging from the complete lack of information or photos on the Puzzle-place wiki. Although John Rausch has some wonderful pictures on his site. As before this one comes apart into halves and then into 2 groups of 3 identical pieces that are just slightly different to the Triumph pieces:

Just a small difference from Triumph but a large difference in what is possible
Experimenting with this one I tried to establish whether there are any other assemblies and as far as I can fathom the rotational symmetry of the pieces means that only the 4 cornered assembly is possible. Again, it is a delightfully perfect fit as they are all slid together and apart.

This morning it occurred to me to try and mix the pieces up from the 2 puzzles and see whether they would fit together and then whether it would be nice. I will let you decide:

I think they look great!
It will be fun to experiment a little more when I have some time.


Zeus by Osanori Yamamoto
This gorgeous creation has been made using Mahogany, Maple and Purpleheart giving a really lovely looking cross design. In the last batch of Pelikan puzzles there was a release from Osanori-san which also involved 4 twisted burr sticks fitted into a frame. This particular varian has a very shallow frame and very simple obstructions protruding into the cavity. The sticks are as simple as they can possibly be which means there is a lot of possible movement right from the outset. The first couple of attempts, I got a little lost and had to backtrack each time but eventually I found a rather promising sequence that almost released the first piece. Getting it actually to come out proved a little elusive until I had a quick look on both sides and realised what could move. After that I had my four sticks and frame and realised just how simple the shapes had been:

As simple as it gets!
Having taken my photos and rearranged the pieces from their removal orientations, I found the reassembly a fair challenge. If this was given to a puzzler having been already taken apart then it might prove really quite a challenge - it would certainly be completely beyond me but many of the better interlocking puzzlers would find this a great challenge. Well worth adding to your Osanori collection.

Broken Box

Broken Box by Lucie Pauwels
It was sent out assembled but I was rather stupid and dismantled it immediately!

I was rather curious when I took this from the packaging. The beautiful Wenge cube inside the Cherry wood box looked odd - there were magnets and I wasn't certain what they were for. So I dropped the cube out the centre and it fell apart into 9 horrifyingly awkward components and a box that was "broken". I wasn't certain what the point was apart from maybe put the pieces back in and maybe rearrange the box halves into an alternative shape around the cube. I initially decided "just" to put it back together again as I had received it. I wrote "just" because this was a horrifically tough task for an assembly puzzle dunce and it took me a couple of hours! I then thought I might try to make the flattened tray version and so far have completely failed! How can creating such a simple shape be so damned difficult? I put it aside to play with the other puzzles for a bit.

Jakub later sent me the instructions and showed that there were quite a few more challenges:

Two tray designs but one with a "twist"

Chair type designs but with a pretty limited access in one

I have no idea how I am going to solve this one!
These puzzles can be solved in 2 ways - you either make the shape first and then add the box frames to it or assemble the box and try to put the pieces inside afterwards. Burrtools tells me that there are hundreds of assemblies for some of the shapes but I have absolutely no skill in finding them! Lord knows how long this will take me! This will be tremendous value for money to any puzzler who purchases it as well as a really fantastic series of challenges. I did manage just one of the assemblies so far:

I think this was more luck that anything!

The other puzzles in the release are Maahes designed by my friend Terry Smart and previously made by Stephan Baumegger - it had been in my top ten of 2016. I have no recollection of the solution and will need to try again with the Pelikan version. Dino 2 is another of Alfons Eyckmans' wonderful burr zoo creations which will have a cute little dinosaur inside the usual 14 piece burr. Tau by the incredible Volker Latussek looks amazing and very reminiscent of one of my all time favourites from Laszlo Kmolnar, the No holes barred puzzle I reviewed in early 2016. Volker has told me that he is particularly proud of this design  which means that it will be incredible! Unfortunately there is a small mistake in the copy I have been sent and Jakub is having to make them again before they can be released. I hope to review these puzzles next weekend once I have had time to play.

Sunday 21 August 2022

There's Plywood...

Not very nice is it?
And There's Juno's Plywood...

Now that is an absolutely gorgeous collection of different plywoods
I have solved all of them apart from one
I am working in the hospital this weekend and I have been home alone for a week as Mrs S is off up in Edinburgh visiting the outlaws and despite "her" absence I have struggled to play with much due to sheer volume of work and a large number of chores that have been left for me to do. However, I persevered and battled to have something for you. Phew! 

Now the dictionary definition of plywood is 
"a material manufactured from thin layers or 'plies' of wood veneer that are glued together with adjacent layers having their wood grain rotated up to 90 degrees to one another"

You can buy it at any builder's yard in large sheets and its not very nice stuff but strong and useful for making things. Juno always mentions that he makes his own to prevent the sheets of wood that he uses to make board burrs from losing their strength. But Juno doesn't make boring plain plywood, he makes his from wonderful beautiful hardwoods and supplements them with contacting dowels for extra strength. As a self confessed wood-junkie, I cannot get enough of it (as is plain to see). Today I will quickly discuss the latest of Juno's burr creations to reach my rather embarrassingly large collection - the Crooked 6 board burr #2 and the Partially crooked 6 board burr.

Crooked 6 board burr #2
Partially crooked 6 board burr
When they arrived, I couldn't tell which was which (I had actually bought them without reading the blurb on the shop page and had not even paid attention to what they looked like). I set them aside to play with the Card case (now sold out thanks to you, my patient readers). After last week's article I set to work on the Partially crooked burr - purely by chance rather than preference.

This one has plywood made from Fijian Mahogany and New Guinea Walnut - it is a stunning honey yellow colour with a contrasting middle layer that varies from silver to walnut brown - dimensions are 78mm along each axis. The puzzle is nicely tactile with nice chamfered edges and immediately has a few moves available. As soon as you move something you realise that there is something special about this - when a board slides, other boards move as well. This is very confusing and I found it really hard to visualise what was happening inside and keep track of what was going on. Despite that, it is a whole lot of fun.

The "partial" part of the name comes from the fact that only 3 of the six boards are crooked leaving the other 3 as standard boards - this apparently allows the level to be significantly higher than an all crooked board burr (I wonder whether that is why more of them have sold?) It didn't help me keep track of what was going where. After a few moves it does start to get a bit saggy in places and you need to be careful to prevent any inadvertent rotations. I quickly lost track of my path and realised that forward was going to be the only direction. In one single evening I quickly dropped a piece on the cat's head and he didn't even stir. The rest of the puzzle comes apart quite easily and I had the pieces for the photo.

3 crooked and 3 standard boards
Juno says that it should be possible to reassemble this from scratch with a little perseverance. Maybe a better puzzler can do it but there was no way that was going to be possible for me - I tried and failed (as usual). But, I was not terribly disappointed as I never expect to manage the reassembly and I have a lot of fun with Burrtools on the way.

Next up was the Crooked board burr #2 - made from Jarrah and Bubinga (sap wood) it is absolutely stunning and ever so slightly smaller at 74mm across. My initial exploration produced an OMG feeling. It is even more confusing than the other one and even more satisfying to play with because Juno has added magnets. I hadn't noticed when I picked it up but each move has a little resistance to it and when the boards get slid back into an adjacent position there is a nice feeling as it snaps into place. Again, I hadn't read the blurb and this came as a surprise to me. The OMG feeling continues as the presence of 6 crooked boards means it is incredibly confusing and it feels like things are not connected to each other properly. 

The disassembly took me only an hour but despite trying really hard to keep track of the moves and ensure that I would be able to reassemble from memory, I completely failed! I made a move (I think it was number 7 and a piece dropped out onto the cat again (he's remarkably tolerant and extremely keen on a lap) and when I tried to reinsert the piece and backtrack to the beginning, I couldn't manage it. I truly am rubbish! 
All 6 are crooked! 
Again, I had a fun time with Burrtools and have it back together again. I will try a few more times. Stepping through the BT moves, shows a very nice dance of the pieces around each other and it does actually look quite logical. I would be very interested to hear how others get on with it. I very much doubt that this can be assembled from scratch without having spent some time learning the position and moves. Again, I would very much like to hear if anyone can manage that!

These two burrs are still available as I write (10 of the partially crooked and 31 of the fully crooked). You won't be disappointed and if you like plywood then these will look gorgeous on display.

Sunday 14 August 2022

Juno Makes a Fantastic Case for Collecting Boxes!

Card Case from Juno
Let me start by saying that there are no spoiler photos in this blog - there are some photos that some might think show too much but I have hidden all the important stuff and what can be seen is visible within 5 seconds of looking at the puzzle.

I told you about this gorgeous puzzle last week - the Card case went on sale last Sunday and sold 120 copies in just a few days (as I write there are still 21 left for sale) and you should definitely consider buying one. In summary, it is beautiful, tactile, fun, with a nice pair of Aha! moments/you sneaky bastard moments. Is it difficult? Not terribly - I really enjoyed the challenges - there are 3 in total and I still have the last one to do.

Juno's Cases so far
Juno has called this the card case because it is the right size to hold some credit cards. I had initally thought that it might be able to hold a pack of cards but that is not so. As a wallet, this seriously fails...If you put your credit cards in it, it's going to be a real problem when it comes to paying for stuff. Even when you know the solution, it takes a good few minutes to get it open and, I don't know about you, but this will not fit into either trouser pocket (pants to you yanks) or jacket pocket to carry it around. I guess it might be good at slowing Mrs S down in her shopping but she has her cards on her phone for that unfortunately. I think that I have all the other cases that he has made and I am certain that many of you will delight in reminding me that they are actually boxes which Juno has named in such a way as to allay my aversion to collecting boxes. It was a sobering thought when George informed me and the world that if bread fits inside then they are all boxes and Juno began adding loaves to my puzzles as a joke. In fact, if we accept that they are boxes if they are cases or called boxes then Juno has tricked me into buying quite a lot of boxes over the years. I had to think how much I have spent on this little lot (I REALLY hate to think that Mrs S might find out!)

Cases and boxes from Juno
Right, sorry about the side-track. Back to the Card case...
This beauty is instantly recognisable as Juno's work. He has made them from Bubinga (Sap wood), Jarrah, American Rock Maple, Golden Sassafras and Plywood (Oak + Poplar core). It's a nice comfortable puzzle to play with due to its' size at 112 x 86 x 55 mm and the very nice tactile bevelling on the edges. Juno has classified it as a hidden maze-type puzzle box (another reason that it's Ok for me to own) and as you play with it, you will be able to partially see the hidden paths and reach the goal if you persevere in your efforts. He also states that there is more than one challenge to the puzzle. Apart from opening the puzzle the next step is to remove the red-coloured slider at the top without using an external tool. After that has been done Juno has given us a second, much more difficult, maze to try and navigate blind.

As I have already said, the maze quickly becomes visible once you start to play but not quite all of it. Some parts you need to deduce during your navigation. If you have worked on a Revomaze then this will be right up your street (the mazes are nowhere near as complex as them). Once you have worked your way through the maze a bit then you suddenly realise that you haven't really made any progress. Something is odd about this puzzle and then you will have to Think© (just a little bit) to interpret some of the clues that Juno has put in front of you. First Aha! moment under your belt and then you have some more work to do and it is quite fun. I tried to do it without mapping and managed quite a lot of it but eventually did need to take some notes on the paths. After about an hour (because I'm rubbish at boxes) I had the maze removed but this has not completely opened the box - the red slider was still trapped:

First stage done but it's not open yet
what little you can see of the maze is NOT a spoiler
The next step to finally opening it shouldn't take you too long if you are used to boxes. For me, I am not terribly bright and I thunk© and thunk© and thunk© to no avail. Time for an iced coffee - it is bloody hot in the UK just now. The room where I puzzle is currently 30.6ºC and the thermometer in the sun on the back of my house is reading 44ºC - Ouch! My study where I write the blog posts is at the cooler front of the house but I have a bit of a space problem just now:

I really must tidy up before "she" starts throwing things away!
After my coffee, I had a little brainstorm and my "what if I" moment turned to a final solution - delightful and clever. 

Fully solved and ready for reassembly with the other maze
Once you have seen the other maze, you will realise why it is so much more difficult.
Obviously I had to buy this to ensure my collection remained complete but you also should buy it - it is a lovely idea, absolutely stunning to look at and play with, might work as a credit card wallet and is pretty reasonably priced ($192AUD is about $136USD, £112GBP or €133) - this is not one that will break the bank. Juno has produced a lot of them with the aim to prevent the puzzle flippers making a fast buck and ruining everything for everyone.

Now I need to go and lie down because of the heat - hopefully the cat won't join me! 😱😱😱

Sunday 7 August 2022

Singing an Out of Tune Duet?

Mrs S is going to shout at me... a LOT!
Over the last few weeks Aaron Wang has been showing off his latest creations on Facebook and I have been getting more and more dehydrated due to the continuous drooling! He sent me out a pre-print version of the latest catalogue for me to check the spelling and a couple of changes were required in the names. Following this, the catalogue was published for people to peruse and place their orders. I couldn't resist it and placed my order. Needless to say, I did not tell she who must be feared what I had bought for fear that an interception of the package might occur.

Pretty much all of the puzzles that Aaron produces (he doesn't design quite all of them) are level 10 or 10+ and I keep buying them despite the fact that I really cannot solve them! But they look so shiny and pretty and I cannot resist. I spend many many hours playing and failing to solve them which sort of makes me happy and sad at the same time.

Designed by DDK - Duet is an unusual one - only level 9!

There was one puzzle in the bunch that actually looked like I might actually get somewhere! Duet is very reminiscent of a few others I have solved before with the classic dumbbell shape held inside a loop. Here we have 2 challenges - to remove the 2 Pacman shapes from the triangles and the rest of the puzzle. It's a level 9 Yay!!!

Having taken a bunch of photos and tried to reassure Mrs S that most of these new toys were string and so wouldn't be too noisy/jingly, I set to work. I picked one of the Pacmen at random and tried a few of the obvious moves and found that the triangle really restricted what I could reach. This added to the challenge that the triangle needs to be carefully positioned first. 

I made some moves and seemed to be making progress until I was stopped in my tracks. The other triangle began to get in the way and I could not seem to get past it. Hmmm! Thinking© happened and my feeble bwain started to hurt. Time to backtrack (I always do this frequently because forgetting what I have done can lead to a permanently solved puzzle (my Cast cyclone remains in 4 pretty pieces next to me). Having gone to the beginning again, I started up my solution and excitedly progressed and this time was not blocked. I continued along the logical path and apart from the needing to plan the position of the blocking triangle, I was enjoying myself. Suddenly the first Pacman came off and I yelled my satisfaction (much to the annoyance of Mrs S). Having taken it off I looked properly and realised that I had inadvertently removed the wrong one. I must have grabbed the second one and started working on it without realising what I was doing. In the end this made perfect sense and I realised that the removal of the first one should make the second one possible. Time to try...

Duet solved
Lovely! I really enjoyed that. It probably took me about an hour or more in total. 

The reassembly was left for a couple of hours and was a little tougher than expected when I realised I had forgotten the sequence. There are a lot of very similar moves involving several of the loops in the puzzle and some of them need to be done a certain way with the triangular pieces arranged perfectly. I managed the reassembly with only a little bit of swearing from me and a lot from Mrs S!

Another design by DDK - Telescope is supposed to be only a mere level 7
I next attempted the supposedly even easier Telescope puzzle. It has string...this means that it is tough for me. The level is wrong!

I have spent an hour or so on it so far and managed absolutely nothing apart from to frighten myself half to death! There is no quick release mechanism on this one - if I get a knot then I am stuffed. Wish me luck!

Card case
Whilst I have your attention, you might want to go and visit Yukari and Juno's Pluredro store and have a look at the latest release. Juno has made another of his little case/box puzzles - the Card case. He has made a reasonable number and the last time I checked there were over 30 still available. Don't miss out - all his previous small cases have been highly sought after.