Sunday 28 May 2023

Worth the Extraordinary Long Wait

For the Last of Eric's Signature

This was the last of the puzzles that the sadly missed Eric Fuller personally had a hand in making and the last puzzle that he personally signed. When this went up for sale after the devastating announcement, there was a huge queue of people attempting to get both a fabulous puzzle as well as the last of Eric's own handiwork. I was poised and ready logged in and nabbed my copy immediately before they sold out in just a minute or two.

I had to have it because the lock design looked fabulous (if Eric personally chose a puzzle design it meant that there was always something truly special about it), it was made from some stunning woods and, of course, because the designer Girish Sharma has proven himself to be an amazing designer despite being relatively new to the sphere.

Having placed my order, it took a week or so for the guys at Cubic dissection to catch up and post the puzzles out (March 15th). I watched the package wend its way through America to a postal port. It left the US within about 5 days and I saw it arrive in the UK and, as usual, it was trackable via the Royal Mail site...except after its arrival it stopped moving. All of us in the UK are used to this and we just wait a couple of weeks (sometimes 3) and it re-enters the postal service with a ransom note and sometimes there is evidence that they have attempted to solve the puzzle. This time, it did not re-enter the postal system. After a month I tried to get help through the Royal Mail helpline which took an hour on the phone and was no use whatsoever apart from acknowledging that HMRC had it somewhere. There is no way on earth to track it in the dark hole of HMRC. Eventually I was advised by Royal Mail to get the sender to try and track it via their claims system but this revealed that it was going to be sent back to the US with no explanation why. Aaaargh! Then 2 months later, with no warning, I received my puzzles with a ransom demand (a very large one!) and the beautiful toy was in my grubby hands. There was no explanation about what had happened and surprisingly, no evidence they had attempted to open the package. I can only assume that they lost it in a warehouse for 2 months and then found it in a corner somewhere.

But Oh boy, it was worth the wait! This thing is absolutely gorgeous! Made with quartersawn Cherry cage, Purpleheart pieces, and I had chosen the Marblewood key. It is quite robust at 3.1" x 1.75" x 4.8". The full name of this puzzle is "Sher-lock - a notched trifecta" which is a bit of a mouthful but there is a reason for this name. The blurb says:
"The name alludes to the three different configurations of the key-shaped burr piece within the solved puzzle."

The puzzle was sent out in a configuration (key pointing up under the shackle) that requires 25 moves to remove the first piece but there are 2 further assemblies with the key in a conventional front facing position (either horizontal or vertical) having a level of 19 & 24 moves. I set to on this shortly after I had finished with the Pelikan puzzles and was delighted to see the usual Cubic precision and finish with a lovely exploration of the moves. There are no long blind alleys and the exploration is lovely and exciting. I obviously had purchased the puzzle too quickly to have read the full description on the site as I suddenly was faced with a shock!! It says:

"The design takes advantage of subdivided voxels and angled half-unit pieces"

It was rather a surprise to me to be faced with triangular pieces within the burr sticks and my immediate thought was OMG, how am I going to model that in Burrtools? It took me a couple of hours and a big smile to find the full path through the puzzle to get my pieces ready for a photo:

Beautiful woods and incredible precision.
An alarming number of angled pieces!
I had been very careful to make sure that I used my usual to and fro approach so that I created some muscle memory to ensure that reassembly would be possible. I quickly attempted reassembly and realised I had a piece the wrong way around but this was quickly remedied and I was able to assemble it. Phew! Now I was confident enough to take it apart and examine the pieces more and think about the alternative assemblies - I don't think I will stand a chance of that but I will give it a few tries before I resort to Burrtools. My big worry is that I genuinely don't think I have the skills to render a puzzle with such complex pieces in Burrtools. This one may only ever be seen in the original shape.

One most precious thing for me is this - I have my last ever Eric signature squiggle:

Eric Fuller - we all miss you!

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