Sunday 11 June 2023

A Gift That Was Fun and Gifts That Are Humbling

Boxed Six Board Burr by Frans de Vreugt
The Dutch tend to be pretty amazing puzzlers! I know several and work with quite a few to produce the CFF journal and they never cease to amaze me with their skill, knowledge and sheer bloody-minded persistence at solving things. I hope, one day, to be as good a puzzler as the Dutchmen (and woman) that I have met. I doubt very much that I will manage it but I'll keep on trying!

At the last MPP, Frank was thinning out some of his puzzle collection (only the ones that aren't part of his particular special interest, Kumike and Journet puzzles) and he handed me a couple of IPP exchange puzzles. Both of them had been given by Frans de Vreugt. The Boxed six board burr was one of Frans' own designs which had been made in association with Buttonius and given away in 2004 at the Tokyo IPP (24). I did not realise properly what it was because it had been packaged with 4 of the burr plates in the frame. After I took that assembly apart and realised that the pieces are really quite simple, I was very attracted to it. I am awful at assembly form scratch and board burrs are particularly difficult for me. I have had the RIPley board burr next to me on my desk for the last 3 years and have not even come close to assembling it!

RIPley by Andrew Crowell and made by Brian Menold
I just cannot solve it despite years of attempts!
So with some trepidation, I began fiddling with the boxed burr earlier this week - I figured that with such simple pieces, I might actually stand a chance. It is very portable being only 35mm across and easily pocketable for fiddling at work. Unfortunately, I seem to specialise in very  major surgery these days and I have to keep my concentration 100% on what is going on - I kept taking the puzzle out to play and quickly realised that I couldn't do it at work. In the evenings, I had better luck and managed to find a nice logical assembly of the board burr outside of the box and attempted to repeat the assembly with the box. Oh dear, the slots in the faces of the box are very restrictive and my "beautiful" assembly wouldn't work. At this point I seemed to have some blinkers on and I couldn't find an alternative assembly for a couple of hours over 3 evenings whilst watching TV with Mrs S. Eventually I found an assembly that looked like it might just work - after carefully arranging the pieces in the right order I set to work and assembled the puzzle:

Assembled - very simple and very clever
I kept it assembled for a few days until I had time to take my photo and then discovered that I couldn't take it apart. It's quite humid and hot in the UK at the moment and some puzzles are getting a little tight. This was a little tight but the internal edges were not bevelled and moves had to be perfectly aligned to get them to move. I had found one move but the second move would not happen. It took me a rather frantic hour to find that a different piece needed to move first and then it could be disassembled. Just a little gift from a friend - it was great fun and a lovely challenge.

Quantum Entanglement designed by Pit Khiam Goh
Another present from Frank at the MPP was the boxed 6 piece burr very reminiscent of the Internal combustion burr made from metal that I reviewed way back in 2011 except this has 6 sticks that lay across each other in 2 groups of three. When I took the photo, I thought that the aim was to find a way to insert the two loose burr sticks into the puzzle as it had been given out. I did have a quick fiddle and it looked to me like the pieces that were in the box were actually captive. Doh! I am not terribly bright, though. After my success with the boxed burr, I properly looked at this and realised that it would be impossible to insert the other two pieces in this configuration. I then spent 10 minutes and removed all the pieces (eejit that I am I forgot to take another pic!). I then looked into how these pieces could be positioned that might form an assembly. I did find a few and realised that I was in trouble. If I could easily find a few ways to orient the pieces that might work then there were probably going to be quite a lot and I would never be able to work out which was the right one let alone find a 48 move assembly.

I was not particularly upset by this as some puzzles just need Burrtools and I find that whole process really quite fun (I know that George Miller considers it perfectly acceptable to play with BT as a solution method). I programmed in the pieces and it spat out a solution in about 3 or 4 minutes. I had been correct to give in so fast - there are 964 assemblies and only one solution! I assembled the puzzle using BT and was amazed at the beautiful interplay of the pieces - the box literally is only there to keep them all in the correct planes. I have kept it assembled and will work on a disassembly at a later date but I fully expect this to be a rumblingly impossible experience for me!

The WDIGMI Xmas puzzle from Tanner Reyes (made by Tye Stahey)
I had admired the Xmas question mark puzzle on Facebook a while ago but had not bought a copy because I figured that it would be too difficult for me. Tanner saw my admiring comment and had a copy left over and he generously decided to send me a copy as a gift. 

Tanner burst onto the puzzling scene with his incredible YouTube channel "What Did I Get Myself Into". In it he shows off some of the most complex and beautiful puzzles that have ever been produced and does it with humility and humour showing off his huge enjoyment in this crazy pastime we have gotten trapped doing. His collection is pretty awe-inspiring and having started puzzle design and teamed up with Tye from Nothing yet designs. The puzzle had obviously been made for Tanner to give away as Christmas presents and mine arrived complete with a lovely wooden Christmas label. I put it down for the week whilst I played with the supposedly simpler puzzles above and have been working on it yesterday evening and today.

There are 7 pieces to fit inside the question mark and three holes in the top to place them through. Except the bottom hole is too small to insert any pieces through and must be there to allow manipulation and orientation as the pieces slide down. This puzzle is lovely to play with and very tactile. So far I have gone through the gamut of randomly inserting pieces and moving them into random positions, randomly inserting pieces and moving them into specific positions and finally trying to assemble a reasonable shape outside the puzzle frame in the hope that I will find at least something that might possibly fit. I doubt very much that I will mange this but it is gorgeous to look at and beautifully made. I do not know whether it can be solved using Burrtools - I suspect that the holes in the top mean that rotations will be needed but if I ignore those then I might at least find an assembly or two. First of all, I will need to work out how to use the non-rectilinear grid in BT. Again, humbled by the generosity and brains of my fellow puzzlers. I wish I was as good at solving these things as people think I am.

I was delighted to receive the Burrtools file for the Sher-lock - a notched Trifecta direct from Girish himself. I had tried to find an assembly for the puzzle with the key pointing frontward but despited finding several possibilities, there was no way that I would be able to put it together. My plan is to assemble it using BT by my side and then leave it for a while before attempting the disassembly myself without having any memory. As expected with all of Eric's creations it is gorgeous in this orientation:

Time to work on taking this apart.

Also - for those of you who have purchased the "Ode to the Bevel" puzzle by Dr Latussek from Pelikan, a correspondent of mine who is exceptionally talented has found a second solution to the puzzle. It is very clever even if not quite as elegant. If you have solved it one way then you should look for the other  solution. I love it when this happens as it gives you much more bang for your buck. I do hope that another run of these will be made - it is a terrific puzzle.


  1. Let me know if you want the WDIGMI BurrTools file :-).

    1. Thank you for that. If I can’t make it myself then I’ll definitely ask.