Sunday 13 August 2023

I Have a Parasite

And it affected my brain! (no I am not Venom)

Parasitic Burr by Tyler Hudson from Cubic Dissection
I am so delighted to see that the guys at Cubic Dissection are continuing Eric's legacy by producing puzzles that are both interesting and fun to solve (not just incredibly tough or high-level) and also stunningly made. This burr is definitely both of those. The level is just a level 3 to remove the first piece and then it comes apart sequentially and this might make you think that there is not much fun or challenge to it. The pleasure of a puzzle is far more than the number of moves - I have never managed to solve my SuperNova or Tiros burrs and don't actually enjoy trying to solve puzzles like that. The incredibly high number of moves required makes it less than fun. This level 3 puzzle is sent out as an assembly challenge and is just the right difficulty level. It really hurt my tiny brain.

It was available in two different versions (unfortunately sold out now) and I chose the 3 (4) colour version made from Maple, Purpleheart and Jatoba, with Black Limba parasites. Whilst the other version (Jatoba and Ash) was stunning, I figured that since I was so terrible at assembly puzzles, I would need the extra help provided by the colours of the pieces. 

A few burrsets!
Yes, I know that it is "just" a six-piece burr with some extra pieces added but that "just" is unnecessary. The TICs are "just" interlocking cubes but that doesn't make them less of a challenge or less fun. The pieces have been beautifully made with nice chamfering both externally and internally. One of the complaints that many of us had over the years was that Eric would never add internal chamfering to his burrs and this could often make solving them very difficult because the movements sometimes were too difficult to get started due to edge catching. This puzzle has a teeny tiny chamfering internally and this means that the moves are just possible as long as the pieces are lined up. My first aim was to assemble the burr. I have a LOT of burrsets in my collection and to my eternal shame have to admit that I am absolutely terrible at assembling 6-piece burrs (I stand no chance at all with the 18-piece set!) I have known it to take me a whole day to assemble just one burr from some of them. I love them but am rubbish at them.

I fully expected to need to resort to Burrtools for this but I really did give it a try. It actually took me a week of play to assemble a 6-piece burr and then I had to find a way to insert the parasites (as a medic, that sounds very wrong!) The problem for me was that there were several ways to assemble the burr and working out which way to place the extra pieces nearly caused the parasite to eat my brain. I realised that the burr could be created with two different external results for the colouring i.e. chirality and each of those chiral structures could be disassembled in more than one way. That first week of play had assembled the puzzle the wrong way and it took me the best part of another week to realise that there was no space inside for the extra pieces. I am not very good at visualising inside things blind. At the end of that second week of failure, it dawned on me that I could not find an assembly with all 8 parts and there must be another way to put the burr together. Sigh! At least this was making the puzzle very good value for money.

In the third week of play, I finally found another assembly that did not have visible external holes and noticed straight away that there was space inside for the 2 identical tetrominoes to fit inside. And here I got stuck for a VERY long time! I knew where they went but every time I tried to put them inside, I was blocked. There are 4 different assemblies of the burr in this chiral form and 3 of them have space for the parasitic pieces. However, only one of the assemblies is achievable. I discovered this retrospectively this morning using Burrtools to model the puzzle and the different colour scheme variants. In retrospect, I realised that I actually found the correct assembly the first time but could not get it to work.

The interesting thing about this challenge was that I got stuck on the movements because of the parasitic paralysis of my little grey cells. When assembling the correct burr shape there are several assembly methods when not using the tetrominoes. I got completely fixated on one particular assembly/disassembly method and no matter what way I placed the extra pieces, I just could not find my way past that assembly. Finally, on Friday night whilst chatting to Derek, I realised I needed to think outside my brain and maybe try the same assembly but look for a different sequence to achieve it. 

Trust me, the parasites are inside.
It took me over 3 weeks but I finally got there and feel really chuffed to have done it without using BT. Of course, using BT afterwards to complete my analysis was also a lot of fun. It did reinforce to me that I was completely right to buy the coloured version as the non-coloured 6-piece burr has 132 different assemblies with 68 of them having an achievable solution. If I had chosen that one then I would still be trying in several years. 

Thank you to Tyler for a great challenge of just the right difficulty level and thank you to the team at Cubic for continuing Eric's legacy.


  1. Chug a gallon of castor oil, this should rid you of that parasite.

    1. OMG! That might rid me of everything inside! 🤣