Sunday 15 October 2023

Did I Pack My Dowels Properly?

Karakuri Packing by Yasuhiro Hashimoto
During my week off a couple of weeks ago, I was "forced" to construct and mount a bunch of new Billy bookcases with doors in my second puzzle room. Whilst this is a wonderful thing and I WILL be forever grateful to the present wife for allowing/forcing this on me. did mean that the week of leave was filled with DIY and chores and gardening (plus a little private practice which helps me pay for my rather expensive addiction) and I did not get to do much puzzling and did not manage to generate a nice cushion of solved toys to write about.

Watching this is like watching paint dry!
The first day back at work did give me a little time (actually quite a lot of time) to try and get something in the bag for the blog. That day was a vascular list to be done down in the bowels of the hospital (no sunlight, cold and with no prospect of a break or early release. The case was a very elderly frail lady with a rather large aortic aneurysm to be repaired endovascularly using a rather complex multi-branched fenestrated graft. Now, I know that you don't really want to know about that but it helps explain the very depths of my boredom. I am a bit of an excitement freak - I like big juicy and bloody operations that require me to concentrate and keep resuscitating as well as anaesthetising. I do a lot of large open vascular operations, big spinal operations (including scoliosis repair) and lots of revision arthroplasty which tends to prevent not only boredom but also puzzling. That fateful Monday, I discovered (again) that absolutely NOTHING interesting happens during a FEVAR! Nothing happened of any interest to me (apart from intermittent requests to stop the patient breathing for a minute at a time) for over 7½ hours. When you do your very first one it is moderately interesting but now after a decade of doing them, I have lost the ability to watch them moving a wire back and forth on an Xray screen for hours at a time. I only have a tiny mind according to "she who frightens the bejeezus out of everyone" and that tiny mind had left the building about 4 hours in. It was puzzling time!

In my bag there are always toys just in case. Sometimes it is to torture colleagues , sometimes to torture med students whilst I do a chore that can't involve them and I'm always hopeful that I might get a little time to play myself. The Karakuri packing puzzle from Yasuhiro-san had been waiting my attention for months. Allard had absolutely loved it and others I had met at the MPP had also said that it was fabulous. That Monday was my time and the pressure was on - I had to solve it before I lost my mind completely and also because the delightful Libby was watching me as I worked on it and asking rather pertinent questions. I couldn't allow myself to fail under Libby's gaze!

The Karakuri packing puzzle had won a Jury Honourable Mention award at the 2023 IPP design competition and I really had to see why. It has been created for us by Mine from some rather beautiful woods and consists of 5 oddly shaped pieces (one of which has a dowel sticking out) and two 2 voxel dowels. The box has a 3x3x3 cavity which is partially sealed by a 1 voxel lip and the pieces have 26 voxels plus the captive dowel would make 27. There are enough dowel shaped holes drilled into the pieces which would allow the 2 dowels to be included inside and also a hole for the captive one. Part of me did wonder whether the captive dowel was just supposed to protrude into the missing voxel but this would not be elegant and I very quickly abandoned that idea. Neither Mine-san nor Yasuhiro-san would make/design anything inelegant.

As I explained to Libby, the first thing to do is work out how to make the cube shape that might fit inside and then see whether the dowels would fit and finally assemble it in the box - easy peasy she said! I proceeded to make multiple attempts in front of her and she quickly realised that this was a proper challenge. I pointed out that having found a few cubic assemblies, it was possible to discount some because they required one of the pieces to be oriented in a position which was physically impossible to insert into the box. I quickly narrowed it down to a couple of possibilities and had to stop someone breathing a few times which gave me a breather to think about it (pun intended).

When I got back to the puzzle and the patient could breathe again, I made a rather special discovery...there was always one particular piece that would not fit in the box. Or, if I did fit it in early then it blocked the rest. Time to think©. I knew there was a rather special Aha! moment to this puzzle that separated it from the standard packing puzzle. I always seemed to get stuck on one particular piece which made me wonder about special techniques and, in front of Libby, I got struck by the Aha! moment and did something. The pieces all slid into place and both me and Libby had our wonderful jaw-dropping moment. Of course, she managed to look attractive doing it whilst I just sat there looking stupid with a big grin on my face. This is very very clever. I think it took me about 30 minutes including several breath-holding phases which is just about right. I think it is probably not very suitable for a newbie or non-puzzler but is an essential purchase for everyone else. The assembled puzzle is behind a spoiler button even though there is almost nothing really there to provide any info. Don't look if you are worried.

If you get a chance to play then go for it.

In the meantime, I was forced to start clearing my desk which I had not seen in months

This was from months ago and it had gotten worse
Finally after multiple moves up and down stairs, I could see where the desk had once been:

Hooray! Nearly there - soon my ears will stop bleeding.
I did find a puzzle stand without a puzzle:

I had no idea what this belonged to
The helpful guys on FB chipped in to tell me that it was from Juno's SDCB but Shane, being even more helpful said that it was to display a VERY special "Rubic cube" - please note that was his spelling and, if you know Shane, then that's pretty good for him! So I found a bunch of VERY special Rubic cubes to show the stand off properly:

The one in the stand is one of just 3 Hexaminx crystals ever produced, to the left is a Master Rex cube and the right is a Master curvy copter (both very rare and special). Behind it is Kevin’s burr designed and made for me by Jose Diaz (later produced in greater numbers by the late Eric Fuller).

My new cabinets now have a few lovely cubes inside:

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