Sunday 24 March 2024

Brian and Girish Make a Fabulous Pairing

Clutch 1 by Girish Sharma
When Brian Menold offers new puzzles then I jump at the chance and place an order. Now, I am sure that a whole lot of you will be about to say that the Clutch 1 puzzle is NOT a new puzzle and you would be absolutely right in shouting that at me. I noticed way back in 2022 that the Clutch 1 was the winner of a Jury Honourable Mention award in the IPP design competition. I took note that it looked like Brian's beautiful work and then promptly forgot about it. Shortly after that Brian began to offer it up for sale and I was either busy or ill or away or something because I completely missed it when they were released. Sheepishly, I contacted Brian to ask if he was planning to make any more and, phew, he said that he was planning at least one more set in the future. 

When it came out, I pounced and got my copy ordered (I think it was at the end of 2022 that I put in my order). Why am I only writing about it now? Because I am eejit! I realised that ordering only one puzzle would make the postage as much as the puzzle itself and I asked Brian to hold it for me. Then in 2 or 3 subsequent puzzle releases, I added one or two more of his gorgeous creations to the ever increasing set that he had held until a few weeks ago with the last release, I finally decided to brave the postal service and the wrath of "she who frightens the universe" and get them actually sent to me. They arrived whilst "she" was out and I managed to smuggle them in without her noticing. My desk is a huge mess again and she didn't notice the extra ones on it - hooray! I managed to nab both Clutch 1 and Clutch 2.

The Clutch puzzles were supposed to have been sent out in disassembled form to torture me more but Brian had a little brain slip. I received the Clutch 1 that had been intended for Rox and George's collection and they had specifically asked for them to be sent assembled (I suspect it is to prevent pieces getting lost in the sheer enormity of their collection and the vast numbers of arrivals) - it would appear that they will have the extra challenge intended for me as my copy went to them! Maybe Rox will chime in to let me know how she gets on?

To be perfectly honest, assembly puzzles make me very very nervous. I'm really not very good at them but these TICs have become some of my absolute favourite challenges and my skills have improved over several years of attempts. I set to on the assembled puzzle and realised that there are only 3 pieces to come apart so how hard could it be? Cough! Blush! It would appear that Girish is a master at the art of puzzle design and yes, it's VERY hard. There is quite a lot of possible movement and quite a few possible rotations as well. Except none of them seemed to go anywhere that I wanted them to. This was fabulous. I'm always anxious about the glued joints on these sorts of puzzles but the ones that might get a little force on them have been reinforced with attractive dowels. This sort of attention to detail is what keeps me buying from Brian.

I am embarrassed to say that the disassembly took me 2 days to work out! I am actually grateful to Brian for his mistake - I might have been at it for weeks if it was sent as an assembly puzzle. Poor Rox and George! They both are much better puzzlers than me and I am sure that they will have assembled their copy in just a few minutes.

Three rather complex pieces!
Luckily for me, I also managed to nab a copy of the Clutch 2 follow up puzzle which Brian released last year. Yes, it was utter torture waiting for it but I did have erm, one or two other toys to play with whilst I waited for these to arrive! My backlog is horrific!

Clutch 2 also designed by Girish
This was correctly sent out to me in the disassembled form. 3 rather complex pieces to be made into the usual 4x4x4 cube. It really is stunningly made with lots of gorgeous wood which you know I cannot resist!

Having struggled for quite a long time with just taking Clutch 1 apart, I was expecting this to be a significant challenge. It may only be 3 pieces but I was expecting a fight! My confidence soared quite quickly when I saw that there was only one possible way the pieces could make the required shape. I thought to my self: "self, this will be much easier than the last one". It is really easy to assemble into any 2 pairs and none of those pairings require rotation. I should have realised at that point that I had been lulled into a false sense of security. 

Having established the only possible assembly and having seen how they could all be put together, I then hit a brick wall. Trying to move/rotate one piece out of the way to allow the third to be introduced proved impossible for me. I just couldn't seem to find a way to interlock all 3 at the same time. In fact when any two were assembled, the third could not be introduced to the puzzle in any meaningful way. It was always blocked.

I spent a few days failing with this approach and then had a rest with another couple of the bandaged cubes for "light relief" and returned to it with the aim of working it out as a disassembly in my head. I could find the first 2 or even 3 linear moves of the disassembly but then struggled to visualise how to go further. Another day went by! My goodness! Maybe Rox and George are correct in their demand to have everything sent out assembled? In the end, I took each of the pieces as pairs and worked out what possible moves were available for all of them. This led me to take the 2 most complex of them and plot out a really complex sequence of possible moves. It did not appear to be terribly helpful because there seemed to be no point where the third piece could be introduced until...
Suddenly I had found a rotation that left the perfect gap. Piece number 3 was inserted and I realised I was lost. I could not remember the complex path that I had walked down. Backtrack and start again. This time I took some notes and I let out one of my annoying shouts of success earning me a glare with the laser-burning stare and the warm aroma of burning flesh!

Clutch 3 assembled in all its' glory
No spoiler here - establishing the piece positions is trivial
I have to say that I am absolutely delighted with these wonderful puzzles - Brian has made them beautifully and the challenge is fabulous. They are suitable as either assembly or disassembly puzzles (I think the latter is best but either is good). If you get a chance to play with or buy these then don't hesitate - you will love them! Thank you Brian and Girish.

I still have a few more from Brian to play with and gulp, may have some more currently in the post. Whack! Ouch! Sorry dear! I'll make it up to you later this year for our big anniversary.


  1. ALL anniversaries are big you naïve fool!

    1. Gasp! Yes, you are absolutely correct. I'll need to Whack! Ouch! myself!