Sunday 28 April 2024

Always Take Your Photos First!

Neighburr designed by Christophe Lohe made by Brian Menold
Sigh! I have to say it yet again...I'm an eejit! I caused myself a flurry of work at the last moment for this post because I wasn't paying attention. I blame it on the fact that Mrs S is back "ooop North" again and I am home alone with a disturbed cat and a workload that is just too high including having to work the weekend yet again! The disturbed cat is gradually being made better by Prozac - yes, he's on the happy pills and making me look like a coke addict. Every couple of days I can be seen cutting a white powder on a glass coaster with a razor blade! The capsules are 20mg and I need to give him 2.5mg, hence I open capsules, pour out white powder and use a double edged razor to portion it into eighths and into little spoons for each day. The image is perfect, all I need is a rolled up £50 note and I am ready to be arrested! 😱😱😱

Having given my excuses, here is todays puzzle and what I did:

I had a little splurge with Brian Menold's Woodwonders store (I cannot resist the gorgeous woods and his fabulous choices in puzzles) and one of the delights was a caged 6 piece burr designed by Christophe Lohe - the Neighburr. I love burrs in general but I am hopelessly addicted to caged burrs - especially if they are caged 6 piece burrs because the addition of the cage can turn a relatively straight-forward exploration of simple moves into a wonderful interlocking nightmare. It is also made much more fun when the basic grid for the pieces strays away from the standard 2x2xn grid. The Neighburr has burr sticks based on a 2x3x6 grid and ads in the feature that one end is 2x3 and the other 2x2. This allows for much more interesting shapes and interaction. My copy has a wonderfully white Holly frame and the pieces are beautifully coloured Koto (white), Kirandy (yellow) and Redheart. This puzzle is very reminiscent of the Bouquet that I bought and wrote about a few years ago. That one was a fantastic challenge with a level of and this one was described as an even harder level - who could resist? Chris has a special skill with his designs - he always manages to find interesting shapes, interesting moves and just the right difficulty level.

Having received a bunch of puzzles from Brian, I put a few of them in my work bag and started playing whenever I had a brief moment at work. The disturbed cat was interfering with my ability to concentrate at home! There are quite a few moves open to you initially and all but one fails to lead very far which is also part of Chris' special skill. As you work your way in the puzzle does become a little rickety and require a little bit of control of the pieces to allow subsequent moves to happen but no rotations seem to be possible to inadvertently knock you off progress. On several occasions I got lost and couldn't seem to progress or find my way back but always after a little panic found my way to the start. In my usual to and fro process, I managed to gradually work my way in. This puzzle has a wonderful unlocking sequence with a lock mechanism being used, moving a piece before re-locking and then carrying on with another piece. The sequence of Aha! moments is wonderful.

I got to a point where there were a good few pieces sticking right out but not actually free. Everything could be seen inside but I just couldn't find the next move. At this point it was time to extubate a patient and I put it down for a couple of hours. The break did me good, on picking it back up, I could see the next moves straight away and I removed my first piece. Time to back-track. Except...I tilted the puzzle to align the removed piece and a precariously hanging second piece fell out on to my anaesthetic machine. Aargh! I bent down to pick it up hoping that I remembered the correct orientation and tilted it again whereupon 2 more pieces fell out - Double aargh! At this point with my surgeon laughing at me, there was no hope that I would be able to assemble it again without Burrtools. To be honest, I don't really mind that because making the BT file is all part of the fun.

Interesting pieces
I took my photo this morning of the pieces and looked through my photo database and to my horror realised that I had dismantled this one without taking my initial photo. I needed to make my BT file and reassemble it before I could blog about it. As I said above - I'm an eejit! When I went to BT to enter the pieces I suddenly found that this was not an easy one to enter the starting shape without having an assembled puzzle, or at least a photo to use as a reference. Luckily Brian has photos in his archive gallery but even then, this one is a bit awkward to enter into BT without having a puzzle to rotate around and look at from all angles. My initial attempts produced a puzzle with no solutions but after a bit of fiddling with my pieces and pushing them into the frame and rotating it around, I managed it and reassembled the puzzle.

This is absolutely terrific as I have come to expect from Chris. It even has some repeatability due to the lovely locking mechanism. 

Now, it's time to clean the litter tray (yuk!) and spend some time with the disturbed cat whilst playing with some of the others I received from Brian:

Uroborus by Girish Sharma
Persistence of memory by Alexander Magyarics

Yep! A series of wonderful Ribs designed by Andrew Crowell. These are 6 piece board burrs that need to be assembled with rotations. I hope that I have more luck with these than with the RIPley board burr which I haven't managed to assemble after quite a few years!

Sunday 21 April 2024

So Uplifting That It Gave Me a Fright!

Uplift by Dee Dixon
This might be a bit less coherent than normal - I am a bit sick and had to work whilst ill. My thought processes are even slower than usual.

It would appear that Dedwood crafts has become one of my new obsessions. I missed out on the early productions because they were boxes and I "don't collect boxes" but later there were puzzles with interesting shapes and even robot faces which spoke to me. Those voices never seem to go away and my chats with my psychiatrist friend reassures me that they are "normal". Admittedly, when we chat, I am armed with needles and syringes and he is armed with an ECT machine but I am sure that he is not frightened of what I might do with my weapons and is telling me the truth.

Well, several months ago those voices told me to buy the Uplift puzzle from Dee as soon as it came out. It's just a bit embarrassing to be writing about it now when it arrived at the beginning of October last year. My excuse?'s quite difficult! At least for me it was. This has literally been on my evening armchair alongside me to be played with ever since then. I attempted to solve it every evening for several months without getting anywhere. Lord! I am rubbish at puzzles!

This fabulous creation is simply gorgeous...and huge! It is made from quarter-sawn Sapele (with an incredible lustre and grain with a layer of nicely coloured Cherry. The dimensions are 6.75" diameter and 2.25" thick. The aim is to open it up and find the hidden compartment (and a surprise). The central area of the top section can rotate freely around in circles and nothing seems to happen when you do spin it. There is a button on the side where a section of the Sapele can be pushed in a few mm. The obvious thing is to push the button whilst spinning the centre around and of course, it does absolutely nothing. That is disappointing and pleasing at the same time. After a little while trying the same thing over and over again, it occurred to me that I hadn't tried to just lift the lid off. That little wedge on top just lifts off having been held on by a magnet. Inside is the cavity - it's the same size as the wedge/lid and it's empty. It is quite clear that there is a whole lot more space inside for another cavity and that must be what we are looking for. 

Interestingly, the centre section can still spin around with the lid off and the whole interior spins with it. This is a cue to start playing with the button again whilst spinning the interior/centre. I got bored of this after a week when nothing new happened and was left scratching my head wondering what else I could do. Playing around with the magnet on the lid, did reveal that there are more magnets inside but I was completely unable to trigger any changes with it. Now what? It was clear that the layers that are visible on the outside are also maintained on the inside spinning part of the puzzle. There seems to be a little movement between the layers but no change in position, orientation or push of the button (with or without magnet placement) would change anything. Desperation began to set in around February after about 4 months and Mrs S sniggering at me. I was thinking about submerging it in gin when a slip whilst holding it caused me to almost drop it. The new hand position I found myself in revealed something special for me. I wish that I could say that I worked it out through sheer bwain power but alas no!

After my little accident, I had more puzzle to look at! There were cavities to explore and more movements that didn't lead anywhere until a poke of a finger got me one of Dee's little tools (those of you who have played with other Dedwood puzzles will have seen these acrylic rods. I was making progress! With the appropriate tool poised, I found a place to use it did nothing. Nothing at all! Yet again, I was left to try different orientations and combinations of moves with or without button presses whilst standing on my head. Needless to say, I looked very silly and totally failed to continue in my progress. Sigh!

After another few weeks of swearing at an inanimate object, I noticed a rather subtle feature that had eluded me up to this point. Aha! What if I do this? Aha! again. After five months I had finally found the hidden cavity and my lovely little surprise. I have not shown Mrs S that surprise for fear that she will beat me over the head with the puzzle - she really doesn't like what was inside the Uplift. Don't look if you don't want to see what is waiting inside:

All in all, this was fabulous value for money for me. There weren't very many steps involved but I found 2 of them almost impossible to find and a real diversion that had me fooled for longer than I am happy about! I cannot wait for the next release from Dee. I have still not managed to reset the Wardrobe to put it away which is upsetting Mrs S a lot!

Sunday 14 April 2024

Spring With Pelikan (part 2)

Pelikan spring release - coming 17th April 2pm CEST
I do apologise to all of you and especially to Jakub and team about spreading the reviews over 2 weekends! I was just too busy to work on all 6 in one week and have any chance at all of solving and understanding them. It did not change Jakub's intended release date but has inconvenienced him by being late getting my reviews for him.

Today I finish off the final 3 and they are something else in terms of complexity and difficulty. They are also very beautiful!

Euklid for Bernhard

Euklid for Bernhard - simply gorgeous
This fabulous addition to the Euklid series (I have still not managed to solve the Euklid for Nick!) is a tribute from Dr Volker Latussek to the amazing puzzler, collector and friend, Bernhard Schweitzer. Volker wrote the following about the design of this puzzle:
"When Bernhard Schweitzer told me that he was winding up his puzzle collection, I remembered our first meeting at Bernhard's house. Back then, I had designed my first puzzle, which I wanted to enter in the Nob Yoshigahara International Puzzle Design Competition in 2011 after doing some web research. I didn't know that the IPP was being held in Berlin at the time, and Bernhard hadn't told me, but he encouraged me to send in my two copies. WAY is still the most important puzzle for me today. I called it the Puzzle Construction Set because it could be used to formulate very different challenges. I didn't win a prize at the IPP, but the puzzle was published by Popular Playthings under the name ROUNDABOUT. Unfortunately somewhat modified. But back to Bernhard.

Bernhard showed me his collection at the time. I had never seen anything like it before. He told me stories and anecdotes about some of the puzzles from the community, a world that was completely unknown to me. I still remember the HASELGROVE BOX by Jenifer Haselgrove: it was probably my personal key experience that gave me time to think about what I should, and hopefully will, come up with over the years.

With EUKLID FOR BERNHARD, I want to say thank you for the encouraging comments on my ideas and the time we spent together at the puzzle parties at Bernhard's home in Glattbach.

It has become a EUKLID with an addition. When the six blocks are packed into the box, give the puzzle a good shake and then open your ears for a short walk with Jenifer Haselgrove to empty the box again.

Thank you, Bernhard."
Volker tends to stipulate not only the delivery packing as well as the dimensions of his puzzles but also the wood choices as well. His decision this time was absolutely inspired as it is an absolutely gorgeous combination of Purpleheart for the box and Downy Birch for the pieces. Interestingly the pieces are all very similar in size - 21mm deep with 3 pieces 47x25mm, 1 of 47x47mm, another 47x30mm and the other 52x25mm. There are only a few combinations of sizes that will fit within the walls of the box.

Now I had not read this tribute when I received and worked on my copy of this puzzle and had no idea that it might have a common feature with the Hazelgrove box. That would not have helped me much because I don't own and have never played with one of those famous puzzles. I set to in the usual way that I do with this sort of puzzle - I look at all the pieces and try to see which dimensions are combinable inside the confines of the box. 

I found several ways that all the pieces would fit inside but the restricted opening meant that I was unable to achieve the vast majority of them. I played for a couple of days with it and failed every time until I had a sudden Aha! moment and all 6 pieces were inside. I was very pleased with myself and took my obligatory photo. Only when I received the introduction from Volker did I begin to question myself. My solution did not have any fancy locking mechanism and seemed a lot simpler than most of the previous Euklid puzzles. I looked at the solution that was provided by Jakub and my solution was different. You have 2 challenges here - an easier one (mine) and a REALLY fancy one that was the one intended by the designer. The intended solution requires thought and dexterity - it is very impressive (rather like Bernhard!)


Stefka-Flop by Dr Volker Latussek

This is another (and to me, unexpected) entry in the Flop series of packing puzzles. I have said on several occasions that this Flop series of puzzles by Dr Latussek are an incredible feat of puzzle design and when coupled with Pelikan's magnificent craftsmanship and wood choices, they are some of the highlights of my packing puzzle collection. This one was stipulated to be made with a glorious Purpleheart box and Acacia soma pieces. Volker wrote the following about this puzzle:
"Since 1987, the 1996 Bulgarian Olympic champion, Stefka Kostadinova, has held women's high jump the world record with a height of 2.09 meters - providing a fitting conclusion to my little series of packaging puzzles with the STEFKA-FLOP. As previously announced, LITTLE TETRA-FLOP will come as an encore, however, I would still like to pursue the principle further and use the term FLOP here and there, e.g. perhaps for a COFFIN-FLOP.

STEFKA-FLOP with seven pieces follows DICK-FLOP with its six Tetra cubes and FRITZ-FLOP with only five pieces. The boxes are completely filled, and the opening is so large that some pieces have to tumble out of the box. STEFKA-FLOP has a very unusual, and very beautiful, new turning movement in before a flop.

Oskar van Deventer has previously published STEFKA-FLOP under the name UNFOLDED-FLOP. The seven pieces corresponds to the SOMA CUBE with an unfolded v (I). That was a consolation, because at first, I couldn't find a SOMA-FLOP with all seven pieces of the SOMA-CUBE."
They are not just packing puzzles with restricted openings...they are also variants on the Soma cube, using entirely Soma shaped (or a subset of them) and also are TICs as well with the very important requirement that a few of the pieces cannot fit through the entryway without rotation and then often need rotation into place inside the box which adds a special requirement for the correct order.

The Soma cube has 240 3x3x3 assemblies and I am still ashamed to say that it takes me quite some time to find even one of them! And that is without the restriction of doing it within a box and also without further hindrance of restricted entry and rotational moves! This is going to be a hell of a challenge for any puzzler. I spent 3 days attempting this amazing feat of puzzle design and had to peek at the solution to find the last 3 pieces to be inserted. Having restricted the number of pieces I needed to experiment with, I finally managed to find a bunch of cubes that assembled that way and then still could not get them into the box. With a deadline looming I looked at the cube assembly that was required and spent another happy hour or so working out how to put it inside the box. Even with a huge clue, it is still a decent challenge. I am sure that the rest of you with more time to play will manage this without help.

This is a fantastic addition to the series and I cannot wait to see the others that Volker intends (I am sort of hoping they won't be quite so tough).


SISU by Benjamin Heidt
The word Sisu is a Finnish word - it is not easily translatable into English but it roughly means:
Strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. Sisu is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain that courage. 
Does this mean that it requires enormous strength of will to solve it? I also noticed that there is a hole in the box which goes all the way through and remembered the scene from the recent movie where the hero stabbed a Nazi in the head through and through with his knife. I've added the image below - it's not suitable for people of a nervous disposition or children - You have been warned! Don't look unless you really want to know what the Finnish war hero, Sisu did.

It has been beautifully made by Jakub and team from Mahogany, Ash, some magnets and a steel ball bearing. It is a restricted entry packing puzzle as we have seen many times before and also has pieces that are based on the Soma puzzle. Making this one very different from the others we have seen before, the pieces have some beautifully drilled holes in them. Some of these holes are blind ending and others are part of a channel through the piece and out another hole. The aim seems to be to assemble the pieces in the box and close the lid on top and then to roll the ball bearing through the maze that has been created until it comes out the other side. This means that the assembly requires the formation of a maze that goes entirely through the puzzle. This significantly adds to the challenge!

Now this is an interesting puzzle to write about! I have so far not come even close to solving the full thing. Just before starting to write this review, I have finally managed to assemble the pieces into a cube shape - I am ashamed to say that this has taken me a whole day! I then went to BT and discovered that there is only one possible assembly for these pieces into a cube. I will then need to see how to get them into the box through the H-shaped entry - I assume that only one of the 6 possible orientations of the cube will be possible to assemble in the box and probably not without some fancy sequential moves. The pieces that have rotational symmetry will need to be oriented correctly to form the complete maze - whilst the piece shape might be symmetrical, the holes and channels are not. After this I will have a blind maze to negotiate with the ball bearing.

I love a puzzle with multiple challenges and this will require some significant "Sisu" to achieve it! Despite not having completed the challenge yet, I know that this will be an essential purchase for you all. Hopefully Mrs S will not get upset with my muttering and stab me through the head later tonight!

Thank you Jakub, Jaroslav and team for the wonderful challenges and also to the amazing designers - you are all brilliant. 

Get there at 2pm CEST on 17th April to get your pick of these puzzles.

Sunday 7 April 2024

Here We Go Again - Spring With Pelikan (part 1)

Pelikan offering for April
Hello again everyone! I'm a bit behind with my puzzling this week - it's been a bit hectic and I have had to do extra work to cover sickness and other "stuff" at work. I was hoping to have all the reviews for the latest offering from Jakub, Jaroslav and team all done in a week but I will have to split it up into two posts. We have some terrific challenges on offer here:

From the back left:
Euclid for Bernhard by Dr Volker Latussek
Stefka-flop from Dr Volker Latussek
SISU by Benjamin Heidt
YLEM by Benjamin Heidt
Airlock by Pit Khiam Goh
Xmas Stocking by Osanori Yamamoto

These should be going on sale on April 15th hopefully. I can review four of them today and plan to have the rest of the reviews up next weekend. Here we go...


Airlock by Pit Khiam Goh
Pit is an incredible designer - I have seen his puzzles do very well in the design competitions and I have a good few of his designs in my collection which have appeared in this blog. This one is wonderful as well because of a series of really nice Aha! moments.

I had been certain that I had seen this somewhere before but a search of the internet only found a few pictures that did not ring any bells. It is a tray packing puzzle with a restricted entry hole. It has been beautifully made by the Pelikan team from Wenge, Purpleheart, Mahogany, Maple and Limba with an acrylic grille over the top. The delivery placement is useful to keep the pieces together and shows that certain moves will be required. removing the pieces reveals that all the pieces will need rotation and that 2 of the pieces are really quite restricted in how they move and can be placed.

The aim is to place them all back in the tray without any of them appearing in the entry hole and this is a real challenge. I started with this because it looks so enticing and I was hoping would not be too horrendously difficult. My solving success the last couple of weeks has not been great and I wanted something to boost my confidence. Erm... whilst I did solve it, it was not a quick easy solve. The pieces can conveniently be placed on top of the grille for planning purposes and it quickly becomes apparent that almost everything you try ends up blocked. Planning to get the most awkward pieces out of the way was an interesting challenge and taught me a lot. Random placement will not work for you here. You will need to think© and plan ahead. There are several of these Aha! moments and the solution is delightful. This is a fabulous puzzle that will delight experienced puzzlers as well as newbies alike. I will be taking this to work to torture colleagues and medical students during the day.

Xmas Stocking

Xmas Stocking by Osanori Yamamoto

An odd time of the year to have this one brought out but delightful nonetheless. I would suggest that you all buy this as either a belated Christmas present to yourselves or as an advance one for December for the significant other puzzler in your life. Hopefully you can stash it away for long enough and still remember where you put it. It is a rather pocketable size - perfect for your own Xmas stocking. As delivered there are 3 little feet inside the stocking already and 2 outside. Time to work out how to get them all inside.

Like many of Osanori-san's creations, there will need to be rotational moves but the box has very tight tolerances and the pieces can only rotate in certain ways (even with the box empty). Add in a few of the feet then the restriction gets significantly worse. As usual, I would suggest that you work this one in reverse - find out how they can be packed and then see if that packing is removable. This approach gives a couple of great Aha! moments again to help you on your way but even then, more thinking© is required. Gravity may be helpful to you at times and less helpful at other times - there is very little room inside for poking a finger in. Planning is everything with this one!


YLEM by Benjamin Heidt
This is the second time the Benjamin has appeared here and the second Pelikan release that includes his designs. There is something very clever about his designs which are delightful to see on display and also brilliant to explore and solve. This stunnning creation in Acacia and Purpleheart appeared to me initially to be "just" an 18 piece burr but with an odd configuration of the pieces leaving a hole in each of the 6 faces. But...this is not "just" another 18 piece burr - it can quickly be seen that it is a 19 piece burr (something I have never seen before) and it requires a fair bit of exploration to work through. 

These high piece number puzzles always frighten me because they often either have an incredibly complex/high level disassembly or after a couple of pieces are removed, can become very unstable and collapse on you. I can reassure you that this wonderful burr has a fantastic and almost logical unlocking mechanism which is an absolute delight to work through. There are a few moves available at first and the easy ones don't appear to lead anywhere. After some exploration and a nice Aha! moment, a new move becomes available which is very helpful in revealing the beginning of a locking sequence. The disassembly is a wonderful and very achievable level giving a total of 46 moves to take it completely apart.

19 pieces - beautifully made by Pelikan!
This monster was beautifully stable right down to the last few pieces. I very much doubt that many people can assemble this from scratch but a few of you will be able to. Some may be able to remember what you did and be able to backtrack. I, on the other hand, barely remember my own name and therefore had to resort to Burrtools for the reassembly. Entering the pieces into that wonderful program and then adding the colour restrictions for the assembly was also great fun and a nice part of the challenge. The assembly required quite a bit of dexterity initially but was a delightful part of the challenge. If you like complex burrs but are frightened of too high a level then this is perfect.

I hope to finish the rest of the puzzles this week and get my reviews up for you next weekend.

Keep an eye out for these - they are fabulous for all levels of puzzler.