Sunday 23 June 2024

Beware of Aaron's Mystery Puzzles!

Sometimes Aaron gives away a little extra freebie
This will be a rather short blog - in fact the present wife (she's doing OK for a first wife but I might be open to better offers Whack! Ouch!) gave me the text, more or less, for this blog. She said:
Solved puzzle!
No idea how...
The end!
This blog post will, unfortunately for all of you, be a little longer than that but her words are a fabulous summary of my recent luck one of Aaron's simpler string puzzles. The problem for most of us mere mortals is that Aaron and his fellow Chinese designers (DDK, Shuai Chi, Heping Gao) are complete geniuses who can solve all of there incredible wire and string puzzles in their heads. Every year Aaron releases a bunch of puzzles for the world to order and every year a huge bunch of us order what we can afford and spend months and months attempting to solve them. Last year I managed to acquire all of these:

All string and at least 3 are N-ary
I have spent almost a whole year, on and off, working on these and, to my utter shame, have solved precisely none of them. 

Previous year - solved only 2!
They are beautifully made and very compelling to play with. Aaron is aware that string puzzles can go horribly wrong and end up in a tangled mess and so for most of the complex ones he includes a lobster claw release to allow easy reset when needed.

In amongst the 2023 arrivals there was a non-named mystery puzzle which looked relatively simple (by Aaron's standards) and consequently he did not include any quick reset mechanism. The loop of string is heat sealed with a ship-shaped bead on it which prevents the loop passing through certain parts of the puzzle. Having spent a while on the complex puzzles and gotten nowhere, I picked up the "easy" challenge and spent a few hours on it realising that it was NOT easy. I put it in my work bag to play with when I had time at work and spent a year failing at it. Either it is bloody difficult or, more likely, I am not terribly bright! It has been in my work bag for almost a whole year.

Just this week, I have been oop north on holiday and having a nice lazy time. I always take my work bag with me to keep iPad etc in and, of course, a few puzzles to solve (or try to). Having failed to solve the Free Me 9, in desperation I rummaged around the bottom of the bag and found Aaron's mystery which I had forgotten about. OK! Time to give it another good go.

Yes, after about an hour I had created a tangled loop and was stuck (again!) and had to put it down and pace around for a bit. I thought holidays were supposed to be relaxing and puzzles a fun form of recreation? It took another ½ hour to untangle the loop back to the beginning and in the process I made a discovery about something that I had not known was possible. Yes, it was an Aha! moment. I used it to advance a step and then got caught up with nowhere to go. I returned to the beginning and proceeded to do the same thing over and over again.

Another ½ hour of doing the same thing over and over again and suddenly it was different. How that hd happened, I had no idea! Interestingly, I was completely unable to backtrack to the beginning. I thought to myself: "self, time to go forward". After another brief tangle and some effing and blinding, I found myself in a different position and after a further few moves I was able to take a completely new photo:

Have I really solved it?
I looked up from the puzzle, showed it to Mrs S and explained that I had no idea how that had happened and she proffered her short blog post text for me to use. Not only am I ashamed that I have not solved any others from last year (or earlier years) but I am also ashamed that I haven't really solved this one. I have said before, more than once, that a dismantling a puzzle is not solving it. I said:
"A puzzle is only truly solved when you can open/disassemble it and then put it back together again… And then, you have to do it a second time quicker than the first! This proves to me that the puzzle hasn’t just been opened by blind luck - it has been understood and truly mastered!
After over an hour of attempts, I have proved my lack of solution because I have completely failed to reassemble it. The most odd thing is that I cannot even get it knotted up in a way that is difficult to take apart. There seems to be a difficult hurdle move that gets it to a position that can be knotted. Yet another of Aaron's puzzles that I have dismantled but not really solved - aargh!

If any of you know how to reassemble this little bugger then do drop me an email with some instructions or a clue.

This is just in time to unpack the 2024 delivery of Aaron's latest creations! At least this time there are a bunch of pure wire puzzles with no string to play with. Hopefully I will manage at least 2 of them!