Sunday, 16 June 2019

A Traditional Stickman?

Well, sort-of!

I’ve long expressed the opinion that the one thing that you can recognise a Stickman Puzzlebox by, is the fact that you cannot recognise a Stickman Puzzlebox – they are all SO different – be it the styles, mechanisms or look of the puzzles – they are all different. So when Rob calls Puzzlebox #32, The Traditional, you can be sure he’s referring to something other than his normal style and approach – because there is no such thing. 

In this case, he’s alluding to traditional Japanese puzzle boxes – #32 is his homage to their massive contribution to the puzzle community. And he’s really gone the whole hog on this one, not only perfecting the fine art of Japanese Yosegi, but teaching his apprentice Rick to do it as well so that he could contribute some of the Yosegi panels. 

It certainly looks the part – with some wonderfully traditional Japanese Yopsegi patterns mixed in with a couple that have a distinctly more modern look to them… and the homage doesn’t just end at the decoration: Japanese puzzle boxes typically rely on interacting sliding panels to release their secrets and this one does that in spades!

In fact, when you first pick this box up and fiddle around with it, you might well be tempted to think that literally every single panel is covered with things that slide this way and that – this definitely ain’t just a traditional old Japanese puzzle box – this little guy’s on steroids!

Some gentle playing will allow you enough progress to start getting into a compartment or two… but this fella has a total of four compartments waiting to be properly discovered… and finding them all took me an inordinate amount of time…

In fact, this guy has been on my shelf-of-shame for absolute ages – gently mocking me… I could get myself about half way through the solution quite easily, but the second half eluded me… of course several of my good puzzling friends merrily opened it, pronounced it great fun and then locked it up again for me… without a single clue as to why I was getting myself so stuck…

…and then a couple of weeks ago, I decided it really needed to be joining its brothers in the new cabinets downstairs so I made a concerted effort at getting it off the shelf-of-shame… and finally succeeded in pushing through to the second half of the solution – a seriously broad smile ensued. 

This isn’t so much an homage as it's a total reimagining, keeping enough of the underlying traditional elements in there for you to recognise and to lead you up the garden path, and then adding a few kickers that really don’t behave the way any self-respecting traditional Japanese puzzle box would – like moving one panel causes another panel to move in the opposite direction!

…it kicked my backside for more than a year – and I love it for that very reason!

Monday, 3 June 2019

Stickman Lighthouse Puzzlebox

Finally! I bagged the last unicorn!

Slowly but surely over the past few years I’ve been closing in on completing my collection of the numbered Stickman Puzzleboxes. Last year I managed to find a copy of the Gordian Knot, leaving just one little unicorn left to find - The Lighthouse.

This year a mate of mine asked me if I’d like to acquire his copy, a remarkably short discussion ensued and some time later a little money changed hands and I bagged my final unicorn.

And I am delighted!

Not just because I’d been trying to complete that little part of the collection (again, I’m not addicted, I could stop any time I choose, but I’m not a quitter!) for a good few years now, but because it is an exceptional puzzle!

This puzzlebox is a serious piece of art, in fact I’ve known non-puzzlers to develop a particular fondness for this puzzle,  for this to be the one puzzle they hold on to when the rest of a collection is being sold... it is that beautiful!

Rob has spent a lot of time and love making the base look every bit the rocky outcrop that it’s supposed to represent... the lighthouse itself has some lovely detailing which really isn’t necessary at all, but sets it apart beautifully.

...and I haven’t even mentioned the turning work on there - some of it’s overt, and some of it’s a bit disguised and you only really spot it when you’re part-way through solving the puzzle.

This puzzle entertains throughout the solution, at first disguising the way in and later on with a wonderful little piece of theatrics if you treat it just right - the sight of a pair of secret compartments yielding their very existence is almost synchronized ballet.

It really is special, and a wonderful puzzle with which to complete my current mission.

I feel the need to close out this post with a family portrait - something I suspect that fewer than a handful of people around the world could do...

Friday, 24 May 2019

Stickman Dwemer Puzzlebox

I won’t bother introducing this blog post by saying, yet again, that whenever Robert Yarger offers me a copy of his latest creation I don’t spend much time considering the options, I just send him the money, because I suspect that’s how most of them usually start - I don’t often read my blog, but I suspect that’s accurate.

Let’s just start with the puzzle itself this time - it is big, and there’s clearly stuff moving, nay, rattling around inside... this has scared a few puzzlers concerned that their latest prize may be damaged... rest assured, it ain’t, it just comes with some spare parts(!). (More on that later!)

The introductory notes for this puzzle tell you that it has a few challenges, with potentially more to follow in the future. Your first task is to simply open the box... which might be a lot simpler if the Stick-meister hadn’t built a rather complicated mechanism into the lid that would appear to have it trapped rather firmly shut.

Experimenting with the various elements of the contraption is fun, and it slowly yields an improving understanding of how the various bits and bobs interact - some of which is visible, and some of which needs to be deduced. Once that gets clearer, you can start working out how the lid is actually locked up and what you might need to do to free it... bearing in mind that there’s probably going to be a useful and a less useful order for attacking things in.

Get the lid open and you’re greeted with a bag of bits and a screwdriver... and a much larger challenge!

Rob’s intention at this point is for puzzlers to use the new bits and pieces, and most of the old ones, to construct a new locking mechanism on the lid... and he admits that’s a pretty serious challenge... one I did not manage! (And in my defense, most of my mates with a copy didn’t either!)

The usual solution booklet includes complete instructions for assembling the alternate challenge, and also note that in assembling it, you actually still won’t necessarily know how to solve the next challenge - which was enough encouragement for me to peek into the instructions and assemble my next challenge.... and it’s true: you can assemble it and still not know how the heck to unlock it all. (You’re effectively screwing it all together in a locked state and not using the mechanism at all...)

Solving the second challenge is just as much fun as the first, if not more, given that you’ve built it and still don’t even understand it!

It is complicated and a little bonkers, but you have to love the idea of a do-it-yourself puzzlebox, especially one from the Stick-meister!