Saturday, 16 March 2019

Three of the best...


...new tray-packing puzzles. 


I’ve mentioned all three of these puzzles in various blog posts over the past three or four months but I thought they really deserved a post on their own, so here goes!


Yuu Asaka’s Jigsaw Puzzle 29 was entered in the 2018 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition…  and I didn’t play with it once. In my defence, I was fairly busy at IPP38, but the fact remains, I didn’t let it draw me gently in and punch me in the stomach… that came later, when my Dutch mate gave me a copy for my birthday a month or so later… I did the classic mechanical puzzler thing and commented on the fact that it was a jigsaw puzzle – missing the ‘29’ reference entirely but he grinned and said I’d like it… and he’s never been wrong yet! 


So I started playing with it – first thing I noticed is the corners – you always start with the corners, don’t you… it’s a square frame so there are four corners… always. Except this time. Jigsaw 29 has more – which is interesting, to quote an old friend.

Try coming up with an edge and you find that it’s either too long or too short – and when you FINALLY come up with a couple of edges, you find yourself running rather low on edge pieces, which is probably going to make constructing the remaining two sides rather tricky…


This puzzle gives you a fabulous roller coaster ride from having no suspicion that anything strange is afoot, to thinking this is pretty weird, to “Hey I can do this” only to be followed by “Aw nawwwww” and somewhere in between all that, thinking to yourself that this is a square puzzle… but there are 29 pieces, which isn’t usually a square number.


I like ‘29’ as the introduction to this set of puzzles… it looks almost normal and let’s you think that your usual strategies for solving jigsaws should suffice… until they don’t. 


Next up is Jigsaw Puzzle 19… a gift from Kevin - Thanks mate! 

If 29 suckered you in gently, then 19 sits up and yells at you, telling you “You don’t know nuttin' ” right from the get-go! You see, whereas 29 has an extra corner, 19 consists only of corner pieces… 19 of them – and there’s that whole 19 isn’t a square number thing again – but the frame is square…


You’ll pretty quickly find that your standard jigsaw solving tools aren’t going to be very useful at all here… again the pieces are transparent with no top or bottom and starting at the corners, filling in the edges and then completing the middle clearly isn’t going to be a simple task of sorting the pieces appropriately. 


This one really requires some thought and a fair amount of jettisoning what you think you know about jigsaw puzzles…


Wave 7 is a little different – seven simple wave-shaped pieces come with a neat little rectangular tray. Six of those pieces will fit into the tray rather simply – but the seventh will invariably refuse point blank to go in… no matter how carefully you match up the dents to the bumps, the remaining gap is pretty much always just the wrong shape: there’s always a bump where you need a gap. 


But that’s OK, ‘cos we’re puzzlers – we don’t always expect fair play, so we start exploring the potential tricks – and interestingly the tray’s geometry looks quite fair – at least in the Stew Coffin sense of fairness… trying those sort of tricks results only in greater embarrassment.


The solution, it turns out, is very cute and has taken almost every puzzler I know a lot longer than seven simple little pieces should ever really take a proper puzzler… this one starts and ends as a simple “pack seven pieces into a tray” challenge and doesn’t have all the wonderful jigsaw subterfuge of the other two, but it’s definitely an excellent design… 


I hope we see a lot more from Yuu Asaka in the future!


…and best of all? They’re all still freely available direct from the designer, who’s on FaceBook. Look him up!

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Takarabako Box

Rick Jenkins has spent a goodly while apprenticing at the feet of the master – learning the sweet craft of dreaming up and then handcrafting puzzle boxes from Robert “Stickman” Yarger.

Having seen Rick’s fine handiwork on the Hexagram Puzzlebox, I was interested to see what he’d be producing when he struck out on his own… so when the Takarabako Box was announced I joined the orderly queue.

I did have a few moments of doubt when some pictures of the partially finished product appeared and it looked a little, err, rustic. I stuck with it and when my box arrived I was delighted that I had: the finish on this box is excellent! In fact, I’d go so far as to say that by releasing those initial pics, Rick may have done himself a gross injustice.

The box has a complex lattice covering all six faces and at first there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot you can do… you need to spend a little time getting to know it, and in the process, finding a few things that will probably be interesting at some point – but in my case – weren’t accessible just then… it should be said that there are also a good few red herrings thrown in there as well: it’s always nice to see a puzzle designer having a bit of a laugh at your expense – both literally and figuratively!

I ended up massively over-thinking this one and imagining all manner of hugely complicated mechanisms and interactions, and ended up being slightly embarrassed – delighted, but embarrassed – when I finally opened it up.

The final reveal tells you a lot about Rick’s craftsmanship and his confidence… lesser mortals wouldn’t (and probably shouldn’t!) attempt what he’s pulled off here… seeing things in the altogether show just how simple they can be, and yet cause so much confusion – at least inside this puzzler’s head…

Here’s hoping that Rick keeps on making puzzle boxes for a long time – Cheers!


Friday, 1 March 2019

Juno’s Chubby Crocodile

…is very well named!


It’s also very cute!


…and it’s still available over here! 

(Thought I’d get that in early given the hard time I got over the fact that some of the last few things I wrote about weren’t readily available… normal service will no doubt resume and I’ll be writing about unobtainables again soon… :-) )


Juno reckons that it’s hard to classify the Chubby Crocodile, but as there’s an internal space, and it’s locked and requires opening, I’m going to go with secret opening box – even though it looks a lot like an animal – other bloggers may disagree and consider the infamous bread test… although his copy came with a couple of slices of bread in it!
Pick it up and it’s immediately obvious that bits move – and some of them appear to be interrelated – experimenting with the bits that move, opens up a few more possibilities – and more interactions – to the point that keeping track of all of them requires a little thought. 


Just when you think you’re making good progress; however, things sort of take a turn for the confounding and you may well be left wondering if you’ve been barking up the wrong tree… and indeed wondering why some things look the way they do…


At this point in my little journey I found a little Think (C) to be helpful, before setting out in a slightly different direction only to wonder if that one was another blind alley…. Eventually I managed to find something that actually used all of what I’d already learnt, albeit not quite in the manner that I’d been expecting, and found the way into the belly of the beast – where I was delighted with my little surprise – Juno has the last laugh on his puzzlers: you get pot luck on the contents and mine stuck a grin on my face for a while…


This one isn’t horribly challenging, but it IS FUN! Definitely suitable for muggles and mothers-in-law… and in case I haven’t mentioned it, Juno still has a bunch of them in stock! (No, I'm not on commission, just a fan...) 

Postscript: I took the Chubby Croc along to MPP and many actual puzzlers (like Ed!) had a go at it and everyone enjoyed it - so it's not just me! ...AND what's more - Kevin likes it too!! Read his thoughts over here...

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Grooved 6 Board Burr #1


Juno has proved that he’s more than capable of producing fun, accessible puzzles that you could safely toss at a muggle without fear of embarrassing them – he also has a knack for designing some proper-hard puzzles…and for the record, I place his Grooved 6 Board Burr #1 very squarely in the latter category.
Juno’s been playing with Board Burr designs for many, many years… but this one’s from another planet!
A quick look at it in its assembled state and you can’t fail to notice a couple of tracks routed on some of the faces… along with what appear to be the back ends of some pegs that might just be travelling in those tracks. Mercifully there are some exits visible on the edges… but you just know that they’re not going to be anywhere near where you might actually want them to be, don’t you?!
Disassembly is a reasonable challenge: those pins and tracks serious restrict your movement options, and yet, there are several ways of making strange shapes and expanding things WITHOUT any of the pieces coming anywhere near actually coming apart. From an assembled state, this puzzle has a lot of blind alleys to explore… I have the t-shirt!
Time and again I’d find a new way of getting things to almost come apart only to find that there was no way to progress – this thing’s fiendish!
…and when I did eventually get it apart, I just knew that there was no way in heck it was ever going back together again without one of two things: either the supplied solution from Juno or a BurrTools model built by my fair hand…
I opted for the latter, and I’m not ashamed! … BurrTools reckons there are 6,653 possibly assemblies for these pieces… that is WAY TOO MANY blind alleys for me to have to explore – Sod’s law dictates that I’d need to explore every single one of them (some of them more than once without realising it!) before I managed to find the one trust path… BurrTools is a much more direct route! ... and even then we're talking 39 moves: 22.6.5...

I told you this thing was from another planet!

PS There's still a handful available over here.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Barcode Burr Master Set (collector's edition)


Lee Krasnow has been known as a creator of some very ingenious and indecently finely-toleranced puzzles for many years. Cheap or plentiful, they were not. Amazingly well-crafted they certainly were. It goes without saying that they were massively sought-after by puzzle collectors around the world… IMHO his Barcode Burr was his most special creation.
Recently, Lee began experimenting with a 3D printer, and found that the outputs were pretty good, so he got a few more and began selling various 3D printed puzzles on his etsy shop – while making the STL files available for free for anyone who wanted to print their own at home…lord knows how many printers he currently has rattling away in his shed (they’d have to be, wouldn’t they?!) but he is producing a prodigious number of puzzles for what must be barely more than it’s costing him to produce them.
By the time I got around to ordering a Barcode Burr (let’s call it a BCB from now on and save me lots of keystrokes!), Lee was offering a set that came with a standard BCB, and a set of replacements arms and mazes that would transform it into a number of variants – based on some work that he and Derek Bosch had done… many puzzles is always better so I ordered the set.
The standard 3D printed BCB has one very important thing going for it which almost makes it better than the original: it’s AVAILABLE! Don’t get me wrong, I love my wooden copy and you’d need to pry it from my dying claws… but you can’t get them for love nor money! The 3D printed versions are getting churned out by the dozen… and they work beautifully – seriously, Lee has done an excellent job of engineering them to go together perfectly, and then play rather nicely.
I can vouch for that because the standard copy got played with before I set about assembling the first of the alternate versions – assembling the six main parts form the base pieces, maze plates and arms was a piece of cake with everything going exactly where it needed to and things lining up perfectly. Assembling the six bits in the cube confirmed that everything interacts perfectly.
Having assembled the first alternate version, I struck a bit of a problem: if I wanted to assemble the next one, I’d need to sacrifice one of the BCBs already assembled to get the base pieces I needed… hmm.
I ruminated for a while and then dropped Lee a note asking him if he’d mind selling me some extra base pieces so that I could have them all assembled at the same time… his response suggested that I hadn’t been the only one asking that question and shortly there were some options up on the etsy shop to allow any combination of pieces to be collected…. And I now have a complete set of the variants sitting on my shelf – pieces assembled and duly put together by my fair hands, albeit referring to Lee’s solution card for some of them – the n-ary versions are simple enough to work out yourself, but some of the complex variants are aptly named  [ExtremeTortureCode Burr, I'm looking at you!] and I feel no shame at having followed the assembly sequence slavishly.
If you like n-ary puzzles, you’ll get a kick out of this set – and by all means, if you’re proficient 3D-print-meister, have a go yourself… but I suspect you’ll struggle to produce them as nicely as Lee does and they’re a steal at his prices anyway.
Yes I’m a fan… and yes, I’m eyeing up the set of co-ordinate motion BCBs that have recently appeared in the etsy shop… it’s probably just a matter of time!

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Custom Cube Wrapper


Some puzzles are special… not because they were expensive, or because of their innate beauty or any of the usual reasons we may choose to single them out – sometimes they’re just special – full stop. 

This one might not look as pretty as some of the others in The Hoard, but it has a lot of thought and a whole lot of care and love put into it – Jeroen gave it to me when the Coolens came to stay just after New Year… he’d decorated the six outside panels with things he was looking forward to seeing on his visit – you’ll notice the hounds get top-billing! :-) 

He’d found an interesting cube-wrapping puzzle and then made up his own version and pestered his dad to provide a suitable cube… and it’s a really cool puzzle with a neat little trick that will keep an unwary puzzler looking for a way out of the parity blind alley for a while.

Some puzzles are special – this is definitely one of the special ones in The Hoard now…  

Bedankt Jeroen!