Sunday, 23 August 2015

IPP35



The blog’s been pretty quiet for the past month or so because Gill and I haven’t been away on a decent holiday since last October… we remedied that recently by doing a cruise from Vancouver up to Alaska, then spent a few days back in Vancouver getting to know some of her family a bit better before heading across country to Ottawa for IPP35 – which is probably what you’re more interested in… so let’s tell you a little about it. 

We flew into Ottawa on the Tuesday evening and found a knot of puzzlers already taking up residence in the hotel lobby… two days before IPP35 officially starts! We’d arrived early evening so caught up with some folks, dumped our bags upstairs and headed out to find some dinner. We ended up in a British-style pub for some traditional pub grub and it didn’t take long for the puzzles to come out. Ken Irvine had me thoroughly stumped with a copy of Little Kenny (named after his grandson) – a four-piece assembly that won’t!

Next morning all the girls had gone out on Lesley’s awesome Fabric and Fibre Tour – taking in five of Ottawa’s best craft shops, all of whom had a huge welcome laid out for the ladies, ranging from goodie-bags to cakes and cheese and biscuits. Before heading back to the hotel, they strong-armed the driver into stopping at Dairy Queen for a round of ice creams in what they hope will become a new tradition for their F&F tours. Meanwhile back at the hotel, a couple of us helped Nick set up the Design Competition room and settled down to a little unofficial puzzling before heading out to Escape Manor for some room escapes. I’m glad I booked a slot before I left Blighty as the IPP crowd had pretty much managed to fill up all their slots by the time we got there. 

Nick, Ken, Wei-Hwa, Trisha and I made up a team to try and escape the Asylum and we had a terrific time. Escape Manor in Ottawa has a brilliant ante-room where you can chill and play with mechanical puzzles over a drink before heading into your locked room… the ambience is brilliantly created and the Asylum room itself was dressed expertly. The puzzles were pretty darn good and we managed to all help out, although Nick and Wei-Hwa were clearly in a class of their own…we managed to escape with 22:05 still on the clock – not bad for a 45:00 time limit. :-)
 
We stopped off for a burger before heading back to the hotel and retrieving my parcels that Jean-Claude had posted over for me. I had the dubious honour of having the second largest shipment over to the IPP organisers (Thanks Daniel!) and duly lugged my three large boxes up to the room to unpack my exchange puzzles…where they pretty much took up the entire three-seater couch! Over the course of the next day or so I spent several hours stickering the boxes and bagging the metal bits… in between all the other excitement.

That evening a whole horde of us headed out to the 3 Brewers who managed to give us a table (or 2) for about twelve of us without any bother at all! Once again there were puzzles all over the place in between the meal and everyone had a great time. 



Thursday was a full-on puzzling and crafting day, with the girls having set up a craft room (dubbed The Makery) next door to the Design Competition Room. 

At one point Chinny was doing a bit of show-and-tell with some of his rather fabulous wood-turning pieces – complete with flashing lights, music and even glow-in-the-dark paint … which resulted in a great pic of Brian holding the Holy Grail up to the light to get a glimpse of his true self inside the cup…

Jerry declared IPP35 well and truly open for business at the Founders reception at the top of the hotel. All of the first-time invitees were invited up to introduce themselves and there was plenty of laughter when Chris Dalgety was introduced as a first timer – it might well be his first time as an invitee, but I suspect that he’s been to more IPPs with dad James than most of the other attendees! 

Next morning was the Edward Hordern Puzzle Exchange and I was ready for it! 90-odd exchange puzzles all properly stickered up and more than a few handfuls of entanglements to give away to newbies all packed into two large wheelie bags. I found Louis who was going to be my trusty exchange assistant again this year down in the ball room and we set up stand in our allotted corner. I always love the sight of a hundred excited puzzlers wandering around looking at everyone else’s tables piled high with identical puzzles, knowing that by mid-afternoon they will be reduced to 90 or so collections of different puzzles.

My exchange this year was a trick opening box from Jean-Claude Constantin and we’d put one of his particularly evil disentanglement puzzles inside it… so my schpiel this year was to introduce the evil disentanglement puzzle (two standard claws joined by a U-shape in the centre) and warn my victims that it was a horrible puzzle, and then apologise for the fact that we’d run out of resealable plastic bags, so Jean-Claude had put them inside a wooden box which they’d have to open – cue more than a few surprised faces and a fair amount of delight (possibly even relief that I wasn’t just giving them a 3-piece disentanglement puzzle…). Louis got some great shots of the surprised looks on some folk’s faces when the box was brought out and offered. 

After the exchange George Hart presented a workshop on assembling one of his card sculptures and he’d supplied everyone with a set of pre-cut jumbo cards for the session. With a few words of encouragement he set everyone on their way and then did a mop-up lesson at the end to teach everyone the techniques in case they hadn’t managed to work it out for themselves. Luckily I’d seen the design before and made a smaller copy on my own a while back so I was able to help some of the guys around me get theirs going properly…and in the end we had a number of handsome piles of sculptures dotted around the room. 

David Leschinsky led a panel discussion on bringing puzzle designs to market and it was clear from the discussion that there’s a LOT more going on behind the scenes in order to produce a commercially successful range of puzzles. 

That evening at the Banquet Pavel did a sterling job of supporting a couple of struggling jugglers entertain the IPP-faithful. 

One of the huge highlights of any IPP is the puzzle party itself – hundreds of puzzlers running frantically between the vendors tables hoping to find everything they’ve had their eyes on for a while, or since the exchange the day before… there was a huge mob at Perry McDaniel’s table signifying that he had a couple of new Bon Bons for puzzlers to add to his first two from London. I joined the not-so-orderly queue and picked up a copy for myself and one for Chris. From there I went to Tom’s stand to see what else he had available, having already managed to bag a copy of Slidoku and Numbers form him earlier in the week… I added a copy of Num-Lock before they all went!

A trip down to Alan Stein’s table netted me a copy of Charles Perry’s acrylic Ball puzzle that I’d been looking out for a little while… I’d bought a copy of the Hanayama cast chess pieces several days earlier when a few of us mobbed him in the lobby and asked if he had any copies for sale… in fairness, I did see him get mobbed several more times before the puzzle party itself, and he still has some copies available on his web site for sale. 

After the first hectic hour or so things chilled out a little bit and I was able to spend some time talking to Jerry McFarland about his Binary Pin Burr and he showed me a few of the prototypes – some of which looked rather well-finished for an early prototype as he’d re-used some bits from his Quadlocks for one or two of the first prototypes. I also had a go on his Pinwheel puzzle – quite a treat given they aren’t available for love nor money these days!

I also managed to catch up with Yvon in among the tables – he’d brought a bunch of his home-made puzzles that have delighted many through his pictures on FaceBook. His magic box that, when shaken, seems to produce some truly stunning puzzles has raised quite a few smiles across the inter-web recently. Seeing his creations up close shows they are even better looking in real life than his pics on FB show…Bravo Yvon! (And yes, there would definitely be a market for them!)
 
Sacco was selling his handiwork in the form of interlocking paperclip cubes and safety pin cubes and I couldn’t stop myself buying a handful of them to bring back as gifts… Greg had some thoroughly amazing 3D printed burrs that were begging to be produced in wood (by a very brave craftsman – you had to see some of the cuts on the pieces!) alongside several gorgeous copies of Daedalus and some of his other unusual burrs for sale. 

Somehow I managed to actually end up spending less than I thought I would at the puzzle party… but that might have had something to do with some purchases earlier in the week (I spent a while in Chinny’s room while he brought out piece after lovely piece of puzzling perfection). 

After the puzzle party, Kelly Snake delivered a talk on his approach to puzzle design (and life in general) before Chris Morgan gave a short talk on his work on the Pamphlets of Lewis Carroll. Daniel Deschamp gave a really interesting talk on Canadian puzzles, including a series of puzzles that a number of us were reasonably interested in that seemed to just disappear, and after hearing Daniel’s story, we now understand why. 
 
That evening a bunch of us decided to dine in the hotel rather than head out (it seemed weird that we hadn’t eaten in the hotel that we’d been staying in for the best part of a week!) – so we had puzzles in the hotel restaurant… this time we separated the table into a crafty-half and a puzzley half – quite a successful experiment as it turned out! After dinner the hotel had opened up one of the upper floors for us to use as a viewing platform to see the Spanish entry in the international fireworks competition being held on the river… there were plenty of Ooohs and Aaahhhs – some of them timed to the fireworks…

Next day was the riverboat outing that saw hundreds of IPPers take a slow boat up the river for some sight-seeing… Ottawa is a really gorgeous city – especially seen from the water. After the trip on the water, we headed to the market for gelatos (AWESOME!).
 
The awards dinner saw the announcement of a new prize for the favourite exchange puzzle instituted last year by Laurie, which unsurprisingly was awarded to John Moores’ Big Ben – Brian collected the award with a tear in his eye. 

The announcement of the Design Competition prize winners rounded out IPP35 with Mike Toulouzas winning the Puzzlers’ Award for his simply stunning Xenia Table Puzzlebox – a wonderful sequential discovery puzzle in the form of a stunningly beautiful little table. 

The Hosts were each given a remarkable Puzzlebox produced collaboratively by Robert Yarger and Neil Hutchison – a Stickman & Stickboy collaboration. Neil told us a little about the Puzzleboxes and how he and Rob had shared designs and suggestions before finally committing to the design. The rend result being a gloriously complicated-looking puzzle that could only have come from the Stick-folk. Neil ended off by locking the boxes inside a sturdy travel case each, and then scrambling the combination locks while specifically not telling Brett and Rob what the combination was.  

A fitting thank-you gift to a great pair of IPP35 hosts – thanks gents – it was terrific! 


Obligatory Renegades photo



Monday, 20 July 2015

Autumn Box



Stickman Puzzlebox #10 is better known as the Autumn Box – a quick look at the colours in the woods should explain that! The Padauk and Leopardwood have some glorious autumn colours to offset the rich Wenge in between them. 


When you first pick it up you’ll find yourself drawn to the four central sliders with gentle dovetails that run the full length of the sides… you’ll find they slide quite freely and look like they should release the two ends depending on which way you slide them, except they don’t, always… sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. 

You see, there’s another sneaky little mechanism inside there that’s rather easy to overlook – and while some people might get lucky and open it quite simply – indeed, as I did the first time or two – until you understand the second mechanism and treat that properly, you won’t be able to open and close it predictably. 


It definitely looks straight-forward and some will dismiss it as such, but it does need a little bit of respect if you aren’t going to rely on blind luck to open it every time… it makes me think of Animal Farm a little – not all of the animals were as equal as the others.


…and there are two compartments to find, which helps to reduce your chances of fluking the entire solve… you might be lucky on one of them, but the other is likely to trip you up. 


Definitely a box of different levels – with luck you might breeze through it without being bothered by the second mechanism at all… if you’re unlucky it might really confound you for a while!




[Advance warning: I'm going to be traveling for a few weeks so there probably won't be any new blog posts for a little while...]