Monday, 18 June 2018

Making some Gains…


Rich Gain has been designing interesting interlocking cubes for a while now… and for almost as long, he’s been tinkering with 3D printing, and at the obvious intersection of those two pastimes, he sells printed copies of his designs.


At the last MPP he had a few things for sale and I piled in and bought a couple I didn’t already have.

Coronation Cube was Rich’s entry in the 2014 Nob Yoshigahara Design Competition. Seven pieces will form a 5*5*5 cube if you manage to coax them together properly… 


It’s a long way from being a trivial assembly, and if you are tempted to invoke the gods of BurrTools, you will be sorely disappointed, for the gods will tell you it cannot be solved – which is all just really code for “some rotations may be required”. 


Starting with a pile of pieces, it’s not too difficult to establish where each of the pieces needs to be as the result is going to be a cube… getting them there, is another story, however. 


There are a couple of pieces, coincidentally the same colour, that would appear to be a logical end-game, so we concentrate on the rest of them for now… 


Experimenting with the rest of them shows that there’s a lot of interlocking-ness going on in there… and a little rotating-ness along the way… and it’s weird, almost planned (!) how the colours seem to be getting used up together in the process… the puzzle rewards a bit of thinking along the way. 


Printable Interlocking Cube #4 is a lot newer, and dare I say, a bit more challenging!


This one has only 6 pieces to assemble a 5*5*5 cube, but IMHO offers an even better challenge. 


There are a couple of pieces that offer some pretty clear clues to their relative positions – it was pretty obvious to me how the blue and yellow pieces should go together and I spent a while working on that as a starting position… until I realised that there was in fact another way to combine them which turned out to be a better idea… so I spent a while working from there.


Actually, I ended up spending quite a while working from there!


Once you’ve got a few pieces correctly positioned, you can generally work out if the remaining pieces can complete the cube or not, moving onto another combination if that doesn’t really work… toward the end of that process you’ll end up with a pair of pieces to slot in, without a definitive answer as to which way around they should go… now comes the fun bit: trying to derive the order of assembly that permits the complete assembly – there are a lot of possible avenues to explore – most of which require some other starting combination of pieces.


It’s a serious challenge for a simple-looking six-piece puzzle… very rewarding once you finally get it all together, not least because of all the movements required toward the end to place the final couple of pieces in the right place… very rewarding!


Postscript: I took these two little puzzles along to Wil’s King’s Day Puzzle Party and watched a huge number of people play with them – most managed the Coronation Cube, but only a couple managed PIC#4 – clearly, it’s a decent challenge!  

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Jesse Born’s Pi PuzzleBox


Jesse Born arrived on the puzzle box scene a couple of years ago and his work has been getting more and more rave reviews with each new production. My mates started buying his puzzles and they raved about them – a lot… so when he published some pics of little slices of pie that he was making for his current project, I decided I shouldn’t miss out on this one, and duly pre-ordered one.


Over the course of the following month or so Jesse teased us with a few more pics along the way, asked for the group’s opinion on the finish we preferred (and then duly went along with the group’s preference for a satin finish in spite of most of his earlier works having a glossy finish) and then shipped a bunch of them to expectant puzzlers around the world…


While mine was in transit my mate Jim announced to the world that this was probably his favourite puzzle of the year… my expectations ramp up a notch or three, and when it arrived it really is stunning – I mean, don’t get me wrong, Jesse’s photos are pretty damn good, but this thing’s even more gorgeous in the flesh – I waste no time in telling him that…

You get a nine-sided box – with an obvious lid decorated with slices of yosegi pie. There’s evidence of a hinge on one of the sides and the pie slices are all separated. Jesse’s description tells you that in order to unlock the box, you’ll have to slide all of the slice into the centre… OK…


So let’s start sliding them and see what happens… ah – slight problem – they wont slide in… or at least most of them won’t slide in… so we start fiddling around a little bit and then something really strange happens and catches me totally off guard – and I love it when a puzzle does that to me!


This opens up a few more possibilities, but soon enough I find myself down a blind alley with no means of progressing … with all bar one or two slices fully inward… and yet, nowhere near a solution. 


I find myself alternately playing with the box, and thinking about the box, and trying to concentrate more on the latter than on the former, remembering just how enthusiastic the x maths prof had been about it, and thinking to myself that there must be a lot more to this box than some random moves along a solution path – there must be meaning in it…


…and then it hits you, it’s been there all along – and I try a few clumsy attempts at enforcing my new theory on the puzzle, but none of them quite works properly… until I go right back to basics and theorise on something that seems even more promising – and find the right way to think about things – and allowing for a little bit of jiggling here and there, it all works perfectly from start to finish… with the last move unlocking the box allowing the lid to swing up and open – to show Jesse’s signature branding inside the lid…


…and it’s clear exactly why Jim is such a fan! The mathematics at the heart is wonderful – but the way the solution is fed into the box is very clever – I wouldn’t have thought that would work, and yet it does… and then there’s the small matter of implementing all of those rules in a wooden object… I don’t think calling it genius is going too far! 


The icing on the cake for me is that Jesse’s left access to the mechanics for the interested puzzler – pulling out a couple of pins and pegs you can see exactly how he’s implemented the opening rules… if you haven’t had a look at it, do – you will be impressed…


When I told Jesse the box had arrived safely in the wilds of Barnt Green, he asked me to tell him what I thought, honestly, so here you go, Jesse: “I have only two words for you: Genius and Stunning!”

Thursday, 7 June 2018

A couple of new cameras


Ages ago I spotted a picture of a Kumiki-style camera on Bernhard Schweitzer’s site which I subsequently discovered had been designed by William Waite and made by Pelikan. The Camera Conundrum had received an Honourable Mention in the IPP23 Puzzle Design Competition – so I set about trying to find one…

Recently the good folks at the New Pelikan Workshop recreated this old classic and it was briefly available for sale once more – sadly I missed that opportunity and my search continued. But my dogged determination recently paid off when I found a copy of the original Camera Conundrum available for sale… I did not miss out this time! 

Resembling an old instamatic camera with a magicube flash on it [remember those?!] it’s a handsome little puzzle whose aim is disassembly and reassembly, finding a hidden compartment along the way… the coolest thing though is how various actions that you’d associate with those old cameras have been incorporated into the solution. 


At some point during the solution you’ll press the shutter release, manipulate the flash, focus the camera and wind on the film [actual film, remember that?!]. 


Somewhere along the way you’ll discover a drawer with a secret little hidey hole – plenty big enough for a standard ball bearing noise-maker, it turns out. 


Even with a pile of pieces, it’s not horribly complicated to work out where things need to go, and there’s a reasonably logical progression to building up your little camera… you have to love the way William’s made so many of the moves resemble things you’d actually do with these cameras.

The second camera comes from Hideaki Kawashima – one of the indecently talented gentlemen of the Karakuri Group. Back in 2014 he produced a fiendishly difficult Twin Lens Reflex Camera whose second compartment had me baffled, and he’s done it again with his Spring Camera. 


This one resembles an old vintage Voigtlander from around the 1930’s. Once again the detailing on the camera is stunning – you get the impression that lots of the detailing is there purely to make it look the part, but you won’t shake the feeling that some of those little thingies are going to be helpful in opening up this box…


…and so it is – find the right things to do and the front panel opens and the lens unit pops out – all very theatrical… you’ll find yourself closing it up and popping it open over and over again – it’s quite addictive. 


Get that far and you have a wonderfully functional little object… but still no idea of how to open the box… that takes a few more moves and some imagination… applied liberally and you’ll find you way into the little treasure compartment.


An absolutely stunning piece from a young man who is clearly passionate about his photography as well as his woodwork – the photos he puts up on his Instagram feed are fantastic – occasionally there’s even a puzzle pic or two on there…


Here’s hoping there’ll be even more little wooden cameras in future…