For the record, that wasn’t her reaction when I mentioned that I’d offered our place as a venue for the Inaugural Midlands Puzzle Party, she was tremendously supportive and immediately shifted into Chief Caterer mode – although I suspect that with the amount of puzzling going on, and how hard it was to get folks to stop puzzling and take a break for lunch, our guests may not have noticed if we hadn’t fed them all day...
The Midlands Puzzle Party started as an idea from Nigel, all-round good guy, puzzler of note and one of the Admins on the Revomaze forum. Revomaze is a series of increasingly difficult puzzles based around a seemingly simple basic concept (and I promise I’ll write more about them in the future) and the forum is pretty good place to chat about all things Revo. It has a really great community buzz to it (the occasional RRs appears, but they’re generally dispatched). Anyhoo, we came to realise on the forum that there were quite a few of us in and around the Midlands – some of us had already met and talked puzzles, but there seemed to be another whole bunch out there, so Nigel floated the idea of an MPP to gauge the interest, and a couple of weeks later 8 people rocked up at the house with their favourite puzzles. Some came from just a couple of miles away, some drove up from London, the creator of Revomaze came down form Cumbria and Louis flew across from Holland (Serious Puzzle Nutter!).
Introductions were interesting... since most of us only knew one another by our forum names (and it feels rude calling someone Paradox, KB64 or Bluesign2k to their face) – new names learnt, the puzzles were all hauled out and placed on the dining room table. I think I can safely say that my table has never seen that many superb puzzles in its life, and it’s not a young table! Soon enough everyone had a cup of something and a new puzzle in their hands ... fiddle, chat, solve, repeat – break for lunch ... fiddle, chat, solve, repeat.
The range of puzzles was absolutely immense – from Nigel’s Super Cubi at the one extreme to a freebie that Oli’d been given when he bought a few puzzles at Village Games (I’ve still got to make my own pilgrimage to Village Games... and try and time it with one of their monthly puzzle get-togethers.) Everybody found several things they’d seen somewhere and hadn’t had a chance to play with yet, and everyone went away with a new mental shopping list of must-haves. What really strikes me whenever I see a collection of puzzlers is how their love of solving puzzles seems to be the only thing that’s important – age, experience, how much your puzzles cost, what you do for a living, where you live doesn’t get in the way or matter to anyone... sharing a love for puzzles and stories about them is all that counts ... and I really like that about puzzles, that they can level all those playing fields and remove the artificial hurdles that life often tosses in our way. Puzzles Rock that way!
Anyway, back to the puzzles – from the sublime (Nigel’s Super Cubi – handmade Japanese puzzle box nirvana that takes 324 moves to open, and the same again to close) to the ridiculous (Sorry Oli, you knew this was coming!) : Oli had been talking on the forum about “The Elusive ‘E’” – and he was struggling to get it solved. It’s a simple premise, three oddly shaped bits of acrylic and you have to make an ‘E’ – casual observation, and indeed many hours of Oli’s time experimenting has shown this isn’t a simple matter of trying to fit the right edges together to magically make an ‘E’ ... I’d seen the concept before and was trying to explain how to make it work to him, but clearly I wasn’t getting anywhere on the forum in fact I think I inadvertently sent him on a bit of a wild goose chase with a lamp at least once) - so at the MPP, Oli brings out the Elusive ‘E’ and there’s general puzzlement all round, I try explaining what to in words, and fail miserably, so I try drawing the solution, but that doesn’t help either, so I put the pieces into position, still nothing, and by now Oli’s frustration is almost noticeable, in fact, he says, he’s going to complain to the shop that it doesn’t look like an ‘E’ at all, so he snaps a picture of it, looks at the screen on the camera and it hits him – giving us all the biggest laugh of the day... Thanks Oli!