Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Saturday saw the second gathering of puzzlers under the Midlands Puzzle Party banner. Once again Louis took the prize for the furthest travelled (he flew in from Holland for the weekend, again!  Thanks for my Svetnashki Louis.)  Oli and Ali came from the other side of London somewhere and Karl joined us from the other end of Birmingham. We met at my place for an afternoon of puzzling (and caffeine) and then we all decamped to a pub near the NEC for the evening, where we were joined by the hard-working crowd from the Revomaze stand (for yet more puzzling). 

Everyone brought what they had in the afternoon and it was noticeable that quite a few folks had been spending a bit on puzzles since our last get together. As luck would have it I’d received a few nice bits from Mr Puzzle that morning, so I just left them out for everyone to play with – my new Stickmen were all out for everyone to have a go on and most people fiddled around a little, although I suspect that Oli was the only one who had any real success on them during the MPP – Louis made sure he polished off all of them during the weekend at my place, so he probably bagged the most Stick-scalps over the course of the weekend. 

Oli had brought along his Sandfield Salt and Pepper cellars for me to play with, but sadly I was too thick to do any more than play with the magnets a bit – essentially I got nowhere, but I got to see firsthand how brilliant these little guys look – Perry McDaniel really is a wizard at fine trick dovetails.

There was a lovely selection of Vinco’s on display with most folks taking a turn at opening and closing them and watching the mesmerising interplay of exploding bits and elegant co-ordinated motion. I spent a while fiddling with Roger’s Propeller (not much joy there either!) although I did have a wee bit more joy confirming that my solution for Roger’s R2D2 did in fact work ... although I failed miserably on Alles Roger. 

A couple of Wil Strijbos’ puzzle bottles kept a few folks quiet for a good while... and if I can work out how to get the chain locked inside the bottle again (without using a pencil, ahem!) I’ll be a happy man!

One of the puzzles I was keen to inflict on as many people as possible was Jerry McFarland’s (imminent) Burrcube#1 – I wanted to see how widely it was enjoyed and how long people took to solve it so that I could give Jerry some more feedback on his new design – most folks had a go at it and everyone seemed to think it was a nice little puzzle, so here’s hoping that he starts producing them and does a series of them...

Before we decamped to the pub to meet the rest of our number, Oli very kindly gave me a set of his Oli-original Soma Dice as a thank you for hosting the day. [He doesn’t realise that I offer to host it so that I don’t have to travel miles cross-country!] I got my own back by handily having a set of Robert Yarger’s sci-fi books autographed for the guys who were attending the MPP, and they seemed to like the fact that they got a Stickman book along with the chance to play with some Stickman boxes. (Thanks Gilly, that was a cool idea!) 

Decamping to the pub was deemed a good idea because this MPP happened to coincide with the Gadget Show Live where Chris Pitt had a Revomaze stand that most of us spent a while at over the course of the weekend... Louis and I met up there on Friday and spent a few hours chatting to folks about puzzles in general and Revomazes in particular, while Nigel and Chris (not-the-Pitt) spent several whole days helping out on the stand... how they coped I don’t know – I was just about hoarse after a couple of hours ... 

Anyway, by meeting up at the pub, we could see the guys from the stand without them having to go too far out of their way from the NEC – unfortunately I hadn’t checked out the pub properly beforehand and booked a table, as a result we could sit outside with drinks (thankfully the weather was rather kind!) but we couldn’t get anything to eat. (Sorry guys!) A couple of times during the evening, someone would ask if we were going to get some food somewhere else, but there were too many puzzles around for them to be taken seriously and we ended up staying there for the evening.

We ended up with a pretty different set of puzzles at the pub, mainly due to the new influx of GSL-types, so there were a bunch of Constantin puzzles and a couple of rather interesting packing puzzles ... I’d taken my copy of Coffin’s Four Fit and Oskar’s Two Piece Packing puzzle along – everybody loved the latter and everybody hated the former. (Because they couldn’t solve it, not because it’s not a nice puzzle, he hastened to add!)

One of the highlights for me was being asked by Mark (he of Mark76 fame on the Revomaze forums) to hand Chris Pitt a small gift at the MPP. Mark has been enjoying his Revomazes so much, that he decided he needed to make a key ring-sized version (he collects key ring puzzles) ... so he got himself set up with a lathe and a mill, learnt some new skills and proceeded to produce the tiniest Revomazes known to man – when he posted his pics on the Revomaze forums there was quite a lot of excitement (and more than a couple of offers to buy them!) – so when Mark got in touch the week before MPP2 and asked if I’d mind handing them to Chris as a gift from him, I jumped at the chance... long story short:  Royal Mail got them safely down to my place – I put them in the light tent and took a couple of nice pics of them (and couldn’t resist having a little bit of a play with them – you should have seen the smile on my face when it went click as I fell into a trap!) before boxing them up and eventually handing them to Chris at the pub that evening ... I think he was impressed by what Mark has done, and his face was an absolute picture when he started playing with the larger one and promptly found the first trap ... gotcha! Payback time! Plenty of folks managed to have a go on them and without fail, they were impressed by what a bloke with a lathe and a mill has taught himself to do on such a tiny scale – nice work Mark! (and thanks for making me a part of it all ...)

While we were at the pub (before we realised that we wouldn’t be able to get any food!) Nigel gave me a Pentangle Vertigo burr as a thank you ... thank you, mate. 

One of the other great little features of the MPP was the Box o’ Bounty, donated by a puzzling friend who couldn’t even be with us, but wanted some of his old puzzles to go to a good home... at the first MPP, folks were a bit shy and we had quite a few things left over in BoB, this time they got into the spirit of things and there was a healthy redistribution of puzzles, making sure that they generated even more enjoyment! Thank you mystery donor of the Box o’ Bounty – it went down well! (... and in the interests of full disclosure - I liberated a couple of twisty puzzles and have added them to my sparse collection of twisty puzzles...) 

I suspect that a couple of take-out joints between Barston and Warwick / London saw a couple of ragged, smiling puzzlers seeking out some food late that evening... Louis and I discovered that at that hour of the night, the only place near my house still open for business was the local Chinese take-out. [Duck and crispy shredded beef, respectively, before another puzzling session at the dining room table ended a great day...]

(Thanks Louis for the pics.)


  1. I'm sorry I missed it! Will try harder next time - unfortunately had to work.

    The Tom Lensch/Kagen Schaefer Maze burr has just arrived today - it looks amazing. I will bring it with me!

    I am thinking of getting the Vertigo Burr - is it a good puzzle in your opinion?


  2. Brilliant write-up Allard! I'm really glad I got the chance to try out your Stickman puzzles, they really are something else!
    I'll make sure the next time we get together that I bring the Sandfield Shakers again so you can have a proper solve of them.

  3. Looks like another fun day had by all. At some point I'll need to time one of my trips back to the UK to coincide.

  4. ...or if you give us just enough notice, we could do the reverse... :-)