Sunday, 18 September 2011


The fourth Midlands Puzzle Party took place yesterday and I managed to con the gang into using our place as a venue yet again so that I wouldn’t have to travel anywhere or pack up any of my puzzles. 
Louis, our regular visitor from Eindhoven (and now four time winner of the furthest travelled prize!), arrived on the Friday evening and the puzzling began pretty much as soon as we got back to my place. Next morning the rest of the bunch started arriving thick and fast from about 10 o’clock onwards, and by about 11 virtually everyone was gathered around the dining room table playing with someone else’s puzzle over a cup of tea or coffee. A damn fine start to a good day’s puzzling!

It was great to see a few new faces – Russ and Adin off the Revomaze forum and Jez who’d met Ali and Oli at the 100th Camden Lock Puzzle Party earlier this month. Jez brought his son Charlie along for the day (which included a 5-hour round trip drive - RESPECT!) – hopefully we didn’t scare any of them off! Speaking of scaring people off, it was great to have the return visit of Paul after his first and only appearance at our very first MPP. 

Most people brought a box-load of puzzles along for the day – most people that is, except for Russ, who brought along a set of lock picks and a practice lock or two – in his defence they are all purely for recreational use, and knowing someone with those sort of skills is bound to come in handy one day  ... Several folks had a go at picking the locks on offer and learning a new skill – although it was a bit worrying when Chris Pitt, the designer of those Revomaze puzzles, was found trying to pick a Revomaze – apparently it was only research and he can open them, properly, anytime he wants (and he didn’t inhale)!

When Oli had arrived he produced the Alles Roger that’s been taunting him for a while and placed it in the middle of the table, inviting everyone to have a (figurative) bash at it along with the warning that if anyone solved it, he would be forced to kill them – game on! Several folks had a bash at it over the course of the day and there were several discussions about Brian’s recent blog post on the same puzzle announcing that he’d finally found a really satisfying and elegant solution that didn’t rely on random bashing and shaking. 
Many tried and I’d like to say that everyone failed, if only to avoid getting blood on the carpets when Oli lost it, however over the course of the day, the puzzle appeared to miraculously solve itself ... I think I was the first one to notice it when I picked it up around lunch time – it was facing away from me as I picked it up and as I turned it around, my brain registered that the ball was in the lower channel and then I watched helplessly as it rolled right back to the start as my brain was too slow in telling my hand to stop picking it up that way ... curious ... I told a couple of unbelievers what had happened and asked who’d solved it to be greeted by a Great Wall of silence – presumably Oli’s promise of blood was too much of a deterrent. 
A couple more times that afternoon others noticed the same thing though, and in the end it turned up solved three times, mysteriously, among a crowd of people who all professed not to be able to solve it. (Not quite true – Ali had solved it, but promised he hadn’t been party to the miraculous auto-solving Alles Roger phenomenon of MPP4.) I wonder if we’ll ever know what really happened that day ... No puzzlers were harmed in the making of this story, although we believe the threats were real. 

During the course of the day, Oli separated himself from the mad(dening?) crowd and had a go on Eric Fuller’s Triple Locked Box - and he actually solved the thing! There was virtually no nudging or hinting, he found the doo-hickey on his own (serious achievement!!) and then opened it – tremendous effort Oli!

Most of the Popplocks got trotted out for a play and they all managed to raise a smile as usual – and I expect that Russ is off to scour the inter-web to try and track down a T4 for himself, so if anyone knows of one looking for a new home... 

The puzzling slowed down a little bit over pizzas at lunchtime, although Chris Pitt was chatting animatedly about his puzzles while people passed around his tiny handmade version of a blue Revomaze – that little puzzle is a fully functional version of its significantly bigger brother, machined by hand in brass – phenomenal. If he’d had a spring assembly available I know several people who’d have taken that puppy for a test-drive ... and several people did have a go on his first prototype Revomaze in all its shiny, raw, handmade goodness. 

Later on in the day, Jez hauled out his iPad and showed us a great little puzzle app he’d found called Cross Fingers – a few of us had a go and quite liked the puzzles and found the gameplay to be pretty slick – I downloaded a copy this morning ... just to fill the time while we all wait for the next episodes of Cut the Rope and Angry Birds, you understand. 

One or two people were brave enough to have a go at Gregory Benedetti’s Stand Py Me  - with Chris spending quite a while coming up with a number of solutions that had spare pieces left over or a not-quite-symmetrical assembly in the frame – he got it in the end though...

Roger’s Gartenschlauch and Feuerzueg defeated all comers however ... the former being totally undefeated among our number and the latter falling to only two puzzlers in our merry little band so far – I think... 

The Kosticks’ Sixteen Axis magnetic artwork seemed to put a smile on everyone’s face that played with it, while Shaun’s Karakuri Little Tree box caused plenty of amusement as several hardened puzzlers “solved” it rather agriculturally without realising what they had really done or how the mechanism worked – although in fairness it was a bit loose. Chris’ Confetto and Mini Cubi’s were really big hits as well... 

The 4-Steps Visible Lock was a reasonably popular puzzle on the day with just one grumpy old so-and-so reckoning he was a bit disappointed with it – chiefly because it only has 4 steps – after all, we all know that really good puzzles have at least 320 steps more than that ... :-)
Several people managed to go home with some shiny new puzzles – half our order of Makishi boxes had arrived a couple of weeks ago so I was able to dish out a few of those as well as pass on some rather more collectible pieces to Chris and Ali - I got a HUGE kick out of being able to source a couple of Stickman boxes for them – not sure I’ll ever be able to do that for someone again, but that was pretty cool! Big thank you to Chris who delivered my rather handsome Daedalus courtesy of Gregory “rotations are required” Benedetti ... after spending the best part of an hour and a half on it this afternoon, I know exactly how he earned that middle name! 

Despite my best attempts, the Box o’ Bounty actually seems to have grown this meeting – even though several people did help themselves to something from the box, more people tossed puzzles into the box – hey, ho – I’ll try harder next time...

Thanks to everyone who came along and made the day so much fun – thanks Ali for bringing some grub and thanks guys for the wine and choccies. 

In the words of that great philosopher Wallace, “That were a cracking day out, Gromit!”


  1. Glad you all enjoyed yourselves guys! Sorry I missed it this time - I'll try harder next time. Whilst I've been away I have solved the Papillon 15 from Jean Claude Constantin and the Ballerina from Vinco. Still got a few more with me to play with - not quite as good as coming to yours but it will have to do!


  2. least you're keeping your hand in Kevin - we missed you, Graham and Karl ... and we've got to coax Richard back down again sometime...

  3. Solving the Triple Locked Box was definitely a highlight of my day. What an awesome puzzle! Great write-up Allard, and thanks for having us again!

  4. Aye thanks so much guys, it was a great pleasure to come along.

    Glad the lock picks were enjoyed! I cant remember who asked but the virtually unpickable lock type is known as an Abloy disc-tumbler lock.

    I've found a couple of T4's for sale. One from Peter in Germany(mentioned at the table) and also a potential from the USA(from a friend of Peter). I'll see how it goes.

    All in all - I'll certainly be back for mpp5! Hopefully with more puzzles.

  5. Grumpy bugger says that a decent puzzle should be spun, sucked, blown, magnetized, have a minimum of 300 moves and require more dexterity than a one armed juggler on a unicycle to solve. Bah Humbug!

    Had a great though and thanks again for the hospitality. I'll have a look in the box 'o' bounty when I come to pick up my 2 stray puzzles!

  6. While I do Juggle, and ride a unicycle, I'm not planning on losing an arm any time soon ;)

  7. I really want to come along to one of these days. Seems like a great time is had by all. Hopefully my diary will be free next time.

  8. Hey Douglas that would be great - and it'll let me put a name to the face who sold me one of the funniest puzzles in my collection!!

  9. I don't know where I was when the tiny revomaze came out, I know I didn't see it?!?

  10. I'm just so miffed I missed this :-(

    Meh, I'll so be at the next one guys :-D

  11. Thanks all for a great day :)

    The quality of the puzzles has inspired me to get cracking on my workshop in the cellar, I have one or two ideas on puzzles to make, hopefully will be able to bring somthing along next time!

    Cant think of a better bunch of guys for test subjects ;)

  12. I would definitely like to come and join you again in the future - travelling back from Greece on my wife's birthday for MPP4 would have been a step too far though.
    Cross Fingers is a real favourite on my iPhone at the moment but I'm currently spending lots of time getting used to my new 3D printer - a baby RepRap for only £300!

  13. That's great news Richard - look forward to seeing you next time (probably early in the new year?)- good call on the Greek trip and great find on the mini RepRap - can we expect even mores puzzles, even faster now?