Fancy Heart Attack is a brand new puzzle from Mike Toulouzas, designer and maker of the Judge’s Gavel which won a Jury’s First Prize award at this year’s Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition.
Mike described Fancy Heart Attack as a 7-piece serially-interlocking rhombic dodecahedron. Each piece slides out in a single axis and the construction locks itself neatly together as you go, with the final key piece keeping everything secure.
The first I saw of this puzzle was a heads-up email from John Devost that he had just put a couple of copies of a new Toulouzas puzzle on Paradise on a buy-out basis – the email came through just as I was turning off my i-Thingy for the night, but my curiosity got the better of me so I went back through to the study and fired up the PC – by the time I got the site up, one of the two available puzzles had already gone – so I had a quick look around and decided to buy the second one.
The next morning, a couple of things became apparent: firstly, my puzzling mate Chris from down the road had bought the other one (so two puzzles made in Greece, put up for sale on a Canadian web-site on a Thursday night are sold to two English puzzlers who live half-an-hour from one another – what are the odds!?), secondly it turns out that there’s been a bit of a communications glitch and Mike was only hoping to sell one of them. He’d made three of them, one was already on its way to a collector leaving one for Mike’s own collection and one for sale – so Chris and I then both end up offering to let Mike keep one, but he decides that he’ll ship both of them out and keep one from the next run – nice bloke, eh?
About a week later, Postie drops a package from Greece on the doorstep and rings the doorbell before wandering off (‘cos that’s what he does). One very well wrapped Fancy Heart Attack is cushioned in the box and I’m itching to start fiddling around with it. Sod’s Law dictates that I’m a bit tied up for the next couple of days, and the little bit of random prodding and tugging makes absolutely ZERO progress.
A few days later I have a bit more time to myself and take a decent crack at the zebra wood and sugar maple puzzle. I know there’s supposed to be a key piece from Mike’s description, but it takes me an age to actually find it – turns out it has an odd shape, so I feel (only) slightly less dim. Having removed the first piece, things should progress fairly simply, shouldn’t they? Yeah right!
OK so having taken out the key-piece which was locking the puzzle together, there are only so many places where, having dispensed with that piece, you now have some new degrees of freedom for removing the next piece – but this is where the beauty of Mike’s design comes into it’s own – because of the geometry and the angles between planes, there are quite a few options – some of which are far from obvious given the odd shape you’re working with at this point. When you do find the next move, it is silky smooth – as long as you’re moving things in exactly the right plane – try tugging it in slightly the wrong direction and it yields absolutely no clues as to its position. That second piece is probably my favourite in the puzzle – it’s beautifully camouflaged, very unusual.
At this point you’ve more than likely got the hang of things and know more or less where to look and how to explore the possibilities … so progress speeds up a bit – until you’re left with seven rather oddly-shaped pieces in a pile – with Mike’s trademark handwritten inscription on an inner piece showing the name and date of birth of the puzzle with his signature.
Reassembly will be a significantly larger challenge should you scramble the bits and not remember what you did in the first phase … thankfully I was paying attention and managed not to scramble the order of the bits … you could probably deduce the positions of most of the pieces from the usual central feature in puzzles using this geometry (or at least the ones I’ve seen so far – and no doubt someone will now use that against me if such a puzzle doesn’t already exist!). The pieces go back together in a marvellously satisfying manner – silky smooth again – building up a successively more and more solid rhombic dodecahedron as you go, until feeding in the key piece that literally locks it all together in a solid, complete little masterpiece.
Mike doesn’t usually make that many copies of his designs, but he has promised that he’s going to make some more of these in the future – keep an eye out, they are terrific!