Last year some time the Mr Puzzle website announced that Brian would be making a short run of one of his horribly complicated burrs called The Collective, and invited anyone interested to sign up for an alert … well it couldn’t hurt, could it?
A while later they began taking pre-orders for them, and it would have been rude not to, wouldn’t it?
…and then just before Christmas Sue got in touch to say my copy was ready, so I sent some Paypal in a southerly direction and a few days later my puzzle is headed in a northerly direction, just missing the tail-end of the Christmas mail madness.
The Collective is one of Brian’s own designs and was entered in the 2002 IPP22 Puzzle Design competition.
Now the web site is pretty explicit about this puzzle – it is clearly a very mean burr … not just because it has a lot of pieces, or because most of them aren’t necessarily shaped the way you’re expecting, or because there’s a twist in the tail, but mainly because assembling this monster requires more hands than most of us possess – or a jig which I’d like to think that Brian has hidden somewhere in his workshop if only for his own sanity when he has to assemble a run of these things!
Although it’s not a particularly high level burr, the required dexterity will test anyone – take my word for it!
Right – having a look at it, made in two distinct woods, it’s pretty easy to recognise it as a five piece (!) burr inside a cage. There’s a fair amount of not-particularly-useful movement in the beginning, but after a while you discover what you can do with the internal burr … of course that just gives you a messy looking puzzle with bits of burr projecting out of the cage … it doesn’t seem to actually be very useful at all – and indeed it took me quite a while to work out where to go next – and as usual it was during my random bits of experimenting that I stumbled across something that might just turn out to be useful. Problem was, if I was right, this wasn’t going to be pretty.
Turns out I was right, on both counts, so I stopped just short of the rapid disassembly phase of the puzzle and put it all back together again, satisfied that I could, if I wanted to…
|...a few moves in ... now what?|
Of course, being the inquisitive puzzler I probably am, that phase didn’t last very long and soon enough I had it all in bits on the desk – and boy are there a lot of bits in there! (29 pieces all told…) Quite a few of the bits are the same (there are a couple of sets of 6 identical pieces) but the structure isn’t especially symmetrical – it can’t be – for one thing there’s that 5-piece burr in the centre and for another there’s the rather unusual way that it all locks together.
Conceptually it’s a pretty decent challenge to work out how it needs to be assembled, but then gravity and not being blessed with 5 hands raises its ugly head and you realise quite how big an assembly challenge this really is…
Let’s be kind and just say that it took me quite a while to reassemble it the first time, and only slightly less the second (and then only because I found a sneaky way of holding something properly!) – it’s an absolute sod to put back together and I seriously hope that Brian has a jig to make the process a bit easier on himself.