Sunday, 8 July 2012

Wil Strijbos' First Box

One of Wil Strijbos’ recent emails contained a couple of new puzzles: a new variant of an impossible dovetail joint and a blue box that sort-of resembled a tardis from Doctor Who – called First Box.
First Box as you might expect from the name was the first puzzle box that Wil designed many moons ago. When I visited Wil last year, he'd pointed out a black and aluminium box on one of the puzzle shelves that housed several other Strijbos originals and he'd mentioned that it was his first puzzle box and that he was hoping to have some produced in the future. He wanted to give me a shot at it, but sadly whoever had played with it last hadn't locked it up properly, so it was placed back on the shelf...
Since then Wil has taken the opportunity to improve on the design (read: make it harder!) and has also found a neat solution to an aspect that concerned him about the original version. The original came with a separate tool - which bothered Wil a bit - so he toyed with the idea of not including it and suggesting that puzzlers make a trip to their local hardware store and buy whatever tool they thought might be useful to get into the box - however recurring nightmares of puzzlers merrily heading off to their local ironmonger and purchasing a large hammer stopped him from trying that. So the new design dispenses with the external tool... :-)
Father and son
My copy arrived literally days after I’d ordered it and first impressions were that this was a really heavy little puzzle – it’s very clearly not a box with a lot of space inside it … which probably means that it has a lot of gubbins inside there making sure that it stays locked closed. The lid has very little play in it to start with and has a large nut screwed into the top of it. The front of the box has Wil’s signature and a production number in the bottom right hand corner. There’s a small dark hole in the middle of the back of the box and a hole in the bottom that lets you see a small steel cylinder – which Wil has helpfully told us we are to get out of the box – although rather unhelpfully, that hole in the bottom of the box is too small to allow the cylinder out…
OK, so you have a seemingly impenetrable blue anodised box – you can see the lid has a little bit of play in it – there’s one obvious thing to try, so you do, and that’s not spectacularly useful, so you think for a while and explore a few more avenues before finding what one might loosely call “some tools”. Trying out various things with the tools you’ve discovered leads to some further discoveries – among them that sometimes the lid of the box feels a bit looser, sometimes there is a pin across that hole in the base, and sometimes there’s a pin across another hole.
First First Box opening
Wil’s helpfully told us in his email that there are no magnets and that no bashing is required – yet I suspect that most folks will be tempted to try that, if only a little every now and then…
During the course of your explorations you can start piecing together some of what must be going on inside there – part of the clues come from the sounds inside when you tilt the box this way and that – but the confusing thing is that those sounds don’t always appear to behave the same way! [Pixies!]
Add in the interaction of the tilting with the use of those tools and there is more than enough to try and keep track of – and if I’m honest – the first time I opened the box there was more luck than skill involved and I ended up spending a long time examining the innards to work out what I was doing… and then even longer to work out why my method actually works! (There’s something a little disturbing about finding a method that works absolutely reliably- but realising that theoretically it really shouldn’t work …and it took me a couple of days to work that one out!)
Solved!
This is a really good little sequential discovery puzzle – the tools are nicely hidden; the internal mechanism makes it virtually impossible to fluke a solution – the machining is really superb so everything fits beautifully (and slides around like steel on wet ice) … but once you’ve worked it out, everything is totally predictable – definitely a well-behaved puzzle – doesn’t leave anything to chance and doesn’t let you do anything you can’t undo … although I realise that until you’ve opened it, you might disagree with one or both of those wild allegations!

[And you don't have to take just my word for it - you can read what Jerry thought about it over here...] 

13 comments:

  1. I think amongst all of Wil's puzzles I have, this has to be my favourite so far...I really like sequential discovery puzzles and I hope he can create more boxes identical to the First Box but with different mechanisms...something along the lines of Eric Fuller's Havana Cigar boxes.

    Allard, since you are pretty close to Wil, maybe you can persuade him to make more of these, the next ones could be in different colours eg Red, Yellow etc...can become a set...

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  2. How can I get one of these? Are they still available?

    Chris

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    1. Wil's getting a second batch made up and will have some more for sale soon - drop him an email (and if you don't have his email address, drop me an email: my first name followed by a period - you're American, right? followed by my surname which is "walker" at Google Mail's main public domain - which is hopefully enough to give a human a fighting chance and oblique enough that I won't get spammed!) - allard

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  3. I have been trying to solve this for days now!!! I've found the tool and used it in the appropriate receptacle! Have found several interesting things moving inside which may or may not make sense. But not found any further tools and certainly not come close to opening it!

    Damn!!!!!

    Kevin
    PuzzleMad

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    Replies
    1. Keep trying - it's easier than that Bat thing you've got!

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    2. Gee! Great! I'm stuck on that too! I can see the tool I want to get out but it won't come out!!!!

      Kevin
      PuzzleMad

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  4. I'm waiting for the second batch of these. I blinked and missed the first lot....

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  5. I don't know if I can get one any time soon but I have to say that this one caught my eye.

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    Replies
    1. ...it's definitely worth throwing some money at Wil for one of these... :-)

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  6. I luckily got this one for a song in the last cubicdissection auction.... Arrived today... so far, not a lot of progress, but a lot of fun!

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    1. Good catch that man! I'm sure you'll enjoy it... did you get the sad / smiley face rods?

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  7. Just received the First Box days ago... Puzzling over it on and off. Everything up until now totally makes sense, and my illustration of the insides is fine as well, but I just can't find what is preventing the lid from opening! Certainly frustrating...

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