Back in the write-up on the last MPP I mentioned Shane Hales’ Wire Cutter puzzle and just how much it had confused me… He’d wanted to try out a couple of ideas in puzzle-form between producing his main puzzles (see The Pentagon write-up and you’ll understand why a couple of smaller projects might be welcome!) and had brought a few of them along to MPP for folks to enjoy.
During a little idle chit-chat at MPP19 Shane asked if I might be interested in one of his interval puzzles and I hope this doesn’t surprise you, gentle-readers, I rather jumped at the potential offer and said I’d absolutely love to have a copy of the Wire Cutter… and a few weeks later I was tempted by the sight of some pics of a few almost complete Wire Cutters … including a pair of “blogger-specials” in fancy wood!
When it arrived there was an apologetic note with it to say that unfortunately something had gone a little awry in the manufacturing process and it wasn’t as perfect as he wanted it to be… at which point I then had a squizz at it and played with it and I thought it looked absolutely fine, so I sent him a note saying exactly that…
Shane wasn’t convinced, told me that he’d already bought the wood for the next copy and it was already being made up… and suggested that the first copy be passed on to another puzzler, so between us we decided on a particular Dutch puzzler that I’d be running into shortly thereafter…
…and soon after DCD another copy arrived in the post for me… and this one has the master’s approval – it’s brilliant!
Ok, so what is this all about – Wire Cutter is a puzzle that looks like a piece of wood with some wires attached to one side of with a connector block in the centre… there are some cuts on the side of the wooden block and a the wires appear to have been joined incorrectly in the connector block – i.e. the colours don’t line up… your goal is to connect the wires properly… and SAVE THE UNIVERSE! (I may have made up the last bit!)
Closer examination of the block shows a couple of opposing diagonal cuts on either side, but no apparent way of separating the two halves – just generally tugging certainly doesn’t do anything useful … hoping that’s probably the main goal you might set about trying to work out what the heck’s going on in there… there appear to be a couple of dowels holding things together, but no clue as to how to get around them or remove them… although it does sound as though there might be something inside there somewhere…
It turns out there’s a really neat solution, and a brilliant story behind this design: Shane spends a fair bit of his time on building sites where he occasionally comes across strapping young lads keen to demonstrate their physical strength. It turns out that he has a little challenge he likes to give them based on a particular form of joint that he knocks up and challenges them to take apart… if they can, he buys them breakfast, if they can’t, they owe him breakfast… and he reckons the evidence is there that he’s well ahead on this particular measure!
To all intents and purposes, the Wire Cutter is just one of Shane’s special joints – of course he’s added a couple of little twists to make it slightly more challenging to his puzzling mates, but at its hearts it’s little test he’s been giving his building buddies for years – and it translates beautifully into a really good puzzle.
Oh, and if Shane ever decides to offer you one, take it! But be prepared to buy him breakfast!!