Sunday, 12 March 2017


MPPXXV had been planned last year and timed to coincide with a visit by Saul and Paulette Bobroff… we’d billed it as another “Bobroff special” 
which Saul decided to make it even more special by having open-heart surgery just over a month before his MPP… so he duly arrived operating at slightly less than 100% just before the weekend – having him operating at a little less than 100% means the rest of us mortals stand a bit of a chance at keeping up with the lad…

He and I collect Louis from the airport in spite of the Highways Agency’s best attempt at stopping me from using any of my usual routes for a variety of reasons… and the puzzling begins in all seriousness in the cave over a few cups of coffee… I crash somewhere around midnight, leaving Louis puzzling on his own in the cave (you’ve never read that phrase before, have you?!). 

I’m up early next morning to get some Japanese puzzle boxes released from being held hostage by Parcelforce – unfortunately it’s a one hour round trip so it makes for an early start to allow me to get back in time for breakfast with the rest of the gang. The puzzles are duly liberated and added to the pile I’m taking down to the hall for the day… we all have breakfast together before the lads load up the car with puzzles and the girls head out on a fabric and fibre-hunting trip.

When we get down to the hall we find that Angela and Peter have beaten us to it and we quickly get the tables and chairs set up for the day – largely accomplished before the majority of folks start arriving with shed-loads of puzzles…

Angela and Peter are hoping to get rid of some puzzles and have brought along several crates-worth to sell or swap – Tim T has several tables groaning under loads and loads of antique puzzles, all on a two-for-one offer, and James has brought along a couple of suitcases full of books that he’s selling in aid of Devon Air Ambulance (just in case he needs them one day, he explains). 

Tim Dixon, current owner of Pentangle, joined us for the first time and had a few goodies for sale and plenty of stories about the various Pentangle puzzles, old and new – with lots of comparisons between him and James of then and now… and how things have changed. 

James interests me in a little antique chest of drawers that looks quite innocent (if you ignore the holes on the back made by some idiot with a screwdriver attempting to open one of the hidden compartments…). Five of its six drawers open quite simply, but the sixth drawer at the bottom remains resolutely locked shut – it takes a fair amount of sleuthing around to open the bottom drawer and when you open it, you’re rewarded with a little stash of treasure, which James says arrived with the box when he first acquired it… cute! Finding the second hidden compartment is a little trickier, although those totally unnecessary screwdriver gouges might give you a clue as to what should happen… and inside the final compartment there’s a treasure map, courtesy of JCD. 

I bought it. Had to. Really. 

Several others seemed to have fun opening up its various secrets during the course of the day – nice little piece of history. 

I also helped myself to a few books in support of the Air Ambulance… for charity, you understand!

There’s a long conversation when Chris rocks up with a plastic container full of experimental Nine-Drilled Holes items… last year he and Saul had spent a while discussing the manufacturing process and Chris had said he wanted to have a bash at it… Saul said “Sure, as long as you make some earrings for Paulette!” …so Chris duly produced a bunch of cubes with the recognisable bowed holes drilled through them and a pair of smaller clear rods with similarly bowed (drilled!) holes through them – complete with earring attachments… et voila!

Cue long, enthusiastic conversations about how they were made and what took the real time in the process (polishing!) – So Paulette got her earrings and Chris has a few more variants lined up on the drawing board – and Saul’s pleased as Punch because Paulette got her earrings and he didn’t have to make them…

Saul’s Pants keep several folks entertained for quite a while… (his IPP34 exchange puzzle, that is…).

Shane shoved a little package in my hand soon after he arrived and said it was from a mutual friend – a great little trapped-coin puzzle from Matt Dawson that has all the hallmarks of a classic Robrecht Louage puzzle. Matt had mentioned this little project to me back in December when he was trying to source some specific coins to be trapped…I hadn’t been able to help him at the time, but Shane had… and here was the fruit of his labours – a lovely little puzzle as I discovered the following day. 

Several folks had a bash at the various Karakuri boxes freshly liberated from Customs that morning – with Kawashima-san’s Pyramid keeping several puzzlers amused for quite a while… it’s a fierce little puzzle! One or two folks tried their hands at barrel-rolling and playing with some Ninomiya crates that recently came my way…

Louis had brought along a few more copies of his 3D printed tricklocks (2015 and 2016) that make brilliant use of the properties of Shapeways’ 3D printing process – made even better now by the ability to control the print orientation and produce spectacularly precise prints every time. (When the orientation can’t be forced, some of the lines can turn into steps, which isn’t helpful when you’re designing puzzles to fit very precisely.)

Lunch was the usual round-up of fish suppers and pig buns taken in the spare room balancing our lunch on our laps on account of all of the tables being used in the main room for the puzzles…

After lunch James rounded up a few of us to play a new game he’d found called Igloo Mania – imagine Jenga, but with an igloo(!). After we’d worked out how to build the igloo we took turns to remove blocks trying to keep the structure standing for as long as possible… cue very little strategy, lots of “I dare you”s and plenty of laughter – even some semi-successful attempts to rebuild the igloo without using the internal dome to hold up the pieces during the build. Not very puzzling, but great fun. Big Steve was probably the winner, mainly on account of the plaintive look on his face when it inevitably all came tumbling down even when logic and physics decreed that it shouldn’t have. 

I spent an absolute age totally failing to assemble a six-panel box that James had brought along – six ply panels with a variety of slots and cuts on them that should fit together into a cube… I make an absolute meal of it and can’t ever quite get the last piece to do what I needed it to do… later on that afternoon I notice Louis slotting it all together perfectly… there’s a reason I keep out all my hard puzzles for Louis whenever he comes to visit!

Mike Toulouzas’ Three Rhombic Tetrahedra gets a reasonably decent playing-with although one puzzler who shall remain nameless (although I usually refer to him as wee-Steve) leaves it in bits on the table rather than solving it… Chris duly puts it all back together again and one or two others have it apart and reassembled during the day… (It's a tough little puzzle!)

We call it a day at around 6pm and several of us head back to my place for the traditional fish supper, a surprise message from Lauire (who's sorry he can't join us but wants us all to have a great time!), more puzzling, plenty of banter and a damn fine end to a rather nice day, even if I do say so myself…

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