Thursday, 18 January 2018

EPP 2017

By a quirk of calendarization EPP 2017 took place at the start of 2018. Peter’s usual invitation resulted in just over a dozen puzzlers from around Europe descending on chez Hajek at the anointed time for some puzzle trading, banter, plenty of food and of course, presentations of everyone’s Top 3 Puzzle Finds of 2017.

I drove down and arrived half an hour early courtesy of London’s traffic behaving in a most un-London-traffic-like manner… I’ll bet that’s the last time I ever have the opportunity to say that!

At Peter’s I found Louis, Shane and Wil had all beaten me there: some by minutes, some by hours and some by days! We congregated in the kitchen with the snacks and drinks and before long there were several puzzles in play. I had great fun inflicting a new (to me) three-piece dissection of a tetrahedron that really messes with your head and everyone seemed to enjoy Lee’s Sneaky Star and the Inchricate pox inside it… it really surprised me to see how virtually everyone struggled with that little box… it really does seem to use all of our programming of how puzzle boxes are supposed to work against…

The rest of the gang duly rolled up over the following hours or so and we ended up with a long row of plastic crates of puzzles for sale, trade or “please take those from me – I really don’t have space for them!” I found an old copy of Saul’s Dragon’s Head disentanglement exchange puzzle and I was chuffed to add it to the collection as I only had the remake which looks a lot less interesting (it’s “just” a cube rather than the full on painted dragon’s head!). 

Wil was in full-on generous mode giving everyone an acrylic Sixty-Nine puzzle in honour of his age (he’s 45) and a copy of Siebenstein’s HeimSpiel. Martin and Big-Steve insisted on giving me things as well…thanks to all of you!

When the afternoon events got properly underway, we took turns to present our three Top Puzzle Finds of the year to the rest of the gang… going last I found some of my picks had already been presented, allowing me to concentrate on the stories behind the acquisition and explaining why some were particularly special this year… 

If you’re interested, my Top 3 (plus an extra commercially available puzzle) and their accompanying blurbs for Peter’s book were: 

Tricklock 2017 – Louis Coolen – available directly from Louis

Louis Coolen has been designing 3D printed puzzles that superbly make use of the Shapeways materials’ translucency, strength and flexibility. Tricklock 2017 is the latest in a series of puzzle locks and it packs a serious number of steps required to open the lock into an extremely small package. The presentation taunts the puzzler: forcing you to go backwards before you realise that that’s what you’ve just done to yourself… a really fun challenge. 


Revenge Lock, aka The Wanderer - Wil Strijbos

“The Wanderer” is Wil Strijbos’ further development of his earlier “Revenge Lock”, itself a reprise of Gary Foshee’s Lunatic lock. It might look like the original, but the internals are somewhat more challenging! It comprises a fantastic series of challenges that gives and takes away your sense of achievement and keeps you puzzling right until the very last step. Working out how to reset this lock is almost as much of a challenge as opening it in the first place. 

Laurie’s Three-Piece Block Puzzle – Shane Hales (with a little Coffin) 
At last year’s EPP Shane Hales presented Laurie with a puzzle he’d cooked up especially for him: called Laurie’s Three-Piece Block Puzzle it was Laurie’s favourite Stewart Coffin Design with a little added Hales’ secret sauce: a chain locking the pieces together! A few weeks later I was humbled and delighted to be given a copy and I found that Shane’s addition took the puzzle up a notch… and it beat me until Shane gave me a gentle nudge. 


Down the Rabbit Hole – Peter Wiltshire

After I’d totally failed to make all but the slightest possible progress on Down the Rabbit Hole in the 2017 Design Competition, Gill managed to convince Peter to sell her a copy to surprise me for my 50th birthday this year. Several days after my birthday I finally managed to open it and it instantly became a favourite: the sublime tolerances give nothing away until you work through the precise solution to find the rabbit down the hole. 

Presentation-of-the-afternoon went to Big-Steve for delighting the audience with his re-telling of the horribly entertaining Oli Sovary-Soos real-life Paris Metro disentanglement puzzle… even though I’d heard the story before, hearing Steve re-tell the story with occasional corrections from Ali along the way had me in tears – even more so as I had Oli sitting behind me repeatedly saying “I’m going to kill him” and “I hate you…” If you haven’t heard the story, give Big-Steve a beer and ask him about it, you won’t be sorry!

After the puzzle presentations we were once again treated to a first-rate magic show from a local magician – who started out by saying we’d made him nervous with all of our presentations but he held his own quite well and certainly confounded more than a few of us during the course of his act. 

After the magic, supper miraculously appeared in the kitchen (although I suspect that Katja may have had a lot to do with it! Thank you!!) and there was plenty happy milling around, chatting and gentle puzzling to be done…

Shane ended up keeping several of us in stitches regaling us with stories of his new lock-smithing business – if I hadn’t heard it from his own mouth I’d never have believed that he’d get stiffed by a sweet little old lady.

Somewhere around 9pm Louis and I called it a night and headed up the road to Brum – I was making use of his puzzle-solving skills to sort out a few things for me that evening and the following morning before he flew back to The Netherlands…

Another terrific get-together at Peter’s place – looking forward to getting a copy of the book to see what the most popular choices of Top Puzzle Find for 2017 were…

Sunday, 14 January 2018

MiSenary Puzzle Box

Gentle readers, 

A friend of mine is trying to raise some money for a really good cause: Cancer Research in The Netherlands. He’s auctioning off a copy of his entry in last year’s Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition – the MiSenary Puzzle Box – or Michel’s Senary Puzzle Box.

I first got to see a prototype of this puzzle at Wil’s King’s Day Puzzle Party last year and it thoroughly confounded me. It was a totally enclosed box and you could sometimes hear things moving backwards and forwards when you fiddled around with the orientation… and sometimes it sounded like those things were moving further, and sometimes shorter… 

I fiddled with it for a while and didn’t feel like I was making any progress whatsoever… so gave it back to Michel, who then opened it and showed me the insides… and I rather liked what I was seeing inside there, but my dodgy hearing meant that I wasn’t able to distinguish the nuances of what was going on inside there… and feared it would be pretty hard work trying to deduce what was going on inside there in order to solve it blind the first time… so we had a bit of a chat about it and we suggested adding  window along one side… and a few months later a window had indeed been added to the lower part of the box – and I think this makes a massive difference to the playability of the puzzle. 

The little window allows the puzzlists to see things wandering backwards and forwards and even allows some deduction about what you can’t see, which is rather crucial to the solving of this puzzle… 

…and I wouldn’t be spoiling the puzzle at all by calling out that the name tells you it’s Michel’s Senary (MiSenary) Puzzle Box… there is an n-ary locking mechanism keeping the lid from opening and you need to find how to manipulate the various parts of the lock through a reasonable number of steps to finally allow the lid to be removed… you can see elements of your progress through that neat little window on the side, and you can easily see if your going the “right way” through the n-ary sequence thanks to the labels on the sides of the window… all good additions to improve the puzzle's enjoyment, IMHO. 

If you’re allergic to boxes, it is clearly an n-ary puzzle with a cavity… if you don’t have that problem, this is a neat little puzzle box with an interesting n-ary locking mechanism… either way, this is the last one that Michel will be selling – he’s had enough of the schlepp of fettling these things together and reckons he’s highly unlikely to make any more of them… so if you want one, you need to be generous to a couple of Dutch cancer charities – it’s currently listed for sale on Puzzle Paradise and remember that none of the proceeds are going to Michel or the auction site – everything goes to cancer research. 

Please bid generously!

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Tell me about it…

Seriously. Please tell me about this puzzle!

I want to know who made it, what it’s called and anything else you can tell me about it… please!

…in return, I’ll tell you a story about it…

[EDIT: Thanks to the wonders of the inter-web, and in particular Nick and Matt, I now know this is called "Keep" by Mike Green. So now you know too.]

I found this lovely little red puzzle box in one of Wil’s crates at IPP – it looked fairly rustic and I made the mistake of assuming it would be reasonably simple to open… I fiddled around a little and made some progress fairly quickly, opening the top of the box and finding a coin resting on top of a silver coin-shaped sticker in the recess… so far so good…

…and then found I couldn’t get anything else to happen – to the extent that I found myself asking Wil if there was indeed any more to find (surely I’m not THAT rubbish as a solver, am I? RHETORICAL QUESTION – STEP AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD!) – Wil did a Wil and shrugged before returning his attention to the paying customers. Fair enough.

After a while he suggested I take it away and try harder – I was pretty sure there must be another opening – there was a lot more space available, and the bottom panel seemed to have a fraction of movement in it – at least more movement than it might have if it had been glued together!

So I took it and tried for quite a while during the Puzzle Party to open it further.

I carried it pretty much everywhere I went and offered it to everyone I came across…

Until I offered it to Louis and an MPP-crowd while I wandered off to do something important (Don’t ask, I can’t remember!) – when I got back they gave it back to me, significantly heavier and jinglier than it had been when I gave it to them… they not only opened it, but they had also had a quick whip around for the largest volume, lowest value pocket change they could find to fill up my little red box…

So I sat down to try and open it again.

And failed, again.

At dinner the next night I summoned up sufficient courage (partly mine, partly Peter’s) to try again – and then finally made the breakthrough I was needing…

This box is very unusual, I’ve never seen a puzzle box use a locking mechanism like that before… it’s rather sneaky and quite clever, and I love my little red box…

After that I let Wil know that I’ve finally solved it and tell him I really rather like it and I’d like to purchase it… at which point he tells me it’s a gift from his lady- friend – chuffed doesn’t do it justice!