Showing posts with label Sequential Discovery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sequential Discovery. Show all posts

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Angel Box

[It feels like ages since I actually wrote a blog post about a new puzzle... time to set that right!] 

Wil Strijbos has been talking about his latest puzzling epic, the Angel Box, for some months now… he started by telling a rather roundabout tale about a trip to a strange building in Helsinki. He followed that up with a 3D drawing of the box itself, along with a classic Strijbos throwaway comment about the fact that the drawing gave absolutely nothing away – a fact I can now attest to!

A while later a picture or two of a prototype found their way to me, along with complaints about the difficulty of getting his manufacturers to make all of the changes he’d asked for – and a short while later he was jetting off to China to sit down with them to go through all of the details in person. That trip seemed to have been successful, as a little while later I’d heard that Louis had been introduced to the latest prototype and had pronounced himself impressed, but not before suggesting one or two little tweaks…

Wil mentioned the impending release of the Angel Box many times during the course of IPP 33 and soon after getting home from IPP I got a series of emails covering the background to the Angel Box and some instructions / warnings with a request for some advice on how best to phrase things, so I had a bash at making sure that he’d got his message across properly (that’s fine for the background stuff, but how do you write instructions for a puzzle you haven’t even seen yet?!).

A few days later I got an excited email from Wil to let me know that he'd shipped my Angel Box and later that week it duly arrived - just in time for a self-imposed long weekend - how's that for timing! Knowing I had a 4-day weekend ahead, and remembering Wil's advice ("There's no rush! Take your time...") I decided to explore slowly and ended up spending around two and a half hours puzzling on and off during the course of the Friday before I managed to solve it - and it immediately became one of the favourites - it is a terrific sequential discovery puzzle...

The first impression is that this is a serious piece of heavy metal - it weighs around 2 kilos and you REALLY don't want to drop this on anything precious, like a toe. The box appears to be made up of a series of aluminium panels, some of which have different sized holes in them, one of the sides has a little porthole through which the angel (your goal) can be seen.

At the start there is nothing to be done aside from trying to remove the digital padlock attached to a sprung rod - the lock seems to be holding the rod in place so it sort of makes sense to start there...

Helpfully the padlock has a code plate attached to the shackle and a little bit of fiddling gives you the code number - which you punch into the lock with an air of hopefulness, only to find it doesn't open... perhaps the buttons need to be the other way round, so try that - nope! OK, so this is Wil we're dealing with, it was never going to be that easy... so we need to pick the lock - easy enough, it's binary with 8 buttons - so there are around 256 combinations... but a bit of thinking will help you reduce that quite a bit, and you're off and picking and eventually you'll get the lock open...

Right, we're off... only that sprung rod doesn't actually seem to do anything but bounce in and out when you prod it... Oh, and it turns, rather freely. Not useful what?

At this stage the real voyage of discovery starts when you find some interesting "tools" - even though they don't look like things you might find in your toolbox... closer examination of the sides of the box and those holes in particular shows that some of the tools might fit in those holes, so we start playing a bit. At first three of the holes are "interesting" so I concentrate on those and fiddle around trying to work out how they interact with one another and at some point the fourth hole becomes rather interesting as well... once you work out what to with those, you're rewarded with the top plate opening and just as you get your hopes up, it you a tantalising view inside the box, looking down at what appears to be a jail cell of the cute little angel.

There's a few more locking mechanisms to understand and defeat before you can get the top of the box out of the way only to find that the angle is now locked up inside that little cell in the bottom corner of the box... and in order to release the angel you're going to have to dismantle the box a lot further.

There are several more discoveries along the way and some neat little mechanisms that are beautifully disguised. This puzzle keeps on letting you think you're getting somewhere, only to laugh at you and make you realise you've just peeled off one more layer of the onion.

Wil's paid a lot of attention to the details on this puzzle and in spite of the warnings, you probably won't lose any of your tools, unless you're very silly indeed... it's beautifully made and it keeps on giving and giving - even the final step to release the angel still isn't quite the end of the puzzle ... in the bottom of the angel's cell there's a personalised note with a further quest - but I'm not going to spoil that one for you - you'll have to follow that one yourself.

I really love this puzzle - there are multiple interrelated layers and it rewards and teases you all the way through. There are plenty of tools to discover and some wonderful "A-Ha's!" when you find something useful to do with them... it's a good, solid puzzle that you won't be afraid of passing around at a puzzle party.

Wil's first batch of around 30 sold out in a couple of days and the next batch is on its way, but he will be limiting production to 99 Angel Boxes - if you like sequential discovery puzzles you will kick yourself if you don't play with one of them.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Strijbos’ Lotus Puzzle

Wil’s recent announcement of a new puzzle was greeted with plenty of excitement, and more than a few orders. 

We’d first been introduced to a Lotus prototype back in the middle of last year when Wil came over to visit us at an MPP. Several people had a go at it and none of us got very far … so he made it a little more difficult and kicked off production!

Lotus is the latest blue anodised aluminium puzzle from the Strijbos stable. From the side it resembles a classic impossible object of a trapped nail in a block of wood with a coin around the nail. On the edge there’s a nod to Wil’s other trademark feature – a dovetail joint running through the entire length of the body. On one end you can see a little black stopper and something rattling behind it… the nail slides in and out, a bit, but not enough to do anything useful, the washer around the nail spins pleasingly and the dovetail joint is resolutely locked… oh, and there’s a threaded hole in the top of the body … but that’s your lot!

Shake it and it rattles – surprise! At least that’s something to work on…

Solving the Lotus is very much a sequential discovery process … and you’ll find some rather interesting and very well hidden and/or disguised tools along the way – working out which ones are useful, and how they can be used is a wonderful little voyage of discovery. 

This puzzle is like an onion in the way that it lets you in one layer at a time … and one of the best features is that you can’t see how many layers there are from the outside, so you have to feel your way forward without really knowing how much further you have to go.

At one point you’ll get a little prize for all your troubles, and you may be tempted to think that’s the end of the road - far from it … you need to keep going until you discover where this puzzle gets its name from … or until you’ve disassembled it totally if you’re really curious. 

Wil’s helpfully pointed out that the solution doesn’t require any bashing, tapping or knocking (or any other variation thereof!) – so don’t bother investigating that, you won’t solve it that way and you’ll just feel silly afterwards! 

Please be careful though, there are plenty of opportunities to launch tools in various directions so please play carefully, and heed Wil’s wisdom and only remove that peg after you’ve solved the entire puzzle and you’re sure you know what’s going to happen…

Friday, 14 December 2012

Washington Monument sequential discovery puzzle

Brian Young’s IPP32 exchange puzzle is a brute of a puzzle!

If you’ve solved it (properly!), give yourself a pat on the back – this is a thoroughly devious puzzle. 

Brian’s description points out that there’s red, white and blue on the flags, and there’s a white (Queensland Silver Ash) monument on a red (Western Australian Jarrah) base – and all you have to do is find the blue inside, and then relock the puzzle as you found it. Helpfully his description goes on to point out that this is an incredible scale model of the real Washington Monument, right down to the (removable) lightning rod at the top.

A pretty cursory examination of the puzzle shows the monument is set on a circular section of the base and it will rotate reasonably freely – until something jams up against one of those flagpoles – cured by a bit of jiggling and it rotates once more – until something jams up against one of those flagpoles – repeat until bored... it may be therapeutic, but it won’t solve the puzzle for you!

Handily the flagpoles all come out leaving four little peepholes into the base ... and as you’d expect, now the monument turns freely and every now and then you can find something shiny whizzing past one of the holes while you’re turning the monument around ... OK ... so we know there are some pins that are keeping the base attached to the monument – and there seem to be quite a few of them. You can hear them rattle if you shake it.

Right, so some sort of pins radiating out from a central point – we’ve seen things like that before, haven’t we? Gotcha!

Spin the sucker and just open it...


Right that didn’t work, let’s spin it faster... 



Hmmm. That’s weird. That should have worked...

OK, so it’s not quite that simple... probably wouldn’t have been, given that it’s one of Brian Young’s (aka Mr Puzzle) creations. 

Right so think about it a bit more... we haven’t inspected that lightning rod yet, so tug on it – feels like something’s sucking it into that hole... Hmmm... 

Round about now I started experimenting with some pretty weird ideas – and I play for quite a while before I eventually manage to release the monument and find myself staring at one of the strangest mechanisms I’ve ever seen in a puzzle ... and I stare at it for quite a while trying to work out why it’s just done what I think it’s done – only my brain keeps telling me that it’s just violated a couple of fundamental laws of physics – and my brain doesn’t like it when that happens ... so I think some more, and play some more – and to be honest the confusion merely mounts! Add to that I’m starting to think I’ve gubbed it... So I do the only thing a puzzler in my condition can do – I phone a friend, who’s solved his already and beg for the explanation so that my head will stop spinning at these fundamental violations it keeps coming up against ... and when he tells me, it all slots into place: you’ll be glad to hear that the fundamental laws of physics haven’t been so much violated as temporarily suspended – remember these puzzles were manufactured in Oz!

OK – so having opened it (properly) – closing it is non-trivial, in fact you’re going to find it’s now locked open! Locking it up isn’t simply a case of reversing the process – Oh no – that would be way too simple! You’ll need to come up with a strategy, find the tools to implement it and then close it up again... remember it’s a sequential discovery puzzle!

This is a really incredible little puzzle that incorporates a mechanism I’ve never seen in a puzzle before (I’m still new to this – be gentle!) – it’s a really clever mechanism and I suspect that we’ll see it appearing in some or other guise again in the future – it’s simply too good an idea not to use again!

[Brian’s web-site includes a bit more information about the puzzle than I’ve shared in my write-up, and also points out that you need to solve it properly and not just fluke it – i.e. you need to get all the pins locked in place to have opened it properly ... and then return it to the starting position again... enjoy!]

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Sandfield’s Locked Drawer

This brilliant puzzle was Robert Sandfield’s exchange puzzle for IPP30 in Japan. It’s beautifully made by Kathleen Malcolmson who also had a hand in designing it... and when I saw a few of them on Robert’s table at the best puzzle party (cue Jeremy Clarkson tone) in the world, I took one straight away (and paid for it as well!).

It comes in one of the usual Sandfield-branded draw-string bags and it’s a reasonably unassuming little box with a drawer on one side of it. Something inside rattles, a bit like a coin. The drawer is a bit looser than I’m expecting given the puzzle’s name, in fact you’ll find that it pulls right out – which is a real surprise given that it’s Sandfield’s Locked Drawer – until, that is, you pull it all the way out and there’s a little click, at which point you realise you’ve been had ... NOW it’s locked – locked OPEN!

...and that’s the start of the little odyssey... you have an open drawer with a coin in it, assuming you didn’t open it upside down, in which case there’s now a coin on the table! Try turning it upside down, spinning it, or even blowing gently on it, nothing seems to help. Shaking it brings up some new noises though... intriguing – where was that before?

From there on there’s a great little journey of discovery to find a few useful tools, some hidden places, a weird mechanism that won’t do what you want it to ... until you understand it and then ultimately a series of steps to return the box to its original state, ready for the next victim.

A beautifully disguised little sequential discovery puzzle that packs way more discovery than I was expecting – and I love giving it to folks and telling them what it’s called and watching the look on their faces range from “That’s not a puzzle, it just opens” to “Oh ... bugger!”.

Does that make me a bad person?

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Houdini’s Torture Cell

There’s a particular puzzle in Brian Young’s Opening Bat sequential discovery puzzle that is absolutely mind-blowing. I’d never come across anything quite like it before and the sense of achievement solving it produced was phenomenal. Now a large measure of the difficulty and the resultant sense of achievement come from the fact that the entire mechanism for that lock is hidden from view – you’re having to deduce what’s in there, how it works and how to defeat it. 

Brian recognised that this idea was an absolute gem and set about turning it into the guts of his own exchange puzzle for IPP31 in Berlin this year – and that’s where Houdini’s Torture Cell came from. 

Soon after Brian and Sue returned from their holidays (and a trip to IPP in Berlin) they listed a number of IPP puzzles that Brian had had a hand in creating at Mr Puzzle – it didn’t take long to spot and send off an order for a few interesting little items, and knowing what I did about the Opening Bat, I wasn’t going to pass up on getting a copy of Houdini’s Torture cell. 

It’s a cute looking puzzle with Houdini’s torso and head hanging down from the top of the acrylic torture cell and some perilous-looking metalwork perched beneath his noggin. The object is to release Houdini from his cell, trouble is that the top and bottom of the cell appear pretty much screwed shut, so unless Brian’s cunningly concealed a Philips screwdriver in there somewhere ... came apart...
A little playing around with the puzzle will quickly show you that the cell swivels on the base, and in fact will come free of the base – and that’s a useful start, but there’s still a long way to go... 

Brian bills this puzzle as a sequential discovery puzzle and it really is, albeit on a slightly less grand scale than his Opening Bat! There are several little discoveries along the way to keep you not only amused, but aware that you’re on the right path. He’s changed it a little bit from the version in the Opening Bat, and if anything made one of the earlier steps a little more difficult, but you can actually see what you’re doing here, so that’s only fair!

It’s a great little puzzle that gives you something impossible when you start and something magical when you finish – it’s great to see that mechanism finding wider use – it really is simply too good to restrict to using it on only 50 copies of the Opening Bat. 

Vintage Mr Puzzle quality – looks great and works perfectly!

It’s easy to see why Brian received “very positive feedback” about this one at IPP and then has folks like Wil Strijbos announcing it was his favourite exchange puzzle this year – it’s great! 

[You can read about Oli's thoughts and experiences of the torture cell over here.]