Saturday 25 November 2023


I find myself late getting back from a work thing so Gill ends up doing the airport run to collect Rob K, Wil and Louis from their Amsterdam flight and Stefan from Sofia – and shortly after I get home, the car-load of puzzlers arrives at chez Walker.

There are some quick hellos – it’s only been a few weeks since we all met up in The Hague – we make sure that Rob knows where to find the puzzles – and we get some pizzas in the oven as we’re all ravenous. By the time the pizzas are ready we have a serious challenge to clear enough space on the dining room table given all of the puzzles that have already come out to play… it’s a good start to a fine puzzling weekend.

We manage to polish off most of the pizzas, maintaining the proud Walker reputation of never knowingly under-catering. The puzzles come out again in full force and I get to join the gang for some chatting and puzzles.

Stefan’s been whipping up some amazing 3D-printed beauties yet again and he gifts me a matching copy of Wavelinks and Spheres – they make my amateurish prints look decidedly sub-par and I’m delighted with them…

Two recent arrivals (Zak from Radek and Doog) and the Third Window Lock from Dick Hensel come out to play and I’m intrigued to see Zak putting up quite a good fight, while Window Lock 3 continues to beat all comers… me included.

Rob begins his mission to work his way through the Karakuri boxes and Stefan spends some quality time with Roger’s Maze bolt + while Wil starts a wonderful relationship with a copy of Singmaster’s 25 Packing puzzle.

At the end of the night I drop the Dutch contingent off at their Airbnb down the road and I crash for the night. The pups make sure I’m up pretty early and after some pastries for breakfast, I drop Stefan at the hall while I head down to collect the Dutch contingent. By the time I get back Stefan has sorted out all the tables and chairs and been joined by Rich, Ali, Steve and Michael… it’s like there’s going to be a puzzle party or something.

A short while later we have the hot drinks up and running, there are piles of biscuits and a there’s a throng of puzzlers. I’m really chuffed when I spot Shane as we haven’t seen him for a while – as usual his personality fills the whole hall with fun and laughter. Andrew Coles has brought with him a new toy to play with and after a suitable period of fiddling he pronounces it excellent and tosses it to me to play with… and after a considerably longer period, I too pronounce it excellent and seek out Andrew and strongly encourage him to make some of those and make them available for sale as it’s a really unique new puzzle lock mechanism – fingers crossed he’ll find the time and space to make some as I’d love to add one to my little hoard.

James, Lindsay and Rosie spend a good few hours visiting on their way back down south – James works his way around the assembled masses catching up with folks he hasn’t seen for a while and at some point we announce a December White’s Plot Puzzle Party – which sounds like a fabulous excuse to visit with friends again and possibly even play with some puzzles. James is still insisting that he’s no longer collecting puzzles and then generally in the next breath is asking everyone what new puzzles he absolutely must buy…

Fraser brought his long-suffering better-half along. I suspect Vic was hoping for a quiet corner to read a book but she ended up spending most of the day chatting with puzzlers and playing with puzzles – and to be fair, she didn’t look any less expert at solving them than any of the rest of us!

Amy and her hubby joined us for most of the day, along with the twins and she managed to do a great job of wrangling a couple of wee ‘uns while also solving a bunch of puzzles along the way – I suspect the boys are going to have to turn into puzzlers!

Dale had brought a whole collection of ever-so-slightly-naughty pottery thingies for Wil – who was thoroughly delighted, and I suspect that Dale was delighted to find a good home for them…

Lily had come along for the day too – so it was good to have at least one responsible adult in the room!

A couple of us snuck out a little early for lunch lest we find the pig rolls had run out like last time… no such trouble this time – there was heaps so when we got back we told everyone it was lunchtime… ‘cos we’re nice like that.

Lots of folks ended up spending time playing with Oskar/Bram’s Ziguflat – it was a huge hit, definitely one of the nicest DCD giveaways we’ve had. Rich did me a solid by not only taking apart my copy of Climburr, but actually solving it as well… and leaving it in a solved position this time! (Thanks Rich – there’s no way I was getting that apart, or back together again!)

Fraser very kindly gave me a copy of a couple of his recent Christmas puzzles – a beautiful little snowflake edge-matching puzzle and a mini Towers of Hanoi with three Christmas trees for towers – Thanks Fraser!

My new little Rocky treasures got a good playing with and most folks managed to find their way around the Beerstein and Teapot, but the Ice Bucket tended to put up a bit more of a fight.

My sneaky plan of taking along a couple of new Osanori’s that needed solving totally backfired as everyone else who had a bash at them failed as well…

Sometime after sunset we tidied up the hall and headed back up to the house where we procured a large box of fish suppers (and a plain sausage and chips) for the hungry horde. Mikael had cooked what I probably incorrectly referred to as a potato bake and that went down a storm alongside the more pedestrian fish suppers.

There was many hours of puzzling with a long line of old Stickman Puzzleboxes coming out for a play and an even longer line of Karakuri boxes cycling between the dining room and Puzzle Cave #2. It was great to see them getting played with as folks discovered some of them for the first time!

The masses began drifting homeward at a reasonable hour – probably just as well given at least one of the major motorways had been closed for the night – ironically one that had had no roadworks on it for the first time in years… I guess they missed having the roadworks.

The Dutch contingent were duly dropped off at their digs before another late (for me!) night…

Next morning bright and early Stefan and I had a quick breakfast before dropping him off at the airport and then collecting the Dutchies on the way back home… for a few more hours puzzling, and some delicious homemade soup with freshly baked rolls courtesy of Gilly.

By the early afternoon Rob had made serious headway through my Karakuri collection, Louis had helped me analyse, fix and solve a plethora of puzzles I had lying around and Wil had made sufficient in-roads on his Analysis of Singmaster 25 that he was smitten by it… a fine end to a superb weekend’s puzzling fun with my friends… thanks all!


Monday 20 November 2023

A Bolt from the BLUE

Ali Morris’ 2023 exchange puzzle was a new bolt puzzle – a big old man-sized bolt with a brass washer on it - it had to be brass, didn't it! Your goal, as usual with Ali’s bolts, is to remove the washer…

This one comes in a handy 3D printed carrier that makes it look a little sinister – almost hand grenade-ish… retrieving the bolt from the carrier is almost trivial – spoiler alert – the base unscrews – presenting you with the full metallic glory of Ali’s latest little torture device…

I exchanged this for some of my Think Sticks in Jerusalem and had a few plays with it while I was still in Israel – getting absolutely nowhere…

Back in Blighty, I spent some more time on it and began to reassess my approach several times over the next few months as I managed to thoroughly fail to solve it.

Apart from the tiniest bit of play in the nut securing the washer on the outside, I couldn’t find anything interesting at all… I tried spinning it, I blew on it, heck I even tried leaving in the freezer for an hour or two thinking that the reference in the name might be to something cold rather than something surprising…

I’d regularly report my (lack of) progress to Ali and the lads would laugh with (at!) me a little and we’d move on…

At one point I thought I’d found a way to increase the amount of play on that well-stuck nut, but that didn’t really pan out… I explored it all manner of strangeness-detectors and everything came up blank. I spent a long time examining the sticker on the carrier, certain at one point that something magical would happen if I treated it just right… but it didn’t…

And so it continued for well nigh three months, until my recent trip to The Netherlands for DCD – where I tried something I hadn’t tried at all up until now, and I found myself swearing at Ali – who sadly wasn’t in the room at the time due to a family birthday – as I suspect that he’d have enjoyed my little outburst at his, err, design ingenuity.

He’d been telling me all along that it was a bit of a Marmite puzzle, you’d either love it or you’d…. turns out I’m definitely in the love it camp – it bested me for over three months and it still got a massive smile from me when I finally solved it - it’s a goodie!

Sunday 12 November 2023


Boaz Feldman has been carrying on the family tradition of creating excellent puzzle locks for a good few years now and this year he entered his latest baby, Picolock, in the Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition.

I had a couple of goes at it in the Design Competition Room and I can confidently state that I made absolutely ZERO progress, so when the Puzzle Party rolled around, I made sure that I had some cash to hand over to Boaz for a shiny new copy of Picolock.

Back at home I had several more goes at trying to open the lock (yup, that’s the goal!) and continued my unblemished record of not troubling the solution in any way… I did get to know the lock rather well.

You receive a neatly engraved, ever so slightly modified 40mm Nabob padlock. The key(?) is attached to the shackle by one of those ubiquitous super-strong cable keyrings. All of that comes in one of Boaz’s neat little embroidered pouches along with an instruction card – there can be no doubt what the goal is and that you shouldn’t be using any external tools…

Over the course of my several unsuccessful goes at opening the lock I explored what I considered to be all of the usual tricks of the trade – there are one or two interesting visual clues and I found myself focusing on them… but unable to make anything useful of any of my observations.

If truth be told, I did rather obsess on one of those visual clues rather a lot and I’d pretty much convinced myself that something magical would happen with a particular feature, only I failed to find the secret release that would allow that to happen… and in the end I spent most of the three intervening months concentrating on those things, and getting nowhere at all… not that any of my friends took the proverbial – well not much… well…

In the end I found I’d succumbed to the gravest of errors: not properly discounting something before moving on and leaving it behind – it turns out there was something I could do that I’d previously convinced myself wasn’t possible because I’d explored all of the possible avenues exhaustively… well, not quite.

…and having revisited that avenue, a whole new world opened up before me and all of a sudden, I was on a wild and exciting ride of new discoveries, tools and techniques and soon enough, an opened shackle.

Having spent three months being thoroughly baffled, the final fifteen minutes of this journey were sheer excitement and joyful discovery – the three months of zero progress and self-doubt are totally forgotten and once again I’m an enormous fan of Boaz’ creativity and serious puzzle-designing-chops – Picolock is exceptional and deserves its place in the family dynasty.

Great work Boaz!!

...and the good news is that Picolock is now available for sale at Boaz' webshop over here...


Saturday 4 November 2023

DCD 2023

I grabbed a train down to London on Friday afternoon and met up with Rich in the bar. Ali and Steve drove into town and then Ali carted us off to Cluequest for a couple of escape rooms before dinner. We manage to save the world from being mutated into sheep(!) in spite of some of us managing to ignore massive big clues along the way and then we disarmed a post box… excellent rooms at Cluequest - we’ve got one more to play there, but there’s news that they may be getting a new room sometime next year, so hopefully there’ll be a couple for us to play by the time DCD comes around again…

After putting the world to rights, we grabbed a pizza at a very trendy place (you could tell by the fact that the rest of the clientele was about half our age – and we had Rich with us remember!) where the pizza turned out much better than we’d been dreading it might be from the descriptions on the menu. After we’d refuelled we headed back to the hotel bar for a libation and some banter. Rich disappeared off upstairs to drop something off in his room and Steve and I spent about 15 minutes trying unsuccessfully to get served at the bar - mainly because it had closed about half an hour earlier - turns out Londoner’s don’t drink in hotels on a Friday evening - who knew?

Steve and I give up on waiting for Rich and head upstairs, only for the lift to decide it’s overloaded - really rude given there’s literally only four of us in the jolly thing!

We meet up in the lobby before the sparrows wake up and Rich amuses us by telling us he’d been locked out of his room the night before - Liz had gone to sleep and turned off her phone with the only key inside the room, and it seems she’s not a light sleeper so it took half an hour of bashing on the door to raise her…

At St Pancras there are a lot of people in Springbok rugby shirts heading off the Rugby World Cup final in Paris… there aren’t many springbok supporters on the train to Rotterdam. We amuse ourselves with some puzzles and briefly with a Professor Puzzle escape room in a box - we get an extra hour’s puzzling time because there’s a problem with a train ahead of us so we grind to a halt for a while… Rich has brought snacks and there’s plenty of coffee and puzzles so we don’t mind at all.

We navigate the Metro (a first for me) to find Louis in Voorburg and he takes us through to the school so we can dump Steve’s stock and considerably lighten his load. We swing via the hotel to collect Stefan and squash him into the back seat between Rich and I and head off to Delft to find Rob’s new house… we miss it on the first lap of Delft city centre but manage to spot it on the second lap… we blame Rob’s directions, which in fairness are excellent as long as you know what’s coming up next, e.g. turn before the building site… but you only know it’s a building site once you’ve driven past it…

A couple of the guys are already drowning their sorrows in caffeine so we join them… the puzzles come out, the helpful banter begins to flow and more puzzlers arrive until we’re more or less filling Rob’s new lounge with laughter and encouragement - and the odd bit of abuse.

We spend several hours playing with puzzles and catching up with folks we haven’t seen for a while - the customary pizzas arrive and there’s a bit of a lull in the noise levels as we feast, and then we’re back into full tilt puzzling again.

Rob brings out  a shopping bag full of what looks like bits of a dinosaur skeleton and in a fabulous bit of misjudgement, he entrusts the assembly to Steve and Rich – who proceed to build a franken-beetle-saurus which Steve then proudly displays on top of Rob’s puzzle cabinet.

I decide to embarrass myself and have another go at solving Ali’s exchange puzzle from Jerusalem -YES - I’ve been trying to solve it for three months now… and finally get the inspiration to do the right thing and it turns out I am an eedjit and Ali has beaten me thoroughly! Given that I’m already getting so much grief for the fact that I’m spending literally three months longer solving these puzzles than the rest of the assembled rabble, I pick up Rob’s copy of Picolock expecting to add another few hours to my unsuccessful solving time… but some helpful comments on some of the things that I’m randomly verbalizing while I’m not solving it lead me to reassess a few assumptions I hadn’t realized I’d made and soon I’m actually making some progress on that one… and about ten minutes later it’s also solved and I’m ready to sing Boaz’s praises for a long time…

I go three for three by picking up Peter’s exchange puzzle and literally solving it in seconds… well, OK, three months and some seconds…

Somewhere around midnight we figure we better head back to Voorburg and check into our hotel - we find the night manager and get our rooms and collapse until the next morning…

Breakfast is excellent and Louis takes a car-full of puzzlers back to the school for the main event.

There are already piles of puzzlers there so Steve sets out his stall while the rest of us set about chatting to friends and shopping furiously, or indeed some combination of the two.

I spend a while chatting to Jan Willem and spot some Rocky Chiaro puzzles on his table and end up purchasing a few of the ornate “things” that Jan Willem has decided to let go - I promise to give them a good home. Wil has his usual long array of crates of treasure - where else are you going to find most of the Roger D puzzles stacked up next to some collectible Karakuri boxes and a Pachinko box for sale? Marcel had a huge selection of stuff from the latest Hanayamas through to several of his own original chess pieces and some Sandfield and Trevor Wood treasures… 

Tony Fisher has brought a few throughly bonkers creations over for our enjoyment - I have never seen a skewb that large or indeed dinosaur eggs like that...(fact!). 

The usual excellent spread at lunchtime filled us all up.

Jack had a huge selection of petite puzzles and I held back from his table until much later in the day, before I hoovered up a bunch of his tray puzzles and a few other little bits and pieces that make excellent puzzling gifts.

Leo was auctioning off some rather collectible items in an actual real-world silent auction which was really amusing to watch. Grown men scribbling on post-it notes and then watching everyone else like a hawk… and the real-life sniping at the end of the auction that was almost entirely undone when Leo began closing out the auction three minutes before the appointed time, much to the consternation of the snipers in the audience. Peace did prevail and Steve bought an expensive jam jar with some sand and a few marbles in it and I bought an expensive pair of scissors with some string attached - and we were both delighted.

The afternoon lectures included some insights into 2*2 Rubik’s cubing at world championship level from someone who does (that was way more fascinating than I thought I’d find it!), an update from George and Rox on the World Puzzle Centre (I suspect they’ve spelt it wrong!) and Rob gave us a canter through a selection of the exchange puzzles from Jerusalem this year… well, the ones he won’t be covering in the upcoming CFF article anyway…

After we’d reset the hall for the school lunch, a bunch of us headed off to a nearby Chinese joint where we duly caused havoc - there were fourteen of us… we had fun, and the buffet survived the onslaught, just…

After dinner Louis ferried Chris to the station and our baggage back to the hotel where Steve and I found him about twenty minutes later… some of the others who were walking back with us took a more scenic route and got to the hotel about half an hour later…

Four of us ended up in the bar playing with puzzles - I know, weird, eh?

Next morning Steve and I ended up having a leisurely breakfast while Rich topped up his beauty sleep (and I’m not going to comment on whether or not he needed it) before Steve headed off on a bit of a wander and I headed off to the room to type up my thoughts before I forgot the more important stories of the weekend.

...fashionable gentlemen meet-up
We checked out at the bell and then navigated the public transport system back to Rotterdam to find some lunch and our Eurostar back to St Pancras… we found a great burger joint just outside the station and then headed across at the appointed time, where we found a slightly tetchy crowd of folks outside the Eurostar check-in area – it seems that the high-speed trains weren’t running through Rotterdam, as such, there was no Eurostar to catch. The advice was to make our way to Brussels where the staff would put us on a train, promise! The next three hours turned into a mini-Race-Around-The-World as we took four trains to get ourselves to Brussels, where the friendly staff did indeed put us on a train from Brussels to London as there was still no service north of Brussels…

We ended up with a table to play with our puzzles and made our way through the Exit the Game Lord of the Rings adventure… to the occasional amusement of a rather serious fellow traveller on our table.

We may have gotten into St Pancras about three hours later than anticipated, but it was still an awesome puzzling weekend!




Monday 30 October 2023

Traffic 15

I spotted a new puzzle from Yuu Asaka on social media a little while back so I duly put in an order for a few copies, knowing that some of my mates were going to want a copy as well…

This one really stands out for me - it presents as a simple enough packing puzzle -  a square tray with a couple of rounded corners, nine big white pieces, some with rounded-corners again and then three pairs of traffic sign sort of arrows. The white pieces have cut-outs for the arrows and it’s pretty easy to see how things need to go together to make the spaces that you seek… and you can pretty much just do that for virtually all of the pieces… except there’s always one stubborn arrow that just won’t slot into place… what’s interesting is that it’s not always the same piece that won’t slot into place, but you are always left with one… “which is interesting” as Laurie used to say. 

Somewhere around this point I realise that my usual approach of just trying to bash things in randomly probably isn’t going to serve me well, so I take a little of my own advice(!) and I Think(C) a little…

…and it dawns on me that there are some rather interesting constraints I hadn’t spotted into my random packings… 

Clearly I’m now onto something important so I explore that with renewed vigour, only to come up somewhat short yet again - even more analysis may well be required…

So I Think(C) even more… experiment a little and then remind myself of just how devious some of Yuu’s other designs have been in the past, and throw away all of my preconceived ideas, even the ones I hadn’t realised I had… and that turns out to be rather important - the solution is excellent and I love how it’s literally taken me through three whole cycles of thinking I’ve known what to do, and then realizing I didn’t in order to finally settle on the solution. 

… this is definitely one of my favorite puzzles from this very clever designer!

Saturday 14 October 2023

NPP 2023 (part 2)

I’m an absolute eedjit!

Not only did I ignore most of the photos I’d taken during the course of the day at NPP, but I also omitted one of the funniest stories of the day… so here are some more pics and the story I forgot!

This story starts with Frank’s pre-NPP rituals – he likes to dust the puzzles in his puzzle cave so that when we move things around to find puzzles to play with, we don’t spread the puzzle-dust all around the house – at least that’s what I think he said.

During said ritualistic cleansing, Frank spotted that his Klein Bottle was a little (puzzle-)dusty and set about cleaning it… and at some point he decided that introducing some water would be helpful – yes, yes, we ALL know… and that didn’t go quite to plan, so on the Saturday morning Frank had a slightly moist Klein Bottle with some little drops of water in some rather hard to reach places…

Which is where Steve, our super-cleaner takes up the challenges and broadly announces that what it needs is rice – everyone who’s ever seen anything on the internet knows that rice is used to dry out anything precious… Frank helpfully provides a 3-kilogram sack of rice (Basmati, if you’re interested) and some rice is duly decanted into a lovely little milk jug (no milk is currently in residence).

Steve pours a little into the orifice and shakes it around and it does indeed do a passable job of mopping up the moisture – HURRAH!

Somewhere around now Dan and Andrew arrive and between the usual greetings, Dan asks what Steve is up to so he explains that Frank had tried washing his Klein Bottle only to find some moisture trapped inside it so we’re trying to help him – Dan solemnly raises his hand and comes up with the single geekiest comment of the day: “Hang on – may I just take exception to the fact that there is moisture inside of a Klein Bottle?” – cue short philosophical discussion about the fact that there is no inside of a Klein Bottle.

Anyhow – back to the rescue mission - the rice, however, is now somewhat damp, and doesn’t really slide as well as it used to and sort of sticks to the glass and won’t come out… but Steve doesn’t panic, for he knows that the answer to this new problem is in fact more rice… enough rice to bash the original rice off the wall and carry it out of the way with its momentum!

By now Rich is involved and they dispense with the little milk jug and resort to pouring rice straight from the 3-kilogram sack into the dainty Klein Bottle… until they fill it with rice.

Right about now Quigley looks up from his puzzle and tells the lads they’re all idiots and they’re just going to end up with white rice dust inside it (I know, I know – but you know what he means!).

Undeterred, Steve persists with the Klein Bottle puzzle until all of the rice, and indeed all traces of the moisture are out of the Bottle… which would have been absolutely brilliant had it not been for the little film of white rice dust coating the inside of the glass… Quigley doesn’t crow, much…

Frank declares it even messier than before he’d started his ritual and duly puts it under the warm water tap and washes it again… this time he refuses to give it to Steve and places it on the radiator in the kitchen… where it dries gently without the need for any further rice.

No Klein Bottles were harmed in the making of this story – some rice may been sacrificed in the name of science.