Sunday 14 April 2024


[Thanks Tyler for the improved Roman Numerals!]

I collected the Gill and the Dutch contingent (Wil, Rob K and Louis) from the airport and we headed back to the house for some re-acquainting and some puzzling before the pizza’s came out of the oven and the puzzles disappeared while the pizzas were nommed… in relative silence. After the pizzas there were ice creams and then the puzzling resumed.

Will had gifted me a new puzzle box from JCC with some lovely intricate decoration and a prominent heart on the top… it was clear that it would have something to do with the solution, but it stubbornly resisted any attempts at getting it to do anything interesting… for quite a long time. Finally I found something potentially useful to explore before making a bit of progress, but it still took a while for me to stumble across the right thing and open the box to find a very compact mechanism housed inside the lid of the box – very neatly designed giving the right amount of puzzling and leaving plenty of space for the obligatory loaves of bread.

I’d printed a couple of copies of Mowens’ Paino Box for folks to have a bash at and Louis duly spent a while dismantling one copy entirely… stopping and starting it a couple of times as there’s a really sneaky bit after the first five or six pieces. Once he’d bashed through that wall, the rest yielded appropriately. He spent a while admiring the design of a number of the pieces (they really are intricate!) before working through the reassembly, occasionally stopping to reverse a few steps and insert a piece that should already be in there already… judging by Louis’ reaction it works quite well as either an assembly or a disassembly puzzle.

After some coffees and plenty of puzzling, I dropped the guys at their AirBnB and went home to crash.

Next morning I got all my stuff together and collected the boys on the way to the hall to get set up. Chris was already there and the Brass Monkey mobile with Mike and Rich in tow arrived just as we got there… Sam and Dale were having a chat in the carpark – great to see Sam again after quite a long break. It’s great to arrive and find a bunch of friends already there keen to get puzzling and chatting.

I left the lads setting up the tables and chairs while I headed off to grab some cold drinks and some fresh milk and by the time I got back I could tell which tables Steve had set up: there was a neat square of tables around the edge and two tables pushed together at a jaunty angle in the centre.

I’d taken along Planet with a Ring I & II for folks to compare (and more likely contrast!) and several folks seemed to enjoy them over the course of the day.

Having recently received a copy of Loris, I decided to take all of my Frank Chambers puzzles out for a play too and they seemed to go down very well indeed, albeit I don’t think I actually saw anyone solve Loris… let me know if I’m wrong! Ring Box raised a LOT of laughs, with almost everyone solving it under the table for some reason and some folks having something to say about certain others' enthusiastic resetting techniques. If you know, you know…

I had a lot of fun toying with Rich while he tried to solve Peter Hajek’s Matchbox – if only he’d just asked the question he wanted to, somebody would have given him an honest answer! (Probably…)

Juno’s Tetracircles got quite a lot of interest. Rob had made short work of both sides the night before and during the course of Saturday several more declared victory over it… leaving me gently sobbing as I haven’t managed either side in what seems like ages… one of these days!

Fraser brought along his own twist on Kohno Ichiro’s Three Cubes puzzle… with articulating pieces which adds another few degrees of freedom and a whole lot more puzzling. He was dishing out copies left, right and centre and I suspect that everyone ended up with their own copy – thanks Fraser!

[I won’t bore you with yet another description of the pig rolls, but they were good!]

Kyle had brought along a prototype for the new MW Puzzles pinball machine that’s been teased on Discord a bit… I think some folks made a little bit of progress, but I got absolutely nowhere – saving all the joy in the hopes of managing to grab a copy for myself at some point… it looks absolutely brilliant in real life.

Phil had brought along a few copies of his new version of Spinning Tumblers (v2) so I gave the man some cash and put a copy aside to play with later… when later came (on Sunday) it thoroughly kicked my R’s – and I have yet to make much meaningful progress… when I do manage to solve it, I’m sure you’ll hear about it!

Jesse’s Fibonacci box got a fair amount of interest, albeit given the indeterminate state it’d spent most of its time in, nobody managed to open it, until Sunday when Louis sat down with a sheet of paper and drew an exhaustive map of all of the states it can be in, and from that we determined the start and end positions and the all-important numbering system, which gives it its Fibonacci-ness – albeit only after I managed to seriously confuse things by being absolutely certain about the start of the series, only to find out I was wrong after Louis’ map suggested otherwise and the internet confirmed I was being a numpty.

Wil was selling a few interesting goodies including his latest exchange puzzle, copies of the EPP booklets, JCC’s new Heart Box and a really interesting new Indian-style puzzle lock. I’d managed to solve the lock the night before but during the course of the day I convinced myself I needed to add a copy to the hoard: it looks really familiar and indeed some elements work the way you might expect, but there’s a wonderful twist that puts a smile on everyone’s face when they find it…

Predictably we decamped and there were fish suppers and a bunch more puzzling at my place – and even some attempts at dexterity, but it might have been too late in the day for that… there was a lot of chat – some it puzzling, before everyone headed their own separate ways and I dropped the Dutch folks back at their home from home.

Next morning I collected them after breakfast and we puzzled furiously (I’ve already told you about Louis’ proper go at the Fibonacci box), I had a play with the Criss Cross Cube that Rob had given me on Friday evening and managed to work through a fair chunk of the simpler challenges before the harder challenges slowed me down quite a lot. I suspect the wizard levels are going to keep me amused for quite a while.

I spent a while on Phil’s latest toy, not getting very far at all – that one is going to take a bit more Think (c) and probably a bit of Listen (not c) as well.

Gill cooked us some gourmet hotdogs for lunch that went down very well before I dropped the lads off at BHX for their flight back to AMS… another excellently puzzling weekend – thanks to all who joined us and provided amusement.


Thursday 4 April 2024

A horse with a warrior

The fist time A horse with a warrior came up for sale I missed out in the lottery, so when the Karakuri-clan announced they’d be making another batch I tried again and managed to snaffle one the second time around.
This little guy is very much a statement piece - somewhat larger than your average Karakuri creation - it’s very obviously meant to be a Trojan beast of burden. 

While it’s clearly a horse, it’s definitely not so much of a horse that it’s lost its Trojan roots - those remain very clearly visible… and when you start playing with it there are several nods to that nature along the way. 

Kasho-San has introduced a number of wonderfully playful elements into the solve to remind you of the mythology, and possibly even nudge you along in the right direction. 

There are several pleasing steps along the solve, one or two surprises along the way and some really cool puzzle elements… and just in case you think you’re prematurely finished, there are one or two hints (including  a window into the beast’s soul and it’s very name!) to keep you going until you finally finish this solve… remember that if you haven’t found the hanko yet, you aren’t done…

Friday 29 March 2024

MiBinity I

 ….when your mate drops you an email and tells you he’s designed a three-piece burr with a level 25 solution, you do the right thing and say “Yes, please. How much is it?” 

Then you wait patiently for a travelling puzzler to hand deliver it and confirm your instincts are good: Jack’s done a stunning job of bringing Michel’s design to life.

Front and back have Michel’s logo nicely laid out in walnut - handily giving the bones of the three pieces - which start coming apart in a nice rhythmic fashion as you begin the solve. 

Given the designer and the name of the puzzle, there are plenty of clues to the n-ary nature of this little guy, and it doesn’t disappoint. You’ll find yourself traversing a predictable pathway before having to go back on yourself before you can finally escape. 

Take the pieces apart and the interacting pathways are clear… and while disassembly is fairly straight-forward, in a Belgian sense, I found establishing the proper starting position to be the real puzzle! (It’s probably just me…!) 

Reassembled once more it looks great - and really doesn’t look like a flat three-piece level 25 burr.

Nice one chaps!!

Thursday 21 March 2024

Unsafe Deposit

<Excuse the short hiatus - we’ve been exploring Fort Lauderdale and enjoying some Caribbean sunshine! Blogging came second…>

I’ve written about Alan Lunsford’s little sequential discovery puzzles in the past- but until recently I hadn’t been able to get hold of a copy of his Unsafe Deposit as it usually contains a small bunch of coins and come countries are a little sniffy about folks posting their currency around the world…

In a bid to get his puzzles out to a wider audience, Alan has come up with an international-postage-friendly-version, which from my attempts to reintroduce some coinage after I’d solved it, suggest that he hasn’t just replaced the coins with 3D-printed tokens, he’s also taken the opportunity to change the design up a little…

Unsafe Deposit is about the same size as the previous two little guys I wrote about - there’s a pretty clear goal staring at you through a square window in the one side, a few slots and holes spread around a few of the other sides, and a hex screw blocking one of the slots that may have some treasure hiding inside it…

At the start, there appears to be very little that you can do - I spent quite a while totally convinced there was literally nothing I could do, until I summoned up the courage to do what I thought I shouldn’t… and it turned out I actually should very much have… so I was off…

As you progress you’ll find treasure or tools, you decide… there was a lovely flow to this solve early on, until there wasn’t and I found myself with a proverbial brick wall that wouldn’t budge. (I did take some comfort from seeing one or two other puzzlers at least temporarily halted by that particular stage - it’s a delightful change of gear, as it were and forces you to think(c) just a little more…) 

Once that hurdle is overcome it’s a short sprint to the finish line and retrieving that coin/token that’s been waiting patiently for you all along. 

Once again, there’s a lot going on inside this little cube, and I really love the fact that you think you know exactly what to do, until Alan throws a monkey wrench in your path and stops you dead… definitely one to toss at fellow puzzlers with a “Here, you’ll like this one…”

Sunday 3 March 2024

Minima Series (#1-12)

This week, dear reader (for there can surely only be one!) I bring you thoughts on a most excellent little set of puzzles – the Minima Series, designed by Frederic Boucher and made by NothingYetDesigns.

I missed out on these when they were initially put up for sale (in my defence they didn’t last long!) so I was very chuffed when I spotted a set on Puzzle Paradise at a reasonable price. One or two of my puzzling mates had said some encouraging things about them so I was intrigued.

NYD have done a great job of making up the boxes in frosted acrylic – all neatly marked with their appropriate identifiers. The pieces are all in their own little drawstring bags and there’s an instruction card for each of the dozen little terrors. Most of the instructions just ask you to place all of the pieces inside the box and remind you that rotations are allowed. (A couple of the later puzzles impose some restrictions on where certain coloured blocks need to be placed.)

Diving right in, I figured I’d start at number one because, clearly, that would be the easiest one, right?

M1 has just three pieces to be placed inside the 2*2*3 box (the boxes are all 2*2*3 – it’s just the openings that differ between them) – the pieces take up 11 voxels so we have one spare voxel inside the box when we’re done… given the shape of the openings, there’s literally only one place those pieces can be inserted, sure there are a couple of places where a bit can be temporarily parked outside the box, but they’re all going in through that single little opening…

I end up spending some time thinking (literally) outside the box while exploring the different assemblies that might fit inside the box, and then trying to reverse pieces out of the way using the imaginary holes in the right places… that doesn’t immediately lead to a suitable solution so I go back inside the box and begin exploring all of the potential rotations that might be possible with that combination of holes… and then some pennies start dropping… and M1’s solved.

A brief break to enjoy a little dopamine hit (hey, I’ve got to take all I can get, this solving thing doesn’t happen that frequently!) and I’m onto M2…

I make steady, albeit slow progress until I get to M4 which proves to be a bit of a blocker for me… but that’s nothing like M8, it turns out – that one keeps me thoroughly stumped for a long time – and it remains the only one in the series that I haven’t solved for weeks.

You’d think things might get a little samey after the first half dozen or so – but they don’t – Frederic’s put together an excellent set of challenges that never gets predictable – to the point that going back to the start again a week or two after you’ve solved the lot of them will still provide some amusement – and in my case – another serious challenge.

I really love this set of puzzles, and so far, everyone I’ve inflicted them on has had the same reaction: “How the heck can this simple little thing be that difficult?”

Saturday 24 February 2024



Yes – our fiftieth actual in person MPP! That’s pretty cool for a bunch of guys who started getting together in my dining room because we thought it’d be cool to meet up and share our puzzles with other nutters.

Louis and Mieke arrived on Friday evening fresh from an escape room and a city tour of Oxford. After dinner we settled into some gentle puzzling – Louis had brought over a copy of Michel’s new Mibinity puzzle so I had to have a go at that. It’s a really neat little 2D n-ary design that’s been beautifully made by Jack… I take all the pieces apart and examine them and then realise that finding the right starting position turns out to be a bit tricker than I thought it would be… it does go back together again reasonably quickly so that others can have a play the next morning.

Louis has a bit of a play around with my Krasnow Clutch Box which I’ve managed to get into an awkward configuration, but between us we can’t reset it so it stays in the “to be solved” pile.

Next morning we gather our bits and head off to the new venue and try to work out where everything is. We find the tables well-concealed and Louis and I set about putting some out while the first few folks start arriving. When I get back from the shops to collect some fresh milk (there’s always a half empty somewhat sour bottle of milk in every hall we hire for some reason) I spot a familiar old face we haven’t seen in a while – it's great to see Chris after quite a long break.

I’ve taken a few spare copies of Oskar’s Zigguchain, George’s Trapdoor Octahedron and his version of Rik Brouwer’s tRIKube. Steve settles down at the table and begins to assemble tRIKubes in the wrong colour combinations and we end up jousting for a while as I try to disassemble them as fast as he’s assembling them – in my defence, the fit is snug and getting a grip on the right pieces is tricky… he tries the same thing on the Zigguchains but the odds are a bit more in my favour on that one. I manage to get rid of all of the copies I’d taken along and then realised I hadn’t kept a tRIKube apart for myself so end up printing another copy on Sunday.

On the topic of giveaways, Mark K had sent over a bunch of beautifully made little hardwood puzzles for Steve to dish out to all-comers – and he kindly set aside a set of them for me… I say kindly – he gave me a pile of bits and didn’t tell me what puzzles were in there… just an extra puzzle really.

When Frank arrived, he set out a table of books from his Potty Puzzles days and several folks ended up adding to their libraries… he also brought along a couple of custom-made plush toys for the Two Brass Monkeys – complete with their faces printed on the front…. Not at all terrifying for any children who might chance upon them – no siree! They did generate an awful lot of mirth in the room though… job done! :-)

I’d taken my copy of Mike’s 234 Cube along for folks to time themselves on (for science!) and many people had a bash with 7 people actually recording a time (for science!) – the sheet ended up with some amusing answers to the question of puzzle experience – among them “Yes”, “Rubbish at them!” and “No, but lucky” – the latter against the best time of 51 seconds by one S. Nicholls… I think my first attempt took more than 45 times that! (It’s true what they say about my dimness…)

I’d also taken along my recently acquired set of Minima puzzles and ended up encouraging several folks to have a bash of some of them – they really are an amazing little set of a dozen puzzles where the aim on almost all of them is merely to get a few little wooden bits inside an acrylic box. When you hear they’re designed by Frederic Boucher, you’ll understand these are quite challenging… there was lots of agreement about how weirdly hard they were for something that looks like it should be so simple.

It was great to see Adin again and Tamsin decided that it would be wise to bring her daughters along for some puzzling – they seemed to have a grand time, although that may have had more to do with the hall’s wi-fi than the puzzles. Hopefully the puzzlers and their plushies didn’t scar the poor kids for life!

Around noon we wandered up to the High Street for some brain food – with pig rolls winning over kebabs by about 12 to 3 – we missed you, Ed!

After lunch it was back into the puzzling – the Karakuri Christmas presents had a pretty good playing with, with several opportunities for answering the question “Have I finished?” with “Have you found the hanko, yet?” – the answer was always “No…”, but they got there in the end. When you know, you know.

I managed to spend a while chatting with Mikael before foisting Mike’s 234 Cube upon him – and I know this makes me a really bad person, but I was relieved when he didn’t just bang it together in a couple of minutes – thank for making me feel a tiny bit less silly, Mikael! You’re welcome back anytime! :-)

Dan had brought along a couple of variants of GPK’s Numlock… including a stupidly long version that will probably take a lifetime to open properly – we don’t think he assembled that one “properly”…

Louis had brought along his copy of Mail Call and it got a lot of attention – I’d had a chance to play through the first part of it on Friday evening, before resetting it for folks on Saturday, and then on Sunday I got to play through the last section. For my money, the first and last bits are absolutely excellent – seriously good – and if the middle bit were a little less complicated, it would be almost perfect… YMMV.

Sometime after 5pm we tidied up the hall and tried to put everything back more or less where we found it before heading up to the house for yet more puzzling and the traditional fish supper, which didn’t disappoint.

After supper there was a lot more chatting and a bit less puzzling than usual, although there was still a hardcore bunch who insisted on cramming in as much puzzling as they possibly could – everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves … and there was cake in honour of the golden anniversary. What more could you want?

Another great puzzling weekend with my mates – awesome sauce!


Fun, Fun, Fun!


Friday 16 February 2024


Some folks who know me think that I’m a completist, and I do like a nice set of things… and if they happen to look really good together, AND happen to be excellent puzzles, then I’m a bit of a sucker for them…

Radek and Doog’s collection of Demonticons has been steadily growing in a corner of my Rademic shelf over the past few months and the announcement of Scarlett produced a predictable order from Barnt Green.

Scarlett is a delightful shade of, err, scarlet and she looks suitably goofy with some seriously exaggerated eyelashes on one side, and, err, not on the other. The supercilious grin invites you to come and have a go (‘cos of course you think you’re hard enough!).

One thing is very clear from the off, there is a lot going on inside there – something that a casual shake will confirm before you even try anything! If you’ve spent any time with the earlier Demonticons, there are a couple of things you’ll try to get things going, and some of them may well appear to be useful… but they won’t get you very far at all.

From here on you’ll need to summon your wits and your puzzle-solving (and potentially adjacent!) skills if you’re going to make any progress whatsoever. The guys have given you enough clues to be able to work out what you probably want to – if you’re paying attention – and then it’s all down to you to execute…

Scarlett’s backstory tells you that she’s in the fashion industry and challenges you to find out what’s she’s working on when you get inside. Once again, there are some excellent easter eggs to reward the solver – I thought Zak’s easter egg was really cool and on theme – this one’s even better!

I love the fact that these puzzles look great on the outside, provide a decent challenge and then give you an extra reward when you finally crack them open. Once again, the machining and finish is seriously top-notch, but then you wouldn’t expect anything less from Doog and Radek, would you?

Saturday 10 February 2024

234 Cube Puzzle

Just before Christmas I had an email out of the blue from Mike Toulouzas asking to confirm my address, which was a bit strange as I wasn’t expecting anything from him at the time. We confirmed that he had the right address, and when I asked him why he needed it, he was a little evasive and just said he wanted to send me something… errm, OK.

A few weeks later a neat little package arrived courtesy of Royal Mail and Hellenic Post… as I unwrapped the carefully packaged puzzle I found that Mike had been incredibly generous - nestled in a bubble wrap cocoon is a gorgeous little wooden box, complete with a large wooden hinge securing a lid in place. Open the lid with a little click and you find a bunch of multi-coloured cubies looking up at you begging to play…

As luck would have it I didn’t have time to play that evening, so I dashed off a quick email to Mike to let him know his gift had arrived safely and that it looked stunning… and then left it on the desk for a couple of days until I had some time to play…

A couple of days later I tipped out the pieces and set about trying to assemble a 3x3x3 cube - there’s a cubie attached to the inside of the box in case you’re concerned that 2x2x7 <> 3x3x3. You have six pieces ranging from a simple domino up to a rather odd 7-cubie shape… in fact, the pieces step up nicely and form a set of 2,3,4,5,6 and 7 cubies… which is interesting…(c)LB.

OK, so you’ve got six pieces and you’re “only” trying to build a 3x3x3 cube…. and what’s more, you’ve got some pretty simple pieces that should make finishing off the construction pretty trivial… right?

It turns out that your brain is going to seriously get in the way of your solving this puzzle…

Mike had asked me to time myself on my first three solves, so I sort of felt obliged to tell him him just how long it had taken me to assemble this cube the first time… and it was embarrassingly long!

I thought I’d learnt from my mistakes the first time around when I tried it a second time, but it still took me longer than I’d care to admit and it was only when I did it a third time that I felt I achieved something I wouldn’t have been embarrassed by, had it been my first attempt! 
That set of pieces seriously messes with your head and makes you do exactly the wrong thing and without fail you’ll end up over and over with holes that don’t match up to the piece that you have left in your hand. I lost count of the number of times that I ended up with three holes in a straight line on my assembly while I stared at a v-shaped tri-cube in my hands.

I’m looking forward to inflicting this one on the MPP gang in a week's time and while I’m sure they won’t take nearly as long as I did the first few times, I know they’ll get a kick out of it…

Thanks so much Mike - that was an incredibly generous gift…
PS Kevin had a similar experience to me, except he managed to solve it a LOT faster than I did! :-) 

Sunday 4 February 2024

Pick Me

A while back I received an email out of the blue from Fabien Wirig. He described himself as an aspiring puzzle designer and was looking for some thoughts on a new puzzle he’d designed. While I was delighted with the approach, I was also more than a little surprised given that I really don’t consider myself an expert on either solving or designing puzzles (albeit I am an enthusiastic hoarder!), so I did what I thought was the most sensible thing and replied saying that I was flattered, but that he’d be far better off seeking the counsel of my mate Louis who is both a far better solver than me, and a proficient puzzle designer… but when Fabien admitted that he’d already sent a similar email to Louis and he was on board, I signed up to help as well.

A few days later I received a little package in the post containing a prototype of Fabien’s sequential discovery puzzle called “Pick Me” – which gets its name from the grinning alligator guitar pick trapped inside, begging to be freed. The puzzle’s been very nicely 3D printed and it’s a really convenient size for leaving in a pocket and fiddling with whenever you feel the urge. Most sides have something interesting on them, be that some sort of button or slider or window. The bottom has some intriguing glyphs neatly embedded in the 3D printing (cute touch!) and the sides have a nice grippy surface texture – Fabien’s clearly thought a lot about this little package!

There’s a lot to explore when you start out – there are all sorts of things that look interesting and some yield some sort of reaction almost immediately… albeit most aren’t quite ready for you yet. It’s definitely worth looking at every little detail very carefully – there is ultimately a lot going on in there.

Once you find the first figurative thread to tug on, you’re rewarded with a little tool and that leads to some interesting new games to play… although further progress will definitely require a bit of thought. The first time I solved this puzzle it took me several sessions over a couple of days, and a nudge from Louis!

Along the way you’re rewarded with a few more tools and at least one really surprising mechanism – there’s a delightful little moment when a little bit of magic pops up – I love that bit!

When you’ve got a few tools, things really get interesting as you work through a number of different little challenges. I love the way that some things that have been staring at you all along suddenly become far more interesting when you look at them in a different (figurative) light – the interactions between all the little bits are excellent, and sometimes very confusing, and at times you’ll be convincing yourself there are stacks of red herrings dotted around, only to realise your mistake in the next stage of the solution.

When you finally get to release the pick, take a moment to appreciate the engraved congratulatory message (another cute touch) and the serial number on the back of the pick – Fabien’s done a really great job on this one… and I told him so a couple of days after I received it. I also told him I don’t think he’s an aspiring puzzle designer – I think he’s already proved he’s a great puzzle designer, he just needs to let more people get hold of his puzzles now…

Several months later a second iteration arrived that looked a little sharper and had some internal modifications to make things a bit more robust, but Fabien was still not ready to release his new baby to the wider world - I thought it was great...

Fast forward an even longer while and Fabien was excitedly back in touch with news that he thought it was ready now - Pick Me #12 duly arrived in the post and it really looks the part - body is now a matt black with gold writing on the top and those glyphs on the bottom now look even sharper... the mechanics are really reliable (to the point that at one stage I thought they weren't, only to realise I'd been caught out by Fabien's trickery) and there are some helpful visual clues to show you progress... it's begging to be played with now.

…if you want a copy of this little wonder, please reach out to Fabien (SelkisFR on the Mechanical Puzzle Discord) and he'll sort you out...

This one keeps on bringing new challenges to the table – I defy you not to be impressed by the ingenuity inside this little pocket-sized puzzle. 

[In the interests of full disclosure - Fabien wouldn't let me pay for the (three!) prototypes I received, but I'm in the queue for a bunch of copies for some friends I thought would really get a kick out of it - that's how impressed I was with it!]