Wednesday, 13 January 2021

One Hand Puzzlebox

Towards the end of last year my fellow Fellow Asher got in touch with me and asked if I’d be interested in a copy of something he’d been developing with Robert Yarger – a quick check on whether Hades had actually frozen over yet confirmed that, abso-flipping-lutely I was interested… and then a couple of weeks later a well-protected package duly arrived in Barnt Green.

Now unfortunately in the Walker-household there is an established tradition that packages addressed to me arriving in the couple of weeks before Christmas are hijacked by management and placed under the Christmas tree – where they will wait until Christmas to be opened… and Asher’s parcel arrived solidly in the middle of said hijack-period - and so it was left under the tree for several weeks… until Christmas.

I was finally allowed to open it on Christmas morning and it’s gorgeous… a handsome box about the size of a box for storing a set of standard chess pieces in – with some lovely inlay work around the side – and an obvious sliding lid… which didn’t want to slide and I wasn’t going to force it!

I fiddled a little with it on and off over the course of the next few days, deliberately not really diving into it as I wanted to save the best for last… so I ended up working my way through the Karakuri Christmas gifts I’d received, some things from Radek, something new from Endo-san, a couple of Osanori’s and a pile of things from Wil – before eventually allowing myself to get to grips with the One Hand Puzzlebox… only I couldn’t get it to do anything – the lid would slide a tiny bit and then jam, I tried all sorts of tapping and gravity inversions before admitting to Asher that I hadn’t even been able to open the lid yet – at which point he told me that I was clearly being far too careful and I should just open the lid – and indeed a little more pressure had the lid sliding open and revealing the pieces inside – with one of them bobbing up and standing head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pieces – obviously the culprit that had me thinking the box had a lock on it.

At this point the lid will slide about halfway open and then it will stop dead – but there’s a (half) box-full of little pieces – at least one of which is begging to be pulled out… and if you do give it a tug, it will drag all of the other pieces out of the box with it… so far things seem calm and controlled…

However, as the pieces clear the edge of the box they start misbehaving rather badly – in fact, it turns out there are a large number of magnets on the pieces, most of them apparently opposing when they’re in the box, so when you tug them out, they spontaneously rearrange themselves into a shape that most definitely doesn’t fit back into the box again…

The game is afoot…

OK – so we can take the pieces apart and work out how many pieces there actually are in there – more than you might initially think, and then we need to set about working out what the goal is and how the heck we’re going to get there.

The goal is to insert the pieces, one at a time, into the box in such a way that the second compartment (remember that the lid slid halfway open and won’t slide any further) is properly unlocked.

Now the real fun starts – identifying all of the pieces and working out what their eventual positions need to be to get them back into that first compartment… then trying to work out how to put the pieces in in a manner that doesn’t involve the dexterity of a sleight of hand artist – bonus hint: if you find yourself trying to pin one piece in place with a finger while inserting another piece with the remainder of your fingers, you haven’t found the most elegant solution yet!

Playing around with those pieces is good fun – sometimes they have a mind of their own and won’t stay where you want them, but when you find just the right set of pieces, in the right order, there’s a delightful clackety-clack as you manoeuvre them into place – Asher reckons it’s quite Zen putting the pieces into place and I have to agree… certainly when you compare it to the relative chaos of the extraction process!

At this stage I found myself thinking somewhat prematurely that I’d solved the puzzle – I’d managed to bodge my way into the second compartment and thought I was done… until Asher referred me back to the original goal – specifically the bit about inserting the pieces so that the second compartment remained permanently unlocked… except that in my “solution” that definitely wasn’t the case…

There’s a wonderful further bit of puzzling that provides another great “A-Ha!” moment, or three… and then indeed, you can insert each piece and see the second compartment neatly unlock as expected… revealing a little ancient Greek coin inside the second compartment – a nod to the fact that an earlier working title for the project had been Pandora’s Box.

Thanks Asher for this incredibly generous, and delightfully puzzling, gift!



Wednesday, 6 January 2021

Blah Box

by Eric Fuller,

is anything but!

It is excellent!

And yes, I know that the name came from his disappointment that he couldn’t use it the way he’d first intended, but boy am I glad he decided to release it in its own right – it’s an excellent puzzle…

Once again, Eric uses all he knows about how we solve puzzles, against us…

This one had me bashing my head against a literal brick wall for several weeks trying to find some way in. 

When you first get hold of this modest sized box, you’ll spot the obvious sliding lid and clock that it’s locked almost as quickly – it’ll move a little, but it’s very clearly currently locked. There are a couple of holes on the one end of the (obvious) lid, but you can’t really see much through them…

There’s something rolling around inside, and perhaps that's interesting…. Both of the short ends appear to be floating and one has a hole in the centre of it with something shiny peeking through – could be a magnet…

And that’s it. That’s literally all I had for several weeks. 

I’d pick it up, try a few things – try some more unusual things. I tried tapping and rapping it a few times, and sometimes I almost convinced myself that something somewhere had changed…

After a couple of weeks of polite exploration I finally managed to find some real progress – it was obvious I’d made some progress, only problem was that I’d come up against another virtually impervious brick wall… sometime later I spotted something interesting that I’d managed to overlook and that gave me something rather interesting to play with – MORE PROGRESS!

And with that progress, an even bigger brick wall – this one took quite a lot more thinking, and experimenting – and I ended up spending several more days caught here – before I finally tried something different, and found myself marvelling at that Fuller bloke’s serious skillz and subterfuge. He really does use your own mind against you on this one – you know certain things, only you don’t…

I’m a huge fan of this one – it has a few very distinct phases, each of which would be pretty good on its own – lump them together in a confusing little package and it’s a great puzzle box.

[There is a potential short-cut that Eric’s designed out with an after-sales modification that any muggle can fit for you if you want the full experience… alternatively, just treat this little beauty with some respect and you probably won’t be bothered by the short-cut at all!]

Friday, 1 January 2021

Allard’s 2020 Christmas Puzzle Puzzle Solution

So it turns out this is the tenth time I’ve done a Christmas competition – I hadn’t realised that I started doing them on the first Christmas Eve of this blog – and they’ve run all the way through to today… which is kind of cool.

Thanks to the folks who played along this year – a record number for me – twenty-four people had a bash at getting the answer and fifteen of them actually managed to get all the way through to solving it…  so well done to Asher, Goetz, Mike (Q), Nick, Amy, Steven, Matt, Augustin, Brendan, Brett, William (H), Peter, William (J), Jordan and Big-Steve for working out what was beneath my Christmas tree this year.

Big-Steve was the first correct entry in just under half an hour after I put the blog post up, and Jordan came in about 5 minutes later… it was a pretty close-run thing! Pretty much all of the rest of the correct entries came in over the course of Christmas Eve and Christmas day. 

Special shout out to Nick for sending the answer in the form of a pair of appropriately positioned pics!

Nine more folks either gave me a token entry or got almost all of the way to the answer before chucking in their towels – James, Klaus, Brent, Josh, Michel, Mike (T), Rob, Ali and Brian – thanks for playing along!!

There were a couple of layers to this year’s puzzle:

  • Identifying the puzzles from the little pics in the (vaguely) tree shaped collage was the obvious first step.
  • Noticing that they were all from Stickman puzzles was important, but precisely which Stickman puzzles, in order, was key.
  • If you take the numbers of the Stickman puzzles, and then use simple letter encoding, reading top down and left to right, you find STEWARTCOFFIN.
  • [Some people stopped here and thought I had put Stewart under my Christmas tree… No cigar – and that would be cruel!]
  • You’ve used all of the pictures, but the trunk of the tree looks interesting – and close inspection shows it’s made up of “11” – so the full clue is really “STEWART COFFIN 11” – which your handy copy of Ap-Art, or the interweb, will tell you is Hexagonal Prism – the final answer.

... and nobody (not even Nick!) has mentioned the message I'd hidden (clearly too well!) in the blog post for Nick. :-( 

The most popular wrong answer came from folks spotting all the Stickman Puzzles, seeing the number 11, and telling me the answer was Stickman 11 – Fulcrum Box…. Totally ignoring the fact that I’d very carefully selected those Stickman pictures, including a couple of places where the same puzzle appeared twice, using different pictures… :-)  

I’m going to chalk this year’s record participation up to COVID19 and people running out of things to do during their holidays – that or I’ve finally managed to find a sweet-spot where the puzzles aren’t too horrible… hey it’s only taken me ten years!

Right – the undisputed winner was Big-Steve – a copy of iDventure Cluebox is on its way to you, sir! My random draw went to the (un?)lucky thirteenth correct entry – Mike (Q) – some stuff from my drawer of swaps will be en route to you shortly.

Thanks for playing along folks – and may your 2021 be infinitely better than your 2020!


Nick's super-succint answer: 

Thursday, 24 December 2020

Allard's Christmas Puzzle Puzzle 2020

It's been a jolly weird year and I didn't have a lot of inspiration for this year's puzzle, but I really didn't want this to be the first year in a while where I broke with tradition - hopefully it isn't too trivial!

Just send the answer to my question to allard <DOT> walker <AT> gmail <DOT> com before the end of this year to be in with a chance of being picked for my random draw prize (everyone who sends me an entry has a chance!) or a prize for the first correct entry received.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

The Joy of Hex

The Two Brass Monkeys are at it again: this time they’re jam-packed with a whole lot of hex and a decent filling of double entendre – vintage monkey business!

Steve and Ali have leant on Derek for some hexhaustive analysis (well, he was hexhausted!) of the possible assemblies of hexagonal sticks in the shape of Stewart Coffin’s classic Hectix design. They’ve used that to select three base designs, and a set of five further pieces that can then be used to construct 30 hand-picked and carefully named assemblies that are neatly documented in the accompanying book: The Joy of Hex… Oh, and they also throw in a hex aid, for, err, you know… assistance.

The result is a handsome set of four matching tray-shaped boxes with custom foam cut-outs to cushion your pieces of hex when you aren’t playing with the little buggers. These are some good-looking puzzles and the packaging is none-too-shabby either!

While you may be tempted into jumping straight into the joys of Group Hex, I would strongly counsel you to start with the Missionary – this one builds confidence and if you’ve never hexed before, it’ll give you a solid basis for further hexploration. I’d also encourage you to use the hex aid you’ve been given – unless you have way more hands or fingers than the average, you’re going to be thankful of the assistance.

The Missionary consists of three sets of four different types of pieces – have a look at the target shape and you can probably guess how you might like to try and use those sets of pieces… and with a little thought, you can figure out how they might go together – in fact if you use a simple rule, you can get virtually all the way to the end inserting a piece at a time… it might not be the most adventurous position, but it is the bedrock of all things hex.

While common wisdom might suggest tackling Bish Bash Bosch next – after all it is listed as position number 2 in the great Hex Manual, I would seriously counsel you, dear reader to progress straight to Group Hex. Trust me, once you’ve got the Missionary under your belt, so to speak, you’re ready for Group Hex.

Group Hex is designed to confuse – where Missionary gave you sets of three to position and get comfortable with, this one doesn’t – there is but a single set of three identical pieces and then there is a rather unruly collection of pieces – 8 different sorts in fact! (I’m left wondering where they got the name for this position from!) In fact, this position uses the maximum number of piece-types possible and results in a unique solution – it’s all about matching up all your rods and notches properly, making sure than no notch is left un-rodded and you’re done!

While the pieces might be as confusing as the proverbial temple orgy, at least the position turns out to be pretty stable and can be approached in a reasonably steady, progressive manner – it is a long hard slog though.

Bish Bash Bosch, or Position 2, on the other hand, is not nearly as accommodating. It is pure evil and should not even be approached unless you are absolutely determined to be thoroughly humiliated along the way – but perhaps if humiliation is your thing, you’ll like this one!

A good few months ago, before lock-down began, the Monkeys began their hexual hexperimenting and inflicted some of it on the good people of the Midlands Puzzle Party… several of the assemblies were tested and pronounced achievable and this made Steve pause for a while and pull out something that would stop us in our tracks – showing us the position assembling on his trusty laptop we determined that there was an awful lot happening all at the same time, so a team of puzzlers duly assembled and in the end it took about 5 people to assemble the darn thing… and that is the position now dubbed Bish Bash Bosch, ladies and gentlemen.

And you’re cordially invited to try and assemble it yourself – with or without a hex aid of some description, heck, any description!  It does not go together in a nice simple linear fashion, things happen sort of all at once – and choreographing all of that takes more than the average number of hands and or fingers on a single person… it took 5 puzzlers! Bish Bash Bosch my RRR’s!!

(FWIW I had help getting mine into position, hex aids, a rubber band and my loving wife were all required to coax that little beast together – where I hexpect it to stay until the arrival of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.)

As I write this, that’s about as far as I’ve got – there are another 27 positions for me to hexplore using combinations of those and the hextra five pieces that come with the set… I hexpect that I have several years of hexual discovery ahead of me given how long it took me to get those first three positions assembled…

If you’re already a fan of the hex, this will really improve your repertoire – and if you aren’t, you probably owe it to yourself to hexperiment a little… oh, and the humour in The Joy of Hex is hexcellent!

[No puns or double entendres were armed in the making of this blog.]

Friday, 11 December 2020


Hmmmm… shiny!

A couple of years ago I bought my first Berrocal while on a visit to the Berrocal Foundation that Nigel organised for us. (There may have been an entire weekend of silliness wrapped around that visit.)  Sometime after that trip John Rausch told me that, in his opinion, the stand-out smaller Berrocal multiple was Manolete – and I should definitely look out for a copy, so given that John is seldom wrong on such important matters, I began gently keeping an eye out for one at a reasonable price… and earlier this year I found one at what I thought was indeed quite reasonable – so my Berrocal collection has now doubled!

Manolete is a torso modelled on the famous Spanish bullfighter who died in the ring in 1947. Whatever your thoughts on bullfighting, this little statue cuts a rather fine figure with nickel accents on the mainly brass assembly. It’s a bit bigger than the mini’s and definitely smaller than the Richelieu’s and Goliath’s of this world. Most importantly it’s not too big to look out of place on the mantle-piece – this is only the second puzzle that has been allowed out of the Puzzle Caves to live permanently in the lounge. 

This puzzle is quite literally a work of art.

And makes for a fine disassembly puzzle as well as a pretty decent assembly challenge.

Disassembly requires some close examination to start with as there’s a clever locking mechanism that keeps this statue neatly together until you want it to come apart. Of course it’s beautifully hidden in the details of the stature that you expect to be there.

Start the disassembly and pieces come off in a wonderfully serial sequence where literally each piece needs to be manoeuvred absolutely precisely or it will refuse to budge… and given that Manolete was cast by a company used to casting fine jewellery (if I’ve remembered that bit correctly, and I’m sure the inter-web will correct me if I haven’t!) you know that if it’s not budging, you’re not doing it right!

...before The Shining.
Work your way right through to the end and you have a nice pile of little pieces (including the obligatory finger ring) that don’t resemble what you started with in the slightest!

Of course when I got to this point on my first disassembly I did what all my mates have done when presented with a similar pile of pieces and duly set about them with a bottle of Brasso and a large pile of very soft cloth… for a few hours… and removed all that lovely patina that had grown on the surface over years of gentle handling… so from now on the patina on this copy will all be my own fault!

Building up Manolete from scratch is a pretty decent challenge – you can work out more or less where things need to go and then start the inevitable trial-and-error process as you make some progress only to realise that you should have introduced a piece a few steps earlier, so you back up a bit and improve the assembly… until the final locking piece is allowed to click into place.  

Where art meets engineering, there is indeed profound beauty.

Great recommendation, John!

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Marbled Walnut Sheet Cake

Perry McDaniel makes some very fine cakes. I’ve had several in the hoard for a while now, but this one had eluded me for quite a while. Whenever I found one on an auction, it seemed someone else wanted it a lot more than I did, so when I was recently offered a copy out of the blue, I didn’t really have to consider my response for very long… and now I have a slice of Marbled Walnut Sheet Cake too.

This was Perry’s own exchange puzzle at IPP26 in Boston and it resembles, rather nicely, a corner slice of neatly iced walnut cake. As you’d expect of a walnut cake, it’s made of, err, walnut, complete with, I think, maple frosting. A classic combination in any kitchen.

It’s worth spending a little time admiring the packaging, complete with its nutritional information – there’s a lot of fibre in there! And a bit of crushed bugs…

Look at it carefully and you’ll spot some trademark, slightly impossible, dovetails in the centres of the walnut sides, and there appears to be something inside there rattling.

If you’ve solved a few of Perry’s dovetails before it should take you too long to solve, but this one does have a neat little kicker to it. Get past that and you’ll expose the little void inside which carries a cute little bit of treasure – which may have been what you heard rattling around inside there at the beginning…

The tolerances are quite amazing on this little box – it has a void inside, it’s a box! – it’s definitely worth bearing the notes about caring for the puzzle and caring for the puzzler in mind as the sharp, pointy bits are indeed very sharp and very pointy!

Definitely another classic bit of baked goodness from the master confectioner.

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Euklid for Nick

First there was Euklid, and I did not enjoy it – managing to eventually find a single solution.

Then there was Euklid for Kids,and I did enjoy it…

Now we have Euklid for Nick and I started out not liking it too… but now I love it – but I’m getting a bit ahead of the story here, so let’s wind back a little…

After the launch of Euklid, the designer Volker Latussek was probably a little disappointed and more than a little non-plussed when Nick announced he’d found about twenty solutions for it. Volker decided this should be addressed and duly emerged from a darkened design space (in my mind at any rate!) with his answer to Nick – Euklid for Nick … a Euklid variant that definitely won’t have that many solutions. (And probably only has one solution!)

This one comes with a familiar Euklid-family lipped box with a few pieces to be tipped into it so that the pieces are all below the lips. As always, the Acacia box is beautifully made by the guys at Pelikan and this time we have two sizes of pieces – three Padauk blocks and four Purpleheart blocks to put into the box. Simples!

When the puzzle arrives one or two pieces are peeking out just above the lip and there’s clearly a lot of room underneath them and you’re briefly conned into believing that this is going to be a doddle. Tipping the pieces out with a bit of a shake of the box seems to confirm your suspicions.

Putting them back in so that they sit below the lip is, however, quite a challenge. One that has “entertained” me for several weeks now – long enough for me to develop a healthy dislike for this puzzle, even if it was twinned with a good deal of grudging respect for it.

Over the course of several weeks my puzzling buddies (including the puzzle’s namesake!) have laughed at my inability for put the blocks inside the box, and I kept bashing away at it… last weekend Steve and I ended up working on our respective copies on a Zoom call, and about an hour later he announced he’d done it. I cursed a little and hurled a little abuse at him on instant messenger and redoubled my efforts… and started Think(c)ing a bit more.

And that it turned out was the key. I’d spent several weeks playing with the pieces and slowly learning the combinations that did and didn’t work in particular orientations, but I’d been playing and not really analysing or thinking about things. Switching into proper puzzle solving mode really changed things.

I’d had a pretty good idea of how I thought things needed to go together, but I was still playing with other variations – so now I focused on eliminating the other alternatives – and that seemed to be successful – and so having reduced the possible solution set down to a single case, the only thing left to do was work out what the orientation needed to be, and how the heck to get the pieces in there in that orientation.

From there I switched to another helpful thought experiment that assumes you’ve got it solved – and considers which pieces can you take out – and then it’s just a case of building the bit that’s left behind, somehow… and that’s still non-trivial, but having broken it down that far, it’s at least a tractable problem for second-rate solver like me.

Getting to that stage took we several weeks – but once I’d grudgingly engaged the little grey cells, it didn’t take long at all to find the elusive solution  - and that’s why I rather like this puzzle – you can use deduction and logic to home in on the solution – as long as you’re prepared to Think(c)!

Thursday, 19 November 2020

Virtual MPP 2

A couple of weeks ago we held our second virtual MPP and got to chat with our puzzling friends from (literally) across the globe again. We kept to the idea of running three two-hour sessions over the course of the day in order to make it a bit easier for our international friends to join in a couple of the sessions no matter where they were… and it seemed to work, although a couple of really hardened way-distant puzzlers made sure they were there for all three sessions – so we must be doing something right!

The morning session was a pretty laid-back affair as I’d totally failed to line up an exciting tour as the main attraction. Instead we literally just asked everyone on the Zoom call to tell us what they were currently puzzling on and what they thought of it… there were around 25 or 30 of us on the call and that ended up filling the morning session with plenty of chat, and I suspect that I wasn’t the only one taking note of some of the recommendations along the way!

I gave George Bell’s Chocolate Box a bit of a plug having received it the week before and really enjoying the solution to it… at first it seemed really fiddly and the round box had me chasing pieces around and around, until I had a bit of a Think (c) and then loved the solution.

Dor’s recommendation was a binge-solve of virtually all of the Popplocks – which sounded like an excellent way to spend the better part of a weekend, and Nigel confessed to really enjoying working back over Kagen’s Lotus Box trilogy in order to really enjoy the latest arrival.

Ken teased us by showing a copy of Juno’s Puzzler’s Cage from Cubic Dissection still in its plastic wrapping – and after plenty of goading I think we managed to convince him to take the pieces out of the plastic wrapping - we did not succeed in goading him into actually solving it during the course of the day, however. 

Jack showed us the new box he was working on – cue plenty puzzler’s lusting! Amy shamed the lot of us by showing that she’d been working on two high level Baumegger burrs, and a couple of folks told us they were working on Juno’s SDBBB:M – all with fat grins on their faces, as you’d expect.

It was great seeing that Wil had managed to join us, although without a webcam or a mic, he was only able to lurk in the background – he did however grab some brilliant screenshots of the folks on the call and unwittingly provided some of the pics that found their way into this blog post – as I didn’t record any of the sessions and didn’t take any screenshots myself – so thanks for that, Wil! :-)

It was great having a chance to just chat about puzzles we were currently working on – a bit like we’d normally do at an MPP – only with our mates around the world, and if this doesn’t sound like total blasphemy, I wonder if there’s a place for these sorts of “get-togethers” even after we all get out of our various shades of lock-down?

At the end of the first session, we gave everyone a scavenger hunt list that included a bunch of things that would need explaining in the second session, including: a puzzle that makes you smile whenever you play with it, a puzzle you’ve crafted yourself, the smallest and largest puzzles in a single shot and a puzzle that you need some information on. During the break between the first two sessions folks posted their pictures on the MPP Facebook page.

During the first part of the second session, Big-Steve walked everyone through the entries received, inviting people to explain their entries and tell us some of the stories behind their particular choices, and then awarding random points for the various entries – which seemed to be based more on the amount of humour coming from the selections than for the selections themselves – but the audience seemed to approve and there weren’t any public lynching’s, which is always a good sign.

Frank looked like he had a really strong set of entries, starting with his awesome Kumiki Robot with a tiny Alan Boardman micro-burr perched on its shoulder… he seemed to be scoring unbelievably well too, until Steve decided to deduct WAY MORE points than he’d awarded on the grounds that Frank had actually already seen the scavenger hunt list earlier in the week when we’d been doing our preparations for the MPP!

Brian put in a solid performance, totally acing the “puzzle you’ve crafted yourself” – come to think of it, he’d made most of the puzzles across all the categories in the first hunt – not many people could say that.

We worked our way through all of the entries before we handed over to Pantazis on the lovely Greek island of Kastellorizo for a tour of his puzzle museum. In spite of me managing to time our Greek island visit to coincide almost precisely with Pantazis’ renovation of the puzzle museum and the arrival of a multitude of crates consisting of three quarters of his puzzle collection, Pantazis still managed to do a sterling job of showing us around.

He’d spent the days immediately prior to the tour working tirelessly unpacking crates and crates of puzzles so that he’d be able to show us some of his favourite and rarest treasures – and he didn’t disappoint. His obvious love for puzzles in general, and for spreading a love for puzzling, shone strongly through all of his stories about his experiences of sharing the puzzles with folks on the island. 

I loved the story of one of his mates tossing one of the puzzles into the harbour (don’t worry – it was shallow enough to save it!) in disgust when he found out that the puzzle he’d been trying to solve for absolute ages, had been solved in minutes by a blind friend of theirs. (Reminds me of a fearsome puzzler I know…)

Pantazis’ whole mission in life seems to be to share these wonderful puzzles with as many people as possible – puzzles should be played – and if that means that they occasionally need some repairs, then so be it.

There were plenty of questions and even a little dose of maths, as you might expect, in the form of some interesting results on his analysis of the ancient Stomachion Puzzle.

With the light fading and the electrics not yet quite finished due to the renovations, Pantazis was absolutely undeterred and fired up the torch to continue the tour on the ground level – it really was lovely to see around Pantazis’ Puzzle Museum – THANKS PANTAZIS!!  (And bonus points for managing to find a rare pair of hamster twisties and posting a pic on the MPP Facebook group a couple of days later – our memes salute you sir!)  

At the end of the second session we posted another scavenger hunt with similar levels of “interpretation” required – although nothing could quite prepare us for Shane’s entry this time around. At the first VMPP Shane had managed to score negative points for posting a picture of a dirty sock as one of his entries (fair scoring, right?!) – this time he posted a split keyring as his entry for all ten topics – although in fairness his justification for some of the topics was pretty funny. I’m not sure the judge was that impressed though!

Once again Steve did an awesome job of walking the various entrants through their selections and coaxing them into telling us some of the stories behind their choices – I love hearing puzzlers talking about the puzzles that are important or particularly interesting to them.

After walking through all the entries we headed into Frank’s Pu(b)zzle quiz hosted through an online app that handled all the scoring for us (to avoid any more unfortunate incidents of bribery)… a couple of us had play-tested the quiz during the week and we still managed to get a few good belly-laughs at some of the questions.

For some reason there were a lot of questions about cheese, but not many questions about train stations. Puzzles did feature in some of the questions and there was the obligatory trick question to check whether people had taken the trouble to read all of the instructions before the quiz began. (I think we managed to catch the actual Nick out with that one for the second time in a week!)

At the end of the quiz, I think Michel came out on top of the leader board – I’m sure someone will remind me if I’m wrong! To be honest, it was a lot less about who won and a lot more about the fun that we managed to have along the way… and that was there in spades.

I reckon we might need to have to do another one of these… they’re fun.