Monday 2 May 2011

The kindness of strangers

... or puzzlers are a great bunch!

I have a theory – one that I’ve shared with a number of people, and so far, it’s largely been proved correct ... 

Walker’s Posit: Puzzlers are all a great bunch of people. 

When I started testing my theory on a few of my fellow puzzlers, I was interested in their reactions – most of them stopped in their tracks and thought about it for a while and then generally agreed with the theory – although there were a couple of notable exceptions, but we managed to easily explain them away by noting that they weren’t what any of us would call puzzlers, they were merely shopkeepers who happened to sell widgets, some of which were puzzles – it was all about the shop-keeping for them and not about puzzling at all, so if we make that distinction, then I put it to you that all puzzlers are nice people ... but puzzlers who’re also shop-keepers run the risk of being dangerously nice people.
OK, so what made me say that in the first place? Well, selfishly, I suppose I want that to be true of myself and it’s certainly been true of the puzzling friends I’ve made over the last couple of years either on the internet forums or in person – you know who you are! Without fail, they’ve been helpful, encouraging and friendly – often to people they’ve never met or even heard of before. They’ll go out of their way to help others enjoy the things they find interesting – without spoiling their joy of discovery, of finding their solution. 

Let me give you an example, we won’t use his real name because I don’t want to embarrass him, so I’ll call him Stick-guy. I’d recently bought a lump of Stick-guy paraphernalia off a well-know auction site raising money for a puzzler caught up in the Australian natural disasters – all the lots on the auction had been donated by puzzlers and craftsmen around the world to raise money for their Australian mate (I could probably stop this story right there and my point would be well made, but I won’t...) – not only did they donate some really precious puzzles, but they also chipped in to pay for the international shipping on all of the lots they sold (again, if this isn’t making the point, you aren’t listening!). 

OK, so this pile of paraphernalia includes a set of pieces to make up a particular puzzle box – but I’m thick as two short planks when it comes to making puzzles, so in a couple of email exchanges with Stick-guy I ask him a number of stupid questions about this box and how it works and every time he’s patient, polite and really helpful – at one point explaining to me that that really thin light wood used between the pieces on the sides of the box is called maple veneer – not once does he call me a numpty although I give him plenty of reason to do so... now in case I didn’t make this clear at the outset, Stick-guy is really one of the top-class puzzle craftsmen out there (I realise you won’t be able to work out his real identity thanks to the cunningly disguised pseudonym!)  and yet he’s happy to shoot the breeze with an unknown chap from across the pond – and not only that, when I get the next package from Stick-guy, there are two sheets of maple veneer in there to let me finish off the box I got in bits ... nice bloke, this Stick-guy, wish I could tell you who he was, you’d like him. 

That auction really showed me a lot about the puzzling community and seriously cemented my theory about puzzlers... 

...and when puzzlers become purveyors who peddle puzzles to an unsuspecting public, it gets worse... they can’t help themselves – just take a look at the pics in this post – all of these puzzles have been thrown in with various recent purchases by the puzzlers who’ve sold them to me... I know that some cynics out there will point out that even drug dealers will give you the first hit free, but these are being thrown in after a purchase decision is made and they know I’ll be back whether they give me freebies or not... 

So, thanks to Robert Yarger for throwing in the two Karakuri small boxes with my last package, thanks to Wil Strijbos for the Three Card Burr and the modified Raketti [Wil’s modification makes for an excellent laugh with people ‘who know the secret’ of the Raketti], thanks to Sloyd of the Black and White and the Tappi puzzles and most recently, thanks to Georges at Kayleb’s Corner for the Broken Heart and Caesar’s knot.


  1. I absolutely agree. I had a similar experience with Vinco - a true gentleman as well as en exquisite craftsman. Tomorrow I will be publishing my further review of some of his puzzles and including my experience with him. Puzzlers do seem to be a special breed!


  2. ... just don't stand between a puzzler and a "bargain priced" Stewart Coffin original. This is when things can turn ugly!

    Before I attended puzzle parties I heard there was a Stewart Coffin puzzle auction which turned "ugly".

  3. I have to agree as well. That Stick-guy also shot the breeze with me after buying one of his puzzles, has been a genuinely great guy to talk to and also threw in free puzzles just because he could. I have made many friends though puzzling, and so far there are very few I wouldn't want to sit and have a pint with.

  4. You couldn't be more right. I'm still yet to come across a puzzler who is anything other than kind, patient, generous and incredibly (and sometimes eagerly) helpful.

  5. Likewise I have encountered some very generous and thoughtful people involved puzzling, most of which I have never met. I can also imagine what would happen in the circumstances George has described. People can become quite obsessive/possessive, not a pretty sight I would imagine.

  6. Hi Allard,

    Sorry to comment an age old post, but do you know where I could get "Wil’s modification" of Raketti? Or can you reveal what the modification is? I have the original Raketti and I think it's a very clever puzzle - I'd be interested to learn how it could be modified.

    1. You can definitely get them from Wil directly...and I suspect that if you ask Tomas at Sloyd he'll be able to provide one too... I'd rather not discuss the mechanism publicly, but if you email me [myfirstname.walker@gmail DOT com] I'll tell you how to mod it... :-)