James Dalgety invited me along to one of his customary Mini
Puzzle Parties over the past Easter weekend, and as luck would have it, we didn’t
have a house full of guests so I was allowed to make the trip down to deepest darkest
[James’ directions include warnings against following your sat-nav
slavishly and advise drivers of low-slung racing cars not to try driving down
to the house]
I ended up going down on my own and made the best of an
uneventful drive (those are the best type!) by listening to some CDs I haven’t
heard in a while ... I paid careful attention to where I parked as James had warned me that there’d be quite a few folks coming and it often ended up in a
game of Tokyo Parking Lot
to get everyone back out again...
I arrived to find Lily and Percy (the pups) entertaining
Lindsey outdoors with one of their tennis balls. I dropped off some of Gill’s
puzzle cake in the kitchen on my way through to the puzzle suite (the puzzle is
to work out what the flavour in the cake is ... and it took the ladies quite a
while, several samples and even some Googling to eventually find the right
answer!) where I found Oli and James already puzzling away. I gave my homework back
to James (some unusual burrs needed assembling – and I managed all bar one of
them ... and I still reckon there are too many pieces there, although I wasn’t
convinced when James suggested it was probably a couple of puzzles!) and
unpacked my offerings for the day.
If you’ve read my previous post, you’ll know that it’s customary
to take along something for the others to take away and puzzle on – and a
couple of folks had a go at them during the course of the day, but the Easter
eggs I’d taken along as a prize for the first person to find the two boxers,
remained unclaimed... Sam dished out a puzzle about retrieving things from
behind a radiator (that I still haven’t worked out!), John gave us all a twist
on a Sam Loyd puzzle courtesy of his brother Angus, Simon Nightingale gave us a
copy of his latest contribution to the Gathering for Gardner. James’
contribution was a Lewis Carroll-ish Snark riddle and Duncan (I think) gave us
a copy of an old Bovril puzzle requiring you to make up a bull from a number of
bull-ish-shaped pieces that don’t quite work the way you expect them to... and
then Tim gave us each one of his little Gathering for Gardner goodie bags –
that contained a neat little copy of Angus Lavery’s Elusive ‘E’ puzzle
– it definitely
seems to be a very firm favourite among puzzlers everywhere...
Most folks had been along to James’ place a few times
already and pretty much settled in with a cup of tea or coffee and picked up a
puzzle to start playing with. James had asked me to bring along my Judges Gavel
and a few folks had a bash at it – literally! Although some were a bit hesitant
and needed some encouragement and I needed to point out that it was a gavel
after all, and using it as such isn’t likely to do any harm – every now and
then you’d hear a familiar “THWACK!” and you’d know that someone was having a
go on it – and every time I heard that I was reminded of Brian Pletcher’s description
of the competition puzzle room at IPP31 where the usual
silence would be shattered every now and then as someone picked up Mike’s gavel
... it always puts a smile on my face.
I’d also taken one of Jane Kostick’s
wooden & magnetic
sculptures along and a couple of folks experimented with taking them apart and
reassembling them, although I found it hard to convince people that it really
was easy to reassemble – I guess it just looks a bit too much like one of
Stewart Coffin’s diabolical puzzles for them to believe that it’s actually quite
simple to put back together and even fun to play with.
I managed to spend some time with John Lavery – chief organiser
of the monthly Camden Puzzle meetings - and he’d brought along a book
containing some examples of brother Angus’ incredible card-folding ... I’d only
ever seen a couple of pictures of impossible playing card folding on the web,
but seeing Angus’ designs close-up and personal was pretty mind-blowing – they ranged
from designs that looked fairly straight-forward through to one that was literally
staggering – five interlinked Olympic rings on a standard playing card – when John
showed us that one he smiled and said Angus says this one takes quite a while
and doesn’t always work out properly on the first attempt – no kidding!
had a couple of pictures on his iPad of linked rolls of sticky tape – they look
like they’re fresh off the shelf at WH Smith, except they’re inter-linked ...
there’s just something wrong with seeing that, but then the same can be said of
Angus’ card-folding – quite simply it all defies belief!
Mr Baker, the butcher, supplied yet another fabulous lunch –
with several of us going back for seconds before hitting the wonderful
During the afternoon Tim Rowett gave us a short talk on his
recent trip to Gathering for Gardner in Atlanta and shared some of the little
gems he’d picked up there, before the Simons (Bexfield and Nightingale) chipped
in with more stories and recollections of what sounded like a fabulous time –
which may have included some alcohol according to one or two of the allegations
being bandied about.
Over the course of the day several folks had a bash at one
of Geoff Wyvill’s Nova Plexus
that James had left on the table hoping it would be assembled – many tried only
to see it collapse in a jangly heap of steel rods to the collective groans of
all who’d been looking on willing them to succeed – until Oli eventually had a
go at it and succeeded where no-one else had managed – and there was much rejoicing
and even some posing for a victory photograph!
I’d spent quite a while trying to put a little Japanese burr
house structure back together and managed to come reasonably close before I put
it to one side with several strategically placed rubber bands holding things
together – only to realise on my way home that evening that my approach was
flawed and it couldn’t work the way I was trying it and that transposing two
pieces would literally have had it together in a matter of minutes ...
hopefully James’ll have better luck at it than I did.
Several Roger’s did the rounds and proved extremely popular
with all comers – with everyone seeming to enjoy working out Schleussel (the
lock) and then spending ages analysing it and trying to guess exactly what the
innards looked like. Oli had a storming day on the Rogers, solving both Eis and
Geburt in quick succession before taking over the Stickman #4 Box that I’d
totally failed to open – and between him and James they made short-shrift of
I met few more relatively local puzzlers (Yeah, I travelled down
to Devon to meet some guys who live less than an hour from me :-) ) who’ll definitely find themselves being
invited along to our little puzzle parties in the Midlands in future – it was
nice to meet yet more legendary puzzle designers and see them playing with
puzzles they haven’t seen before and seeing the same glint in their eyes when
they have that little A-Ha! moment.
Before I left that evening, I rummaged through a few of
James’ box of swaps / spares and managed to lighten my wallet a little and come
away with a few really neat little IPP puzzles (including one that he gave me
as I arrived; just for coming along, apparently) – I was very chuffed to be
able to get a couple of books in wonderful condition to add to the pile to be
read at some point – and a large pile of Cubism For Fun back issues
... they’re going to
keep me occupied and amused for ages...
The two and a half hour drive home flew by as I recalled little
snatches of conversations and jokes about puzzles while I listened to Robert
Miles and U2 – another absolutely wonderful day, thanks to James and Lindsey’s
legendary hospitality and generosity.
Thank you James – you are a scholar and a gentleman! (and I’ll
keep buying my lottery tickets!)