Wow! – What a weekend...
Nigel started planning the sixth Midlands Puzzle Party quite
a while back – set the date for the 2nd of June, sent out the usual
announcements / invitations, crossed his fingers and then sat back and waited
... actually that’s not quite the whole story – he’d cunningly set the date on
a weekend that Wil Strijbos was free (no mean feat, let me tell you – that boy
gets around!) – so the announcements included mention of a special guest by the
name of Strijbos.
Then he sat back and waited.
Now, to be fair, Wil was competing with the Queen – this weekend
saw the celebration of her Diamond Jubilee
and a few folks had other celebrations planned
so they couldn’t make it ... pity – we had a cracking time!
I collected Louis and Wil from the airport on Friday
afternoon and took them back to my place for some gentle puzzling, a lot of
banter, some Teriyaki Chicken for dinner and then some more chatting and a lot
more puzzling. In between I got to have a sneak peek into the puzzles that Wil
had brought along for us to drool over, play with, and even purchase if the
mood took you.
Wil had brought a Japanese “Top Spin” Top
as a gift for Gill (her first puzzling thing, if you don’t count me!) and a
lovely little burr from Mine called a “Little Twister” for me. Gill loves the
top and I found the “Little Twister” a really cute little burr – as the name
suggests, not all moves are orthogonal and it’s remarkably interesting for “just”
a collar and two pieces! Those two pieces are rather oddly-shaped and more than
a bit confusing – everyone who had a bash at it on Saturday seemed to enjoy it
as well judging by the number of times Wil was asked if he had any more of
them. (He didn’t ... and they don’t seem
to be listed on Mine’s web shop
Louis then presented me with a Coolen original puzzle box (#3)
– dubbed the A-Mazing box by Wil and the first ever burr he’d made – using 1cm
oak sticks – in pieces – nice bloke, eh? [I won’t say much more about those in
this post, they deserve another to themselves ... and I still need to work out
how to open the box!]
While Wil and Louis amused themselves in the study with some
of my toys, I trawled through Wil’s boxes for sale and found several rather
appealing little numbers – including two that weren’t for sale! He’d brought a
couple of new little aluminium dovetail designs to ask what we thought of them
(I think 'wild enthusiasm' would sum that up rather neatly!) as well as another aluminium
sequential discovery puzzle that he’s still working on – that one stumped all
comers, but he’s not quite happy with it yet... keep an eye out for a Lotus
Puzzle at some point – it will be good. Having found a use for all the
left-over Euros from my last holiday, and added some Paypal on top of it, I had
a nice little haul of new puzzles to add to the still-modest, but steadily
growing hoard in the study.
We got up reasonably early the next morning so that we could
get to Warwick for 9am – although some of the others who had further to travel
left considerably earlier than we did: Ali, Oli and Simon Bexfield had come
across from London, Kevin had trekked down from Sheffield and Joe had joined us
from deepest, darkest Wales. Add to that a few from the Midlands (Chris, Nigel,
Dale Overy and I) and we were set for a good day’s puzzling... [Sam and his
mate Rani – along with his partner and two children joined us a bit later.]
We set up the tables in the centre of the room this time and
that made it easier to work on a puzzle and still chat with virtually everyone
else in the room. Strijbos commandeered a table and set out a bunch of plastic
crates filled to the brim with puzzles for sale and that soon became the most
popular end of the room, with folks combing through the crates in search of
treasure – with several finding things in there they’d been looking for for a
A Gillen Nut and Bolt perhaps?
All found a
good home, you’ll be pleased to hear! Even I ended up salvaging a Bowling Alley
in a Brief- case that I’d sort of passed up on the night before.
I think Wil
ended up doing a decent trade throughout the day, with several people acquiring
a cola bottle or two to torment themselves with; several exchange puzzles and a
number of special IPP31 Berlin Kugellager-ish finding enthusiastic new owners.
Kevin couldn’t stop himself acquiring a sack of new Overy (?) entanglement puzzles.
After the initial feeding frenzy calmed down, things settled
back into our usual relaxed style of puzzle a bit, chat a lot, wind up Kevin,
grab some coffee and cake (including some yummy Jubilee chocolate chocolate
chip cupcakes that Gill sent along) and wind up Kevin some more ... although
in fairness it wasn’t just Kevin that was getting wound up! The banter was up
to its usual standards and there was plenty of laughter throughout the day (and
it wasn’t all at Kevin’s expense, promise!).
One of the little things I’d picked out to buy myself the
evening before was a Karakuri Fake Box as I didn’t have one yet and hadn’t
actually ever seen one before ... Wil duly decided it was time for some fun and
asked me if I’d really not opened one before – when I said I hadn’t, he
suggested I try ... and the obvious happened: try as I might, I couldn’t open
it – so I hypothesised out loud that it might not be a box, perhaps it was
really just a block of wood made to look like a box, and the movement on the
lid was just that, a little movement to confuse someone like me ... so Wil
takes the box, puts it behind his back and gives it back to me with a Japanese
coin duly inserted into it ... so much for the lump of wood theory ... and it
then took me several minutes more before I finally found my way in...
Flash forward half a day or so and Wil’s established that
Kevin hasn’t seen one either, so he takes one out of the packaging and hands it
to him, and I can see Kevin going through all the same motions that I’d gone
through the night before, until he eventually declares it an alleged box as
well – cue Strijbos putting the box behind his back, inserting a coin and
handing it back to much mirth from the assembled masses who decided that the
10p coin inside the box now represented Kevin’s pride – so he had to
retrieve it! It was his coin after all ... it turned out to be the
encouragement he needed and soon enough he had the 10p out again, but not
before a rather loud (sadly unprintable) “A-Ha"-ish phrase followed shortly after
by loud laughter from everyone in the room, including Kevin... if you don’t have one of these little
numbers, you need one.
Ali’s collection of Rocky's Bolts
was another popular stop on virtually everyone’s tour around the tables and I
was delighted to solve the last one in the set that had evaded me last time
around – they really are superb little puzzles and miraculous unassuming
little miracles of engineering and craftsmanship – I am going to have to get
some to add to the little hoard at some point.
Chris and I had identical copies of Scott Peterson’s
Improved Square Face for folks to play with – although I think that Ali was the
only one brave enough to take one apart entirely – although the look on his
face when both Chris and I looked up at the same time and commented on the fact
that he’d been braver than either of us so far, was priceless – needless to say
he put it all back together perfectly. I
also had a copy of Coffin’s Involution made by Scott, and the tolerances on it
are that good that it took folks who know the puzzle quite a while to find the right place to start
and to get some of the pieces moving during the course of the disassembly. (I reckon they’re that beautiful that they
deserve a post of their own though, so that will be along in the near
A few folks fiddled around with my three Mine’s Cubes and
Ali avoided them entirely having just acquired a set of them from Wil that
morning. They really put a smile on peoples’ faces. I’d taken a couple of the
Rogers along at someone’s request and I was sitting absent-mindedly fiddling
with Geburt when all-of-a-sardine the ball bearing dropped out and rolled across
the floor – totally befuddling me! Not one to miss an opportunity, I decided I
needed a photo of the puzzle in the open position, but unfortunately I didn’t
have my special £2 coin with me, and realising this might confuse my regular
reader, I felt the need to improvise ... when I do eventually solve it I’ll
take a better picture with the correct coin, promise.
One of the interesting little things that Wil had in his
crates were a bunch of little golden balls wrapped up in tiny leather
pouches - I recognised them as Snail
Balls (they have big snails in Venlo!) and invariably they were being
demonstrated much to everyone’s amusement – none more so than Kevin – who’s
puzzlement was unfortunately being broadcast rather widely by his facial
expression of utter amazement as this little golden ball steadfastly refused to
make any more than the slowest – snail’s pace – progress down an inclined ramp.
I don’t think I was the only one to notice this and soon enough there were
several helpful suggestions of how it was being achieved – I suggested watching
Wil’s hands closely for the almost invisible thread he was using to control it,
Chris suggested it was probably pixies or magic, but it might be hard to work
out which – but Kevin was having none of it – amazement remained and he just kept
asking how it worked... apparently pixies weren’t to blame.
Somewhere around lunchtime about half the group wandered
across to the chippy to grab some food and the rest of us carried on puzzling –
prepared to fuel up on crisps, Coke, coffee and cup-cakes – safe in the
knowledge that there was plenty of grub at the braai
back at my place afterwards.
After lunch Wil had some fun entertaining folks with some
rather unusual pens he’d brought along – apart from puzzles, Wil also collects
pens with an unusual mechanism... his favourite game on the day was giving
folks a fairly innocuous looking Rotring pen and asking people to work out how
it works. After a little while of them getting absolutely nowhere (pushing,
twisting and all the other usual things have no effect whatsoever!) Wil then
tells them rather sternly not to break it ... cue a few more minutes of sheer
puzzlement, at which stage I would rather pointedly tell them to ignore what
Wil had just said, and miraculously the pen would be usable in seconds – generally
to loud chuckles from all looking on.
During the course of the afternoon Sam set up a table-full
of his designs and a few folks enjoyed fiddling around with them – some of
those designs really are crying out to be produced in some fine woods ... Eric,
are you listening?
Nigel had brought his King-Cubi along - all 1500-odd moves of it and Louis couldn't stop himself ... once or twice someone would chat to him and he'd lose his way, but he managed to blast through the opening pretty darn quickly, at which point several folks crowded around to photograph the innards of this work of art - very impressive puzzle!
Things began winding down at about 3:30pm and most of us (some
people had weak excuses like having to go to a 60th birthday party!) decamped
back to my place for a puzzle braai at 4pm – the second of what will hopefully
become an annual event ...
|Handmade and Gold Revomazes|
One of our bunch probably deserves a special mention for
coming up with a novel reason for not coming to MPP6 – Congrats on your