This particular epic starts when I collect Wil and Louis
from the airport on Friday evening. It turns out that Wil’s suffered
unspeakable abuse at the hands of a lovely young stewardess on the way over
(she may have stubbed his toe with her trolley - the accounts I got of exactly
what happened aren’t necessarily complete…) and as a result he’s had to be
pacified with a glass or two of champagne – he manages to survive and makes it to
Birmingham with a little help from Louis… and that’s just the start…!
Back at my place we get a bit more of the story of the trip
over (the complete facts still elude us!) before Gill retires for the night
leaving the boys to talk (and play!) puzzles. I bring out a few recently
acquired things to play with, Louis produces close on a hundred partly
completed exchange puzzles (he’s done all the hard work, it’s just up to me to
finish off a couple of little things) and then Wil opens his suitcase and
starts pulling out all manner of treasure…
He produces a mammoth new n-ary puzzle from Jean Claude
Constantin that looks like a super-sized version of the Lock 250+ and
challenges us to guess how many moves it requires to open… and between Louis
and I we guess a large number… a very large number and Wil seems content, and
not at all surprised – we’re staggered… I ended up getting a copy from him and
it’ll turn up in the blog shortly – although there may not be any pics of it
Next he produces his newest cola bottle puzzle … except this
one’s really different! Suffice it to say that he has a good laugh at setting
me up for this one and catches me out thoroughly… and the next day he widens the net …
At one point Louis asks for my copy of the Amazing Box #3
and proceeds to take out a little bottle of furniture oil from his luggage and
polishes up the AB#3 and it looks terrific. I give up at 2:30am and wander off to
bed leaving Louis still puzzling in the cave… next morning there’s the now-traditional
pile of solved puzzles to prove his previous night’s productivity.
We all head out to Warwick the next morning and soon after we
arrive there’s a room full of puzzlers happily chatting about the hundreds of
puzzles arrayed around the tables… Wil’s set up shop in the far corner and
there’s a continuous throng gathered around his collection of plastic crates
full of puzzling goodness.
A couple of Wil’s new cola bottles make their appearance and
there’s an orderly queue of people trying their luck on it but no-one solves it
until later that night at Nigel’s … and there’s only one casualty when Steve
manages to line up the bottle and his eye perfectly as it released one of the
little radioactive devices that Wil had dished out … Steve survived…
At some point Kevin was talking about the fact that the
n-ary puzzles he had just weren’t enough, somehow – he has a Kugellager puzzle
that requires c.4000 moves but he wants something more… so one of us asks him
how many moves he’d like to see in an n-ary puzzle so he goes for the radical
suggestion of c.6000 … at which point we tee up Wil to introduce his latest
offering: JC Constantin’s monstrous new lock and Wil sets the assembled masses the
challenge of estimating the number of moves required to open it… with the
winner who comes closest (as long as they’re within 30% of the right answer) receiving
a copy of his latest cola bottle. Game on! Unfortunately most people soon
settle on the same answer (c. hundreds of millions) so the game deteriorates somewhat
and a while later a new cola bottle challenge is set…
There was a short pause in the proceedings during the
afternoon when we all headed to the next room to wish Oli a happy birthday in
traditional song (no, we were polite!) and invite him to entertain us with a
speech – he offers us some of his cake instead – everyone’s a winner!
A little earlier in the day Chris had presented Oli with a
large box beautifully wrapped in some interesting pink wrapping paper held
together, at one end at least, with hazardous materials warning tape … Oli piles
in undeterred by the warning tape and soon enough has opened the first box to
find… another box – cue mild amusement all round … so he piles into the next
box … and so on … and so on … until the eventual gift of a recent IPP exchange
puzzle emerges from amidst the piles of packaging looking positively
microscopic in comparison, but kudos to Chris who’s found a sensible use for
all the packaging that most of us puzzlers seem to accumulate in our quest for
Satomi joined us for a good few hours bringing along her
usual couple of boxes of Japanese puzzling goodies. This time she'd also managed
to bring along a couple of copies of variants of Mine's cubes (Lock-N, Lock-y
and Disjointed) for folks who'd not been able to find them elsewhere yet ...
Drawing inspiration from an earlier group photo of Super
Cubi's and a King Cubi, Nigel asked everyone to bring along their Popplocks and
the resulting table-full, including Wil's T1 is a real sight for sore eyes -
don't anybody try and put a price on that table-full, please!
...speaking of Wil's T1, that got passed around quite a lot
with several folks having a bash at it over the course of the day. While not
everyone solved it, a few folks did enjoy victory over that most legendary and
unobtainable modern puzzle lock - and broad were the smiles of satisfaction!
Peter Hajek managed to puzzle a number of folks with his new
incarnation of the anti-gravity machine employing decks of cards ... and couple
of lucky puzzlers managed to bag a copy of their own along the way.
Oli brought along a crate of puzzles that he'd run out of
place for and a couple of us did our bit by swapping him some small bits of
paper for some big bulky puzzles, although in fairness, I don't think he quite
understood the process because half the time he wasn't even taking the small
bits of paper we were proffering! (Thanks Oli!)
The day literally flew by and before we knew it we were
packing up the toys and heading around the corner to Nigel's place for a BBQ. It
was the first time I'd been into Nigel's house and in spite of having seen some
pics of his collection, walking in through the front door and being greeted by
three massive cabinets full of puzzles still stopped me in my tracks ... it
looks impressive, mate!
It didn't take everyone long to decamp to Nigel's, make
themselves at home and pick up some new puzzles to play with... Nigel slipped
into incredibly-gracious-host-mode, donned his Harley apron and set about
feeding everyone - the BBQ was
exceedingly good (remember that
coming from a South African should be taken as high praise indeed!) - special
mention must go to Adin's homemade burgers - phenomenal!!
Several more folks ended up playing with Wil's new cola
bottle and eventually
Adin Russ (sorry Russ!!!!) became the first to solve it, much to Wil's great pleasure
(and relief that it was solved the way he'd intended).
After most of the eating had been completed, Wil presented a
second cola bottle challenge in the form of a puzzle with a deck of cards... he
took out a standard deck of cards without any jokers (well actually he used an
incredibly shiny gold deck of cards, but trust me it doesn't make any difference!)
and asked someone to select a card and place it face down on the table. He then
closes up the fanned deck and places it on the table near the selected card and
asks "What card is now in the deck that was not in the deck before?"
I'd heard it the night before, and had tried a lot of
guesses and yet I was nowhere nearer the answer than the others who'd only just
heard it... there were plenty of theories and even more guesses - at one point
Simon's suggestion of "DIScard" was immediately countered by
"DATcard" but Wil patiently listened, sighed and told us to try
harder - he pointed out that it wasn't a play on words (we'd been concentrating
on that for some reason) and it worked equally well in Dutch and in English...
in the centre of the guesses Louis was struck with inspiration and gave Wil the
answer, scooping the last available copy of the cola bottle #9 - well earned
There were a few rather stranger incidents during the course
of the evening... with Jamie getting to know a set of Chinese rings rather
intimately over the course of what seemed like hours ... I'm sure there wasn't
much alcohol involved but he did seem to be going backwards and forwards a fair
amount and not necessarily waiting until he got to an end before changing
direction, but he seemed to be having fun... so no harm done!
...Adin took it upon himself to solve Mount Fuji and
received a fair amount of encouragement from all round him, including a
challenge of a large cash prize if he managed to solve it himself in front of
us... sadly that made him smell a rat. As did the fact that a few of us
specifically drew up chairs to watch him and give him "advice" and he
got visibly nervous when I took out my camera ... and thus began one of the
funniest interludes ever at an MPP with several of us literally in tears of
laughter as Adin tried various strategies only to be quizzed by the masses and
then given more and more helpful advice.
"Have you tried spinning it?"
"Have you tried blowing on it?"
"Have you...." - "AAAARRRGGGHHH leave me
alone!" ... whenever the hints were deemed too obvious by the offerer of
the prize, he'd announce an appropriate reduction in the prize - none of which
was lost on Adin who followed all the baiting carefully and you could see him
slowly forming the solution in his mind and it pretty much coincided with us
virtually telling him what to do and then there was a moment of absolute
clarity on his face when he looked at us and announced that he would not be
doing that to a puzzle - even for offers of cash ...
I haven't laughed as much
at a puzzle in ages, and I don't think Adin will forgive us for a while ...
although he has subsequently admitted to be considering trying to buy a copy of
his own, so it couldn't have been too traumatic for him!
Having the Dutch puzzling team in tow, I was one of the last
to leave Nigel's after a thoroughly awesome MPP11 (+BBQ) - compliments to the
cook and organiser - grand job Nigel - GRAND JOB!
...I spent the drive home quizzing Louis and Wil on Wil's
riddle, and still didn't solve it until the next morning when I stumbled across
something that helped me bridge a few gaps in my reasoning... and it's good -
there's an elegant solution that you will know is correct when you find it...
Even though we were pretty shattered after a FULL day's
puzzling, we still spent a couple more hours chatting before crashing that
night ... and then a few more hours puzzling in the morning in between a great
English breakfast courtesy of Gill before placing the Dutch contingent back in the
care of KLM where hopefully Wil didn't get assaulted on the way home as well...