Saturday 28 June 2014

Wil Strijbos’ Egg

At the risk of becoming a “me-too” blogger, I feel I need to write about Wil Strijbos’ latest new release. Jerry and Kevin have already shared their impressions, so I’ll try not to repeat too much of what they’ve already covered and give you my impressions.

Both of the guys have covered the pre-history of the Egg, its recent re-discovery in James Dalgety’s collection and alluded to the challenges involved in getting the Egg produced in China – Wil’s been working on getting the Egg just right for quite a while now, so when he announced it was finally ready there were quite a lot of us throwing money in his direction for the privilege of being puzzled.

His first run of 55 Eggs sold out in a little over a week(!) … don’t worry if you missed out, there’s bound to be another run along in the near future.

Right – onto the puzzley-bits…

Dainty, she ain’t – I’m not going to give you another shot of Wil’s Egg next to a standard chicken egg, suffice it to say, Wil’s Egg’s bigger! It’s a rather nicely anodised pink aluminium number with some lettering giving you the puzzle’s name, a serial number and Wil’s great, if almost illegible, signature on the bottom. 

The top and bottom halves of the Egg are clearly separate pieces (no that’s not a spoiler!), but at the start of the solve, there’s precious little movement between the two pieces. You’ll need to spend some time playing with it and working out how to get things going and once you do, you’ll be rewarded with a little movement, first this way, and then that way…

Make a little more progress and you’ll even be able to peek inside a little – not enough to be in any way useful of course, but enough to let you know you’re making progress. You may be able to work out what was stopping your earliest progress, but you certainly won’t get any clues on how to progress! (Wil’s mean like that!)

I spent quite a while in the middle of this solve, spread over a couple of evenings… mainly because I’d got some other puzzles at the same time and I was flitting between a couple of them trying to progress them all, so whenever I found I needed to pause and think, I was picking up one of the other puzzles…

In the end I must have spent an hour or two on opening the Egg the first time – and I’m not ashamed to say that it needed a pretty ruthless, rigorous approach to working out how to get into it… the mechanism is so finely tuned that unless you get the solution pretty much spot on it throws you back a bunch of steps … generally without you even realising it!

There’s just enough feedback to keep making progress and work out what you’re trying to do, and ultimately being able to picture what’s probably going on in there is a really valuable skill. (Alternatively access to a handy NHS X-ray machine if you’re that way inclined!)

When you do get it open you have to appreciate the tremendous balance between simplicity and incredible engineering to get all that stuff working together so nicely… you’ll also realise why the Egg needs to be that size.

Having opened it I set about studying the insides very closely … and spotted a number of incredibly subtle little details that probably didn’t have to be there, but adding them significantly increases the potential traps for the unwary.

Locking it all up again requires a sequence of actions to get everything back where you started from – there’s no easy reset on this one!

It’s a CRACKing puzzle, EGGseptional in every way, superbly EGGineered, good OVALue for money and EGGstremely good looking. No YOLKing!

[Hey, I behaved myself right up until the end! You know you’d be disappointed if I hadn’t done that … :-) ]

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