Saturday 23 August 2014

IPP - part, the first.

Well IPP probably doesn’t officially start until Thursday, but we’re all in the hotel and ready to go on Wednesday, so this is when IPP really starts for me…

Gill leads the IPP Fabulous Fun Fabric & Fibre tour that leaves from the hotel bright and early on the Wednesday morning. Their coach takes them on a tour of three fabulous & fun yarn, fabric and haberdashery stores around London with a stop around lunchtime for the hungry shoppers to replenish their energy levels. Gill counts the trip as a huge success, not only has she found some interesting new stuff for future crafting projects, she also manages not to lose any of the folks she started the day with – Result!

The boys in our bunch all congregate in the lobby before we head off into London for the room escape we have booked for around noon. We realise that things aren’t going that smoothly when we start getting messages from Nick that he’s been a bit delayed … in fact he’s sitting on a plane at Heathrow when we get the first message. Subsequent messages tell the story of him getting off the plane first, making it past 200 folks in the queue for Customs and then managing to grab a cab for the hotel. When he walks through the entrance we erupt in cheers and after handing his case to the concierge, and changing his shirt he heads off into town with us in search of a room to escape from. 

At about the same time we get emails from Brian and Kellian, who’re coming into London by train from Paris, saying that they missed their train, and then got delayed… in spite of all of that adversity, we all meet up at HintHunt HQ in time for the briefing to begin. We've booked two different rooms for teams of 5 each and before we start the escapes there’s a bit of inevitable trash-talking and competitiveness between the two teams who fundamentally can’t compete. 

We all end up having a brilliant game, with the experienced guys (some of whom have done several room escapes in the US, Canada and even Beijing!) having just as much fun as the neophytes (me!). We had great fun literally trashing the rooms in search of clues and answers to the riddles we found. Solving puzzles along the way and even having to open a few puzzle boxes. 

Both teams ended up escaping from their respective rooms – although we ended up finishing with a mere 55 seconds on the one hour countdown clock… brilliant fun and well worth a visit if you’re in London. 

From there we took the tube up to Camden for some lunch at Lock 17 before heading down to Village Games where we bumped into Otis. Village Games manages to cram an incredible variety of puzzles and games into a really tiny little shop. 

From there we wandered across to the market itself as some of the guys had found some interesting looking Japanese puzzle boxes with a Union Jack on the front. Jim and Jeff each bought a copy and we didn’t manage to convince the lovely young lady in the shop to bring some through to the hotel for us (pity, she could probably have sold a heap of them in the lobby!) – I did manage to get one from their web-shop after IPP though… :-)

After a round of ice-cream cones, some of us headed back to LHR on the tube and then went through registration while I sorted out my duties for the next afternoon. 

Dinner was back at the Three Magpies again and this time we had a waiter who spotted the puzzles on the table and got really interested and seemed amazed when we told him there’d be three or four hundred of the world’s most serious collectors in the hotel across the road. 

Back in the hotel lobby the girls, under Lesley Wiltshire's creative direction, ran an impromptu needle-felting workshop and soon had the Bexfield girls merrily creating a mallard and a dinosaur – they seemed to enjoy it and next day they arrived with a bagful of felting supplies sourced en route to the hotel via a quick visit to Hobbycraft. Methinks the SOAPs are winning friends and teaching new crafts… 

At one point Jeff hauled out Jack (it’s a card game!) and proceeded to teach Brian and Louis the rules and then stepped back and watched them play… I watched from a distance, listening to the verbalised logic and realising that I really wasn’t paying enough attention to keep up. I sat fiddling with a copy of Cast Galaxy that a friend had thrust into my hands earlier that evening – I got nowhere on that either!

Highlight of the evening must have been finally meeting Mike Toulouzas and his lovely wife Margaret for the first time. I’ve been emailing Mike for a couple of years and we’ve chatted about what makes a good puzzle so much that I felt like I’d known him for ages, but it was great to finally meet him in the flesh… and even better to see how well Margaret and the rest of the girls got on as soon as they were introduced – Margaret loves sewing and crafts as much as the rest of them… ‘nuff said. 

The Greenhorn Hat began doing the rounds with Rox… it’s a ridiculously garish blue bowler hat, decorated with union jack ribbons and a pair of large green horns sticking out of it. (I can say it’s garish because Gill made it and it was intended to be as garish as possible!) 

The intention was that the hat would go around to every IPP-rookie (greenhorn!) twice and that every time they had it, they would need to talk to a non-greenhorn they didn’t know in order to pass it on… the veteran then passes it on to a rookie they don’t know yet, after they’ve introduced themselves and had a chat to them… cute idea to get everyone talking and give the new folks an excuse to chat to the big guns! Or that was the theory, but at the start it didn’t seem that Rox was very keen to pass the hat on. When we asked her why she said there weren’t any greenhorns around, which was quite amusing as there were a couple of them within spitting distance, and when we pointed that out, the hat began to shift rather rapidly.

On Thursday morning we met up in the lobby and headed into town for some sight-seeing. We hopped off the tube at Green Park and wandered through the park to Buck-house where the tourists spent a while taking pics of the palace and the Guardsmen leaving on horseback. There were huge crowds waiting for the changing of the guards so we headed down through St James Park and on to Whitehall where we hung around to see the fresh set of guards heading off back up to Buck-house. We followed Whitehall along to Westminster for some views of the Abbey and the Palace of Westminster before heading across the bridge to the London Eye. 

The guys had booked themselves on the Eye, so Gill and I wandered along the river for a spot of lunch while they enjoyed the views from a few hundred feet up before Gill went back to meet the others and I headed back to the hotel to help out on registration and photographing duties. I had a lot of fun at registration joking with my puzzling friends and making sure they were having a laugh while we took care of the business of getting them formally signed up. 

A quick trip back up to the room to get changed and find Gill (successfully back from London with all the tourists in tow!) before joining the several hundred-strong queue for the Founders’ Reception with the usual suspects.  We grabbed a table near the front when we were allowed in and hooked ourselves up with some food and drink before the speeches kicked off – Jerry gave the traditional welcome and made sure that the rookies felt specially welcomed and encouraged to chat to all of the veteran-IPPers. Laurie followed Jerry’s speech with a welcome from the host and the Greenhorn Bowler Hat began doing the rounds rather rapidly after that. 

I had a fun chat with Saul Bobroff who took Gill’s chair when she got up to go and have a chat with someone – she kissed me as she went off and Saul said “She’s a keeper” at which point I looked in the direction that Gill was leaving in and then looked at Saul and with a deadpan look said “Who the heck was that?”. Soon after that Laurie swiped my chair as I’d finished eating so I wandered around and found myself having a chat with Robert Sandfield and Perry McDaniel, discussing, of all things, finishing off puzzles using grocery bags…!

The Design Competition room was opened a little while later and it was immediately flooded with folks eager to get their paws on the latest and the greatest from the best designers and craftsmen in the world. Brian began his marathon attempt at solving every single puzzle in the Design Competition and I made a couple of lame attempts at solving some puzzles… I did manage to open Chinny’s stellated Pennyhedrons and I was quite chuffed with that. 

At one of the puzzle tables I ended up having a long chat with Tomas and Mikko about producing the Souvenir Book – I get some more ideas about just how big a job this is going to be… before I spend a while watching some folks trying to solve Peter’s Golden Ratio box. 

As usual there’s plenty of banter and abuse around the puzzling tables – I spend an absolute age trying to build a 5*5*5 cube out of a few simple pieces and fail miserably… one thing I do spot is a puzzle called Cross Links that looks a lot like Mike Toulouzas’ work and I make a mental note to ask him about it…

Friday is Exchange Day – or to give it its full name, the Edward Hordern Puzzle Exchange, in honour of the wonderful gent who first started the idea of exchanging puzzles when IPP was last held in London many moons ago. 

Louis rocks up at my room bright and early and a short while later we join the queue of folks waiting patiently outside the conference room with our two large cases full of books. Everyone’s chatting animatedly and the excitement is clearly building. 

We’re released into the room and soon 99 puzzlers are setting out their stands laden with 100 of their puzzles… one copy goes on the display table and then we’re more or less ready to begin the games. My table looks like a second hand book stall and today I’m giving away books…

Marti eyes out a book and sidles over before Laurie’s even done his opening remarks – Laurie explains the ground rules and then we’re off … 98 puzzle exchanges follow – you’re explaining your puzzles to others while listening to their schpiel, you exchange puzzles and take the obligatory pictures for posterity and move on to the next table, or wait for the next customer to rock up at your table… some of the puzzles look absolutely fabulous and I know I’m going to enjoy playing with them when I finally get a chance.

Louis and I stop for lunch along the way, pretty tired already – it’s pretty exhausting explaining your puzzle’s aim and the ground rules 90-odd times and I realise that there is no way in heck I’m going to remember the aims of all of these puzzles come the end of the session…

We finish with about half an hour to spare and Louis has done a stunning job of photographing every single exchanger with their puzzle, kept me in puzzles to exchange with others and lugged all my swag around for almost 6 hours… but I think he’s enjoyed himself, and managed to spot some interesting puzzles to look out for at the puzzle party the next day. 

I dump a shed-load of swag in the room before heading straight out again for the afternoon lectures. 

There are some great lectures in the afternoon and I particularly enjoy Simon and Steve’s presentation on Threedy printing, Peter’s talk on secret opening boxes and Angus Lavery’s talk on impossible card folding… and I learn a lot from Markus’ talk on solving disentanglement puzzles – which I’m  unusually rubbish at!

After the lectures I literally have five minutes to get changed, find Gill (who’s only just got back from a shopping trip with the girls) and get downstairs again for the banquet. There are a few tables of Renegades and MPP-folk and it’s terrific to see so many MPP shirts among the masses at the banquet. 

There aren't many speeches, but there are a couple of presentations that are quite special. Gary Foshee has been making the customary Host Gifts for many years now and he'd decided after he'd made this year's gift for Laurie he'd be retiring from that role... so the organisers had a special gift made for him - Brian Young presented him with a special version of The Opening Bat, made with leftovers and reject bits and pieces if Brian's speech was anything to go by - I suspect that he's added a fair number of new twists and "improvements" to Gary's version of the puzzle... 

And with that out of the way, Gary was allowed to present a beautiful Corian Big Ben puzzle to Laurie as a thank you for hosting this year's IPP in London...

The entertainment for the evening is headed by Colin Wright, a rather talented juggler. He pitched the performance just right when he noted that a huge number of folks in the audience juggle too. His routine was based around defining notation for juggling tricks and having described the basics, he then went on to demonstrate by getting the audience to make up a new juggling trick that he proceeded to perform(!). 

After the entertainment was over, we resorted to creating our own and Chris ended up giving the table a master class on solving and disassembling Ramisis puzzles… I faded pretty soon after that and ended up totally missing what I suspect were some world class close-up magic displays at the various tables.


  1. Rox didn't want to give it up! It is so ROX. Loud, colorful, out there. Gill did a brilliant job of it!

  2. I've been playing around with my Cast Galaxy. What a fantastic puzzle! This has got to be one of my favorite Hanayamas!