Sunday 2 November 2014

DCD 2014

Last weekend saw the latest annual pilgrimage to the Dutch Cube Day with puzzlers from around the world (including Hong Kong, Russia and a ton of folks from Europe) descending on a school in The Hague for a day’s puzzling, bartering and buying. Of course it wouldn’t be a proper DCD weekend without a couple of additional activities, so we ended up adding a pair of RPP’s to DCD-proper and it turned into one helluva weekend.

Steve and I flew over from the UK on the Saturday morning and met up with Louis at Schipol. We grabbed the train through to Rijswijk where we had a quick bite to eat before heading over to Rob Hegge’s place for our now-traditional, pre-DCD, Rob’s Puzzle Party. Rob had laid on piles of cake and snacks and cleared his dining room table for us to play on… and soon after we arrived, we had some puzzles out and spread across the table. Over the course of the afternoon our ranks swelled with puzzlers old and new – it was great to actually meet Philipp from Germany after ‘meeting’ him online on puzzle forums and FaceBook.

Philipp had brought along a number of his recent impossible bottle creations as well as his wonderfully named REtrOMAZE handmade in wood. This puzzle is quite an achievement as it’s a fully functioning dynamic puzzle where the dynamic bit operates perpendicularly to the normal plane…very clever and beautifully made.[UPDATE: a mate of Philipp's made the core...]

I’d taken a couple of Yoshi Kotani’s little acrylic cube packing puzzles along and several folks had a bash at them with most people really enjoying the ones with a bit of a twist. One of the puzzlers had a bit of misfortune when one of the more fragile pieces broke while he was packing them into the box – something that Laurie immediately picked up on and for the rest of the afternoon whenever anyone was having trouble with a  solve, Laurie would helpfully ask if they’d considered the Hendrik-method yet?

I spent a while playing with some of Rob’s vast collection of trick bolts… one of which had me particularly flummoxed – Ethel duly picked it up after I’d given up on it and had it opened in minutes.

At one point Wil plied me with a couple of disentanglement puzzles by Jan Sturm – they all looked vaguely similar to a standard set of bent nails that I bought from Sloyd a little while back… but each had a small quirk or two that made the solutions rather different. Somehow I managed to work my way through them all much to Wil’s (and my!) surprise – although the next day he got his own back when he gave me one of them to try again and I singularly failed to separate the nails, so I ended up buying a set from him to torment myself further at home…and then duly solved them in 10 minutes in the peace and quiet of my study!

Our ranks swelled progressively during the afternoon until Rik arrived to take us all across to his place for dinner and some more puzzling – at Rik’s Puzzle Party, which also happened to be in Rijswijk. :-)

We ordered a massive pile of pizzas for dinner and while we waited for the pizzas, Rik began by giving us the guided tour of his puzzle collection spread across the three floors of his home. With glass cabinets full of puzzles virtually everywhere you looked, the tour took quite a while.

Pride of place in a number of the cabinets were Rik’s collection of food-related puzzles – from Karakuri cakes and McDaniel Petit Fours downstairs to the colourful 3D assemblies and sliding puzzles upstairs – all based on sweets or food items – definitely one of the most unusual specialisms I’ve encountered.

The main puzzle room is an absolute Aladdin’s Cave of goodies, with custom-made shelving (all perfectly puzzle-sized) covering most of the walls. It’s staggering to see how many puzzles fit into the shelves… and then there are the drawers below the shelves… Rik’s given a lot of thought to the shelves and their configurability and the result is an enviably efficient puzzle storage system that not only displays them beautifully, but allows direct access to virtually all of the puzzles – something that I had to sacrifice a while back with my somewhat less efficient puzzle cabinets.

Dinner was gratefully consumed by a bunch of hungry puzzlers before we all lapsed back into playing with Rik’s collection, and one or two puzzles of our own that we’d brought along.

The puzzling came to a natural end at around 10pm when we headed back to our hotels/hostels for the night. Once Louis and I had checked into the hotel we headed down to Wil’s room so that I could collect a couple of puzzles I’d ordered. As luck would have it Wil had a few unusual puzzles that required solving or needed playing with so we ended up spending a couple of hours playing with some rather lovely puzzles – some more successfully than others - before finally giving up at about midnight and heading off to grab some sleep.

We woke up at about 8am in spite of setting an alarm for 7:30 … my excuse was that I’d started the day in England, lost an hour travelling to Holland, gained an hour overnight as the clocks changed and somehow the iPhone had gotten confused with what the time really was… we made it down to breakfast before everyone else had left and then wandered across to St Maarten’s ,via an ATM, for DCD-proper.

After collecting our name badges from last year (and spotting Nigel’s there and wondering if he might turn up unexpectedly) and paying our entrance fees, we were all given a free gift of a little acrylic board burr courtesy of Peter Knoppers – the NKC-guys always manage to come up with something small to give to everyone who turns up as a gift – a really nice touch.

By the time we arrived things were already pretty much in full swing with most tables already groaning under the load of puzzles for sale. We found a spot to stow our suitcases and set about saying hello to everyone – it’s always such a pleasure meeting up with puzzling friends you haven’t seen for a few months or for the whole year.

My first port of call on the day was Jack Krijnen who’d brought along a copy of Power Tower for me. Power Tower was his joint design with Goh Pit Khiam that they’d entered in this year’s IPP Design Competition. Since then they’ve tweaked the design a little … actually they’ve tweaked the design A LOT! The competition version had two pairs of interacting sliders, this version has up to three pairs, with enough sliders to set up the puzzle as either binary, ternary, or ANY COMBINATION of the two! There’s also a handy blocking piece that allows you to restrict the number of sliders in the puzzle – so you can have a really confusing mixture of pieces without having to commit to a massively high move number… ideal! I’m well-impressed with that one and looking forward to getting some time to “experiment” with it, i.e. play!

Next up was a quick visit to Bernhard’s table to pick up some puzzles for a couple of my Midlands mates and then across to Michel’s table to grab a copy of the plus-size Crown and Cross – the super-sized version of Goetz’s exchange puzzle earlier this year that he and Robrecht Louage had collaborated on.

With the pre-ordained stuff out of the way I was free to spend the rest of the day wandering, chatting, playing and even buying the occasional puzzle as well…

It was great to meet Splinter (he of Burgh Lock and Swing Lock-fame) who had come along to his first DCD with several examples of his puzzle locks and his Mazerolls for folks to play with and purchase. Several times during the course of the day I came across Splinter among a knot of puzzlers trying to solve one of his puzzles, and seeing the rather large grin on his face while their confusion grew, I suspect that he’ll be back again and we’ll be seeing more puzzles from him in the future.

Tony Fisher kindly autographed a puzzle for me while I told him he was crazy for putting a Petaminx into a glass bowl with a mouth that’s just way too small to allow it in. I didn’t ask how long it took him, but given that just assembling and stickering those things usually takes days, it must have required a significant investment in terms of time. He also had a few copies if his wooden replica Rubik’s cube prototypes for sale at a rather reasonable price and despite not being much of a twisty puzzle fan I found it hard to resist the urge to buy one – and suspect I’m going to have to drop him a note and ask if there are any left in due course. His attention to detail on these replicas is simply stunning – right down to the markings and stickers in the pictures of the prototypes. His huge handmade 4*4*4 cube drew many an admiring look and almost as many offers to scramble it for him … all politely declined, thankfully.

Alfons Eyckmans had a table piled with his wonderful burrs, all beautifully made with some rather lovely exotic woods. He had a steady stream of folks chatting about his creations throughout the day and I watched him effortlessly demonstrating a number of his designs while chatting away – quite impressive!
Goetz was wandering around with a rucksack full of goodies and spent a while demonstrating Namick Salakov’s Design Competition entry from this year Complementary P-arity. It just looks plain intimidating! Made up of several plates and sliders at right angles to one another, they work in different bases, and keeping track of where they go and how, is pretty challenging…although Goetz was doing a pretty effortless job of demonstrating them to anyone who was interested. He is the king of n-ary puzzles though…
Marcel had a huge table full of goodies, including some rather desirable ones – and if I hadn’t already spent more than I should have I may well have added an original Gillen bottle to my collection…

Wil had probably the biggest spread available for sale on the day with several tables covered in plastic crates full of puzzles. His car must have provided a serious packing puzzle to enable him and Chris to actually be able to get into it and drive more or less safely between Venlo and Voorburg. I ended up spending quite a while at Wil’s table idly fiddling with a number of puzzles while chatting with other punters.

Lunch was up to the usual DCD-standard with piles of filled rolls and hot soup available in seemingly endless quantities… along with the tea and coffee with tarts and biscuits that were on offer the entire day. The NKC guys understand the need to keep puzzlers well-fed!

The afternoon saw some great talks from some interesting puzzlers. Rox gave us a talk on puzzling in China, introducing us to a number of the faces behind the brand-names we all recognised and talking about her regular “Boys and Toys” gatherings. Peter gave a rather humorous talk about his quest to design a cubic board burr to use as an exchange puzzle at IPP and G4G (also the DCD 2014 gift) – he really did a great job of building up to his inevitable punchlines that hinged around things being impossible. Tom introduced his open-source software for packing pieces for 3D printing orders and amused us with some examples of just how whacky Shapeways current pricing model is. Rob closed off the session with a canter through this year’s IPP exchange puzzles.

After the talks there was time to watch the final round of the speed-cubing contest (gawd those guys are good!) and do a final lap around the various tables of goodies for sale…

Just before 5pm four of us wandered briskly back toward the station to catch the train through to Schipol where Steve and I grabbed a bite to eat before heading our separate ways back home… another altogether brilliant DCD weekend. 

[Sorry about the dearth of decent pics - my travel camera and I are having a disagreement!]

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