Wednesday 17 June 2015

Puzzling in Wales-shire

This week’s blog post was delayed a little by a family trip to Wales-shire… Oz was over visiting from Cape Town so Gill found us a stunning self-catering barn 5 minutes’ walk from the beach… sounds awful doesn’t it? Hopefully the picture will confirm just how much I was taking-for-the-team… I did get to take some puzzles along, and there was a goodly amount of time spent puzzling… some of which will deserve their own write-up so they’ll hardly get a mention here.

…along those lines, the day before we left, my latest package arrived from Wil, complete with a copy of the Butterfly Lock Box (aka Pleasure and Pain) and Ying Yang 69 puzzles – those will definitely need to feature on their own at some point… for now I will only say that they’re both great puzzles – and my inherent distrust of the puzzle-meister saved me a fair amount of pain! ;-)

Aside from the latest arrivals, I wanted to take puzzles that would keep me puzzling for a good while, so there were a few multi-challenge puzzles from Thinkfun for me to work through, some Minoru Abe sliding tile puzzles and several entanglements from Dick Hess – most of which had proved my undoing in the past… I was going to refer to them as my nemesii, but realised there’s probably a good reason that there’s no plural for nemesis. A couple of Osanori Yamamoto puzzles rounded out the puzzles that were successfully solved while I was away…

…and the quick-witted among you will realise there is at least one obvious omission – that’s ‘cos it wasn’t solved while I was away… hopefully you’ll also notice that I took my special £2 coin along for the obligatory photograph! 

The lengths I go to…

Two Thinkfun multi-challenge puzzles helped keep me puzzling for several hours on the Gower:

Turnstile provides 40 graded challenges (the earlier ones just really get you used to the mechanics of the game) where you’re given a start positions with gates and pieces set up in a particular fashion. Your challenge is to move the coloured counters to their home corners while negotiating the turnstiles and the other pieces (the grey pieces are basically just movable road blocks).  Good fun to take out and work through a few challenges at a time before switching across to another puzzle… the latter challenges will definitely give you something to think about, but remain accessible. 

Tilt provides a great real-world implementation of gravity mazes that seem to pop up in puzzle apps quite regularly. The challenge cards show you where to place blocking pieces and green and blue counters. Your job is to tilt the board successively in different directions so that the green counters fall through the hole in the centre and the blues all remain on the board… and the only rule you need to worry about is that you must let all pieces slide and come to a rest against something (i.e. no sneaky half-moves – that’s cheating!). Having played one or two of these apps definitely helps a bit, but the later challenges have a number of traps for the unwary (yes, I was very unwary!) – but resetting and starting over only takes a few seconds and you’re ready to go with a clean board. Nice real world application of this sort of puzzle – with the mechanics working pretty much all the time, but if anything does get caught, a tap or two will send them on their way. 

A couple of weeks ago I’d picked up three Osanori Yamamoto burrs from Satomi at CU-Japan. These weren’t particularly expensive as they’re made from thin laser-cut MDF. While nothing beats a lovely exotic wooden version, until someone takes up the challenge of making them, these represent a great cost-effective way of getting the designs out into the market. 

Rose presents you with four interlocking pieces trapped in a central circular frame. Your first job is the find what movements are possible, and with a new puzzle, the pieces need to be well-aligned or you won’t find anything moving. Find some movement and if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself going round and round in circles… you need to be a little more subtle than I generally am to find the next set of moves – and given the designer, you’ll be tempted to start exploring all manner of rotational moves as well… good luck with that! 

Rose 2 is a development of Rose, with a more complicated frame and some differences in the pieces… you probably want to play with Rose before going on to Rose 2 if you want to maximise your enjoyment on these two… another lovely little design that will amuse the most-hardened puzzlist. (Oh and it take 26 moves to release the first piece!)  

# Shield gives you a frame with four pieces that need to make up a “#” sign inside the frame, only this time there’s a ledge along the bottom that will block quite a few rather useful moves… which makes it a rather nice challenge. 

A pair of sliding tile puzzles from Minoru Abe kept me quiet for quite a while. Angel and Satan has two simple little creatures, each made up of three pieces that need to be transposed – that’s all! There’s a huge gap in the centre between the two figures and only a tiny little interfering piece in the centre. Yet it’s thoroughly non-trivial! I’d had several bashes at it before my holiday and got nowhere, so I was delighted when I finally managed to work out how to make use of every little feature in the design to get those two creatures to swap places… I think the optimal solution requires 74 moves… I took somewhat more!

Runaway II provides a 5 different challenges with varying themes on moving a set of digits from 1 to 4 from the top to the bottom (or vice versa) via two different sized cut-outs between the two rows… Oh, and there are a pair of stars and a heart to get in the way and force you to think a few moves ahead… which I’m rubbish at! 

Finally, in preparation for an upcoming visit form the entangle-meister himself, I took a few sets of Dick Hess’ entanglements along … mainly because I’m thoroughly rubbish at them and haven’t been able to solve any of them yet and I wanted to avoid the embarrassment of having to admit I couldn’t solve any of his puzzles at all…

First off the Mini-Menagerie Puzzles – Dick’s IPP26 exchange puzzle. This set consists of the Ox, Rhino and Whale and to the neophyte, they all look like they’re more or less the same puzzle… yet I hadn’t managed to solve them yet despite the odd attempt at doing exactly that! 

To the untrained eye, the Whale looks to be the simplest… so I started there, and promptly got nowhere – it doesn’t have a lot of the complications that the other animals have, yet I just couldn’t get it to do what I wanted… so I switched to one of the land-based animals and had a little more luck, after quite a while I found I could get the Ox’s bits to do something interesting that I hadn’t expected, and pretty soon I had removed its tail (or rider, of you prefer). 

Flushed with a sense of victory I switched attention to the Rhino and tried something similar – only to find that simply wouldn’t work… so I spent a long time experimenting before I finally found something (else) totally unexpected …and had its tail off too. The Whale finally succumbed too, but only after I’d generated a HUGE amount of respect for my friend Dick – he’s made those puzzles all look thoroughly similar, but are they? Heck! That was a lot of fun, and I’m now looking forward to trying my inexperienced hand at some more of his puzzles – if they give me half as much of an A-Ha! moment I’m going to be very chuffed!

The final two puzzles in the pics are a pair of Dick’s Sisters – from his IPP29 exchange puzzle Three Sisters – spot the missing one yet? Sadly I only managed to take two of the sisters apart – the Tall Sister still eludes me… 

These puzzles again look totally similar yet the subtle differences in the shapes or the design of the rings makes their solutions totally different – Blonde and Dancing Sister yielded after a good session of experimenting where the solution always looks like it’s not too far off – you’re pretty sure you know where you’re trying to get things, they just won’t quite go where you want them… a couple of little bits of wire kept me wonderfully amused for hours… thanks Dick!

1 comment:

  1. You can't beat Dick's disentanglements! I love them! Next you need to have a go at Louis' nemesis...... the Yak. It's terribly difficult!