Sunday 27 December 2015

It wouldn't be this time of year...

...without a thoroughly stupid holiday challenge from Allard!

In the picture below there are around 50 recognisable(?) puzzles, some of which have appeared on this very blog! I am willing to bet that nobody will get all of them correct... so if you needed a bit of a challenge, there you go! (Be warned, I haven't been very charitable with some of those pics!)

If you want to stand a chance of winning a puzzle of my choosing, email me a list of the puzzle names and and their designers - and if you get them all right, I'll throw in an extra puzzle! The address is allard full stop walker at sign gmail full stop com. 

Entries close on Friday, 1st January, at midnight (UK-time!), so I can work out who won over the weekend and pick up something for the winner from my puzzling purveyor of choice.... Enjoy!

Click for a larger version...

Friday 25 December 2015

Lee Krasnow’s Barcode Burr

…there are some puzzles that money can’t buy – people don’t sell them once they get hold of them. 

If you’ve ever handled a copy of Lee Krasnow’s Barcode Burr you will recognise that statement immediately… finding one for sale is the hard part – handing over the (not-so-insignificant-sum-of) cash is the easy part! 

This thing is an exercise in precision engineering and art – all wrapped up in a glorious binary puzzle…

Designed and perfectly crafted by Lee back in 2004, the Barcode Burr is, at its heart, a dissection of a cube into six identical pieces… which is interesting in and of itself as it appears to be a 3*3*3 cube(!) – look a little closer and you’ll see some diagonal splits across some of the blocks – so the maths sort of works a bit better…

Each piece has some combination of pins and / or mazes on them, and each piece interacts with its neighbours’ pins and mazes… enforcing the following rules:

  • A piece may move if the piece immediately before it is extended and all other pieces before it have been pushed back in, and
  • A piece may be removed if extended and every piece before it is pushed back in and every piece after it has been removed.

Which gives us the classic binary puzzle formula…

The trick here is you can’t pull the pieces out:  you need to push them from the opposite side, which takes a little getting used to because the pieces expand outwards on the cube’s main diagonals… finding the first move can be a little tricky – one of those little triangles will eject a lump of wood in the opposite direction – find the right one and the first piece extends… orient the cube comfortably in your hands and start running through the sequence: 1 out, 2 out, 1 in, 3 out, 1 out, 2 in, 1 in, 4 out… and so on… until you reach move 64 where the first piece can be removed, with a very satisfying click! .... Huzzah!

Interestingly, Lee’s design notes point out that there’s a shortcut that allows the first piece to be removed just after the 32nd move… this happens because each of the pieces needs to interact with all of the other pieces to enforce the full binary sequence, but as the pieces pull out along the main diagonals of the cube, each pair of pieces shares a shifting axis and therefore cannot (other than trivially) interact with its opposite number…interesting, but why on earth would you want to take a short-cut on pure puzzling therapy?!

Those same design notes say that he’s made six other copies of the puzzle – and this one’s marked “No. 7” – so I suspect that there really aren’t that many of them out there in the wild! 

Barcode Burr took an Honourable Mention in the 2004 IPP Design Competition against some very stiff competition. 

It’s a seriously beautiful object made of Eastern Hard Maple with inset Macassar Ebony stripes – which is where the name comes from… definitely one of my awesome puzzle finds of the year!

[Blogging on Christmas Day?? Yip – turns out I’m allergic to Strictly Come Dancing and the Michael Buble Christmas Specials that the rest of the family love… so I get to do a little bloggin’ without the guilt of not working on that other project for one day… so Merry Christmas puzzle-people!!]

Sunday 20 December 2015

Irmo Puzzle Box

The stuff of legends! 

This one is awesome - I was very happy indeed when someone offered me a copy recently!

It’s definitely one-part magic, one-part mystery – from the elvish script in a ring around the bottom of the box to the wonderfully complex mechanism inside that is fully displayed to the victorious solver – this one defies logic … sort of. 

Irmo was Eric Fuller’s 2008 Puzzle Deign Competition entry – and it took a well-deserved first prize award. A number of copies were available at the time, however these days people seem reasonably unwilling to part with their copies, so when they turn up on the usual auction sites, they generally fetch a pretty penny. 

Back in 2008 Eric described Irmo as “probably the best box Ihave ever made.

It measures just shy of 10cm cubed and looks rather handsome dressed in Padauk with quilted maple insets top and bottom, and some very neat slip-feathers. As you’d expect, the exterior finish is great and the wood really looks alive!

From an initial inspection, it appears to have a thin lid that wiggles just a tiny amount – just enough to let you know this is where it’s going to open up – and when it’s locked – it will remain very firmly shut… the floating base has a ring of elvish script on it that offers the puzzler a clue to the solution… and interestingly, it seems to have some magnets keeping it in place – which seems a little unusual. 

This is a pretty unusual puzzle box and you’ll soon find that trying all the usual sorts of things yields pretty much nothing… GRINS… I like this puzzle already!

Spend a little time with it and experiment and you might find it behaving in unusual ways when you do certain things to it, but it’ll take you a while to work out exactly what to do and execute it properly in order to get it to open… at which point you’ll smile at Eric’s extreme thoughtfulness in placing a couple of magnets in just the right spot to stop you doing something silly and damaging anything.

Remove the lid and you get to marvel (seriously, marvel!) at the incredible mechanical masterpiece that keeps it locked up, and then unlocks it on command… it’s all protected behind a sheet of clear acrylic so that you can’t do any inadvertent damage, but it’s a jolly marvellous piece of engineering and great fun to experiment with to perfect the technique… that mechanism is not only clever, Eric’s made it really beautiful as well so it thoroughly deserves to be on display when puzzlers solve this little box. 

Epic Puzzle Box.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Ze Orange

[This post contain some spoilers – so if you think you’re likely to come across one of these in the near future (consider yourself damn lucky! But), don’t read this blog post… you’ve been warned – don’t complain!]

What’s the appropriate reaction when a dodgy-looking Aussie invites you up to his hotel room to look at some puzzles?

Simple – make sure you have your wallet and don’t lose him on the way… 

…and that’s how I became the rather chuffed owner of a copy of Ze Orange by Lathe-Master-Chinny. (Sounds a bit like an 80’s rap artist!)

It’s about the right size and shape for a decent-sized orange and genuinely looks the part – with an orangey pitted skin and a silvery stalk on top. The lathe work on the outside of this thing is deeply impressive – the chattering is perfectly executed and beautifully matched, and how the heck he’s got the grain to line up across what I’m pretty sure are separate two parts, I’ll never know!

There’s an interesting feature on the bottom – where there’s a panel with a slot across it…but no apparent way to open that, yet…

The description on the Design Competition web site says that Ze Orange was inspired by the Donay Pear produced by Goddard & Berkeley … and if you’re familiar with their stuff, you’ll be expecting lots of screw threads, pretty serious turning and probably a coin somewhere along the way to use in that slot…

Right, so let’s get started – first off, surely that silver stalk comes off? Indeedy! Unscrew it and off it comes… then what?

Here some careful inspection will nudge you in the right direction, but there are a couple of things that are out to stop you progressing – one’s a classic and the other is classic Chinny. I’ll leave you to decide which is which…

Open Ze Orange and you find you have two halves, each with something interesting inside it… one half has another of those slots (but still no coin!) and the other has what looks like a little round pill box, wooden of course, with a pimple on top of it.

Decide which of these two you’d like to tackle first – actually, there’s only really one choice and have at it… playing detective will show you something interesting and perhaps a use for a tool you have already discovered – use that and you’ll find the little pill box being released from its half of Ze Orange…

Well done! You’ve discovered a little puzzle box… which you now need to open in order to find another rather useful little thingy, although depending on who put it back together for you, that might not be a trivial task.

You should recognise your new find as a useful tool and use it in the obvious place – which yields more intrigue than it does enlightenment, frankly… but there you go. Perhaps there's something else to be done?

Indeed there is and that leads you to what looks like another little puzzle box – except the very thing you want to do to open it up seems to be absolutely flipping impossible – so you need to Think©!

Find how to open the last little box and you’re greeted by some wonderfully irritating electronic muzak … the other of Chinny’s great trademarks!

It’s a wonderfully fun puzzle – a serious sequential discovery puzzle shaped like a fruit – some serious lathe skills on show – six locking mechanisms - two built-in puzzle boxes – and funky muzak to boot! It has to be from Chinnomotto.

One of my awesome finds in Ottawa this year…

[Yes, I didn't really tell you everything, there's some other clever little things in there that will hopefully trip you up even though you've read all this! Some of them won't even be clear from the next pic either, he's a crafty guy is Chinny!]

...the innards plus a few random objects...