Friday 12 February 2016


Midlands Puzzle Party turns 21… it’s not only a milestone – it’s a darn good day’s puzzling!
It all started on the Friday night with the arrival of a car-load of Coolens (and a Strijbos!) fresh(?!) from their trek across Belgium and France and an underwater train ride. The smaller Coolens quickly settled into cuddling the pups while we caught up with the larger ones over a coffee or two…
Inevitably one or two puzzles emerged, then a few more and soon enough Gill and Mieke had fled the lounge and the coffee table was covered in puzzles…damn good start to an MPP, I reckon!
When I was ready to crash I left Louis and Wil in the puzzle cave puzzling and next morning there was some evidence of further successful solves littering the desk…
After getting the world breakfasted, we headed down into the village to open up the hall and get some tables and chairs set out and within a few minutes of that, we had people begin arriving from as far afield as Leamington! (Note for those not familiar with the Midlands geography – that’s just down the road…) By the time I’d managed to get across the road to get some milk we had all sorts there – even some Londoners! (Note for that same group – that’s quite a bit further afield!) … and by the time I’d had my first cup of coffee, we had someone from Sheffield in the north and Devon in the South… (Look at a map!) More than enough puzzlers to make up an MPP.
Wil Strijbos commandeered a table in the corner and several crates worth of goodies passed hands during the course of the day… including some personal deliveries of Rainer Popp’s latest masterpiece, the T10… several copies of Wil’s own Sweta Cross and a goodly smattering of Siebenstein puzzles.
Since last August in Ottawa, Wil’s had a running gag with a bottle opener that I gave to him…challenging all comers to balance it in various positions, with and without various supports… at MPPXXi he’d taken this to a whole new level with the addition of two further copies to be balanced together… and clearly nobody bothered telling Chris that it wasn’t possible to balance the three of them together…
I’d taken along some new-ish acquisitions from a simple little six-piece burr to an old-ish box from Kagen Schaefer. My copy of the Fuller IRMO Box kept a few folks amused for a while, although only a couple of them managed to actually open it… several more managed to open the Snake Box, although most needed to have the existence of the second compartment pointed out to them… much as James had to me several years ago… just as I’d pretty much completed the locking up sequence! Johan Heyns’ Wish Cube attracted a few challengers who went at least as far as getting the drawer out, but stopped dead in their tracks and retreated rather than dismantling the entire beast - probably a wise move…
A little Frank Chambers’ Corian box went down quite well with the few folks brave enough to take it on properly… although it has to be said that they all needed a little encouragement, which is probably a good thing! (If you know the box, you’ll understand…)
By far my most popular offering on the day was a copy of Mike Toulouzas’ award-winning Fairy’s Door which had arrived the day before…this whimsical beauty has the perfect balance of puzzle, discovery and beauty to tempt just about everyone who wandered past the table…and everyone had a fat smile on their faces when they were done.
Simon Bexfield brought along a pair of Threedy 3-D printers and had them churning out spare parts during the course of the day – I’d always thought they were pretty noisy beasts, but Simon’s printer hummed away in the background on the side-lines without causing any offence at all…while producing a spare Dot Box bit. Impressive pieces of kit, and I suspect that more than one of the puzzlers present will be investing in one in the near future.
The weather was pretty foul all through the day with several puzzlers telling some fairly interesting stories about their drive down in the morning – we managed to venture out at lunchtime and loaded up on fish and chips and pig rolls, all enjoyed in the room off the main hall before yet more puzzling for the entire afternoon…
One of the unexpected hits on my table turned out to be a copy of Holey Astigmatism – a simple little six-piece burr… sort of. This was Bill Cutler’s IPP14 exchange puzzle where he’d taken a standard burr with multiple assemblies and pushed it sideways a bit, just enough so that it eliminated all bar one assembly – the level 7 assembly - coincidentally the highest level assembly available for that combination of pieces. (And if you think that’s a coincidence, you clearly haven’t met Bill!).  Anyhoo, it’s a neat little burr made by Stewart Coffin in cherry and looks pretty unpretentious at a distance… closer up it becomes clear that it’s a lot trickier than it first appears, so I challenged a few burr-istas to have a bash at it and I was chuffed to see every one of them manage to complete it… and the smiles on their faces were really something to behold – doesn’t this number from Sheffield look just about as-pleased-as-Punch with his success? [Tip o’ the hat to all who succeeded on it!]
Tim Turner brought a few crates-worth of lovely old puzzles for sale and I ended up spending a while raking through his wares – getting advice and encouragement from Frank to the extent that I started an exceedingly humble collection of (3!) Journet puzzles at MPPXXi – thanks Tim! They really are in amazingly good nick given how jolly old they are … and I’m absolutely rubbish at dexterity puzzles to boot!
James Dalgety brought along a couple of antique ivory Chinese puzzle sets that several of us lusted over but nobody was brave enough to ask for a price on. He’s done a lovely job of pulling together pretty complete sets from a number of different sources over the years.
Ali had a great little design from Philipp Knöringer that had most of us going for quite a while – OK some of us for quite a long time! Thankfully one of our number was man-enough to solve it (we believe that his knee will recover, eventually) and when Ali put it back together the right way around, it turned into a lovely, rather more popular puzzle! Great idea Philipp – and rather nicely executed!
Simon Nightingale, looking every bit the English country gent, had brought along some old exchange puzzles and lined them up with new owners for a discrete donation to his favourite charity…
We herded everyone out at around 6pm and headed up back the road to a quiet dinner with the Coolens (and the Strijbos) before even more puzzling…
That session turned out to be really productive with Louis and I managing to open my copy of the latest Splined Box from Eric after having had it (unopened!) for about a year already… and then opening my Oriental Toothpick Safe and cleaning out its guts properly (it wasn’t behaving properly, although there wasn’t anything apparently getting in the way… rather odd!) … and overnight Louis bashed through a few Gillen locks and solved the new Hanayama Cast Padlock as it was there… and a week later – it’s still in bits on my desk…I must put it back together sometime…Oh, and solve my T10!
Thanks for a great weekend folks! 


  1. Great day Allard, thank you once again ! The Fairys door is beautiful!! And I also loved the Corian box, think I was the first 'brave' enough :-)

  2. Had a great time! Thanks for the hospitality!
    I even surprised myself by managing to solve a few puzzles which is not like me at all. I'm not terribly bright you know!