Monday, 6 June 2016

PMPP 2016

I’d had a pretty rubbish week so I’d been looking forward to heading down to James’ for a while – and not even the extra two and a half hours in the car (apparently every single caravan in the country was heading to Devon on that particular Saturday morning!) on the trip down managed to put a damper on things… James’ annual Puzzle Museum Puzzle Parties are brilliant! 

There’s usually a wonderfully disparate bunch roaming the grounds during the course of the day, from mathematicians to puzzlers to jugglers – and even the (very!) odd magician.

Given all the traffic I arrived a few hours later than anticipated and found quite a few familiar faces already playing and puzzling – wee Steve had set up shop at the one end of the long table in the main puzzle room and after looking at his first batch of Nutty Bolts (#1) neatly packed in the box, I helped myself to a copy (and yes, I sent him some PayPal afterwards!) … several folks spent a while experimenting with the merchandise and I was a little amused to see some folks pick up a bolt and try to solve it, then swap it for another in the box and try that one instead… generally with not much more luck, but, hey, you never know…

I’d taken my copy of Jane Kostick’s delightful little packing puzzle that I’ve written about before and managed to entice Duncan into having another bash at it… along with one or two others – although sadly I don’t think anyone managed to find the incredibly satisfying elegant solution that puts twelve oddly shaped (identical) sticks and a cube inside the cubic interior of the triacontahedron box… pity!

I also managed to taunt one or two folks with my copy of Jane's “Phive” puzzle – I’ll never tire of seeing people’s faces when you show them the completed puzzle and then tip the pieces out into their hands – the pieces are really not what you expect them to be and sadly nobody conquered that one either during the course of the day…

As usual James and Lindsey had put on a fabulous spread for lunch – one of very few things that will draw a puzzler away from the puzzle room, let me tell you.

Sometime after lunch James herded everyone outside with the promise of some bangs, courtesy of wee Steve who blows things up as part of his day job (don’t ask!). We all formed a not so orderly line up against the edge of the garden and stared and some distant little green blobs in a small clearing in the field next door… turned out the little green blobs were watermelons (not so little after all!) and one of them had a small charge inside it connected to Steve’s wonderfully theatrical plunger box – which was ceremonially plunged sending one of the watermelons instantly into several thousand tiny pieces all heading skywards with a loud bang! 

Thanks to Steve’s prep and favourable winds, nothing rained down upon the assembled masses and the only by-product was that the cows in the field next door decided it might be worthwhile wandering off into the distance. Steve reloaded with the second watermelon and it too was dispatched heavenwards in about a million little pieces.

I’d also taken along my copy of Johan Heyns appropriately named 4L Co-Mo DD (because it’s a 4-layered co-ordinate motion puzzle, with double difficulty – and he’s not kidding!) – it looks brilliant on its stand and folks couldn’t resist playing around with it – of course once it comes apart, it’s an absolute sod to get back together again because there are two sets of rings to align perfectly between the three pieces, on both sides – or nothing goes together… strangely nobody managed to reassemble it all day!

A while later James brought out his second-most-dangerous-kids-toy-in-the-world (second only to the chemistry set with actual uranium in it! And no, we didn’t play with that.) – the Austin Magic Pistol. The instructions for the pistol were duly read out for the assembled masses – with James interpreting along the way – place some magic crystals into the chamber was broadly translated to shovel in some calcium carbide – introduce a drop or two of water – yeah, we’re not going to stick to just a drop, are we? Screw the cap on the chamber, place a ping pong ball in the barrel, wait a few seconds and then pull the trigger – ball fires out with a pop…  because the calcium carbide reacts with the water to produce acetylene gas (the stuff they weld with!), which the trigger mechanism ignites – what could go wrong?! 

Big Steve was teed up to fire the monster and had us in stitches as he got progressively more and more adventurous with his attempts to fire the thing. At first there were pleasant pops with the balls flying several metres – until we eventually had loud bangs and flames coming out of the barrel – and it will take a long time to forget the sight of Steve peering down the barrel with flames coming out of it and then calmly blowing the fire out, while the chemical reaction was clearly still going on inside the chamber… Steve, you’re a nutter!

After the excitement with the pop gun, Laurie entertained us all with a short magic show that had most of us thoroughly flummoxed. All was well out on the veranda watching the magic show until the heavens opened and we had to high-tail it indoors to avoid getting soaked! Thanks Laurie!

During the course of the afternoon, I managed to thoroughly humiliate myself with a couple of burrs that James suggested I would like – and I did like them, I just failed thoroughly at the solving part! At one point Big Steve and I convinced ourselves that rotations HAD to be required for a particular burr… starting from the (imagined) solved position, we’d established that there was no way that it could be disassembled without some form of chicanery – or at least the suspension of one or two basic laws of nature. We kept coming back to it between other bits and pieces but couldn’t get anywhere, so eventually I asked James for the solution (yes, such things do exist!) and sure enough no chicanery or even rotations were required – just a rather neat if unconventional way of assembling the pieces. I’d been thoroughly caught out by this de Vreugd beauty!

Several folks had brought along freebies to hand out to the other attendees and during the week that followed I had a great time folding up a few playing cards to assemble one of Tim Rowett’s Sunken Cube Octahedrons – just four cards with few folds on each – and a little bit of fiddling to get them all properly interlocked – great therapy for the hands and mind!

Donald Bell had sent along a puzzle for everyone in spite of not even being able to attend! He’s produced another fiendishly difficult symmetry puzzle using three “Hook” Hexiamond shapes… at least it wasn’t quite as hard as the previous one he’d dished out! (Thanks Donald!)

Gerard and few others had a grand old time working their way through James' “Birthday Cabinet” trying to find all of the hidden compartments scattered around this seemingly innocent looking cabinet… 

Somewhere around 7pm I decided I should probably head northwards and spent the next fifteen or twenty minutes saying good bye to everyone… before I loaded up the car and played my own little game of solo Rush Hour to get my car turned around and headed back up the track… except it had rained quite a bit after Laurie’s rain dance and I had a merry old time trying to do a three-point turn on James’ wonderfully steep track – until I relented and turned around inside his yard at the bottom of the hill… the rest of the drive home was pretty uneventful… :-) 

A brilliant end to a rubbish week – all thanks to James and Lindsey for hosting us, and the rest of the gang for the usual wonderful camaraderie and banter…

1 comment:

  1. Yep, it was a great day and thanks James and Lindsey for hosting and Tim for the lift. Well done to Shane for doing more than the lion's share of solving with the birthday box - particularly as time was tight. A great day!