Saturday, 30 July 2016

Any excuse!

…for a puzzle party…
A couple of months ago I became aware that my Irish puzzling mate, Jim Kerley, was going to be over in the UK for a week or so, and he was going to be based in a village less than an hour from my place – so I made the traditional South African offer of “come around for some burnt meat and some puzzling”. (OK, one of those probably isn’t a traditional South African offer…) 

We duly agreed on a suitable Saturday and invited a few other puzzlists around for the same – so last Saturday we had 10 for a braai and some puzzles, with Jim and Karen’s visit serving as a brilliant excuse! 

Shane arrived first, arm in a sling because he was (“allegedly”) catching a Pokemon with his phone when he tripped over something on a building site, having expected traffic and there wasn’t much at all. We’d just about caught up when Joe arrived from Wales-shire, shortly followed by Chris, so we settled down with a coffee and put the world to rights before a car-load arrived from London – Ali, Steve and Michael – so the serious puzzling could begin… and it did, until Jim and Karen arrived and there were introductions a-plenty.

Steve was quick to bring out some 3D-printed wares, including a lovely multi-coloured copy of Coffin’s 12-Piece Separation – neatly assembled – which he duly gave me … and then I did something VERY STUPID INDEED – I suggested that he take it apart and give me the pieces… he grimaced a little (having assembled the darn thing for me in the first place!) and proceeded to reduce it to a pile of similar looking sticks – mainly double-ended crochet-hooks in fact… watching him struggle to take it apart left me reconsidering my rashness – except that by then it was too late… the bag of pieces was duly passed around to several puzzlers with Chris spending quite a long time on it after I’d singularly failed to reassemble it. Chris, knowing that he could solve it, as he has a couple of copies at home, spent ages putting together several almost assemblies and eventually left me with a 10-Piece Separation and a couple of spare pieces. (It took me a good few hours on Sunday before it was finally fully back together again!)  

Steve had also brought along his copy of Brian Young’s latest sequential discovery odyssey, the SMS Box. My copy was also floating around and I watched in agony as both Chris and Ali duly made as much progress respectively as I have in the past month in less than an hour of playing around with them… which just goes to show quite how slow I am at solving these things! They had the good grace not to admit to any further progress beyond that stage at least… 

Jim had brought along several copies of his recent exchange puzzles as well as a number of other tray-packing puzzles produced on his trusty laser cutter. They were soon being passed around and enjoyed – even solved in some cases – before Jim announced that they were gifts for the good puzzlers who’d come along to make it a puzzle party – cue much thanks and even happier puzzlers!
At some point during the afternoon Gill pointed out that everyone was getting hungry so we fired up the Weber and began burning random cuts of meat, while Gill brought out several rounds of garlic bread to sustain folks while the braai-master did his thing. While the ritual burning was going on Adin and Sophie popped in on their way to a better/former (delete as appropriate) offer. We managed to keep them just long enough for a cuppa, but they were heading off to Oxford for another BBQ so we couldn’t tempt them to stay with offers of burnt meat… 

 With all the meat suitably cooked, we sat down to a pretty darn good lunch (even if I say so myself) under the shade of the gazebo on the deck (not often we get to say that in Blighty!) – and it was good. 

With the plates cleared from the table, the puzzles all miraculously reappeared and the puzzling restarted. 

With the return of the anti-social puzzling silence, the girls decided to wander up to the woods with the hound in tow and made the most of the lovely weather with a walk in the woods – muchly enjoyed by Ben of course!

Shane and Joe worked their way through my little Corian collection, with everyone in the know having great fun with Shane while he solved my copy of Hajek’s Matchbox – with plenty of “Oooh”s and “I can’t believe he would do that to someone else’s puzzle!” at the appropriate moments. 

Chris had brought along his copy of Cubloc and Ali spent a while getting it even further away from a solved position… until I explained how much “fun” I’d had with mine – firstly getting it apart (a major slog! From memory it’s about 49 moves for the first piece out!) and then trying to get it back together again – using BurrTools! This puzzle has a lot of pieces and I tried several unsuccessful strategies at finding a solution in BurrTools before I finally managed to come up with a cunning enough plan that my favourite software didn’t think was going to take months (or more!) to get through. Even then, the physical assembly is an absolute beast! Be warned…

When the girls got back from their walk we laid on some strawberries and ice cream with choccy sauce (brain food!) to top up the flagging energy levels – followed a while later with coffee and delicious cake from Mike… we did not go hungry! 

Michael kept us entertained with some wonderful Robert Reid stories (mental note: must pick up a copy of their book!) and he and Jim spent ages chatting about tilings and dissections. Somehow the conversation turned to laser-cutting and the noxious fumes that can be generated before Chris and Jim set about comparing sizes – Chris won hands-down, although, in fairness to Jim, he was competing with an entire university lab!  Things took a very surreal turn when Mike announced that igniting an acetone-drenched hand would leave you largely unharmed (or was it ether? – one of them was OK…), we didn’t feel the need to prove this, but it did provide a great excuse to trot out the story of Steve and the Austin Magic Pistol once more. 

It was late-afternoon before Jim and Karen had to leave to visit some nearby family connections – and early evening by the time the (relative) locals decided they needed to head homewards… a good day’s puzzling (&) banter!

1 comment:

  1. So sorry I couldn't attend and meet everyone. Glad that Jim was looking so well after the shenanigans last year - I'll have to try and buy a copy of his puzzle after IPP.