Saturday, 5 November 2016

DCD 2016

What a fantastic weekend!

It started for me with a rather rude alarm waking me at 3:05am on the Saturday morning (I’d given myself 5 minutes extra… it didn’t really make things all right!). Shortly before 5am I was sitting in an airport coffee shop moaning about my fate on social media – I won’t bore you with all of the sympathy I received here (mainly because there was none!) but after a leisurely cup of coffee I was heading cross-country at about 35,000 feet (best achieved in an aircraft, in case you were wondering). It always amuses me in aircraft how people stand up as soon as they can and then have to wait 10 or 20 minutes while airbridges are connected before they can actually go anywhere… and then they amble gently down the concourse like this is the morning stroll they’ve come here for… I digress – this is supposed to be a puzzle blog… sort of…

…as I walked out of baggage reclaim and customs I spotted Louis walking in my general direction, and knowing that the others wouldn’t be arriving from London for at least half an hour, we sat down for a coffee and a general catch up on respective families, work, etc. At the appointed hour we wandered down to the appropriate arrivals exit to wait for the London crowd… who seemed to take quite a while – we knew we were at the right exit because we knew they were arriving at 9:05 from London… and yet After waiting a little longer, we headed back up to the next exit, with a similar lack of results… just after we’d headed back to the “right” exit, my phone rang and it was Ali.  While I’m talking to him trying to work out where he is, I spot wee Steve who recognises us and waves – at which point Ali spots Steve and then the two of us… which confuses me a little because wee Steve was supposed to be travelling with Ali and big Steve… we set that aside for a while and regroup at another coffee shop to kill some time.

While we’re enjoying a calm coffee we establish that the Steves and Ali have indeed all travelled from London, and some of them even travelled on the same plane (they moaned like drains about having to sit next to some big bloke that pretty much pinned them into their seats the entire flight and made it almost impossible to enjoy the complimentary French pastries being served on-board (not all of that last sentence is true… it is left in as an exercise for the interested reader to work out which bits weren’t)). Wee Steve, having been told when the others were flying, booked himself similar arrangements, and indeed, if he hadn’t chosen a different airline and a different airport to leave from, he might have been on the same flight as big Steve and Ali… but what matters in the end is that we found one another and more importantly, I had a good story for my blog...

We spent an hour or two chatting and sipping coffees before heading out to Rijswijk where Rob had offered anyone arriving early some lunch…so we got there very early! So early in fact that we ended up loitering outside the library for a while discussing the architecture, and the local take-away joints.  We are, after all, a rather diverse bunch… once we’d established that Rob was home, we headed up and made ourselves at home… puzzles came out and then got cleared away pretty smartly to make way for lunch – for there was a lot of itLaurie arrived as we were setting it all up and we enjoyed a wonderful spread of all things good for lunch…even better than the previous year’s Subways – which were pretty darn nice!

After the lunch things had been packed away, puzzlers began drifting in and we pretty soon had a rather entanglement of puzzlers, although not that many that we’d creating a packing puzzle of puzzlers.

Big Steve and I found a big box of Altekruse-style pieces on a side table that we felt the need to assemble so we asked Rob what puzzle it was… he was very helpful and told us he’d bought it in pieces and had no idea what it was as he’d never seen it assembled. Steve decided to apply his mathematical mind to the problem and determined that there were 36 pieces in the box, quickly leaping to the conclusion that it was a 36-piece puzzle, possibly an Altekruse. Big Steve knows puzzles! 

For what felt like the next few hours we sat on the floor with a tiny fold up table between us trying to work out how to assemble a large Altekruse… Rob had a similar one which would have been useful, only we couldn’t work out how to get that one apart, so we were pretty much on our own… well, I say we were on our own, but in fact we were surrounded by helpful friends all yelling out really helpful suggestions (NO I WILL NOT TRY SPINNING IT!)

We had several false starts, seemingly making progress only to decide that we’d put something in the wrong way around quite early on in the process and having to dismantle everything. Once we’d got the basic structure going more or less right, we found the handy push-pull feature would work and we’d be able to slide another layer into place… there was however a downside in that the process would dump a layer of pieces out the bottom if you didn’t remember to turn gravity off before performing the slide… so we spent a while adding a layer at the top while a layer fell out of the bottom, with Steve eventually getting quite exasperated and asking me why I was doing that… reducing me to tears of laughter for quite a while as we discussed whether it was my fault for sliding the pieces or his for not turning gravity off… I haven’t laughed that much in ages… the tears were literally rolling… and then a short while later we actually managed to get the last pieces in place and declared victory – took a pic or two and then Rob took it away from us lest we considered reducing it back to a pile of sticks again…

I’m not sure about Steve, but I suspect that I used up all of my puzzle-solving mojo (there wasn’t a lot to start with, mind) on that damn Altekruse because I’m almost certain I didn’t solve anything else that day.

By the time we’d finished that puzzle, Rob’s was looking pretty packed with puzzlers: Taus and Isabel had arrived from Denmark, Frans, Wil & Sveta, Rik, Maarten and Chris had assembled from sundry Dutch cities, Nigel arrived from Spain and Goetz and Hussein arrived from Germany…not bad for a lounge-ful of puzzlers! (And I’ve probably forgotten someone from somewhere even more exotic!) 

Sometime around early evening a bunch of us headed toward the hotel to check in and get some dinner…we assembled in the bar (it’s always the bar, with puzzlers…) and when there were about ten of us we enquired about the possibility of a table for dinner – this apparently scared them a little and they asked us to give them half an hour as they were a little busy. So we did, and we drank and puzzled and generally abused one another (figuratively, damnit!)… we eventually sat down for dinner – which was a rather drawn-out affair where we were worried for a while that they’d forgotten that we still needed to order, then forgotten to bring us our food, and then forgotten to bring some of us our main courses… but in the end the food was great and worth waiting for, and we had plenty of chatter and puzzling and fiddling with various little challenges… before settling up with a wonderful combination of cash and vouchers they’d insisted on giving us when we checked in…turning it into a really reasonable meal (for those of us staying in the hotel – and the Danes who kept telling us how cheap eating out in The Hague really is!).

I crashed at about 10 o’clock (see opening line, and I did not take a nap on Rob’s couch like some cough-wee-Steve-cough – people) , with the rest of them playing away in the bar until at least midnight…

We’d agreed to meet at around 8am for breakfast and Louis and I were fashionably late…so we joined big Steve and Ali for breakfast. Wee Steve was somewhat more than fashionably late – I assumed his wooden watch hadn’t coped well with the combination of the humidity and the change-over to winter time. Or it was his phone that hadn’t coped well with one or both of those…?

By 9am we were all wandering down the familiar road in the crisp, sunny morning air to Sint Maarten’s College for DCD proper. In return for a little cash we're loaned a name tag and given a couple of little souvenirs: a puzzle and a customised set of DCD cube stickers (I’m going to have to buy a cube now, aren’t I?).

We headed straight over to Strijbos corner to dump our stuff and somehow I got sucked into trawling through crates and crates of treasures – I must have spent ages combing through a variety of boxes finding all manner of unexpected treasure and making piles of “definitely”, “hopefully” and “probably not” before pulling out my calculator and shifting some treasures from left to right until I was merely broke and not thoroughly in debt!

Having largely exhausted my spending money for the day, I handed over my cash to Wil and wandered off in search of puzzlers to chat to…

Jack had brought me a little more Power for my Tower and then promptly gave me a beautiful copy of his CFF burr – a burr with the letters C, F and F on the faces designed as an entrant for the CFF 100th issue giveaway. No good deed should go unpunished, so I gave him a copy of my IPP36 exchange, tipping the pieces into his trusting hands as I always do…briefly the shoe was on the other foot and I was able to give him a little challenge to amuse him after all the joy his craftsmanship and designs have given me over the past few years.

Michel tried to flog me an enormous Arjeu copy of the Atom puzzle – a one foot ball-of-shiny-balls [he’d recently found two of them!] when I gave him the puzzle I’d brought over from the UK for him … and a copy of Phive Pack, in bits, of course.

Christoph Lohe had produced laser-cut acrylic versions of seven of his symmetry puzzles so I joined the queue to collect a set of them, knowing that I’m almost certainly never going to solve them – but it’s good to have a few puzzles in the cabinet to humble you… although in my case those ones might be gaining the upper hand among the collection!

Tony Fisher had made the trip across the channel with a few bits of his Guinness World Record twisty cube and they are humbling to see up close…seeing Tony constantly pushing the boat out further and further and doing more and more spectacular things is just brilliant!

Lunch was provided in great quantities as usual and I suspect there were several trays of ham and cheese rolls left over at the end of the day…

After lunch there were three lectures:

  • Derk introduced us to the Dutch mathematical magazine Pythagoras aimed at schoolchildren (perfectly pitched for us puzzlers!) introducing us to a number of their puzzles and on-going themed articles – with plenty of audience interaction;
  • Chris demonstrated an interesting feat with a 4*4 sheet of paper that when folded any which way and cut always produced the same  sum of digits facing upwards before challenging the audience to work out why it worked… cue fantastic discussion about chequer boards and origami cranes; and
  • Rob gave a whistle-stop tour through a number of the IPP36 exchange puzzles, describing several of them accurately!

All the while there was a speed-cubing competition happening in the same hall… with the usual suspects solving twisty puzzles really fast – sometimes without blindfolds on! Some seriously impressive skillz on display!

When things started winding down, there was one last whizz around the sales tables to make sure that we hadn’t missed anything important before heading back to the station for our trains to Schipol, where Ali, the Steves and I managed to meet up on the far side for burgers of various descriptions before flying back to Brum and London (several flavours!)

What a fantastic weekend!


  1. A great write-up Allard. B :)

  2. Whoaa you managed to get all these puzzles at DCD?!!!

  3. Hello Allard,

    Congratulations for proving such a discerning collector by selecting a "Dream of Zebra" puzzle box: A great piece by the much talented Iwahara Hiroshi.

    1. Merci Lionel! I've learnt from the best! :-) ...and I'll post about it soon.