Friday 22 September 2017

Blackjack pastry puzzle box

If Perry McDaniels is selling anything at a puzzle party, there will be a queue, ergo, whenever Perry is selling anything at a puzzle party, I make a bee-line for his table and join the throng of merry puzzlers throwing money at him… it’s a pretty safe bet that you won’t be disappointed if you like puzzle boxes.

A few years ago Perry arrived dressed the part with a Puzzled Guy Bakery outfit – he was selling petit fours… in a slightly altered guise he sold bon-bons for a couple of years and this year he was back as Perry the pastry chef…

A couple of puzzlers had seen pics of his 2017 offering and pronounced it truly delicious – and there was indeed a queue for the finest in wooden pastries that IPP37 could offer – in spite of Perry’s quips about them being “half the puzzle at twice the price”.

Blackjack marks the first in a series of pastries according to the blurb accompanying the puzzle – superb, there will be more of them! 
Visually, this one is stunning – it looks like a yummy chocolate slice with lashings of walnutty chocolate splashed across one end. It’s a bit bigger than the previous sets of Perry’s bakery-inspired products – and it rattles – quite a bit… there is definitely “stuff” going on inside there…

Sitting down to play with this little guy, you will want to spend some time simply admiring it – it is very handsome!

… and when you do begin playing with it, the first move will definitely raise a smile… that’s unexpected!

Spend a little time exploring and it spits out a playing card at you… a picture card to be precise … and you might be wondering how that ties in with the name of this little beastie, and whether there might be another along in due course… and indeed there is – right at the end – Blackjack!

There’s quite a lot of “stuff” along the way… some of it exactly the sort of thing you might expect from a secret opening box, and some of it rather unexpected, if not downright unusual. There is a lot to discover in this little pastry slice… and don’t go thinking that returning it back to the starting position is going to be a piece of cake either!

Friday 15 September 2017


Our 29th MPP was unusual – for one thing we had an American visitor that none of us knew, joining us for the day / weekend - for another, a bunch of the usual gang couldn’t make it for a number of reasons… so we not only had a very select little gathering, we also had a visitor from far afield hoping to meet the puzzlers he’s only ever seen in the virtual puzzling world… hopefully he wasn't disappointed!

On the Friday evening, we’d had Regan around for dinner and confirmed that he probably wasn’t an axe-murderer, although he was a long way from Kansas… we’d puzzled for a bit before sheer exhaustion set in and I dropped him back at the hotel… where a wedding party kept him up all hours of the night, resulting in him having had very little sleep by the time I collected him in the morning for MPP-proper. 

When the two of us got to the hall we discovered Angela and Peter had already set up their For-Sale table and welcomed the chance to chat… which we sort of did while setting up the rest of the tables and getting the refreshments organised and laid out.

Angela had brought along a bunch of autographed 1st edition Martin Gardner books for me and I happily wandered over to the ATM to draw the extra cash I needed to add those to my collection.

Dave arrived somewhere in between me getting the milk and soft drinks and my trip over for some extra cash, and he duly set himself up in a corner of the hall…

Pretty soon the core of the regular gang had arrived from London, with Frank arriving a bit later, having presumably had a bit more of a lie-in than the keener souls. 

Big-Steve had arranged for a group order of some brilliant Japanese puzzles that I’d partaken in and he duly played father Christmas giving a few of us an early present – I got a few of Endo-san’s exchange puzzles along with a recent creation of his that is a fantastic little three-piece interlocking puzzle, a copy of Home Alone Husband and a couple of little puzzley-things that I could never have justified getting shipped on their own… cheers Steve!

The usual encouraging puzzle-banter soon set in, with Regan joining in like he’d been one of us for ages – it seems that puzzlers really are a pretty homogenous bunch in some respects.

Regan had brought along a copy of his handmade safe puzzle for everyone to have a bash at – I’d tried my hand at solving it the night before, spectacularly unsuccessfully as it turned out, and I was having more or less exactly the same level of success at MPP. A couple of the others had a bash at encouraging the little aluminium and brass beauty to reveal its secrets and soon enough Oli had it open and was investigating the innards… where a second challenge awaited.

Chris duly followed suit and cracked the safe wide open, and I then spent another while getting resolutely nowhere! [In fact, I think I only managed to finally open it much later after a significant amount of hinting and suggestion from my fellow puzzlers – only I’m SO THICK that I didn’t realise they were actually trying to help me at the time… no idea why that wasn’t the first thought on my mind when they kept at me with what sounded like some rather unhelpful suggestions!] It IS a stunningly well-made puzzle with a fiendishly clever locking mechanism, the likes of which have virtually never been seen in a puzzle before – I bear no shame at not solving this one – it is very clever indeed!

Big-Steve spent a while trying to convince a couple of people to build his copy of Reza 12-20 that he’d had shipped from Australia in pieces…! We’d all seen how complicated this thing was as one half of the IPP37 Host Gift – and Juno had admitted it took him ages to assemble them WITH the solution to hand… so we all told him where to go… which meant he had to sit down and have a bash himself… and of course he was soon joined by a couple of the hardened puzzlers (Chris and Oli) who manly attempted to assemble the beast, coming reasonably close on a couple of occasions to find that Steve had clearly been sent the wrong pieces, as the final piece left out had the wrong notch pattern to enable it to be inserted into the assembly they were all struggling to keep more or less in the right shape. They gave up after a while so I expect that Steve will bring it back in the same number of pieces next time in the hopes of slightly more luck, or more puzzle-assembly-power, at least partly in the form of Louis. 

Pig rolls and the local chippie provided the usual excellent lunch before yet more puzzling…

At some point Chris must have upset Steve awfully because he duly sat down at Chris’ table and set about disassembling and scrambling all of Chris’ puzzles… so Chris responded as every puzzler should, and calmly reassembled them, including one that he didn’t think he knew how to reassemble… good man!

Michael made particularly short work of an IPP37 exchange packing puzzle that Ali gave him – somewhat gob-smacking both of us at the speed that he’d solved it… and what truly amazed us was that he’d totally overlooked the biggest visual clues and still solved it WAY quicker than either of us had managed. 

Regan was made to feel part of the crowd with a number of people successively shoving a puzzle in his paws and saying “Here you’ll like this…” and then goading him into solving them… usually with a fair degree of success. 

At some point late in the afternoon, silly season took over and we had Ali challenging everyone with a bar bet observation puzzle that had almost everyone going for ages - with those who'd caught on duly egging the rest on with all sorts of helpful little goadings... good fun!

At a suitable hour, we all retired back to my place for the traditional fish supper and more puzzles – and there was a lot more puzzling, until I eventually dropped Regan back at the hotel just before midnight – convinced he must be running on pure adrenaline by now.

Next morning, he and Chris were back around at the house for some more banter and puzzling – and I finally managed to crack open Regan’s safe… albeit with a lot of nudging and clueing from the side-lines…

Early that evening I dispatched him toward London on a train so he could do a little sight-seeing before he headed back to Kansas – thanks for coming to visit and introduce yourself, Regan – it was really great to spend some time puzzling with y’all…

Saturday 9 September 2017

Ali Morris' Eiffel Six Cube

Apparently, I’m not the only one calling Ali names at the moment – in fact he reckons he’s going to keep a list of the interesting things he’s been called recently… it’s his own fault, really.

This is the first year that Ali has taken part in the Edward Hordern Puzzle Exchange… with an innocent looking little puzzle called Eiffel Six Cube.

He introduced it as a simple little 3*3*3 cube assembly that was so simple that even Lily, his young daughter, had managed to stumble upon a solution for it, so in order to makes things a little more “interesting” he had been forced to put an Eiffel Tower on each face, spread across pairs of pieces in order to make it “hard enough” to be an exchange puzzle… we all duly lapped up the schpiel and gave him one of our own exchange puzzles in return…

From here on I can obviously only speak for myself, but bear in mind that many others have called him interesting names as well…

I tried on a few occasions to assemble the pieces into a cube – there aren’t a lot of pieces to start with, and those Eiffel Towers definitely cut down on the number of possibilities… but finding that single assembly just kept eluding me…

I’d keep coming back to it every now and then, every time with exactly the same degree of success – nil!

I paused, and counted the bits of the towers just to be sure that there would only be one on each face as I’d been trying to achieve – tick – OK, try again…

Eventually over the past weekend I got pretty close to convincing myself it was impossible – I kept ending up at the same impossible almost-solution, I’d tried everything I could think of… and then I had one more thought, and I cursed that friendly man from London, and duly sent him a pic of the completed puzzle along with a small torrent of abuse – he’d earned it… it’s a cracking puzzle!