It was always going to be a big weekend!
Louis was bringing Laura over for an English immersion
weekend after she’d started at a new school where the lessons were all in
English… Frank and Jo were coming around on the Friday evening for dinner and to
stay over, as was Ethel… and we were being joined by five first-time MPP-ers,
including a pair of friends from Sweden and a chap who’d found us on FaceBook
who was coming from Bulgaria(!) – for the weekend… Oh, and most of the usual
bunch were coming too… what’s not to love?!
Straight from work on Friday afternoon I headed out to the airport
to meet Stefan off his flight from Sofia via Frankfurt… I got to know him a bit
in the car on the way to his hotel (Walkers’ B&B being full to the gunwales
already!) – actually the heavy traffic meant we had a while to chat and make
all our arrangements for the rest of the weekend before I dropped him off and
headed home, where Frank and Jo and Ethel were already entertaining Gill in the
kitchen while she cooked dinner.
Frank and I trawled through a couple of boxes of puzzles
that Ethel had brought along to sell the next day and I managed to purchase a
few really nice puzzles – including a massive disentanglement puzzle that
I’d played with on a visit to Laurie and Ethel’s a couple of years ago.
Dinner was yummy and we had fun catching up on “stuff”,
before I headed back to the airport to collect the Dutch contingent. We got
back to the house to find an extremely competitive game of Blokus in progress
between Gill, Ethel, Frank and Jo… in between the hello’s and how-are-you’s the
game continued and it was quite cut-throat. It seems Frank had made the mistake
of winning the first game and as a result the ladies felt the need to punish him
in the second game which is where I came back into the house… it is safe to say
that Frank did not win that game.
The girls went off to bed at some point leaving the boys to
puzzle on the dining room table… I was flagging and ended up leaving Frank and
Louis with a bunch of puzzles to be solved while I headed off to bed… Barkley
had other ideas and got me up a couple of times while they were still puzzling,
and the next morning they were neatly arranged into clumps of solved, not solved
and partially solved puzzles… (very helpful!)
We headed down to the hall a bit early and managed to get
everything set up in plenty of time to collect Stefan from the hotel and
introduce him gradually to the assembling knot of puzzlers… Daniel and Johan
arrived shortly afterwards and they were soon sitting chatting to puzzlers with a
puzzle in their hands.
When Wee-Steve arrived he’d brought along an unexpected
guest in the form of Rob, one of our Dutch puzzle friends – I hadn’t realised he
was joining us so it was a lovely surprise to be able to welcome him, and
indeed to have him around to the house later on, after I’ve made a habit of
visiting him before every recent DCD meeting in The Hague!
James had made the trek up north (all things are relative!)
with a few crates of books and lots of puzzles… including a super-sized
Peppermint Twist puzzle which a few people couldn’t resist having a go at
before Chris eventually assembled it properly… or reasonably properly, even though
James was muttering about the ends not being neat enough… it looked solved to
the rest of us!
Oli had brought along a massive balancing nails puzzle where
you need to balance 17 nails on a single standing nail… these were large,
heavy, twelve-inch nails – and the single nail was literally being held in a
large rock… when you put it down on the table, this thing stayed down! There
were a few goes at it, and some surmising that it was probably not possible
until some of us just assembled it and balanced it rather steadily on the
up-ended nail… a little while later Big Steve decided we should try and spin
the nails to see how far around we could get it to spin without falling off…
his first tentative nudge got a 90 degree turn…I raised the ante a bit, he
countered and I duly spun it about 540 degrees… sensing victory he gave it a
whirl only for the inevitable loud crash to announce the end of the game… we
stopped at that point for fear of spearing the floor and damaging the parquet.
Johan and Daniel were systematically introduced to a bunch
of different sorts of puzzles and puzzlers and I think they managed to get some
useful research to build into their gaming ideas – everyone always seems happy
to chat about what makes a good puzzle for them...
Ali had brought along a Christmas bauble for our amusement: basically,
one of Johan Heyn’s big wooden ball sculptures, filled with a number of
Big-Steve’s 3D printed balls (neatly nested!), some large burrs and a
disentanglement puzzle to suspend it all from a suitable Christmas tree – assuming
it had been structurally reinforced, given the extreme weight of said bauble…
puzzlers are a weird bunch!
Ethel’s table did a reasonable trade during the course of
the day and I suspect that quite a few people left with a bit of the
Brokenshire collection having been added to their own… I couldn’t resist picking
up a few extra little pieces, including some rather old cast metal puzzles.
James had brought along a Tea Caddy from c.1790 in pretty
good nick that he insisted on me buying… so I now have an Eighteenth Century
Tea Caddy with a secret compartment in it… cool! It’ll make a nice place to
store other little puzzles… which helps, given I’m running out of space in the
I’d taken along my copy of Jack and Johan’s wooden variant
on Coffin’s 12-piece carboard sheet puzzle… it’s a fun assembly that's not really
all that challenging if you approach it reasonably logically – something I’d
proved to myself a couple of times at my desk on my own… yet somehow at MPP, it
required a team of four or five to assemble it under Big-Steve’s guidance… they
did seem rather proud of their achievement though! (In truth it’s a LOT easier to
assemble than the steel plate version… the wood is a lot grippier.)
Several people had a bash at a modified Bits and Pieces
Kamei Ribbon Box that James had brought along. It seems that Strijbos had
decided that the traditional Ribbon Box was way too simple and had modified it for
the more serious puzzler… several years later, James had forgotten the solution
and was trying to get us to open it for him… I tried, and failed, as did
several others – in fact it wasn’t until later that afternoon after James had
left that Louis managed to crack it – and having seen the mechanism, I have no
shame at all that it flummoxed me… it was a classic, simple Strijbos
modification that turned a straight-forward puzzle into a monster.
During the course of the afternoon Frank managed to solve
his Mr Puzzle 50th Birthday special – and treated us all to the
sight of the naked lady emerging from the cake – classic Mr Puzzle touch! :-) and
a cracking puzzle to boot: he’d had it unsolved for a month or more but the calm,
inspiring atmosphere of an MPP helped him to solve it in style – that or the
goading and banter of his “friends” – not sure which.
Stefan had brought along a 3D printed blind maze with a
quick reset function for us to try – I think he’d designed it for a friend’s
Escape Room and it looked great. Several people had a bash at solving it, and I
didn’t see anyone troubling the quick reset mechanism all day… Trifcho 1 - MPP 0
On the Friday evening Louis had given me a copy of his
latest WSF Shapeways puzzle: Tricklock 2017. I’d played with a near-final
prototype in The Hague and it had kept me out for quite a while… thankfully I
didn’t embarrass myself this time and I managed to remember most of the
solution and derive the rest without spending too much time dithering… Thanks
Louis! On the Saturday, Louis had a small pile of his locks available for
sale, and sell they did! (I’m sure it’ll get a proper write-up in due course…
exec summary: it’s great, get one if you can!).
Rich Gain brought along a number of brilliant examples of
his 3D printing – he manages to get a superb finish on the pieces and spent
ages sharing his experience with various printers and materials and software –
really helpful for anyone wanting to get a head start and not need to spend
I’d taken along a couple of Japanese Joint burr puzzles that
I was hoping to get assembled, and several people had a pretty good tonk at
doing them, but sadly the one I hadn’t already found a solution for remained
resolutely unsolved all day…
Dale Overy showed us the solution to his now-defunct credit
card challenge to stack a complete set of UK coins onto a standard credit card…
defunct with the recent change of the One Pound coins to a new size and shape…
Dale reckons that in all the years he’s been handing them out, he’s never had
anyone email him a solution, so his puzzle remained victorious while the right
coinage was available.
At the end of the day quite a few folks, including Johan’s parents, decamped back up to my place for a fish supper, and some more puzzling… including
letting the newest MPP’ers loose in the Puzzle Cave where one made a bee-line
for the Kagen boxes, one went for the Karakuris and another piled into the Popp
locks… plenty to go around. It was great to see everyone enjoying the puzzles… even
Johan’s folks who’d been dragged along from Sweden, were gamely solving puzzle
boxes and packing puzzles with the rest of them in the Cave.
The usual banter and puzzling carried on until reasonably
late before people decided they really ought to head out given they still had a
couple of hours driving ahead of them before they’d get home… at which point I
dropped Stefan back at the hotel… now with a seemingly permanent grin attached
to his face for some reason… I guess your first experience of a puzzle party might
just do that that to you?
Once again, I left Louis puzzling when I crashed for the
night and once again there was a neat row of solved puzzles on the desk in the
On Sunday morning I collected Stefan from the hotel so we could have a couple
more hours puzzling before he needed to catch his planes back to Bulgaria in
the afternoon… and he, Louis and I spent a good couple of hours chatting
puzzles and playing, and even occasionally solving a puzzle, until I had to
drop him off after an epic weekend…