I’m rather lucky. I have some very ingenious friends. Sometimes that leaves me rather puzzled. And that’s a really good thing.
Shane is one of my more devious friends. He rather enjoys bashing locks into submission and then teasing us into trying to open them… he’s done this more than a few times already, he produced a couple earlier this year that served as exchange puzzles at IPP38 in San Diego, and most recently has applied his considerable talents to bringing us the Firestarter.
At first blush, you have a cylindrical padlock with a ring captured on the locking shaft and a push-fit plastic cap protecting the keyhole from the elements, and puzzlers.
You’re given a key - flipping open the plastic cap and trying the obvious, you find that the key won’t go into the keyhole. Great start!
OK, step back up for a sec and read the instructions: Open the padlock and remove the ring, and then find Hales’ signature.
Right, we’re definitely going to have to find a way of getting the key in there – or it’s a fabulous bit of crimson fish. Sticking with it for a while, and experimenting with various things, I found I could occasionally get the key inserted a bit, sometimes even fully – and I was reasonably happy with my approach and even mentioned my technique to the tormentor-in-chief – only to be roundly chided for not paying enough attention to the puzzle’s name and finding the far more elegant method required. There is. And it is. And that gets you past the very first step in the process… only to be confronted by the next: great, so you have the key inserted – now it won’t turn… and so it continues!
Shane lets you forward one tiny little step at a time, squarely blocking your progress as soon as you make the slightest progress… he’s a lovely man, really!
Even when you think you’ve finally solved this lock, he slams the door in your face – the lock is clearly unlocked at one point, but still you’re unable to release the ring… he demands more.