Sunday 21 October 2018

Northern Puzzle Party 2

Frank had decided a couple of months ago that we should reprise NPP1 around the end of September again this year – so he put the word out on The Facebook  and some of us opted in rather rapidly… this was always going to be a fairly select bunch of puzzlers given that we’d be gathering around Frank and Jo’s dining room table (although I’ve heard it can seat dozens at a push!) – by the time NPP2 arrived we had an American, a Dutchman, a couple of Africans by way of Barnt Green, and even some English folk.

Louis’ travel plans brought him into the country via Brum so he spent Friday evening with us – which was helpful as I had a bunch of puzzles that needed solving! He’d brought me several puzzling birthday gifts – he always manages to get hold of things that I haven’t got in my collection and this time was no exception – I now have a copy of Yuu Asaka’s Jigsaw Puzzle 29 and a Chinese Lunatic Lock in the form of an actual (albeit slightly butchered!) padlock. 

We headed up the motorway fairly early on the Saturday morning hoping to arrive around mid-morning, but a combination of some rather silly traffic and my wonderful sat-nav saw us leave the motorway and experience some interesting English countryside before arriving about an hour later than we’d hoped – hey ho… the London gang had even more of it to deal with than we did!

We got the warmest of possible Lancashire welcomes and settled into puzzles, caffeine and nibbles… lots of nibbles! Regan, Dale and Mike were already seriously puzzling so I pulled out a few things to thrust in their faces with a “Try this one, you’ll probably like it”. 

Steve and Ali arrived a bit later having had even more fun and games on the motorway than we’d had and it didn’t take long for them to put their journey behind them and a puzzle in front of them. 

Frank and Jo had laid on one almighty lunch for us and after lunch Gill and Jo headed off to Yarndale (some sort of annual woolly gathering nearby) leaving us to some unadulterated puzzling. 

I hauled out my copy of Jigsaw Puzzle 29 and spent a good amount of time on it before finally managing the required number of breakthroughs (several!) to find a suitable solution. I’d spent some time the evening before and managed to thoroughly confuse myself – there are too many X-pieces, followed shortly by there aren’t enough Y-pieces. A couple of wonderfully insightful questions from Louis nudged me in the right direction and little lightbulbs began to flicker in the dim recesses of what I jokingly refer to as my mind. It’s a fab puzzle and after hearing how much Louis was raving about it at IPP38, I’m very glad to have a copy of own to be able to foist on others who haven’t seen it yet – definitely a worthy Design Competition prize winner. (Thanks Louis!)

Steve had been lucky in a couple of recent Japanese auctions and brought along a well-disassembled Kamei Box & Cage puzzle apparently dating back to 1978. One or two of the panels on the box had become a little warped but it appeared impervious to Steve’s attempts at opening it – none of the panels would slide in (any of!) the usual manner(s) and he handed over the bits of the cage and the box for me to assemble it – apparently it was too trivial for Steve to bother with. I hauled out the rather cryptic “solution” and then spent ages trying to identify the pieces and their orientations before finally managing to assemble the cage – without the box inside it… and for some reason Steve wasn’t impressed or even thankful! [I did put the box inside the cage a little later – after one of our fellow puzzlers pointed out that the box wasn’t a trick box at all – you merely pulled the lid off – Steve’s groan was a little louder and more pronounced than my own at this wonderful news!] 

I spent a lot longer than I should have solving Michael Tanoff’s San Diego exchange puzzle – a pair of vintage letter dissections - an “S” and a “D”, should be a fairly simple puzzle for someone who’s been solving proper hard puzzles for years – but I found myself falling for all of the usual traps on these sorts of puzzles and making an absolute meal of it – got there eventually. 

I’d been struggling with an 18-piece Tongue Depressor burr from Stephan Baumegger called Depressburr, so I decided to take it along to give Ali a little bit of a challenge – and it didn’t take him long to blast through the hundred moves required for a complete disassembly before he presented me with a neat pile of pieces – awesome!

Jo had organised a birthday cake for Frank and I complete with little-Frank and little-Allard playing with a rather large disentanglement puzzle – or that’s our story and we’re sticking to it… of course birthday cakes wouldn’t be complete without life-threatening pyrotechnics – this one was complete. 

Chicotito – for that is what we’ve christened him – had his first puzzle outing and there was more than a little larking about – mainly around Steve for some reason. There was Steve feeding him pizza, beer and entertaining us all in a rather shrill manic voice while Steve looked on amused at where on earth this alter ego was coming from. 

We decamped into town, well Whalley, for a quick drink in a small, very popular pub while we waited for Steve and Ali who’d gone in search of their Airbnb for the night and we waited for our pizzas to be lovingly made and then thrown in a fire pit. The lads arrived in time for a swift pint before we took our pizza back to chez Potts for another hearty meal. 

There may have been some more puzzling before we all hit the sack somewhat exhausted, but there had been plenty of food and some rather good beer, so it was hard to tell – or at least remember. 

Next morning, we got up at the crack of somewhere around 9 o’clock for more food! Frank and Jo couldn't stop themselves from providing a full-on fry up with all manner of continental goodness as well… we didn’t come close to finishing it all!

After breakfast we headed off to a couple of room escapes nearby – although that was almost foiled at the very start by not being able to find the establishment’s entrance – apparently we’d only managed to find the well signed fire escape and not the main entrance – which was hidden in a nearby pool hall.  Having found our way in we divided into two groups and got ourselves locked up… quite literally! The four hard-core puzzlers were locked into a few cells and had to escape whilst the two couples were handcuffed to a pipe with our backs to the wall (not nearly as much fun as that may sound!) – trying to escape the clutches of a psycho murderer – more than a little inducement to escape there…

We (all) managed to get out with a couple of minutes to spare after managing to miss several important clues along the way and finding ourselves totally unable to actually count. Good thing we don’t rely on those skills in our day jobs!

After the room escapes we said our goodbyes in the parking lot before heading our separate ways… Regan went to Wales in search of his roots, Steve and Ali headed back to London, and Gill and I headed back to Brum. (And Louis flew home from Manchester later that afternoon…)

Another excellent weekend at the Potts’! Thanks Frank and Jo for hosting another brilliant NPP!

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