Saturday 23 February 2019

Grooved 6 Board Burr #1

Juno has proved that he’s more than capable of producing fun, accessible puzzles that you could safely toss at a muggle without fear of embarrassing them – he also has a knack for designing some proper-hard puzzles…and for the record, I place his Grooved 6 Board Burr #1 very squarely in the latter category.
Juno’s been playing with Board Burr designs for many, many years… but this one’s from another planet!
A quick look at it in its assembled state and you can’t fail to notice a couple of tracks routed on some of the faces… along with what appear to be the back ends of some pegs that might just be travelling in those tracks. Mercifully there are some exits visible on the edges… but you just know that they’re not going to be anywhere near where you might actually want them to be, don’t you?!
Disassembly is a reasonable challenge: those pins and tracks serious restrict your movement options, and yet, there are several ways of making strange shapes and expanding things WITHOUT any of the pieces coming anywhere near actually coming apart. From an assembled state, this puzzle has a lot of blind alleys to explore… I have the t-shirt!
Time and again I’d find a new way of getting things to almost come apart only to find that there was no way to progress – this thing’s fiendish!
…and when I did eventually get it apart, I just knew that there was no way in heck it was ever going back together again without one of two things: either the supplied solution from Juno or a BurrTools model built by my fair hand…
I opted for the latter, and I’m not ashamed! … BurrTools reckons there are 6,653 possibly assemblies for these pieces… that is WAY TOO MANY blind alleys for me to have to explore – Sod’s law dictates that I’d need to explore every single one of them (some of them more than once without realising it!) before I managed to find the one trust path… BurrTools is a much more direct route! ... and even then we're talking 39 moves: 22.6.5...

I told you this thing was from another planet!

PS There's still a handful available over here.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Barcode Burr Master Set (collector's edition)

Lee Krasnow has been known as a creator of some very ingenious and indecently finely-toleranced puzzles for many years. Cheap or plentiful, they were not. Amazingly well-crafted they certainly were. It goes without saying that they were massively sought-after by puzzle collectors around the world… IMHO his Barcode Burr was his most special creation.
Recently, Lee began experimenting with a 3D printer, and found that the outputs were pretty good, so he got a few more and began selling various 3D printed puzzles on his etsy shop – while making the STL files available for free for anyone who wanted to print their own at home…lord knows how many printers he currently has rattling away in his shed (they’d have to be, wouldn’t they?!) but he is producing a prodigious number of puzzles for what must be barely more than it’s costing him to produce them.
By the time I got around to ordering a Barcode Burr (let’s call it a BCB from now on and save me lots of keystrokes!), Lee was offering a set that came with a standard BCB, and a set of replacements arms and mazes that would transform it into a number of variants – based on some work that he and Derek Bosch had done… many puzzles is always better so I ordered the set.
The standard 3D printed BCB has one very important thing going for it which almost makes it better than the original: it’s AVAILABLE! Don’t get me wrong, I love my wooden copy and you’d need to pry it from my dying claws… but you can’t get them for love nor money! The 3D printed versions are getting churned out by the dozen… and they work beautifully – seriously, Lee has done an excellent job of engineering them to go together perfectly, and then play rather nicely.
I can vouch for that because the standard copy got played with before I set about assembling the first of the alternate versions – assembling the six main parts form the base pieces, maze plates and arms was a piece of cake with everything going exactly where it needed to and things lining up perfectly. Assembling the six bits in the cube confirmed that everything interacts perfectly.
Having assembled the first alternate version, I struck a bit of a problem: if I wanted to assemble the next one, I’d need to sacrifice one of the BCBs already assembled to get the base pieces I needed… hmm.
I ruminated for a while and then dropped Lee a note asking him if he’d mind selling me some extra base pieces so that I could have them all assembled at the same time… his response suggested that I hadn’t been the only one asking that question and shortly there were some options up on the etsy shop to allow any combination of pieces to be collected…. And I now have a complete set of the variants sitting on my shelf – pieces assembled and duly put together by my fair hands, albeit referring to Lee’s solution card for some of them – the n-ary versions are simple enough to work out yourself, but some of the complex variants are aptly named  [ExtremeTortureCode Burr, I'm looking at you!] and I feel no shame at having followed the assembly sequence slavishly.
If you like n-ary puzzles, you’ll get a kick out of this set – and by all means, if you’re proficient 3D-print-meister, have a go yourself… but I suspect you’ll struggle to produce them as nicely as Lee does and they’re a steal at his prices anyway.
Yes I’m a fan… and yes, I’m eyeing up the set of co-ordinate motion BCBs that have recently appeared in the etsy shop… it’s probably just a matter of time!

Thursday 14 February 2019

Custom Cube Wrapper

Some puzzles are special… not because they were expensive, or because of their innate beauty or any of the usual reasons we may choose to single them out – sometimes they’re just special – full stop. 

This one might not look as pretty as some of the others in The Hoard, but it has a lot of thought and a whole lot of care and love put into it – Jeroen gave it to me when the Coolens came to stay just after New Year… he’d decorated the six outside panels with things he was looking forward to seeing on his visit – you’ll notice the hounds get top-billing! :-) 

He’d found an interesting cube-wrapping puzzle and then made up his own version and pestered his dad to provide a suitable cube… and it’s a really cool puzzle with a neat little trick that will keep an unwary puzzler looking for a way out of the parity blind alley for a while.

Some puzzles are special – this is definitely one of the special ones in The Hoard now…  

Bedankt Jeroen!

Thursday 7 February 2019


Friday night saw me collecting the puzzling patient from the airport… we’ve been forced to change his name this time to protect the innocent: he’d been prepping some Tricklocks for sale a couple of weeks earlier and had contrived to pass a Stanley knife through a vital tendon, resulting in a serious infection, surgery, the best part of a week in hospital and a scary tale of how it all unfolded which I got in the car on the way back to the house… he’s doing a lot better now, but still had a finger bandaged and his hand trussed up in a sling to stop him doing anything silly… and he’s still solving puzzles better than me!

Back at the house, he good-naturedly ran through the tale again for Gill before we feasted on home-made pizzas and disappeared into the puzzle cave for some puzzling…in spite of being through the wars recently and travelling most of the afternoon, he still solved more puzzles than I did and stayed up later than me… I am not worthy… :-)

Next morning after some croissants we headed down to the hall where we managed to get everything set up before the gang arrived.

We had a reasonably small, select bunch of puzzlers this time: Dave made the trip down from Up North, as did Frank, an Ed navigated the public transport system successfully from London to Barnt Green where I collected him. Big-Steve and Ali did car-pool karaoke down (up?) the M40 with Ali’s daughters in the back of the truck. Shane, Chris, Dale, Wee-Steve and Rich rounded out the gang for the day.

Dave had brought an enormous box of disentanglement puzzles along for folks to try and during the course of the day I saw several people stepping up to the challenge – most slunk away defeated by the looks of things. (Before you ask, I didn’t even try – I know my limits!)

I enjoyed foisting my new restricted packing puzzles on all comers – Katsumoto-san’s Packing Puzzle 4P went down particularly well with everyone going through the same set of emotions as they tried to solve it: “that was quite easy” after solving the first side, followed by a long-ish pause and some muttering before eventually a “Niiiiiiiice!” as they solved the second side.

I’d taken most of Juno’s suit cases along for Ed to play with and he steamed through them rather rapidly (except for the Club case which proved a leap too far for someone not able to see what’s going on there…) – I was somewhat humbled when he rattled through the diamond case in about a week less than it took me! 

Dave had brought along a huge board burr that his rather talented cousin had made... we couldn't resist giving it to Ed - and he did rather well on it. 

Big-Steve had ordered a bunch of Japanese goodies for Ali and I and was playing Santa Claus to two expectant puzzlers. We each ended up with a new Endo-san puzzle, some tray puzzles from Osho and a new rather tricky Yamamoto packing puzzle. (He even had a spare copy of the Endo puzzle that I was able to purchase as an early birthday gift for the patient.) Thanks Steve!

Someone had brought along a set of the Yuu Asaka puzzles so I finally got to have a bash at Wave 7 – I spent a while convincing myself that some strategies wouldn’t work and then started getting quite creative – coming pretty darn close to getting everything in at one point, and just about giving up – at which point the patient says “let me just try something” and promptly solves it by moving a single piece…  I let out a little primal scream (and swore a bit!) – he is an expert solver… no question about it. [Excellent puzzle, by the way – well worth adding to the collection – hopefully I will be shortly!]

We did the usual trek up to the pig-bun stall on the high street and duly returned for our lunch break to find Gill and the hounds had walked down to come and say hello… so the hounds were fussed and pig-buns offered (to Gill, not the hounds!). How the heck some of those guys managed to hoover up all of that mixed meat and chips I will never know!

Frank had brought along a few well-gummed-up metal puzzles purchased off the inter-web – all apparently made by a tool-maker for his own amusement. There was a six-piece burr, a kumiki cube and an impossible dovetail joint – all pretty much jammed shut and not really wanting to budge. Chris took them on as a personal mission for the day and duly disappeared into the kitchen with them, some boiling water, a pile of serviettes, some washing up liquid and a small brass brush he produced from his rucksack o’ wonders.

Over the course of the next hour or two I witnessed Frank and Chris both remarking on the amazing heat retention capabilities of the steel lumps they were attempting to dismantle and clean up – time and again they’d pick something up and then immediately put it down again and remark on how much hotter they were than they’d expected….after bathing them in boiling water…

By the end of the process Frank had a set of puzzles that could be dismantled and he and Chris didn’t have too many blisters.

Several people had a go at the new Endo-san puzzle and I suspect that more than a couple managed to complete it – although “someone” helpfully disassembled mine so that I’d have the full joy of having to find the right assembly. Thanks!

Rich had brought along a sub-set of happiness and Big-Steve spent a little while half-heartedly trying to dismantle one of them, remembering the unbridled joy of dismantling Kevin’s set last time around, before grudgingly admitting to himself, and to us, that it would probably take him longer to take them apart than for Rich to reassemble them – having sucked all of the fun out of the mischief, the plan was abandoned.  

I'd taken along the goodies I'd recently acquired from Lee Krasnow - including a set of nested Pennyhedrons which we handed to Ed... who hadn't ever seen a Pennyhedron before. It didn't take him long to unravel the set and line them up in front of him before he proceeded to reassemble them all - although one wag did try removing one from the queue in the hopes of reintroducing it after he'd popped the last one together - he noticed, and it was duly replaced. Ed reckoned it was rather therapeutic unwrapping them all and then reassembling that set.

I'd also taken along a set of Cluster Buster variants that Lee'd printed... at one point I'd jokingly said it might be funny if they were reassembled incorrectly - only to discover some time later that that was what my friends had already helpfully done for me... notice things don't look quite right in there?

Sometime around sunset we all headed up to the house for the traditional fish supper (or chip supper!) and a little more puzzling. Ali’s girls got to know the hounds a little better while the boys all grabbed a puzzle or two and chilled.

Rich kindly dismantled my copy of Juno’s T-Slot burr, something that hadn’t been done yet… a couple of the lads tried reassembly, but it turns out that’s rather a lot harder so it ended up staying in bits.

Given that Ed had fared rather well on the enormous board burr earlier in the day, we decided he hsould have a bash at the man-sized disentanglement in the puzzle cave - Blind puzzler 1 - Massive disentanglement 0.

At one point I encouraged Chris to take an old Kamei burr apart and he got a little scared when he saw quite how many pieces there were in it… but a few minutes of calm examination and some words of wisdom from the patient saw him get it back together fairly quickly… clearly he needed a bigger challenge!

…and as it turned out I had one for him, and several others! I got a copy of Simon Nightingale’s Slide-oku from Tom Lensch a while back and it’s been on my pile of things to solve for a long time, so I challenged the lads in the puzzle cave to solve it for me… and soon enough we had Chris and Rich doing a lot of the heavy-lifting, Frank and Louis the patient chipping in and me watching in amazement. It took a good while, but they managed to deduce a fair amount, then called on the help of an inter-web Sudoku solver, realised that wouldn’t quite work and then fell back on the little grey cells – remembering what sort of a puzzle this is!  Late on Saturday night there was a little cheer as they convinced themselves it had been solved… quite impressive stuff… I have taken a pic of the solved state and am sorely tempted to glue everything in place now – it’s not a casual puzzle! (Thanks guys!)

Sometime around 11pm the stragglers decided they should probably head back to London / up north – and I crashed.

There was some more puzzling with the patient the next day before I dropped him at the airport where KLM whisked him back home again.

That’s number 36 then….