Sunday 28 July 2019

Fuller’s Topless Box

I was really annoyed at myself for missing out on this one the very first time that Eric made them available. When I saw my mates’ copies and had a fiddle with it at the time, I was even more disappointed. I watched patiently as several copies came and went over the years on the various puzzle auctions – bidding on several of them, and seeing every single one head off to another puzzler who clearly wanted them even more than me… and I waited for the next one to come along.

So, when Eric announced he was going to be revisiting the design and releasing another run of them, I made sure I didn’t miss out again, and managed to finally bag a copy for myself. 

And it is every bit as good as I remember it. 

At the start, you’ll find a pair of lids can be removed trivially, only, instead of a gaping box inside, you find another layer of box – apparently those lids are decorative – you still have a box to get into…

...mouse for scale.
From there the puzzling begins – and the delightful thing is that this box is SO well made, that even working out how it’s going to open is a serious puzzle!

Spend some time working out how things might be useful, and what you could do, and after a while you’ll be able to come up with a plan of attack – but even knowing what you want to do isn’t quite enough, this puzzle will still provide you with a little test of your skills before it will finally relent and let you in. 

One of those great examples of a fantastic idea reduced to its absolute simplest – then perfectly produced in wood by a true puzzling master craftsman.

Sunday 21 July 2019

Juno’s Slammed Car

Juno makes damn good puzzle boxes… and this one’s even better than the others! 

Slammed Car was announced to the puzzling public and duly appeared for sale on Juno’s website. They weren’t cheap, but then I’ve come to trust Juno’s pricing implicitly – and never once bought anything from him and found myself wondering why it was that expensive… my personal guide: if it looks expensive, then there’s a lot of Juno-magic in there that you haven’t seen from the outside… and that is certainly true here. 

Made to look like a classic Australian hatchback, Slammed Car definitely looks the part! There is a lot of detailing around the body panels, windows and grills that really didn’t need to be there, but it makes it look absolutely stunning… and you have to like the headlights in a wooden accent.  And the wheels turn freely, so you can even give it to your favourite nephew to play with as a toy car!

Now you’re told up front that this is a sequential discovery box – with a loaf of bread inside it – so that it can safely be classed as a ‘box’ under the Bell-Yananose-Sadler convention. 

Start exploring and you’ll find a couple of things can be made to happen and you’ll discover a couple of useful tools along the way.  It’s not too hard making the initial progress and Juno let’s you get a couple of feet firmly on the ladder before he hits you with a somewhat harder problem… 

As a quick aside – it’s not just the outside that looks like a car -inside there are the sorts of tools you might expect to find in a car too.

I think of this puzzle in thirds – the first third is reasonably straight-forward – the hook. Then there’s a section in the middle that had me stumped for ages, days even! And I needed to hear my thoughts as they bounced off my puzzling guru, and have him nod sagely back at me that everything that I’ve said was correct, no I just need to find a way to use that to progress… and eventually I did – the line.

The last third is a real s(t)inker. This section took a long time – and stumped many comers at the last MPP – and it was only a concerted effort and several people trying different thing that finally enabled us to get it open and release the loaf of bread -yes,really – there is a loaf of bread inside there. 

We closed it all up again and a week or two later when I came to taking the pics, I found I’d forgotten one important step in the final lock and it took me another week’s puzzling to finally get back in there again… it’s a very good puzzle… and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was entered in a puzzle design competition in the near future… and it ended up doing quite well. 

When I wrote this, there were still 21 copies available for sale – I don’t think they’ll last long when people get their hands on one in a certain competition. ;-)

Saturday 13 July 2019


June MPPs are always a bit special – we time them so we can host Dick Hess en route to the queues at Wimbledon. He usually arrives on the Friday morning and I treat myself to a day off work – a long weekend with puzzlers! 

I collect him from the station and a couple of hours later we find Louis and Patrick at the airport… the weather is uncharacteristically sunny and Gill lays on a wonderful spread for us out on the deck. 

We get the puzzles out and spend a while in an out of the sun, amusing ourselves with puzzles. Louis has found me a Bits and Pieces Gillen Pawn knowing that I didn’t have one yet – thanks mate! Patrick has brought us some Belgian “chocolate” in the form of a classic pentomino tray packing puzzle as well as some fun little challenges based on a tessellating Escher-like fish design. 

Jacques has sent over a couple of boxes from the last auction via Coolen-mail and we all have a good time exploring the little Karakuri Creative Secret boxes…

We get Patrick checked in at the local B&B (“Oh yes we had some puzzlers staying here before” – “Yeah, sorry, those were my fault as well”) and head back up to the house for a BBQ where we’re joined by Bernhard and Kerstin. Bernhard brings out a big old box of puzzles he wants to sell (actually there’s a big box he’s brought over on the plane and an even bigger one that he posted to my place a couple of weeks earlier…I purchase a couple of Andrew Crowell designs that Bernhard has made up himself and let the rest of the gang have the first picking – In spite of that, I still mange to hoover up a few interesting things the following afternoon after the whole gang at MPP has had a go at the table full of goodies Bernhard has laid out. 

The BBQ is pretty successful (i.e. meat is suitably burnt and there’s plenty of ice cream and chocolate sauce! – My definition, other definitions may exist.) and we wind up puzzling until reasonably late – Juno’s Slammed Car is an instant hit and it takes us a while to get to the loaf of bread… doubtless there’ll be a blog post about it along in due course…

Next morning, we head down to the hall for the 10am start … at 09:30… and find that Holt and Schweitzer have already set out most of the tables and Angela and Peter have a pile of books out and ready to sell some surplus books and puzzles. Bernhard’s table has lots of interesting goodies on it and Dave has brought along a couple of boxes of his latest delivery – Issues 5 & 6 of his Metagrobologist Magazine – I pick up a copy of each – first impressions are highly favourable!

I get the refreshments all set up and lay out some puzzles for people to try their hands at before settling into the usual routine of sitting around, chatting, fiddling with and failing to solve the odd puzzle, engaging in a little banter and drinking a lot of coffee.

The rest of the gang (including a couple of Danes) wanders in over the next hour or so and pretty soon we’re up to our usual numbers. Patrick introduces himself to everyone and in no time at all it looks like he’s a regular: puzzling and chatting with the best of them. 

Dick always brings handmade puzzling gifts for everyone at MPP – this year it’s a pair of ostensibly identical puzzles perfectly entitled the Fraternal Twins. Remove the ring from each set of entanglements and you’re done. Dick helpfully suggests tackling the girl first (the one with the curves on the handle) before the boy (the ruggedly square handle seems appropriate). Each has a handle with a trapped trapeze and a dangling key – and a lonely ring trapped on the wrong side of this lot. To his credit, he was at least warning people that the solutions for the puzzling pair were different… he wasn’t kidding! I manage to extract the rings during the course of the weekend and the solutions are wonderfully different – as in worlds apart! I do my usual thing of not being able to reassemble the second puzzle and it ends up taking me longer to get the ring back in the wrong place (i.e. the start position) than taking it off! Thanks Dick!

Dale rather kindly gave everyone an edge-matching puzzle to work on – we managed to solve it the next day… and it’s a wonderfully tricky little sod! Thanks Dale!

John brings a small collection of lovely old cast puzzles and invites everyone to have a bash at them. I spend a while, recognising several of them that have gone on to become well known as Hanayama puzzles in recent years – that always makes me smile – and a few that I can’t recall having seen before, including a couple with interesting anchor shapes incorporated into them – those really give some interesting movements and restrictions. 

We miss Ed at lunchtime - he wasn’t able to join us – probably nothing to do with the fact that he’s recently got engaged – CONGRATS ED & EMILY! Ed had challenged someone to have a kebab in his stead, but sadly the chippie isn’t able to oblige so Ed’s challenge went unmet. I am pleased to confirm that there were several pitas, fish suppers and many, many pig buns devoured in the name of lunch. 

After lunch there is more of the same:  puzzling, banter, puzzling, banter and coffee.

The Creative Secret boxes go down well, as does Eric’s Multiball – several puzzlers are duly seen shaking the balls all around in the hope of getting the little guy open – everyone succeeds – some more elegantly, dare I say, nonchalantly, than others. 

Steve has treated us all by bringing along the Standard Puzzle Hamster, or SPH. A rare occasion given the importance of maintaining this important Reference Unit’s integrity – in spite of several intensive photographic shoots during the course of the day involving the hamster in ever stranger positions, the Reference Unit’s integrity is maintained – well that’s our story and we’re sticking to it. 

I drop Dick off at the station so he can get himself into the first of many queues later that evening after a traditional meal with his tennis buddies, before heading back to Barnt Green to begin winding things up for the day… people seem strangely loath to pack up and head up the road this time – must be the heat, it has been very warm, for England!

We decamp to chez Walker for the traditional fish supper – once again courtesy of Ali and Steve – THANKS GUYS! There is much more puzzling thereafter – much of it outdoors on the deck in the gloriously warm evening. Who needs light anyway!?

Somewhere between 10 and 11 the gang heads off and I drop Patrick back at the B&B before getting home and crashing! 

Next day Patrick, Louis and I spend most of the day puzzling – OK, I spend most of the day watching Louis solve the puzzles that I can’t solve. By the time I drop Patrick and Louis back at the airport for their evening flight home I am well and truly knackered – It’s been an absolutely fantastic puzzling long weekend… and Wimbledon starts the next day, what’s not to love about June MPPs?