Saturday 14 September 2019


I collect Louis from BHX sometime after supper and I drag him kicking and screaming up to the puzzle cave – I have puzzles he needs to solve – lots of them! (The truth is not nearly as amusing, so I'm sticking with my version of events.)  I’ve brought back literally hundreds of puzzles from IPP and he’s only seen about half of them already – there’s work to be done.

I point him at a couple of favourites and watch slack-jawed as he churns his way through them – when I lose the ability to keep my eyes open, I leave him with a long line of puzzles – all of which are duly solved when I wake up the next morning. 

After breakfast we head down to the hall via some exciting detours, and get things opened up and the tables spread around the hall. We just about manage to get everything sorted between the two of us before the gang starts arriving, which is unusual – the last few MPPs there’s always been someone already at the hall when I’ve got there, keen for things to get started. The biscuits and cakes are laid out and the drinks set up – I caffeinate and start chatting to the arrivals and pointing out some good new finds. 

I have literally taken my entire Japanese puzzle haul to the hall for the hordes. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) There’s a full set of exchange puzzles along with more than a hundred other little things I’ve found at various puzzle shops and puzzle parties. 

Ali brings Big-Steve and Michael from the big-smoke and Shane arrives in the lock-mobile. Kevin arrived looking somewhat flustered – not his usual fresh-as-a-daisy look – so he draws a fair amount of abuse – any excuse really… I collect Ed from the station and drag him through the current road-works-hell of Barnt Green’s main street. 

The Two Brass Monkeys have brought along copies of the Nova Plexus for all interested puzzlers and I’m not the only one foisting cash in Big-Steve’s hands – I add a stainless steel and brass set to the shiny brass copy I already have at home. Ali assembles a couple of copies so that folks can see them in the flesh. There’s some idle banter about whether two copies could be assembled in an interlocking manner and later on that afternoon Louis puts some quality time into proving that it probably isn’t possible after all. We have fun trying though… and find out just how tough it is assembling a left-handed copy if you’re used to assembling them right-handed. 

We have a few first-time MPP-ers in the form of Clive, Amy and John. Clive needs no introduction to most of us, but it’s the first time he’s bothered to come along to an MPP – it was good fun to have a wonderfully straight, down the line, talented puzzle solver among us. Amy was worried that she didn’t have any interesting puzzles to bring that we hadn’t seen, so she brought home baked cookies – WIN!  John had brought a bunch of puzzles – and some lock picking equipment to entertain us. Having seen them both deep in banter with the usual gang, I suspect that they’re going to fit in just fine with the other reprobates. 

One of our very own Two Brass Monkeys won a Jury 1st Prize Award in the 2019 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition at IPP39 in Kanazawa – you may have read about that on a reputable blog somewhere. Unfortunately Ali wasn’t in Kanazawa at the time so the other Monkey was obliged to collect his trophy and pin… And that Monkey felt that a local ceremony was called for, and duly arranged for a suitable guest-of-honour-stand-in to hand over the trophy officially to Ali – there may have been a little more Nick-ness in Barnt Green than there had been in Kanazawa – at least if you squinted – but the trophy was presented to a somewhat taken aback Ali Morris for his 1st Prize winning Hokey Cokey Lock. Congrats again on an awesome puzzle!

Ali did manage to recover his composure quite swiftly and promptly put his left arm in… who says puzzlers don’t have a serious side?!

Kevin has rather thoughtfully brought along a bunch of assembled Happiness cubes AGAIN, and Big-Steve and I can’t stop ourselves from trying to disassemble them and scrambling the pieces… except, this time the joke’s on us as between the two of us, we can barely manage to take one of them apart, let alone the entire handful. Thankfully there’s a helpful Welsh puzzler in the neighbourhood who isn’t as thick as the two of us and he manages to reduce the small pile of Happiness to a rather large pile of Happiness. (You’re welcome, mate!)

Somewhere in the middle of all that there was some lunch (pig roll for me as usual, Ed stepping back into the fray with a massive kebab) which took us away from the puzzles for about half an hour – not too long a break!

Big-Steve was dishing out copies of his exchange puzzle to all comers who didn’t already have a copy – and I suspect that someone ended up going home without one as my crate ended up with a pair of them and I’m pretty sure he only gave me one in Kanazawa. (Drop me a line if you’re missing one and I’ll wing it to you…) 

Clive arrived with a wheelie-bag full of Japanese puzzle boxes – much to Ed’s delight… on more than one occasion Clive had sought some advice from me on how to open a box and I’d directed him at Ed who’d duly opened every single one of them… some of them in the hall while he was with us, and the rest on the train home toward London that evening. 

Clive had also brought along a whole set of Osho’s co-ordinate motion trapped coins. Last time I’d seen Clive’s set had been at the Kanazawa Karakuri Museum where I showed him just how easily they flew apart when you spun them on the floor. Some of the folks at MPP hadn’t been in Kanazawa so I felt the need to demonstrate Osho’s lovely designs to them as well – Clive wasn’t around at the time so we left the pile of pieces for him to enjoy. [He spotted them a little later and it turned out he didn’t appreciate them in that state(!), so I ended up reassembling them for him – I didn’t want to be sued.] 

Just before six we hurriedly tidied up the hall and decamped up to my house where the traditional fish supper for thirteen took place around the dining room table – lucky nobody else came or we wouldn’t have been able to eat at the table! 

There was a lot more puzzling with people managing to find the odd puzzle they hadn’t yet conquered in one of the puzzle caves, or the several crates still to be sorted scattered around the house. (Sorry, honey. I will tidy them all up soon. Promise!) 

We had a debate about which train to put Ed and Clive onto – they didn’t want to rush their dinner (too much!) and only one of them had an open ticket… the other was going to miss his particular train and risk getting a fine. The resultant discussion around the dining room table was rather un-PC but an absolute scream. Ali took the boys down to the station and within minutes of them leaving I had received a text from Ed saying “Clive has been arrested.” In the end they managed to get home without incident. 

The lads started leaving somewhere around 21:30…. Although I think it was about midnight before the last person left… at which point I left Louis with some puzzles and I crashed! 

MPPiXL was another goodie… and the only question remaining is how will I mange to butcher the Roman numeral system for the next one?


  1. Funny written, with great doses of true images that makes you wonder why i am not there?

  2. You should come over and join us Mike! :-)

  3. Brilliant write up Allard I think we all learned a lot seeing the world through the eyes of Nick. Not least because I miscalculated I can now offer the opportunity to be Nick to all your readers :