Sunday 19 January 2020

Juno’s Ring Case

Another absolute cracker from Juno!

This was my Saturday morning treat this weekend… the ransom note had arrived during the week, but I only managed to get out to collect it on Saturday… and there may well have been a Loopy Cube or two in that package along with a new Board Burr, but there was only ever going to be one thing I focused on first – the Ring Case – Juno’s latest sequential discovery puzzle. 

After missing out on the previous one, I was pretty keen to get one of these because Juno’s sequential discoveries are always worthwhile! 

I‘m not disappointed – this box is beautiful! Stunning crisp heart cut-out looks lovely against the red of the Jarrah on the lid. Four little legs stick out the bottom and there’s an obvious slidey-lid-y-thing – which simply will not budge! You can admire the beauty for quite a while though!

There’s not a lot that can be investigated early on – so you find yourself getting drawn in a particular direction and things duly start happening – I always find it amazing how things can go from “That sucker ain’t movin’” to “Gosh, that just fell out of there” when you happen upon exactly the correct set of actions. 

There’s some lovely interplay between some of the things that start happening until you manage to get the lid to slide back, and reveal a wonderfully well-trapped little ring waiting for you in the heart of the box. 

At this point it’s hard not to feel rather well-teased – there’s a simple little steel bar running through the centre of the ring keeping it in place – so presumably “all you need to do” is release that little bar. 

Turns out that makes for a rather nice little challenge – something the interweb had warned of – that bit, and indeed replacing it, are pretty darn tricky! Those will require tools, cunning, keen observation and at least a little Think-ing (c). 

Release the ring and you’ll have a pretty good selection of little bits and bobs that all need to find their way back into the box in the right sequence so that they each lock one another up again in order, forcing the next puzzlist to wander all the way through the correct sequence to release the ring once more. 

It’s an excellent little sequential discovery puzzle!

When I first drafted this post, there were 14 copies still available for sale for less than a hundred quid… that was before Kevin posted posted his write-up last weekend [SPOILER ALERT - he liked it too! and bread...] - now there are none left! 

Sunday 12 January 2020

EPP 2019

Each year Peter Hajek hosts a little gathering of puzzlists and hangers-on. Some years it’s just before New Year, some years it’s just after… this year was an after, so we started 2020 by getting together at Peter’s place and telling one another about our best puzzle finds of the previous year. 

I rocked up pretty much at the appointed hour to find quite a few people had beaten me to it, including Peter’s customary visitors from the Netherlands, Wil and Joop. Louis it turned out was also there, just a little busy working his way through Jesse Born’s Secretum Cista chest upstairs in Peter’s main puzzle cave. 

There was lots of hand-shaking and Happy New Year-wishing among the usual gang. We set out our picks from the past year on a table in the conservatory and duly piled in to the crates-of-plenty brought along by several collectors wishing to lighten their personal loads a little. 

Ethel had brought along a copy of Tom Lensch’s Nested Cubes that she’d hooked out for me a little while back and I ended up finding several more little goodies among the crates she’d brought along: from a couple of old Pentangle puzzles (Tangleweed and Chinese Rings) still in their original packaging, through to a little package of folding puzzles from Noji-san that I’m still looking forward to trying. 

Steve dishes out commemorative gifts to all – a circular engraved slate coaster and a neatly cut leather strap with a circle, triangle and square cut into it – challenging you to guess which of the holes the coaster will go through. [Steve’s clearly been playing with his new laser cutter and now I understand why he knows that cutting leather smells like burning flesh – actually, hang on…]

Wil had a couple of little wonders, including a challenge he’d cooked up for Peter that I somehow got roped into as well – a simple little three-piece burr that simply wouldn’t go together. Ali and I both convinced ourselves it wasn’t possible and Wil eventually let on that Peter had spent ages on it, and when he’d finally solved it he’d called Wil a b@st@rd – uncharacteristically strong language for Peter – so we smelt a rat, investigated and discovered that Wil may have switched a couple of pieces rendering both sets unsolvable. Thanks Wil! :-) All’s fair in war and puzzling!

Peter herds us all into the lounge where we take turns presenting our three best puzzle finds (plus a commercially available one) of 2019 to one another. 

My choices this year:

Packing Puzzle 4P – Hajime Katsumoto

I stumbled across this puzzle in one of Wil’s crates at Peter’s place last year. I picked it up because of the designer - Hajime Katsumoto, having rather enjoyed a few of his other designs. There’s a two-sided frame, and a set of four P-pentominoes to place in each side – subject to some restrictions in the two frames. Both sides require very different approaches and each gives a great “A-HA!” moment. This puzzle deserves to be known far more widely!

Stickman Lighthouse Puzzlebox – Robert Yarger

I’ve been trying to complete my collection of the numbered Stickman Puzzleboxes for several years now and I finally bagged my last unicorn this year! This puzzlebox is a serious piece of art, even non-puzzlers fall in love with it! The beautifully detailed lighthouse sits atop a rocky outcrop and through the solve you find yourself dismantling things and watching a little synchronised ballet play out between various pieces moving in harmony. 

Slammed Car - Junichi Yananose

Juno makes great puzzle boxes – and, IMHO, this one’s better than all the others he’s sold through Pluredro! Made to resemble a classic Australian hatchback, this sequential discovery puzzle starts out fairly simply and then gets harder as you go, until you finally reach the loaf of bread hidden inside, meaning it can properly be classed as a ‘box’ according to the Bell-Yananose-Sadler convention. Great use of some actual tools make this a fun themed-solve.

…and finally my choice of commercially available puzzle: Nova PlexusTwo Brass Monkeys

Steve and Ali have finally completed Geoff Wyvill’s edition of steel Nova Plexus enabling puzzlers around the world to add one of these lovely sculptures to their hoards.

We rattle through the presentations which somehow manage to incorporate a wonderful roasting of our good-natured host and his attempts at acquiring puzzle boxes in Japan, a small furry hamster, a book that’s older than the USA and some Kellogg’s branded puzzles that don’t exist. 

We break for a wonderful spread for dinner before herding ourselves back into the lounge to be entertained by Clive, the eternal stand-in magician – Angelo’s ill apparently. Clive does a stonking job of amusing and bewildering us, before Peter absolutely slays us all with the simplest possible presentation of ACAAN – mind-blowing!

After the entertainment there’s plenty of time to catch up with friends and play with puzzles. Steve and I head upstairs to have a crack at the Secretum Cista and it amuses us for well over an hour – even with a large number of hints from our host and some serious downright help from Louis who’d locked it all up earlier that afternoon. At one point there’s a little consternation when Shane and Louis hoist the entire (30 lbs! CORRECTION: 48 lbs!!!) thing up into the air and turn it on its side to encourage a little something to move into the right spot… they’re successful and the whole thing is duly unlocked and relocked – it IS a beautiful chest with a glass back giving you a wonderful view of the mechanisms interacting behind the drawers and things being manipulated – it was lovely to get a chance to play with this beauty - Thanks Peter!

Somewhere around 9pm Louis and I head back to Brum – another excellent day with our puzzling mates and memories of another great year’s puzzling acquisitions. 

Monday 6 January 2020

More little Fullers

When Eric says he’s planning a series of small boxes, he doesn’t hang about!
The first two arrived at the start of October – these two over here - and then another two arrived at the start of November: Nope Box and Paradox Box. Once again they’re pint-sized puzzlers – easy to put in a pocket and inflict on unsuspecting former-friends. 

Somehow Eric manages to keep the price point really attractive in spite of the huge amount of work that must go into these finely crafted little boxes… they really are an excellent testament to this man’s mastery of his craft.

Nope Box - Small Box #3
It’s pretty simple to find some movement to explore on this one, although the next step is a little more elusive – that requires a little experimentation and thinking out of the box. Once you find it, though, all of your puzzling senses will tell you that you’re pretty much done – only you’re greeted with a solid wall of “Nope!” – guess where this puzzle gets its name from?
I think it’s fair to say that things get interesting from there onwards, with very little behaving the way you expect it to.
I expect this one will surprise and amuse even the most jaundiced of puzzlists out there.

Paradox Box - Small Box #4
There’s an obvious top to this box, and it moves – which is always a great start! What’s even better is that when it moves, it allows another panel to move – this is going to be simple?
Eh, naw. It’s not. Everything stops there.
Try something different? Exactly the same degree of teasing progress and then a solid brick wall.
Settle down and think(c) just a little… OK, maybe a little more…
The “A-Ha!” breakthrough on this puzzle is terrific!
I find puzzles that yield to deduction very gratifying – and this one is sublime in that regard.
Don’t let this little guy lull you into a false sense of “this little thing will be simple” – it’s kept one or two of my most experienced puzzling pals locked out for weeks… it IS a wonderfully elegant little puzzle that has been superbly crafted – and that’s part of the reason why it’s such a fiendish little puzzle.
The Small box series is a definite hit with this puzzlist!