Thursday 30 April 2020

Endo’s Tunnel Cube

A little while back Big-Steve managed to snag me a copy of Endo’s Tunnel Cube – Thanks mate!

As we’ve come to expect from Endo-san, Tunnel Cube isn’t just a cracking little puzzle – it is presented beautifully! In this case, the pieces arrive in a lovely little frame that keeps everything in place and has some extra little decoration on it for no good reason other than to make it look brilliant. 

Remove the pieces from the frame and you’ll find nine tri-cubes, eight of which are attached to a frame-piece – the goals being to build a couple of variations of a framed cube… of course given the number of ways the frame pieces meet the tri-cubes, your options for building a neatly interlocking framed cube are somewhat limited – introducing a nice element of challenge!

I mention challenges – there are two: one is to build a cube with a tunnel through the centre using the eight frame bits and leaving out the simple tri-cube; and the second asks you to build a complete, framed cube using all of your bits.

Through my gentle puzzling / general bumbling around I managed to find quite a few ways of getting all bar the last piece to fit together, however, the final piece that I had left over was invariably either not in the right orientation or expected the attached tri-cube to be somewhere else entirely. 

It turns out that both of the cube assemblies, tunnel and full, are well-less-than-trivial and a bit of planning will actually help you narrow down the search space… and then, just when you think you’re done, all you have to do is put the pieces neatly back into the frame so that they lock into  place and won’t spill out into the next puzzlist’s lap… that’s pretty non-trivial too! 

As always, this puzzle is beautifully made, with stacks of extra little inlays and details just to make it look good – another little gem from Endo-san that brings you three intriguing challenges.

Sunday 19 April 2020

Feed the Monkey

A couple of weeks ago, just after we’d all gone into lockdown mode, I received a large care package from Big Steve - he’d ordered some stuff from Japan for me and then sent it across via courier – needs must and all that!

I recognised most of the stuff in the box as things I’d ordered, but one stuck out like a sore thumb – or rather a ripe banana: he’d tossed in a copy of Ali’s new design, Feed the Monkey – replete in its rather fetching silicon banana case, which, TOP TIP, can also be used afterwards for transporting your own yellow fruit. 

When the puzzle arrives it has one of the bananas (OK, brass rods! Use your imagination!) only partially inserted – and blocked by those below it – and no, just shoving harder won’t encourage it all the way in. There’s a monkey’s face engraved on the top with a hole appropriately placed for you to Feed the Monkey. You can tell mine’s female from her rather theatrical eyelashes – the male versions aren’t quite as well-endowed. 

The accompanying card tells you to Feed the Monkey so that all of the bananas are fully inside the puzzle. Tip the bananas out and you’ll find that there are 16 small bananas and one larger, double length banana… the smaller ones can be tipped in and will move around inside the tube, but the larger one will just drop in and assuming there’s nothing immediately below it, end up level with the mouth on the top. Guess which banana goes in last then?! 

Effectively the whole thing comes down to finding a way of getting all the small bananas inside the beast’s belly, without obstructing the poor things throat so you can drop the final piece into place. Simple, right?

Eh, naw…

It turns out that no matter how you drop them in, slide them around, tilt things this way and that, rattle them around so they settle into the most efficient pattern possible, there is always one pesky banana blocking poor monkey’s throat so the final monster-nana just won’t drop into place. 

Once or twice I’d thought I’d managed it, only to stand up from my chair and find an errant banana spill from my lap onto the floor… try again. 

I spent a good while trying to imagine what fiendish mechanism might be lying inside there – I spent a while trying to listen for clues – I spent some time examining every single banana in case one of them was gimmicked – I tried different strategies for inserting the little buggers – and nothing…

At one point I managed to fluke the solution and proudly told the boys how I’d done it, to be greeted by the obvious question: “Are you sure?” – and “Does that work repeatedly?” – and of course the answer was: “Eh, naw… I guess I got lucky…”

So I set it aside for a little while and had a little Think(c), and a little play, and then I noticed something interesting… tried one thing and it didn’t work – tried it differently and in they all slotted… chuffed to bits I got on the blower to the lads with my new theory to be greeted with Hurrahs and Congrats…

Ali summed it up best when he said “It’s easy to overthink this one…” – I certainly did!

It’s cute, makes for a reasonable challenge and it's available form your favourite Two Brass Monkeys stockist!

Sunday 12 April 2020

Philipp’s Flux Puzzle

<I’m breaking with tradition here and jotting a blog post about a puzzle that’s not mine… in fact with any luck, quite a few people will get the chance to have a bash at it courtesy of Royal Mail… now I realise that the more cynical out there reading this might even be tempted to suggest that by writing anything at all, I’m breaking with recent tradition… but hey – things have been a bit strange lately… and my usual sources of blog-fodder (MPPs and other gatherings) have been
stopped by the reaction to the novel coronavirus. So here we are…>

Having spent a couple of year’s working on the ideas inside this puzzle, Philipp recently decided it was ready to be unleashed on some puzzlists – so he sent it across the channel to our good mate Shane – who looked at the innards for a while and said to himself “Gosh, that looks quite complex” – not a direct quote, he’s generally far more parsimonious with his words – chucked something rattle-y inside it and sent it off to yours truly. 

It duly arrived in the post and Gill promptly quarantined it in the dining room (aka Quarantined Post Sorting Office) – for several days… I told you things were a bit strange! When she deigned it safe, I was handed a rather pretty, if somewhat customised wooden box. A large digital padlock hangs off the bottom corner, a couple of bulbous knobs appear to be potentially helpful, there’s a large steel bolt screwed into the corner and then a cute little brass handle in the opposite corner. 

Turning the handle provides a soothing reminder that your troubles did, indeed, seem so far away before you picked up this little bit of trouble. 

I spent a while exploring things and noticed something obviously clattering around inside… and some IM-ing later established this was Shane’s helpful addition to make a subtle, elegant puzzle a little less so… it also made it a lot harder to identify some of the potentially more helpful clues a solve might provide – thanks dude! 

Around this time Philipp merrily tells me it’s probably not solvable now and sends me a pic of the innards… which terrify me a little – I’ve deduced the main conceit, but this goes a long way beyond that… he’s developed his ideas a long way from where I’d last heard them! 

Over the course of the next couple of weeks I manage to have a few more goes at it and find myself wondering once or twice if I’ve done something silly and snookered myself… I hadn’t – and the design is solid so you cannot back yourself into a corner that you can’t get out of – nice one!

Earlier today I sat down with it again and was determined to get things un-gummed – and had a nice little “A-Ha!” moment – and then actually managed to get it to behave the way I was expecting it to behave – whereupon it duly unlocked – and looking at the innards in real life – and now understanding the mechanisms (for yea, there are multiple!) – this thing is clever! 

The original main conceit has had several layers added to it and they make this a rather nice puzzle. The start and the end are all quite clever – one of the mechanisms is VERY CLEVER indeed… 

So having had the joy of opening this little guy up, I feel like the best thing to do with it is immediately ship it off to someone else for them to enjoy it too… enjoy chaps!