Monday 29 June 2020

X-Ray Cube

(Yet) Another slightly evil puzzle from Volker Latussek… and the lads at Pelikan

Eight wonky cuboids arrive neatly stacked inside this little box with a handy sliding lid (which has a hole in the centre) – slide the lid off and you’ll see that the wonky blocks more or less fill the space – and at this point it’s not all that obvious that they’re pretty wonky… so you tip them out and notice a couple of things at about the same time: they really are wonky blocks and there’s probably an immediate pang of regret at the foolishness of simply tipping them out and not paying an awful lot of attention to how they were arranged in there. Oh, and there’s a second hole in the bottom of the box…

It begins to dawn on you that your mission, for you must accept it now that the wonky blocks are spread out on your desk, is to replace the blocks inside the box so that when you close the lid, you have a clear sight line through the centre of the box and out the other side. 

Playing around with the blocks shows you just how funky they are – sure there are some square corners, but most of them seem rather inaccurately cut – I jest, of course! These darn things have been perfectly crafted so that they only allow you to do things properly…

I found it a really fun little ten-minute challenge – it relies on some thought – always a good thing for an interesting puzzle, and then, once you’ve decided on a strategy, it doesn’t take long to whittle down the possibilities and blast through the various arrangements to find a very neat arrangement that gives you a neat little shaft of nothingness right through the centre of the box.

Amusingly, it took me almost as long to replace the pieces pack in an unsolved state!

Tuesday 23 June 2020

205 Minutes

Physical therapy of the highest order!

Aleksandr Leontev is rather fond of designing and making high order n-ary fidget toys – I’ve bought a couple from him in the past and his skills at 3D printing his designs are pretty impressive, and his patience at assembling them individually clearly knows no bounds!

A while back he showed an interesting cube design with a massively high number of moves required to remove a single piece – he’d 3D-printed a prototype but wasn’t happy enough with it to commit to making them… but the puzzling gods smiled favourably on him, Eric saw it and decided this was a challenge worthy of his skills and duly undertook to make them in wood(!).

The puzzling world held its breath a little, hoping he’d succeed, and a few months later the fruits of his labour arrived for all to see, and several to purchase. 

This handsome hunk of many woods is comfortable in the hands, which is important for a puzzle that requires 12,000 moves to release a single piece  - the move count gives the puzzle its name: 12,000 moves at a move a second, assuming you never get lost and backtrack will take you 205 minutes – yup, you’re going to be spending quite a while manipulating this one…

My first copy arrived with bit of a defect – one of the little maze plates inside had partially broken which meant that it would block certain moves unless you shook it in a particular direction, and then the other way when you needed to go back again… Louis spotted that little issue but didn’t let it deter him and he duly opened it up in the hopes that we’d be able to repair it… something that sadly wasn’t possible, so it needed to head back to Raleigh.

Eric insisted on sending out a new one even before it arrived home and the new one was in perfect condition… so even I was able to solve this one! 

It sat on my desk for several weeks and I’d pick it up every now and then and spend ten or twenty minutes fiddling semi-mindlessly with it and then put it down again. I’d thought about this beforehand, realising that if I did lose my way, I could find myself undoing several days’ worth of work, so I added a couple of little masking tape indicators that would get moved around at the end of each session so I knew where to pick up again… it must have worked as I ended up finally releasing the single block after many, many little sessions of physical therapy. 

Once the block is out, you can replace it with a second one that Eric supplies which has one less wiggle in the maze and requires a mere 8,000-odd moves to release… but the real genius of Eric’s implementation is a couple of ramps and sprung pins that allow you to reset the puzzle with a couple of clicks – MUCH BETTER than having to retrace your 8,000 or 12,000 steps all the way back to the beginning.

WELL DONE that man!

Sunday 14 June 2020

Ribbon Keyvos Puzzle (Improved)

I’ve been bidding unsuccessfully on a few copies of this puzzle over the years and earlier this year I finally managed to find a copy that nobody else wanted even more than I did. 

This cute little cube hides quite a lot of puzzling in its six little pieces!

Resembling a cube neatly wrapped with a couple of ribbons running corner to corner, this little guy invites you to play… it won’t take you long to find the only sliding axis – and then depending on how careful you’ve been, you either have a single pile of pieces, or a pair of spikey subsets trying to fall apart on you… so you might as well let them do their worst, and scramble the pieces for good measure.

While you have a pile of them, you might as well admire Mike T’s handiwork – it is wonderfully neat and tidy – even the insides are pristine – including Mike’s trademark signature, serial number and puzzle name neatly inscribed on one of the pieces. Take the time to appreciate how he’s knocked back the really pointy corners that would have made this guy a lot less pleasant to play with too. 

Reassembly, as they say, is another challenge altogether – this guy puts ALL of the puzzling into the assembly stage.

Knowing that it comes apart into two pieces on a single sliding axis really doesn’t help you at this point while you pick your way through stacks and stacks of ways of building a pair of subsets that simply won’t engage because an errant bit is blocking the way… of course there are lots of ways to get it not to assemble, but just one way to get it back into a solid cube. 

A lovely little piece of craftsmanship that looks every bit as gorgeous today as it did back in 2003 when Mike made it.