A couple of weeks ago we held our second virtual MPP and got
to chat with our puzzling friends from (literally) across the globe again. We kept
to the idea of running three two-hour sessions over the course of the day in
order to make it a bit easier for our international friends to join in a couple
of the sessions no matter where they were… and it seemed to work, although a couple
of really hardened way-distant puzzlers made sure they were there for all three
sessions – so we must be doing something right!
The morning session was a pretty laid-back affair as I’d
totally failed to line up an exciting tour as the main attraction. Instead we
literally just asked everyone on the Zoom call to tell us what they were currently
puzzling on and what they thought of it… there were around 25 or 30 of us on
the call and that ended up filling the morning session with plenty of chat, and
I suspect that I wasn’t the only one taking note of some of the recommendations
along the way!
I gave George Bell’s Chocolate Box a bit of a plug having
received it the week before and really enjoying the solution to it… at first it
seemed really fiddly and the round box had me chasing pieces around and around,
until I had a bit of a Think (c) and then loved the solution.
Dor’s recommendation was a binge-solve of virtually all of
the Popplocks – which sounded like an excellent way to spend the better part of
a weekend, and Nigel confessed to really enjoying working back over Kagen’s
Lotus Box trilogy in order to really
enjoy the latest arrival.
Ken teased us by showing a copy of Juno’s Puzzler’s Cage from
Cubic Dissection still in its plastic wrapping – and after plenty of goading I
think we managed to convince him to take the pieces out of the plastic wrapping
- we did not succeed in goading him into actually solving it during the course
of the day, however.
Jack showed us the new box he was working on – cue plenty
puzzler’s lusting! Amy shamed the lot of us by showing that she’d been working
on two high level Baumegger burrs, and a couple of folks told us they were
working on Juno’s SDBBB:M – all with fat grins on their faces, as you’d expect.
It was great seeing that Wil had managed to join us, although
without a webcam or a mic, he was only able to lurk in the background –
he did however grab some brilliant screenshots of the folks on the call and unwittingly
provided some of the pics that found their way into this blog post – as I didn’t
record any of the sessions and didn’t take any screenshots myself – so thanks
for that, Wil! :-)
It was great having a chance to just chat about puzzles we
were currently working on – a bit like we’d normally do at an MPP – only with
our mates around the world, and if this doesn’t sound like total blasphemy, I wonder
if there’s a place for these sorts of “get-togethers” even after we all get out
of our various shades of lock-down?
At the end of the first session, we gave everyone a scavenger
hunt list that included a bunch of things that would need explaining in the
second session, including: a puzzle that makes you smile whenever you play with
it, a puzzle you’ve crafted yourself, the smallest and largest puzzles in a
single shot and a puzzle that you need some information on. During the break
between the first two sessions folks posted their pictures on the MPP Facebook page.
During the first part of the second session, Big-Steve
walked everyone through the entries received, inviting people to explain their
entries and tell us some of the stories behind their particular choices, and
then awarding random points for the various entries – which seemed to be based
more on the amount of humour coming from the selections than for the selections
themselves – but the audience seemed to approve and there weren’t any public lynching’s,
which is always a good sign.
Frank looked like he had a really strong set of entries,
starting with his awesome Kumiki Robot with a tiny Alan Boardman micro-burr
perched on its shoulder… he seemed to be scoring unbelievably well too, until
Steve decided to deduct WAY MORE points than he’d awarded on the grounds that
Frank had actually already seen the scavenger hunt list earlier in the week when
we’d been doing our preparations for the MPP!
Brian put in a solid performance, totally acing the “puzzle
you’ve crafted yourself” – come to think of it, he’d made most of the puzzles
across all the categories in the first hunt – not many people could say that.
We worked our way through all of the entries before we
handed over to Pantazis on the lovely Greek island of Kastellorizo for a tour
of his puzzle museum. In spite of me managing to time our Greek island visit to
coincide almost precisely with Pantazis’ renovation of the puzzle museum and
the arrival of a multitude of crates consisting of three quarters of his puzzle
collection, Pantazis still managed to do a sterling job of showing us around.
He’d spent the days immediately prior to the tour working
tirelessly unpacking crates and crates of puzzles so that he’d be able to show
us some of his favourite and rarest treasures – and he didn’t disappoint. His obvious
love for puzzles in general, and for spreading a love for puzzling, shone
strongly through all of his stories about his experiences of sharing the
puzzles with folks on the island.
I loved the story of one of his mates tossing one of the
puzzles into the harbour (don’t worry – it was shallow enough to save it!) in
disgust when he found out that the puzzle he’d been trying to solve for
absolute ages, had been solved in minutes by a blind friend of theirs. (Reminds
me of a fearsome puzzler I know…)
Pantazis’ whole mission in life seems to be to share these
wonderful puzzles with as many people as possible – puzzles should be played –
and if that means that they occasionally need some repairs, then so be it.
There were plenty of questions and even a little dose of
maths, as you might expect, in the form of some interesting results on his analysis
of the ancient Stomachion Puzzle.
With the light fading and the electrics not yet quite
finished due to the renovations, Pantazis was absolutely undeterred and fired
up the torch to continue the tour on the ground level – it really was lovely to
see around Pantazis’ Puzzle Museum – THANKS PANTAZIS!! (And bonus points for managing to find a rare
pair of hamster twisties and posting a pic on the MPP Facebook group a couple of
days later – our memes salute you sir!)
At the end of the second session we posted another scavenger
hunt with similar levels of “interpretation” required – although nothing could
quite prepare us for Shane’s entry this time around. At the first VMPP Shane
had managed to score negative points for posting a picture of a dirty sock as
one of his entries (fair scoring, right?!) – this time he posted a split
keyring as his entry for all ten topics – although in fairness his
justification for some of the topics was pretty funny. I’m not sure the judge
was that impressed though!
Once again Steve did an awesome job of walking the various
entrants through their selections and coaxing them into telling us some of the
stories behind their choices – I love hearing puzzlers talking about the puzzles
that are important or particularly interesting to them.
After walking through all the entries we headed into Frank’s
Pu(b)zzle quiz hosted through an online app that handled all the scoring for us
(to avoid any more unfortunate incidents of bribery)… a couple of us had play-tested
the quiz during the week and we still managed to get a few good belly-laughs at
some of the questions.
For some reason there were a lot of questions about cheese, but
not many questions about train stations. Puzzles did feature in some of the
questions and there was the obligatory trick question to check whether people
had taken the trouble to read all of the instructions before the quiz began. (I
think we managed to catch the actual Nick out with that one for the second time
in a week!)
At the end of the quiz, I think Michel came out on top of
the leader board – I’m sure someone will remind me if I’m wrong! To be honest,
it was a lot less about who won and a lot more about the fun that we managed to
have along the way… and that was there in spades.
I reckon we might need to have to do another one of these…