Sunday, 21 August 2022

Psycho Disks

I’ve written about a few of Phil Wigfield’s puzzles in the past and alluded to a couple of other that I hadn’t done a full blog post on – one of those was a lovely little puzzle called spinning tumblers.

Spinning Tumblers is a little barrel-shaped object apparently made up of a number of stacked brass disks that are resolutely fastened together. Sometimes the disks will spin freely and sometimes they will be locked… it’s weird… and makes for a fun puzzle.

Eric Fuller got hold of a copy of Spinning Tumblers and decided it should be “improved”, and by improved, of course he means made a whole lot harder! He’s added a few little twists to the design that will have you doubting your sanity – you know what you want to happen and sometimes that very thing will indeed happen, and sometimes it won’t – no matter how many times you try and make it work.

He's also made the start of the puzzle a lot harder… on Spinning Tumblers you can always work out where you are in the maze, so to speak, whereas Eric’s isn’t quite that considerate – at times it appears as if you are in fact nowhere at all… which can be a little disconcerting!

So Eric’s managed to make not only the beginning, the middle, and the resetting more difficult – he’s also given it a new colour-scheme by precision machining most of it in aluminium, with a couple of brass accents as a nod to its forebear. (He’s also given it a handy backdoor for resetting quickly or indeed reconfiguring the maze, just in case you want something a little sneakier.)

Psycho Disks definitely ramps up the puzzling challenge over Spinning Tumblers – about as much as the difference in names suggests – this is not a trivial puzzle – probably best inflicted on other puzzlers, especially those you don’t really like. ;-)



Saturday, 13 August 2022

5L Bin

If you like n-ary puzzles, you’ll love fiddling with this one… I’d almost hesitate to call it a puzzle, once get the hang of its n-ary-ness it is very much a satisfying fidget toy.

Eric has done a fantastic job of bringing Goh Pit Khiam's design to life through a walnut bin and some well-machined aluminium L’s. (Yes, that is the correct number of i's in there.) The notching on the L’s enforces a strict set of sequential moves to either insert or remove a piece.

It’s a handy size for sittin’ and fiddlin’ and I’ve spent quite a while just going forwards and backwards through the gears, releasing the first piece and then getting everything back inside the bin again. (Once you release the first piece, they can all be removed…)

It makes for a great executive toy (we’re all executives in our own little worlds, right?) and really looks the part thanks to Eric’s awesome quality.

…and if you want an extra little twist, try a suggestion from the Discord folks: running through the sequence holding the bin with one hand and using only gravity to move the pieces – it’s interesting to compare the feel of doing that with the usual two-handed process of pushing the pieces around inside the bin – of course you’re effectively doing the same thing but you wouldn’t know it!

Another lovely little n-ary puzzle for the hoard! (...and as I write this they're still available over here!)

Sunday, 7 August 2022


I feel like I need to start this blog post with an apology – I’ve been a bit scarce around these parts lately… I went through a month or so of dealing with a massive head cold – just about getting over that and then, after having managed to avoid COVID for two and a half years, it took out Gill and I for a couple of weeks. For quite a while after that the brain was somewhat foggy and I didn’t feel able to muster a blog post for about a month … but that has changed – not only have the little grey cells coalesced a little, I also have an awesome puzzle to write about.

Jon Keegan took orders for his next serious sequential discovery puzzle quite a while back and he’s been teasing us with emails showing progress and giving us updates on the manufacture and final assembly process. A couple of months ago he started sending out copies and after a bit of a false start that saw UPS sending my copy right back to Jon instead of sending it across the pond, my copy arrived about 10 days ago…

Jon had gone to a HUGE amount of effort to make sure that Bananas arrived in good condition – not only was it wrapped in microfibre cloths and sitting inside a cute laser cut packing crate, that was in turn cushioned inside a form-fitting expanded foam package – all of which meant that the little wooden crate literally couldn’t move amongst all of its cushioning… so Bananas arrived in Barnt Green in perfect condition – ready for some puzzling.

Bananas is the little Lego monkey currently captive inside the one and a half kilogram (mostly) aluminium cage. He’s hanging patiently on the bars waiting for you to release him and give him a healthy snack – presumably his namesake.

At the start of the puzzle, there’s a lot to explore – from a big round column peeking out of the top of the cage, through a number of interesting looking protrusions on the way down to the spring-loaded floor in the base. The cage’s bars all appear to be connected into a single unit, but it is very solidly retained! There are lots of little things rattling around inside and it’s hard to work out where you should be focussing your attention initially… at least that was what I thought!

I spent a good while trying this, that and every other thing I thought might be helpful only to end up with a whole pile of nope! On one of my Sunday evening calls with the lads I was idly fiddling with the lump when something different happened and I had no idea why and I certainly wasn’t brave enough to do a “Louis” and immediately put back the thing that had become unlocked so that I could properly understand why it had just done something that it wouldn’t do for the previous day or two…

Armed with my new tool, I grinned broadly and proceeded to do the obvious, finding even more wondrous little things to play with… and some of the source of the rattling… and here, dear reader, I hit the next wall, for it was almost a week before I managed to make much further progress…

Gill’s been up in Scotland visiting the Crumblies so I had some time on Saturday to play, and play I did… I discovered all manner of helpful little clues that I’d missed the week before and experimented with managing all the little things, I’ll call them tools, I’d found already…

The next stage took some proper Think(c)ing and a little experimentation to release a major sub-assembly and promptly hit another brick wall… for quite a while. The bit I’d just released clearly wasn’t going to do anything for me and I’d already exhausted all of the other avenues on the rest of the puzzle… definitely time for more of a Think (c) – and a remember… and then a very broad smile (yup, not just a grin this time!) as something magical happens and we have even more tools to play with…

The final part of the journey is really delightful – the new tools turn out to enable the sorts of things I was hoping I’d be able to do and soon enough the final section is opened and a healthy snack is indeed spilled onto the table… elation and disappointment ensues! Elation at cracking this puzzle and finding Bananas’ reward, disappointment that it’s all over… it’s been such a wonderful journey I don’t want it to end.

Resetting the puzzle isn’t trivial, but once you’ve seen the innards – including the mechanism behind that fiendish first step – you can work it out without too much trouble – and get it ready for the Banana’s next new friend.

The workmanship on this puzzle is exceptional and the puzzling elements are inspired… word to the wise: trust the designer – he’s always given you what you need to proceed, even when you think he hasn’t – you just haven’t looked at things the right way if you find yourself in that position… and when you have nothing… well, Think (c) ;-)

If you managed to get a copy, you know what I’m talking about – if you didn’t, borrow a copy from someone, you won’t regret it – it is an AWESOME puzzling journey!