Saturday 8 October 2022

Boston Puzzling

 <…fights his way through the tumbleweed toward the dusty keyboard…>

Yeah, I know, it’s been a bit quiet around here lately… but there’s a good reason for that – we’ve been off travelling and spending time with puzzlers – so I guess the deal is that I should tell you what I’ve been up to…

A couple of weeks ago Gill and I headed across the pond to spend a week in Boston with Saul and Paulette… we’d been wanting to go on a New England cruise and as we didn’t have an IPP to worry about this year, it seemed like a good idea to knock that one off the list… and if we’re going to be starting and ending in Boston, it would be silly to miss an opportunity to spend some time with Saul and Paulette… so off we went.

Our hosts collected us at the airport and shuttled off to Beverley where the puzzles came out almost immediately and the girls settled into their knitting and spinning, and of course catching up on the last four years…

I’d taken a couple of 3D-printed puzzles for Saul (lord knows I can’t make anything out of wood, and if I had, it would be like taking colas to Atlanta!). There was a set of Andrew Crowell’s three-piece TICs and a Button Box that I thought was a fun puzzle to fiddle with. I also took a representative spread of Akaki’s baskets to tempt him into something a little different. He in turn showered me with an embarrassment of his own handiwork over the course of the week – including a bunch of puzzles “for the cruise” – in honour of Stew, who would always have a few spare copies of his designs, including “Cruiser” to hand out to folks on the cruise who might just be interested in trying their hand at a puzzle or two…

On Tuesday Saul and I visited Tim while the girls all headed off to a couple of fabric and fibre shops. Tim gave us the grand tour of his extremely well-organised collection. He’s got a couple of beautiful cabinets with his most precious and pretty puzzles and then the vast majority of his collection is organised into plastic containers by IPP-year and by maker… Saul was chuffed to see that he had his own (rather full) container!

After the tour and some time admiring his collection of adjacent books, we settled down at the dining room table where I proceeded to make my way rather slowly through Tim’s lovely collection of trick penknives. I’d literally only seen one or two of them so Tim literally blew my mind when he unrolled a couple of large rolls of the things and encouraged me to have a go.

During the course of the day I manage to make my way through most of them, but some of them took a lot longer than others, and as a result ended up looking rather greasy from my grubby paws, giving Tim quite the clean-up job after I was done… although he wasn’t slowed down by any of the trick mechanisms like I’d been. The sheer variety of tricks was tremendous – and trying to see where the tricks had been hidden on some of the seemingly open and honest structures was a real lesson in ingenuity… and when we were all done, Tim gifted me a rather handsome looking trick knife – thanks Tim!

In between all the organised outings, there was plenty of time to sit and chat puzzles with Saul, read through his massive collection of puzzle-related books, play with his various creations and we even managed a trip in the basement of wonder for a little spot of making… something for the girls.

On the Thursday we made the pilgrimage into Brookline to visit David’s shop. He’s moved a couple of doors down recently and has a heck of a lot more space now, both upstairs in the shop and downstairs in the basement(s). David showed us around his new equipment for making custom-printed jigsaw puzzles – bring in a flash drive with your favourite picture and leave with a 1000-piece jigsaw of it!

He's using the extra space for even more jigsaw puzzles, mechanical puzzles and games of all descriptions – it’s well-worth a visit if you’re anywhere vaguely close by - where else could you wander into a puzzle shop and pick up a copy of the latest from Two Brass Monkeys or a Pachinko Box. I managed to pick up a couple of multi-challenge puzzles to play with on the boat: a copy of Manifold II and Smart Games IG Circuit provided many hours of puzzling fun on the cruise the following week… especially when we found ourselves in the neighbourhood of Hurricane Fiona!

After a proper tour of the shop and all of the basements, David treated us to some of the best sandwiches out there from Michael’s Deli around the corner – that place is worth the trip as well – phenomenal food!

Saul had organised a puzzle party at his place on the Friday and folks began congregating form around 11am – just after Gill and I had managed to get our certified COVID tests that we needed for the cruise…

Rosemary and Nancy had driven for hours to spend the day chatting crafts and playing puzzles and I got to meet John Bottoms and chat about codes and the meta-verse. (I tried to keep up…) Tim and John Partridge joined us and remembered to bring along a puzzle I’d ordered off his web-site a little while back. David brought Chris and then John and Jane (& Teddy!) joined us a little later.

There were plenty of puzzles on the dining room table and plenty of crafting-chat in the sun room. David had brought along an advance copy of a new puzzle that few of us had a go at – and even though I solved it reasonably quickly, I’ll definitely be buying a copy when it comes out…

At one point there was a fair amount of hilarity when Chris, Saul and Tim had a bash at solving Nightingale’s Six-Handed Burr – successfully in the end – albeit there were a couple of false-starts in there.

I spent a good amount of time trying to solve the puzzle John had brought along for me… I was pretty sure I knew what I was expecting it to do, but try as I may, I couldn’t get any magic to happen… so I eventually asked John if I was on the right track – he took the puzzle and tried a couple of things and then announced it was a little too tight – and needed a little more fettling, so swapped it for another copy which instantly flew apart when I tried the same thing on it… much to my relief as I was beginning to think I’d lost the last remnants of my puzzling mojo.

The three-piece TICs amused a few folks during the course of the afternoon, with some achieving the satisfaction of seeing the cube lock neatly together… I really love how these designs make it absolutely obvious where all of the pieces have to go, but make getting them there a nicely unique challenge across the set – damn fine designs from Andrew C.

Somewhere around 5pm everyone decamped down the road to the burger joint in Beverley where we had a super meal with just a bit more chat about puzzles and life in general… it’s good spending time with puzzlers. :-)

Thanks a stack to Saul and Paulette for putting up with us for a week and finding so many superb ice cream joints for us to try... I know that would have been tough on you!

No comments:

Post a Comment