Friday 14 October 2022

NPP ‘22

Around the start of October each year Frank invites a bunch of us up to his place for a Northern Puzzle Party…. and it’s become a damn fine tradition!

I was still on leave after our trip to New England but still battling the effects of jet-lag while I tried to get some birthday presents printed out for Frank in the days running up to NPP – in the end I managed to get around half of the puzzles printed so the personalised drawstring bag Gill had made for them wasn’t going to be totally empty. He got an IOU for the rest…

I headed up on the Friday afternoon through some Noachian rain showers which saw the motorway grind to a halt on a regular basis. Following the wise counsel of my sat-nav I headed off the motorway and onto some far more scenic roads, which were all actually moving – bonus! A couple of hours later than originally planned I decamped at chez Potts and was made to feel thoroughly welcome as always!

I relayed the sad story of my inability to complete my one and only task that week – print Frank some presents – and handed over the ones I had managed to complete to my really gracious host. A short while later the London mob arrived having checked into their Airbnb and the merriment began in earnest.

Jo and Frank had put a bottle of scotch into a locked steel cage with clues around the side for opening the padlock as a gift for Shane, who duly glanced at it and while he was chatting to all of us proceeded to pick the padlock without even looking at it… in about twenty seconds. (There’s a good reason we like having Shane in escape rooms with us!)

Jo and Frank produced a massive dinner for all of us before Jo headed off to the train station to collect the Dutch contingent. More puzzle chatter ensued until someone noticed it was almost midnight and most folks headed off to bed or at least back to their Airbnb. (I think the Dutch contingent might have carried on puzzling for a while after that!)

Next morning our most excellent hosts rustled up a feast for breakfast before the rest of the gang arrived for a full day’s puzzling.

Will had brought along a couple of new goodies from JCC, including one thoroughly bonkers puzzle box that I stood absolutely no chance of opening without Louis’ help – and with a fair amount of encouragement from him, I managed to navigate the red herrings and operate the wonderfully ingenious mechanism – leaving me able to confidently say that I have never seen the likes of that in a puzzle box and that I would never manage to solve such a beast. Louis reckoned he’d managed to fluke it somehow and then had to spend a while reverse-engineering what he’d managed to do… as even locking it when it’s open with the mechanism laid bare is a non-trivial exercise.

Mike gave Frank and I each a puzzle card to solve and I did my usual thing of trying to massively overcomplicate stuff before realising the error of my ways and managing to crack it properly. Thanks Mike – some really fun mechanics built into a reasonably unassuming birthday card.

Ali and Steve had cooked up a new design called Splatter Wok in honour of our birthdays – a three-coloured rhombic dodecahedron that just looks like it wants to be spun… so spin it I did on Frank’s kitchen floor – that same one that had seen some carnage 5 years earlier thanks to the glitter filled orbs they’d given us back then. This one spins apart merrily and doesn’t deposit a large amount of confetti on Frank's floor, which is a bit of a relief!  While I’m trying to reassemble it Steve casually drops the fact that it’s a six-piece co-ordinate motion assembly – yes, there are only six pieces, but they all need to be expanded and contracted together to assemble the little bugger… thankfully it turns out to be less tricky than I imagine it to be from his description… thanks lads!

Amy spends a while taking Big Ben apart and then reassembling it, with just a little encouragement on some of the tricker patches…

I’d taken my copy of Keep Locked along and several folks had a go at it over the course of the day – most of them under Shane’s watchful eye as he gave folks a nudge here and there when they needed it… I’d managed to spend a little while playing with it before the weekend but had only got about two thirds of the way through solving it so I managed to avoid spoiling it for myself and I still have that challenge to look forward to… :-)

While Frank was otherwise occupied, Steve cooked up a new slant on the old Hide-the-tongue-depressors game that we perfected at Nigel’s place – he called it Hide-the-Kumiki puzzle. Anyone who know Frank knows that he has a fearsome collection of Kumiki puzzles… so Steve had donated some of his own Kumiki puzzles to the cause and encouraged us to hide them somewhere around the house in the hopes of being responsible for the very last rogue Kumiki puzzle that Frank found – fame and adulation will surely follow, right?

The game progressed fairly well with folks scurrying around whenever Frank was distracted somewhere else – something that happened from time to time, mostly unplanned…

In order to improve the chances of the dastardly deeds going undiscovered, some folks also snuck into the Kumiki-cave and did a little rearranging of Frank’s carefully orchestrated collection – apparently the camels HAVE to be near the pyramids – who knew?

Something went slightly awry later that evening when Frank discovered one of Steve’s secret notes with the game instructions on his desk… which sort of tipped him off that something was afoot, and then not long after that he discovered the (rogue Kumiki) elephant in the (dining) room… I don’t think he discovered any others before we left, so hopefully he’ll enjoy playing Find-the-Kumiki for a while. (I helpfully suggested that he check in the toaster – we all know how that could have played out…)

There was a huge spread for dinner again – pizzas galore and a massive pot of chilli – everyone had more than enough!

After dinner Jo produced a birthday cake with some impressive pyrotechnics. (No ceilings were damaged in the course of the performance!) Steve demonstrated his uncanny ventriloquism skills with his hand shoved up a banana and there was a lot more puzzling… before everyone grudgingly headed off to their Airbnbs to crash.
Sunday morning after breakfast (another serious spread at the Potts’) we all met up to play through some escape rooms in Rawtenstall – having played one of their rooms digitally during lock-down it was great to see that their rooms are just as good, if not better in real life. We played Treason (a take on Guy Fawkes) and Dragon Heart (a boy-wizard theme) and being the competitive bunch we are, the two teams were keen to compare times – we all agreed that Amy’s team won…

Thanks to Frank and Jo for hosting another awesome NPP!! – That were brilliant!



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