Monday 27 February 2023


[Disclaimer - do not use my roman numerals for anything - you will be tirelessly mocked - yes I know they're wrong... they have been for quite some time...]

Our first MPP of 2023 was a fairly sedate affair – a small, select group of puzzlers gathered for just an afternoon’s puzzling as the hall wasn’t available in the morning (for the first four months of the year!). That probably discouraged some of the usual crowd, and then a few folks cried off on the morning with a variety of ailments from light sniffles through to full-blown COVID – thank you for not bringing those!

When I rolled up to the hall, Steve, Ali and Rich were already waiting patiently and Phil arrived immediately afterwards. The lads set up some tables and chairs while I sorted out the refreshments (priorities!) and then unpacked some puzzles, grabbed a cup of coffee and a fistful of biscuits before settling down to some puzzling.

Oli and his clan arrived, and after the obligatory greetings Kirsty and the boys headed out to the science museum while Oli was allowed to stay and puzzle for the afternoon. Tamsin, Mike, Frank and Dale appeared at some point and that was it for the rest of the day – 10 happy puzzlers passing puzzles around and “encouraging” one another… with plenty of biscuits because I’d typically catered for double that number.

Phil had brought along a few copies of his latest creation, Free the Washer, and I hastily shoved a fistful of twenty pound notes in his hand and took a copy off him. It’s a hefty brass and steel cage with a little split washer languishing around inside - the steel bars doing a pretty good job of trapping the washer. I saw Frank playing with a copy and found out the next day that he’d solved it at MPP – it took me a while to solve it over the following two days – Frank definitely deserves the bragging rights on that one!

I’d taken along the latest haul from Pelikan, some of which I’d managed to have a play with already… Cerebrus was the definite favourite – three pieces in a frame that wind around and round one another over a huge number of moves before the first piece is released from the frame.

Ali had brought along a huge container jammed with Lego puzzles and after enjoying my first experience of a Lego puzzle quite a lot, I ended up spending a fair while working my way through a few of them until disaster struck and I sprayed Lego pieces across the floor and then spent ages unsuccessfully trying to rebuild the puzzle… I even involved the local Lego expert, Oli in my ultimately unsuccessful attempts to rebuild it so had to give it back to Ali in bits, and grovel quite a bit. (It took Ali all of about 5 minutes to rectify the situation the next morning proving that (a) I know nothing about fixing Lego puzzles and (b) I need to find a new Lego expert.)

A few folks had a bash at my Pooplock and all got stuck pretty much exactly where I’ve been stuck for a few months now… which is a pity because I was hoping someone would be able to make some further progress so that I’d be able to follow in their footsteps… sadly that sneaky plan came to nought, and Quigley just watched us suffering and grinned.

Ali and I had a long chat about PuzzledByPiker’s Pocket Change puzzles – we’d both solved the Yellow and Orange puzzles and had both made exactly the same discoveries on the red one and stopped in exactly the same spot… I don’t know if our chat helped Ali, but I’m certainly none the wiser and still stumped!

A few folks had a bash at Eros, but I didn’t spot anyone making any serious progress so I ‘m probably going to have to solve that one on my own too!

The Christmas Karakuri boxes all got a good playing with Kawashima-san’s Origin Regression Cube definitely winning out on the puzzling front, while the Angry Lion and Cat & cardboard box vied for cutest of the bunch.

Somehow our five hours flew by and we found ourselves hurriedly packing up to vacate the hall by 6pm – we almost made it…

Sadly there would be no fish suppers at chez Walker this time either, so it really was a strange MPP – normal service should resume at the end of May!

Saturday 18 February 2023

ShiftBrick Mini Lego Puzzle Box

One of the great things about hanging out on Peter Hajek’s Virtual End of Year Puzzle Party is that you get to see what puzzles everyone else really enjoyed over the last year… and every now and then you get a recommendation from one of your mates that you just have to try out.

…and so it ‘twas that Peter Wiltshire made me aware of a great little Lego puzzle from ShiftBrick. Now Peter knows his puzzles, and if he reckons something is good, there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to like it… so I ordered a few copies thinking that some of my local-ish mates might want a copy too…

It duly arrived, rather well-packaged and I have to say it’s a cute little guy! There’s a handsome coloured pattern on the top, one or two gaps around the sides, and a single little green brick on one side… and your mission is to expose the money tile on that little green brick.

I started fiddling and found myself making some progress before having to shift gear a little to make some more progress and then after a few more steps, amusingly I found myself a little stuck – which might be a bit embarrassing if you think this is just a little one-inch cubed collection of Lego bricks…

It turns out this little puzzle has a couple of unexpected tricks up its sleeve – it may well lull you into thinking you understand what’s going on and all you need to do is explore all the possibilities – until that stops working and you might even need to Think ©! <I did!>

Compact little gem of a puzzle that I’m really glad Peter alerted me to… cheers Peter!

Saturday 11 February 2023


Hajime Katsumoto has produced some wonderful packing puzzles so it didn’t surprise me when 4 PAC joined Penta in a Box, Slide Packing and 5L Box in winning an award in the 2021 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition.

I had a little trouble tracking down a copy until Saint Nick popped one in the post to me last Christmas – thanks Nick!

This is another lovely, honest packing puzzle. You get four identical PAC-men (PAC-mans?! Nah…) and a box that is clearly large enough to accommodate all of them – the only little wrinkle is the clear acrylic top that restricts access to just a slit on the one side. There are a number of handy holes in some panels to allow you to manipulate things inside – so that’s probably going to be necessary…

When you start putting your PAC-men into the box, you’ll find you’ve got a fair amount of room to re-position things. Once you’ve got a couple of them in there, your freedom of movement starts getting significantly reduced, and if you’re anything like me, by the time you’re trying to get the last PAC-man in there, the hole is either in the wrong place, or something’s in the way – which may be two sides of the self-same coin, I guess.

I spent a while exploring different ways for the pieces to interact. I spent some time trying to analyse what the final insertion absolutely HAD to be (I kept having doubts because I couldn’t see how to get to the stage just before that…) and then I spent a long time fiddling with a few pieces inside the box and rearranging them until the cows came home…(not a spoiler).

Sometime during all of that, the weirdest thing happened: I realised that I’d achieved exactly what I’d been trying to set out, but I hadn’t recognised it as I was looking at it from the wrong side – yeah, not the sharpest crayon, eh?! From there it was a short little shift, shimmy and drop the final piece into place and I was done – fat smile time.

A super design from Katsumoto-san, beautifully made by Lensch-san, and generously gifted by Saint Nick – thank you (all) for a great puzzle!