Thursday 29 June 2023

Green 13

Another smashing tray-packer from Yuu Asaka!

This one arrived a few months ago and I’m only just getting to blog about it now – but it’s that good that I feel folks should be given a nudge toward it – so consider yourself nudged!

The premise is clear from the get-go: nine green pieces, neatly demarcated into rectangles so you can quickly convince yourself that the pieces should definitely all fit inside the frame, and four white disks to fit into the holes left by the cut-outs. I'm glad that’s all clear.

To me it seems like the obvious starting point is to create four circular holes somehow, and then finagle them into fitting together into the frame... it turns out that’s not spectacularly successful.

Maybe it’s best to just start bashing things into the frame, taking care to complete any circles as you go… nope, that’s not the answer either, apparently.

It turns out the solution requires a bit of a Think(c)… and a bit of a tinker.

As with most of Yuu Asaka’s designs, there’s a little chicanery at work so it’s always wise to question your assumptions… especially the ones you didn’t know you’d even made!

Sunday 25 June 2023

Bruns Cluster Puzzle

This one intrigued me, and as I like to support Engineer Bruns directly, I ordered a copy off his website soon after it appeared. There’d already been some talk about it on discord, so I knew that I’d need to pay close attention to the instructions…

A few weeks later, my puzzle had made it out of Putin’s war zone, via Poland to the bustling metropolis of Barnt Green – which is all pretty mind-blowing, to be fair.

As you’d expect from Bruns, it’s beautifully machined in aluminium with a neat Bruns logo on the one end… it’s a handy size to avoid any repetitive strain injuries and not small enough to roll into tiny crevices. It comes with a sheet of instructions telling you that the object is to disassemble and then reassemble so that the following criteria are met:

-         - All pieces need to be the fixed to the central column, beneath the line indicated,

-         - Any threaded pieces should be screwed fully into their threads, such that

-         - The assembly is stable and vigorous shaking won’t dislodge any bits…

…which all sounds a bit weird until you start playing with it.

OK, so disassembly isn’t really a puzzle and you find a couple of end-caps, a central column (with said line) and a number of rings with pegs and holes… ah, so it’s one of those puzzles…

…and you can make some progress trying to solve that puzzle… until you can’t. 

…so it’s worth a Think(c).

…and sure enough, there’s something else to discover, and you’re on your way again…

…until you aren’t, again…

…now you really need a serious Think(c)!

I think the final solution is really fun – it does indeed satisfy all the rules and makes you work for your A-Ha!s. Bruns leads you up the garden path a couple of times and then sends you back to the drawing board again and again… you can’t ask much more from a puzzle.

Bravo Bruns!

Saturday 10 June 2023

The Bandit

MW Puzzles, aka Matt and Chris launched pre-orders for their latest puzzle a couple of months ago – I dutifully tossed my coins in the ring and waited patiently… and then at our last MPP the lads arrived with a couple of copies of The Bandit for those of us they knew would be there – so I wanged some PayPal at Chris and this lovely little blue Bandit went home with me…

First thing you notice is that this guy’s a lot bigger than their previous puzzles… and it’s really pretty. When I was chatting to them at MPP they were talking about how folks had been complimentary about their earlier puzzles, but they’d spotted that puzzlers also like their puzzles to look good – so they made sure that this one was a real looker.

And it is…

There’s a lot of detailing to make it look like a tiny little fruit machine – there’s walnut panelling on the sides, a smoked acrylic back that teases you with a bit of a view on the innards, an obvious coin slot (and a return slot), a big ole handle on the side, a flashy-lighty-thingy (Yup, that’s the actual technical term!) on the top and of course a set of reels that look like they’re going to spin at some point.

It also comes with a handy little instruction card telling you that The Bandit is broken and that your mission is to repair it. In order to do that you’re going to have to find your tools, retrieve your ID card and a coin and then win the jackpot – sounds simple!

At the start of this solve there’s a lot to explore – there are stacks of little holes crying out for a tool of some sort, it’s great fun to whizz the handle on the side around and around – but that doesn’t seem to do anything useful. It’s probably worthwhile spending a little time staring at the innards through the smoked acrylic back – although that seems like more of a tease than actually providing any actionable intelligence.

Eventually we find our first tool and we’re off to the races! 

Only we’re not… a bit more experimenting and we’re rewarded with something interesting, and even some tools and that signals the start of a wonderful romp through the puzzling countryside.

There's a lovely cadence in the solve - make some progress, find something interesting, find a use for it, make some magic happen and then wonder where the heck to go next... wash, rinse, repeat. 

There's also a very clear build up to the eventual solution - you can see yourself progressively getting things to work and making more and more sense of what's going on inside that little cabinet. (I spent ages just fiddling with the main mechanism and playing... it's very satisfying!)

There’s lots to keep sequential discovery fans amused for quite a while - there are some little bits of magic that happen – there are some very sneaky mechanisms and several things hidden in plain sight all along that will have you laughing at (or to, depending on how long it takes you to find them) yourself.

At some point you’ll find your ID card with the puzzle’s limited-edition number on it and a coin to play the slots with, and as long as you’re able to solve the puzzle, you’ll get to win a little jackpot at the end.

There is a LOT of great engineering in there and it’s all ben beautifully made. Chris and Matt have definitely raised the bar on this one – superb job, lads!

Sunday 4 June 2023


Yup, I’m butchering my Roman Numerals once again, which can only mean one thing: another excellent day’s puzzling with my mates from all over the place.

I collected Louis and Mieke from the airport on Friday evening and after a couple of pizzas out on the deck – for the sun was shining(!) – Louis and I grabbed a few hours puzzling while the girls caught up on life. Louis had brought me a rather generous gift of a new JCC Telephone Box which I think I spent altogether too many hours puzzling over during the course of the rest of the weekend. I had in turn saved up a few things that Louis needed to either solve for me or at least give me a nudge on… ‘cos I’m nice that way! I spent a while talking him through what I’d discovered on one or two puzzles I’d been struggling with and he gave me some sage words of advice – never more than the very gentlest of nudges to get me going in more or less the right direction once again.

Somewhere around midnight I was totally wiped out and crashed so I left Louis in the cave with a long line of puzzles to solve… and magically next morning most of them had changed order and been solved…

After a goodly round of breakfast, Louis and I headed down to the hall to find Angela was already there negotiating with Dragan to get the parking lot gate open. Gate negotiated, we set about getting the tables and chairs set out in the hall and, most importantly getting the biscuits and coffee sorted.

Before long the London taxi had arrived, rammed to the gunwales with puzzles and puzzlers. Kevin, Mike, Dan and Amy weren’t long after that and pretty soon we had enough people to sensibly call it a puzzle party and settle down to some actual puzzling, and a bit of mild banter because it would be rude not to.

Michael had brought along an entire sack of Einstein tiles and several folks had a go at amusing themselves with tiling just a little bit of the infinite plane. Some people seemed to enjoy not quite getting it right, or indeed finding creative ways of not tiling the plane properly…. Step-hen!

Michael also had a copy of a new puzzle design fresh off the printer from Steve – I managed one of the simplest of the challenges

Mike Q had brought along a tiny copy of the Dolls house puzzle, along with an impressively super-sized version he’d cooked up especially for the occasion, including a super-sized replica of the box the puzzle came in – a suitably bonkers project in the true spirit of MPP that definitely deserves a shout-out!

Kevin had brought along a large selection of TICs and most of the upcoming puzzles from Pelikan for everyone to play with. He also rather generously gave away some spares copies that he had – thanks a stack for my Dino, mate – I love him!

I took along a bunch of the recent Karakuri boxes, largely for Ed to play with, but unfortunately, he came down with a bug and couldn’t make it. The boxes ended up getting well-exercised without him as several folks spent a while working their way through the selection… Horse with a Warrior was definitely the favourite on the day, giving everyone a big smile after they’d invariably been told that “No, you need to get a clear look at the whole warrior to consider that puzzle solved.” Amusingly Bad Radio was given a wide berth by most people…

Karakuri Packing and Coin Wallet also garnered several new fans, generally after perplexing them for quite a while first – but the “A-Ha!” is just so strong on those ones…

Steve had brought along a well-travelled copy of Doog’s Red Herring Box and almost everyone ended up having a bash at it and then signing their names on the guest book secreted inside it. I really enjoyed the solve, and particularly like how Doog suckers you into thinking this is going to be pretty straight-forward and then totally blows you aways with his creativity and his most excellent craftsmanship. We totally forgot to take a picture in the hall with all the solvers present, but we did remember to take a pic back at the house afterwards, albeit a couple of folks hadn’t made it back to my place.

Matt and Chris, them of MW Puzzles fame, arrived with a box of treasure and duly took some money from a bunch of us for a copy of The Bandit. They’d brought a spare copy along for folks to play with in the hall and it ended up being well exercised, although I don’t think very many people actually managed to solve it… The Bandit is a super step up from their previous puzzles – this one has even more puzzling than their previous releases, but they’ve concentrated really hard on themeing and making this one look drop-dead gorgeous, and succeeded. They also gave a couple of us a copy of their Key Ring puzzle to try out… they said they weren’t sure about offering it for sale or not (despite a little trace of it appearing on their web-site some time last year) – and after fiddling with it on and off over the past week and getting absolutely nowhere, I’m struggling to understand their hesitancy.

Somewhere around lunchtime we headed off to the deli for our customary pig rolls only to find they were short staffed and weren’t offering them – calamity! Frank and I settled for a Welsh Dragon sausage roll and chicken samosa instead, albeit the sausage roll was so filling that the samosas ended up in the fridge, untouched.

Gill and Mieke arrived with Barkley in tow some time after lunch on their way to the tea shop for coffee and cake. Barkley didn’t show much interest in the puzzles, but graciously accepted cuddles from the not-too-engrossed puzzlers nearby.

Steve’s copy of Oskar’s Piston Plunger generally got a fair amount of playing with and generated some of the bawdiest double entendres of the day -and there were a lot of them!  (I know, unusual, eh?)

I managed to acquire a few more Martin Gardener first editions from Angela to add to the steadily growing set on the shelf. (Thanks Angela!)

Sometime after five, we started packing everything up and loading up the cars before a few folks headed off home, while the majority headed off to my place after receiving the obligatory puppy-briefing – to make sure that the 6-month old didn’t cause too much chaos when the whole world arrived at her home for a fish supper, and, of course, some more puzzling.

Everyone duly behaved impeccably and totally ignored Rolo when she got a bit overwhelmed and started barking at everyone in the hallway – to the point that they were resolutely ignoring one another as well, but we managed to get past that and calm duly returned when she realised it wasn’t a home invasion, well not a bad one anyway…

It was an absolutely stunning evening so most folks ended up chatting and puzzling outside. Amy was quite disappointed when she opened the biscuit tin in the kitchen only to find it was full of Rolo’s training treats – she managed to find the human treats shortly afterwards!

Bananas came out to play, as did a bunch of older Iwahara boxes and even some arcane disentanglements came out to confuse. Peter’s fish suppers didn’t disappoint and set us up for a few hours more puzzling and banter…

Somewhere around 10pm most folks headed off for a long drive home and I left Louis to reassemble some of the partially solved puzzles dotted around the house.

Sunday was an altogether quieter day’s puzzling with Louis and chatting with Mieke. The weather was lovely again, so most of it was spent outside puzzling in the sun… JCC’s Telephone Box (think mean multi-layer partially-blind n-ary mashed together with a sequential discovery puzzle) and MW Puzzle’s The Bandit getting most of my attention - both providing plenty of puzzling fun.

Another thoroughly wonderful MPP weekend…  


Steve's solution to Rolo's desire to carry his shoes around