Saturday 8 July 2023


There’s always an MPP on the weekend before Wimbledon starts, just in case Dick’s in town. It turns out he is, and he duly arrives in Brum at a sensible time on the Friday morning. We spend the morning catching up and sharing puzzles back and forth. He’s concocted a gift for everyone at MPP that he’s called Walker’s Worry and he gives me an early bash at a copy. When I manage to struggle my way through it, he decides I need a proper puzzle and he gives me what could only be described as Walker’s Worry on Steroid – there’s an extra “complication” in the centre that still has me confused a week later – disentanglements really aren’t my strong point – in fact I’m beginning to wonder if puzzles in general are!

He also shows me a puzzle he’s cooked up in Wil’s honour called “Easy off, Hard on” because it’s easy to remove the shuttle, and less easy to return it to the start position. I manage to confirm the first part of the name isn’t too way off base, however a week later I’m suspecting that the second part of the name may well be apt as well.

Somewhere around lunchtime George and Roxanne arrive having driven from Panicale (over a few days). We manage to enjoy lunch outside in the sun without the hounds stealing too much of the food, and then settle back into some more puzzling and banter.

Late in the afternoon Dick and I head off to the airport to collect Louis and Wil, and George and Rox head off to their hotel to check in and freshen up. By the time we all meet up back at the house Gill’s arrived home and we sit outside in the early evening sunshine (I know that’s the second time I’ve mentioned it already, but you need to remember that it’s pretty unusual in this part of the world!) enjoying a pile of pizzas while we catch up on everyone’s news.

Wil had brought along copies of the Duck Puzzle for everyone and there was much laughter and confusion as folks sought to clarify the rather direct translation from the original Japanese instructions. Wil had given Dick a copy to play with in the car on the way back from the airport so I heard all the backwards-and-forwards and Dick’s thinking out loud (including there’s not enough material to make the same size duck, so it must be a scaled down version – which wasn’t that helpful!). By the time I got home I had an idea for the solution and I was delighted that when Wil gave me a copy, I was able to verify the answer within a couple of minutes… and I love it – definitely worth getting a copy from Osho or making one up yourself – the details are clear(!) in the pics.

George and Rox told us all about their latest adventures and the travails of getting the world’s largest puzzle collection out of customs in Rotterdam – you can imagine the conversation, can’t you: “Yes, those containers are a personal collection of puzzles…” – “Puzzles?” – “Yes, mechanical puzzles, you know, like a Rubik’s cube” – “ALL of those containers are full of Rubik’s cubes…?” – Ah, fuggedaboutit!

We puzzled and chatted into the night until we felt the need to head up to bed / back to hotels. I dropped Louis and Wil at a local hotel as there was no place at the inn for them, and then crashed myself – until the hounds got me up first thing in the morning.

After breakfast Dick and I headed down to the village hall to start getting things set up while Gill collected the Dutch contingent and dropped them off at the hall… where a couple of puzzlers had already arrived so we were able to get set up pretty quickly – and by the official off at 10am, we were all good to go!

The Millers had had a good rest in their hotel and managed to navigate their way to the village. George set up shop at a corner desk and appeared to hold a number of surgeries with interested puzzlers over the course of the day… including setting BurrTools to solving Vesa’s Pythagoras Puzzle that Wil had sold to a bunch of us. You get two coloured sets of jigsaw pieces and your goal is to successively make up a 2*2, 3*3, 4*4 and a 5*5 square. (And a whole bunch of other challenges…) The first couple aren’t too challenging, but the final one is a monster – albeit one that BurrTools managed to crank through in about 5 minutes. (I’m not sure how much optimising went into George’s modelling for that one!)

It was great to spend some time chatting with Andrew Coles – he’d brought along a whole bunch of prototypes and experiments and was interested in getting some feedback so I spent a goodly while battling my way through a few of his latest creations – including a particularly epic one that probably won’t ever go into production because it is just plain bonkers – and all inside a standard padlock that looks literally untouched.

I’d printed off a copy of a few two-piece TICs from Andrew Crowell and presented them to Dick on Friday as he thought they might be interesting, and then foisted them on a number of folks at MPP on as well – generally presenting folks with an unruly pile of pieces and inviting them to assemble them into cubes… everyone seemed to enjoy them so my conclusion was that they represented a really nice balance of interesting enough so as not to be trivial, but not brutal so you don’t end up not enjoying them… which makes them an excellent puzzle to hand around to folks, IMHO.

Shane also had a couple of prototypes that he wanted playing with, so I duly had a play, and then made some very encouraging noises and I’m hopeful that one or two of those will definitely see the light of day.

It was great to see Ed again after a bit of a break – we had a few Karakuri boxes there for him to try, but he ended up bashing through them really quickly. The man is a machine…

Speaking of machines, Rich spent what seemed like several hours attempting a particularly tricky assembly of a 1980’s toy consisting of multi-coloured plastic C-shaped pieces – Space Cubes. He’d get to the second or third layer quite consistently and then there’d be a familiar crash of pieces falling to the table… so familiar that it almost got to the point where we considered not laughing with (honest, gov!) him every time it happened.

At one point there was a really serious presentation from Frank – Jo had bought Steve a really thoughtful gift and Steve quite literally had a tear in his eye when he opened the box – a very touching moment. (There may be some debate as to whether Jo thinks she bought it for Steve, and where that tear in Steve’s eye really came from…)

Ali had brought along his collection of Lego puzzles for folks who’d missed the last gathering to have a bash at and they duly went down just as well as they had on the previous occasion.

Mikael had brought along his vlogging gear and proceeded to film a semi-impromptu round of “Are you a Puzzlemaster?” around the hall – I can’t speak for all the questions, but I suspect that we got slightly easier questions than he normally inflicts on his guests. I did have to laugh when he hit up Shane for one of the questions – I’m sure once all the colourful language is bleeped out there’ll be something left! (Maybe… actually, subtitles might be a good idea…)

Several of us were very pleased when we discovered that the deli was serving pig buns and having established this fact, and avoiding the queues, we told the rest of the gang in the hall that pig buns were available… and the rush ensued. Once again, the little room proved a great lunch venue with plenty of munching and banter taking place far away from the precious puzzles.

It was great to see Amy, especially as family responsibilities are probably going to make it trickier for her come along to our next few meetings.

James had made the trip up from Devon and brought a box full of things that needed re-assembly. I’m not sure what the final score was, but I think we managed to get more than a few of them properly assembled for him so his trip wasn’t entirely wasted. For a man who’s not collecting puzzles any longer (as he keeps telling me) he still keeps acquiring some really interesting puzzles, including some absolutely stunning old antique chests (with plenty of puzzling elements!).

Gill ferried Dick back to the train station while we packed up the hall and headed up to the house after the obligatory puppy safety briefing. Rolo’s definitely getting more used to having a big bunch of puzzlers around and settled down fairly quickly before taking herself up to her bed under the hall table upstairs… while the puzzlers spread themselves out around the house – with several puzzling outside until the rain arrived.

Peter’s Pan provided the usual excellent fish suppers, although I totally failed to remember to pick up something gluten-free for Fraser – must do better next time or he won’t come back!

The puzzling continued until somewhere around 22:30 when folks realised they still had a three-hour drive and should probably start heading back London-wards… so we wound up the party and deposited the Dutch contingent back at their hotel.

Next day was a lovely relaxed puzzling affair with Louis and Wil – I got the chance to talk about some puzzles that I’d been struggling with and got some valuable advice, and I got Louis to crack open my Lost Vault which wasn’t behaving itself properly. The combination lock element wasn’t working, so Louis managed to open it using the wrong numbers, then diagnosed the issue and duly fixed it with a little judicious sanding. (There was a spot of glue on one of the pins which meant it randomly dragged the next wheel when it shouldn’t have.) Lost Vault now works perfectly! Thanks Louis!

Somewhere after lunchtime I dropped the boys off at the airport so they could head to AMS and I headed home to chill…

Another awesome MPP weekend in the books – thanks to everyone who came and made it memorable!



1 comment:

  1. I'm very happy to see you all playing the duck puzzle.