Monday 30 October 2023

Traffic 15

I spotted a new puzzle from Yuu Asaka on social media a little while back so I duly put in an order for a few copies, knowing that some of my mates were going to want a copy as well…

This one really stands out for me - it presents as a simple enough packing puzzle -  a square tray with a couple of rounded corners, nine big white pieces, some with rounded-corners again and then three pairs of traffic sign sort of arrows. The white pieces have cut-outs for the arrows and it’s pretty easy to see how things need to go together to make the spaces that you seek… and you can pretty much just do that for virtually all of the pieces… except there’s always one stubborn arrow that just won’t slot into place… what’s interesting is that it’s not always the same piece that won’t slot into place, but you are always left with one… “which is interesting” as Laurie used to say. 

Somewhere around this point I realise that my usual approach of just trying to bash things in randomly probably isn’t going to serve me well, so I take a little of my own advice(!) and I Think(C) a little…

…and it dawns on me that there are some rather interesting constraints I hadn’t spotted into my random packings… 

Clearly I’m now onto something important so I explore that with renewed vigour, only to come up somewhat short yet again - even more analysis may well be required…

So I Think(C) even more… experiment a little and then remind myself of just how devious some of Yuu’s other designs have been in the past, and throw away all of my preconceived ideas, even the ones I hadn’t realised I had… and that turns out to be rather important - the solution is excellent and I love how it’s literally taken me through three whole cycles of thinking I’ve known what to do, and then realizing I didn’t in order to finally settle on the solution. 

… this is definitely one of my favorite puzzles from this very clever designer!

Saturday 14 October 2023

NPP 2023 (part 2)

I’m an absolute eedjit!

Not only did I ignore most of the photos I’d taken during the course of the day at NPP, but I also omitted one of the funniest stories of the day… so here are some more pics and the story I forgot!

This story starts with Frank’s pre-NPP rituals – he likes to dust the puzzles in his puzzle cave so that when we move things around to find puzzles to play with, we don’t spread the puzzle-dust all around the house – at least that’s what I think he said.

During said ritualistic cleansing, Frank spotted that his Klein Bottle was a little (puzzle-)dusty and set about cleaning it… and at some point he decided that introducing some water would be helpful – yes, yes, we ALL know… and that didn’t go quite to plan, so on the Saturday morning Frank had a slightly moist Klein Bottle with some little drops of water in some rather hard to reach places…

Which is where Steve, our super-cleaner takes up the challenges and broadly announces that what it needs is rice – everyone who’s ever seen anything on the internet knows that rice is used to dry out anything precious… Frank helpfully provides a 3-kilogram sack of rice (Basmati, if you’re interested) and some rice is duly decanted into a lovely little milk jug (no milk is currently in residence).

Steve pours a little into the orifice and shakes it around and it does indeed do a passable job of mopping up the moisture – HURRAH!

Somewhere around now Dan and Andrew arrive and between the usual greetings, Dan asks what Steve is up to so he explains that Frank had tried washing his Klein Bottle only to find some moisture trapped inside it so we’re trying to help him – Dan solemnly raises his hand and comes up with the single geekiest comment of the day: “Hang on – may I just take exception to the fact that there is moisture inside of a Klein Bottle?” – cue short philosophical discussion about the fact that there is no inside of a Klein Bottle.

Anyhow – back to the rescue mission - the rice, however, is now somewhat damp, and doesn’t really slide as well as it used to and sort of sticks to the glass and won’t come out… but Steve doesn’t panic, for he knows that the answer to this new problem is in fact more rice… enough rice to bash the original rice off the wall and carry it out of the way with its momentum!

By now Rich is involved and they dispense with the little milk jug and resort to pouring rice straight from the 3-kilogram sack into the dainty Klein Bottle… until they fill it with rice.

Right about now Quigley looks up from his puzzle and tells the lads they’re all idiots and they’re just going to end up with white rice dust inside it (I know, I know – but you know what he means!).

Undeterred, Steve persists with the Klein Bottle puzzle until all of the rice, and indeed all traces of the moisture are out of the Bottle… which would have been absolutely brilliant had it not been for the little film of white rice dust coating the inside of the glass… Quigley doesn’t crow, much…

Frank declares it even messier than before he’d started his ritual and duly puts it under the warm water tap and washes it again… this time he refuses to give it to Steve and places it on the radiator in the kitchen… where it dries gently without the need for any further rice.

No Klein Bottles were harmed in the making of this story – some rice may been sacrificed in the name of science. 

Saturday 7 October 2023

NPP 2023

Frank and I almost share a birthday, and that’s a good enough excuse for a puzzle party, every year. There’s some debate over when the first Northern Puzzle Party was, since Frank and I didn’t know about the first one – sure, we were both there, we just didn’t realise it was actually an NPP, anyhoo – about a week ago we had another…

Some of the lads drove up on the Friday and had an early start on the puzzling and some games – one of which saw Steve repeatedly chasing Frank’s wife around the ground floor of the house waving something – don’t ask – I have no idea.

Gill and I headed up on Saturday morning a bit earlier than we usually do having taken the hounds to their weekend holiday home the night before – glad we did that as the traffic was really nice and light – it was certainly better than when Andrew and Dan headed up the road a couple of hours later!

As we arrived, we were handed a hot drink and a large selection of cakes, to which we added a tub of Gill’s delicious honeycomb rocky road. Mike and Tamsin had already arrived and the Monkeys plus Rich were well-settled-in from the day before. There were one or two puzzles on the dining room table and the kitchen island already… I probably didn’t need to bring a crate of puzzles along.

I’d brought along a bunch of puzzles that I hadn’t solved yet in the hopes that some kind soul would solve them for me, and that sort of worked once or twice – folks would take the bait and then duly solve them in front of me – usually without letting me see anything that might just resemble a spoiler – and then scrambling them again… the one exception was Rich’s solve of my copy of Climburr – he duly dismantled it and then “reassembled” it in a configuration that has had me scratching my head for a week now – unable to either take it apart or actually put it into the proper assembled position. (That’s what mates are for, eh?!)

Several folks successfully solved my copy of Triple Product and waved it in front of my snout snuggly inside its little acrylic box and I still have no idea how to solve it…

Steve and I spent a while playing with a pre-production copy of Oskar’s Screw Pack – seven interacting screws screw into a large nut-shaped frame – we took turns at trying to build on one another’s’ logical deductions and until we’d jointly solved it in theory, and then started putting it together – at which point we realised there was another potential little issue – so we co-solved that one too and then had it all neatly reassembled… however, that wasn’t sufficient for our Steve – who then proceeded to find a lovely chaotic “solution” with all the screws at different heights – the perfect “assembly” to leave it in for those with OCD to worry to about.

Some time before lunch Andrew and Dan arrived having had a bit of a nightmare journey up the M6. Frank called Lunch and duly rolled out several trays of sandwiches and wraps – the Potts track-record of over-catering remains sound.

Sometime after lunch I tried to interest some folks in attempting my World Traveller Society Kickstarter adventure box… I’d had a little dabble at it a week or so earlier and solved the first puzzle, only to hit a brick wall of “This is tough, I’m going to need help – why don’t I take this along to NPP and get some help from some real puzzle solvers?!” During the course of the rest of the day several people did indeed pitch in and try to help – Tamsin did a sterling job of opening up the first compartment in spite of me giving her a duff steer on where to line up the answer on the first padlock. That provided a veritable trove of intriguing looking artefacts and very little idea of where to go next… so we tried a few avenues and generally came up blank on most of them. After some serious head-scratching and not a lot of progress, we elected to try some hints and ended up wandering down a long and winding road right into a rabbit hole… having traced through all of the hints, and the actual answer – we found ourselves a bit lost as to how the heck we were supposed to settle on that answer, so we tried another puzzle – only to find ourselves in a similar position once more, and then not getting much joy from following an extended trail of hints and eventually the solution itself… so we decided it was clearly meant for far cleverer puzzlers than us, and went back to playing with our other puzzles.

Dan had brought along his (half-sized) copy of Goh Pitt Khiam’s Numlock with a super valuable Israeli Scheckel secured in place… and it duly became the object of an arms race between Steve-the-destroyer-of all-things-orderly, and Dan, who doesn’t have OCD but is seriously considering a long-term relationship with it. They went back and forth many, many times over the course of the afternoon with Steve disassembling and reassembling it with the numbers in the wrong order, only for Dan to calmly open it up in about a third of the time and reorder them properly… somehow neither of them thought it made sense to concede and just leave it alone…

A couple of folks worked their way through Iwahara’s new Quaternary Box and one or two managed to find the second compartment in Bars Box III – so I know that one’s not broken – I’m just being more incompetent than usual…

Frank had to step out at some point in the afternoon so we played another fun round of hide the Kumiki – Steve had found another bunch of old Kumiki puzzles in his collection that he thought Frank would like, so he gave us each one to hide somewhere in Frank’s house… and then challenged Frank to find them all. Frank really loves this game – in fact he’s still playing last year’s round. [Editor’s note: in the week following NPP he found the Kumiki pig that I’d hidden in his dining room last year. The man is on fire…]

At one point Ali announced that it was time for the competition and produced a copy of his new NPP burr for everyone to solve – as a competition… virtually everyone solved their copy before I finally managed to work out just how I was being stupid and what might work a little better – finally managing to assembly the little bugger – only for Ali to present me with a giant sized version and ask me to repeat the process on the larger one… Frank had just done exactly that and discovered he’d assemble them in mirrored forms… it took me almost as long to assemble the second copy – not that sharpest brush on the line… or something. ;-)

The girls had been out painting pottery and shopping up a storm (and nomming cakey!) and when they returned we started prepping for dinner (because we were all famished by that stage – NOT!) – once again it was clear that there was going to be a huge spread, but before dinner, Frank announced there’d be an awards ceremony based on some secret challenges he’d given each one of us to do with Steve during the course of the day. This took Steve a little by surprise and he hadn’t really noticed anything too weird – we each got invited to tell Steve what we’d had to get him to do and in return for our successful achievement of our challenges, Frank awarded each of us with a ceremonial NPP Challenge medal… I had to get Steve to tell me his age and get him to fist-bump me twice (not really my style, but he was very obliging during our co-solve of Oskar’s Screw Pack), Gill had to get him to dance (Hokey Pokey obviously!), someone had to get him to make an animal noise - worryingly he did that entirely of his own accord, Mike had to get him to play rock, paper, scissors and so on… we all had a lot of fun with it – and medals!

After dinner Frank divided us into two teams and we competed in a head-to-head solve of an envelope escape… we came second…

There was a bunch more banter and solving and then it all got a bit too much for some of us… Tamsin took a bit of a nap with Chiquitito but her years of being an on-call doctor kicked in when Frank gently woke her and she jumped up and was fully awake in about 3 microseconds…

Everyone headed off to their respective Airbnb’s and we headed upstairs to bed.

Next morning Frank and Jo treated us to a massive breakfast fit for a king (or three!) before we met up with the rest of the gang at Lucardo in Rawtenstall for a couple of escape rooms. Claus for Concern turned out to be a LOT more puzzly than we’d thought it would be - and Corruption was really excellent – lots of surprising elements in the room that had us absolutely buzzing.

After we’d all finished there was the obligatory comparison of finishing times across the room and bonus points – before a team photo outside the rooms for posterity…

…after a few pretty torrid weeks in the office, that was an absolutely brilliant couple of days with some of my favourite friends – Thank you Frank and Jo for another awesome weekend!