Saturday 24 February 2024



Yes – our fiftieth actual in person MPP! That’s pretty cool for a bunch of guys who started getting together in my dining room because we thought it’d be cool to meet up and share our puzzles with other nutters.

Louis and Mieke arrived on Friday evening fresh from an escape room and a city tour of Oxford. After dinner we settled into some gentle puzzling – Louis had brought over a copy of Michel’s new Mibinity puzzle so I had to have a go at that. It’s a really neat little 2D n-ary design that’s been beautifully made by Jack… I take all the pieces apart and examine them and then realise that finding the right starting position turns out to be a bit tricker than I thought it would be… it does go back together again reasonably quickly so that others can have a play the next morning.

Louis has a bit of a play around with my Krasnow Clutch Box which I’ve managed to get into an awkward configuration, but between us we can’t reset it so it stays in the “to be solved” pile.

Next morning we gather our bits and head off to the new venue and try to work out where everything is. We find the tables well-concealed and Louis and I set about putting some out while the first few folks start arriving. When I get back from the shops to collect some fresh milk (there’s always a half empty somewhat sour bottle of milk in every hall we hire for some reason) I spot a familiar old face we haven’t seen in a while – it's great to see Chris after quite a long break.

I’ve taken a few spare copies of Oskar’s Zigguchain, George’s Trapdoor Octahedron and his version of Rik Brouwer’s tRIKube. Steve settles down at the table and begins to assemble tRIKubes in the wrong colour combinations and we end up jousting for a while as I try to disassemble them as fast as he’s assembling them – in my defence, the fit is snug and getting a grip on the right pieces is tricky… he tries the same thing on the Zigguchains but the odds are a bit more in my favour on that one. I manage to get rid of all of the copies I’d taken along and then realised I hadn’t kept a tRIKube apart for myself so end up printing another copy on Sunday.

On the topic of giveaways, Mark K had sent over a bunch of beautifully made little hardwood puzzles for Steve to dish out to all-comers – and he kindly set aside a set of them for me… I say kindly – he gave me a pile of bits and didn’t tell me what puzzles were in there… just an extra puzzle really.

When Frank arrived, he set out a table of books from his Potty Puzzles days and several folks ended up adding to their libraries… he also brought along a couple of custom-made plush toys for the Two Brass Monkeys – complete with their faces printed on the front…. Not at all terrifying for any children who might chance upon them – no siree! They did generate an awful lot of mirth in the room though… job done! :-)

I’d taken my copy of Mike’s 234 Cube along for folks to time themselves on (for science!) and many people had a bash with 7 people actually recording a time (for science!) – the sheet ended up with some amusing answers to the question of puzzle experience – among them “Yes”, “Rubbish at them!” and “No, but lucky” – the latter against the best time of 51 seconds by one S. Nicholls… I think my first attempt took more than 45 times that! (It’s true what they say about my dimness…)

I’d also taken along my recently acquired set of Minima puzzles and ended up encouraging several folks to have a bash of some of them – they really are an amazing little set of a dozen puzzles where the aim on almost all of them is merely to get a few little wooden bits inside an acrylic box. When you hear they’re designed by Frederic Boucher, you’ll understand these are quite challenging… there was lots of agreement about how weirdly hard they were for something that looks like it should be so simple.

It was great to see Adin again and Tamsin decided that it would be wise to bring her daughters along for some puzzling – they seemed to have a grand time, although that may have had more to do with the hall’s wi-fi than the puzzles. Hopefully the puzzlers and their plushies didn’t scar the poor kids for life!

Around noon we wandered up to the High Street for some brain food – with pig rolls winning over kebabs by about 12 to 3 – we missed you, Ed!

After lunch it was back into the puzzling – the Karakuri Christmas presents had a pretty good playing with, with several opportunities for answering the question “Have I finished?” with “Have you found the hanko, yet?” – the answer was always “No…”, but they got there in the end. When you know, you know.

I managed to spend a while chatting with Mikael before foisting Mike’s 234 Cube upon him – and I know this makes me a really bad person, but I was relieved when he didn’t just bang it together in a couple of minutes – thank for making me feel a tiny bit less silly, Mikael! You’re welcome back anytime! :-)

Dan had brought along a couple of variants of GPK’s Numlock… including a stupidly long version that will probably take a lifetime to open properly – we don’t think he assembled that one “properly”…

Louis had brought along his copy of Mail Call and it got a lot of attention – I’d had a chance to play through the first part of it on Friday evening, before resetting it for folks on Saturday, and then on Sunday I got to play through the last section. For my money, the first and last bits are absolutely excellent – seriously good – and if the middle bit were a little less complicated, it would be almost perfect… YMMV.

Sometime after 5pm we tidied up the hall and tried to put everything back more or less where we found it before heading up to the house for yet more puzzling and the traditional fish supper, which didn’t disappoint.

After supper there was a lot more chatting and a bit less puzzling than usual, although there was still a hardcore bunch who insisted on cramming in as much puzzling as they possibly could – everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves … and there was cake in honour of the golden anniversary. What more could you want?

Another great puzzling weekend with my mates – awesome sauce!


Fun, Fun, Fun!


Friday 16 February 2024


Some folks who know me think that I’m a completist, and I do like a nice set of things… and if they happen to look really good together, AND happen to be excellent puzzles, then I’m a bit of a sucker for them…

Radek and Doog’s collection of Demonticons has been steadily growing in a corner of my Rademic shelf over the past few months and the announcement of Scarlett produced a predictable order from Barnt Green.

Scarlett is a delightful shade of, err, scarlet and she looks suitably goofy with some seriously exaggerated eyelashes on one side, and, err, not on the other. The supercilious grin invites you to come and have a go (‘cos of course you think you’re hard enough!).

One thing is very clear from the off, there is a lot going on inside there – something that a casual shake will confirm before you even try anything! If you’ve spent any time with the earlier Demonticons, there are a couple of things you’ll try to get things going, and some of them may well appear to be useful… but they won’t get you very far at all.

From here on you’ll need to summon your wits and your puzzle-solving (and potentially adjacent!) skills if you’re going to make any progress whatsoever. The guys have given you enough clues to be able to work out what you probably want to – if you’re paying attention – and then it’s all down to you to execute…

Scarlett’s backstory tells you that she’s in the fashion industry and challenges you to find out what’s she’s working on when you get inside. Once again, there are some excellent easter eggs to reward the solver – I thought Zak’s easter egg was really cool and on theme – this one’s even better!

I love the fact that these puzzles look great on the outside, provide a decent challenge and then give you an extra reward when you finally crack them open. Once again, the machining and finish is seriously top-notch, but then you wouldn’t expect anything less from Doog and Radek, would you?

Saturday 10 February 2024

234 Cube Puzzle

Just before Christmas I had an email out of the blue from Mike Toulouzas asking to confirm my address, which was a bit strange as I wasn’t expecting anything from him at the time. We confirmed that he had the right address, and when I asked him why he needed it, he was a little evasive and just said he wanted to send me something… errm, OK.

A few weeks later a neat little package arrived courtesy of Royal Mail and Hellenic Post… as I unwrapped the carefully packaged puzzle I found that Mike had been incredibly generous - nestled in a bubble wrap cocoon is a gorgeous little wooden box, complete with a large wooden hinge securing a lid in place. Open the lid with a little click and you find a bunch of multi-coloured cubies looking up at you begging to play…

As luck would have it I didn’t have time to play that evening, so I dashed off a quick email to Mike to let him know his gift had arrived safely and that it looked stunning… and then left it on the desk for a couple of days until I had some time to play…

A couple of days later I tipped out the pieces and set about trying to assemble a 3x3x3 cube - there’s a cubie attached to the inside of the box in case you’re concerned that 2x2x7 <> 3x3x3. You have six pieces ranging from a simple domino up to a rather odd 7-cubie shape… in fact, the pieces step up nicely and form a set of 2,3,4,5,6 and 7 cubies… which is interesting…(c)LB.

OK, so you’ve got six pieces and you’re “only” trying to build a 3x3x3 cube…. and what’s more, you’ve got some pretty simple pieces that should make finishing off the construction pretty trivial… right?

It turns out that your brain is going to seriously get in the way of your solving this puzzle…

Mike had asked me to time myself on my first three solves, so I sort of felt obliged to tell him him just how long it had taken me to assemble this cube the first time… and it was embarrassingly long!

I thought I’d learnt from my mistakes the first time around when I tried it a second time, but it still took me longer than I’d care to admit and it was only when I did it a third time that I felt I achieved something I wouldn’t have been embarrassed by, had it been my first attempt! 
That set of pieces seriously messes with your head and makes you do exactly the wrong thing and without fail you’ll end up over and over with holes that don’t match up to the piece that you have left in your hand. I lost count of the number of times that I ended up with three holes in a straight line on my assembly while I stared at a v-shaped tri-cube in my hands.

I’m looking forward to inflicting this one on the MPP gang in a week's time and while I’m sure they won’t take nearly as long as I did the first few times, I know they’ll get a kick out of it…

Thanks so much Mike - that was an incredibly generous gift…
PS Kevin had a similar experience to me, except he managed to solve it a LOT faster than I did! :-) 

Sunday 4 February 2024

Pick Me

A while back I received an email out of the blue from Fabien Wirig. He described himself as an aspiring puzzle designer and was looking for some thoughts on a new puzzle he’d designed. While I was delighted with the approach, I was also more than a little surprised given that I really don’t consider myself an expert on either solving or designing puzzles (albeit I am an enthusiastic hoarder!), so I did what I thought was the most sensible thing and replied saying that I was flattered, but that he’d be far better off seeking the counsel of my mate Louis who is both a far better solver than me, and a proficient puzzle designer… but when Fabien admitted that he’d already sent a similar email to Louis and he was on board, I signed up to help as well.

A few days later I received a little package in the post containing a prototype of Fabien’s sequential discovery puzzle called “Pick Me” – which gets its name from the grinning alligator guitar pick trapped inside, begging to be freed. The puzzle’s been very nicely 3D printed and it’s a really convenient size for leaving in a pocket and fiddling with whenever you feel the urge. Most sides have something interesting on them, be that some sort of button or slider or window. The bottom has some intriguing glyphs neatly embedded in the 3D printing (cute touch!) and the sides have a nice grippy surface texture – Fabien’s clearly thought a lot about this little package!

There’s a lot to explore when you start out – there are all sorts of things that look interesting and some yield some sort of reaction almost immediately… albeit most aren’t quite ready for you yet. It’s definitely worth looking at every little detail very carefully – there is ultimately a lot going on in there.

Once you find the first figurative thread to tug on, you’re rewarded with a little tool and that leads to some interesting new games to play… although further progress will definitely require a bit of thought. The first time I solved this puzzle it took me several sessions over a couple of days, and a nudge from Louis!

Along the way you’re rewarded with a few more tools and at least one really surprising mechanism – there’s a delightful little moment when a little bit of magic pops up – I love that bit!

When you’ve got a few tools, things really get interesting as you work through a number of different little challenges. I love the way that some things that have been staring at you all along suddenly become far more interesting when you look at them in a different (figurative) light – the interactions between all the little bits are excellent, and sometimes very confusing, and at times you’ll be convincing yourself there are stacks of red herrings dotted around, only to realise your mistake in the next stage of the solution.

When you finally get to release the pick, take a moment to appreciate the engraved congratulatory message (another cute touch) and the serial number on the back of the pick – Fabien’s done a really great job on this one… and I told him so a couple of days after I received it. I also told him I don’t think he’s an aspiring puzzle designer – I think he’s already proved he’s a great puzzle designer, he just needs to let more people get hold of his puzzles now…

Several months later a second iteration arrived that looked a little sharper and had some internal modifications to make things a bit more robust, but Fabien was still not ready to release his new baby to the wider world - I thought it was great...

Fast forward an even longer while and Fabien was excitedly back in touch with news that he thought it was ready now - Pick Me #12 duly arrived in the post and it really looks the part - body is now a matt black with gold writing on the top and those glyphs on the bottom now look even sharper... the mechanics are really reliable (to the point that at one stage I thought they weren't, only to realise I'd been caught out by Fabien's trickery) and there are some helpful visual clues to show you progress... it's begging to be played with now.

…if you want a copy of this little wonder, please reach out to Fabien (SelkisFR on the Mechanical Puzzle Discord) and he'll sort you out...

This one keeps on bringing new challenges to the table – I defy you not to be impressed by the ingenuity inside this little pocket-sized puzzle. 

[In the interests of full disclosure - Fabien wouldn't let me pay for the (three!) prototypes I received, but I'm in the queue for a bunch of copies for some friends I thought would really get a kick out of it - that's how impressed I was with it!]