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!]

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