Sunday 21 April 2024

More Minima!

Just after I wrote about the set of Minima Puzzles I’d acquired, both Tye and Frederic got in touch. Frederic happily engaged in a bit of back and forth on the thinking behind the Minima series, how he approaches the design process and told me about a couple of Minima designs that will hopefully be produced in the future – some of which sound absolutely awesome! Tye was chuffed that I’d enjoyed them so much and had appreciated the effort that went into producing them.

Frederic and Tye both pointed out that there was another already in the Nothing Yet Designs shop (Minima Domino), with a further one due along shortly… so I duly bought a copy of Domino and asked Tye to hang onto it as I was about to head out on holiday… somewhere along the way Minima Twig was released and I added that to the order and when I got back home, Tye shipped them over… along with a pile of other puzzles he just threw in, “so that the box wouldn’t be empty”! (Thanks Tye - I’m still working my way through a few of those!)

Minima Domino consists of the usual form-factor box with a single 2*1 opening on one side. Two of the other sides have a small slit and there are a number of thoughtful holes to facilitate a little manoeuvring of the pieces inside the box… there are a couple of captive blocks already helpfully placed in opposite corners and your task is to simply insert the 5 dominoes into the box…

See when I said those two blocks had been helpfully placed in the opposite corners, I lied… it turns out they really make things a lot more complicated. Once again the elegance of the design shines through on this puzzle – the 5 dominoes are identical so you don’t need to keep track of different pieces – it’s all “just” about getting them inside the box.

I ended up spending some time working through the potential ways of arranging the pieces in the box in a bid to reduce the number of assemblies to try… it’s not hard to deduce what’s possible for the final move or two, but the “interesting” bit is then trying to get the preceding pieces into place without needing to move pieces through one another or indeed through the side wall of the box.(The latter is discouraged.)

As you’d expect, every little element of the design is both necessary and (just) sufficient – the Minima-family-resemblance is clear.

Minima Twig looks totally different – while the box-shape is the same as the rest of the series, the pieces (once again all dominoes) have steel twigs sprouting out from either an end or a side and there are a number of slots and holes in the box that seem to be far more about the twigs than about facilitating rotations… this one’s different!

This time you’ve clearly got two types of pieces and it looks as though you’re going to need to get a twig protruding from every hole or slot in the box… he wouldn’t give you an extra hole or two, would he?

Experimenting to try an find which piece can use which holes is quite fun… don’t be tempted to assume you’ve found all the different ways of using those holes and slots until you’ve actually solved the puzzle – keep an open mind!

Start putting pieces in and you quickly find yourself back in familiar Minima-territory - the order of assembly is critical, even with just two types of pieces. The solution path might not be as complex as some of the earlier Minima, but the A-Ha’s along the way are just as pleasant.  

Definitely a worthy addition to the canon – and clearly the funkiest looking one so far… lovely work by Tye on a super design from Frederic.

I’m definitely keeping an eye out for any new designs in this series.

Sunday 14 April 2024


[Thanks Tyler for the improved Roman Numerals!]

I collected the Gill and the Dutch contingent (Wil, Rob K and Louis) from the airport and we headed back to the house for some re-acquainting and some puzzling before the pizza’s came out of the oven and the puzzles disappeared while the pizzas were nommed… in relative silence. After the pizzas there were ice creams and then the puzzling resumed.

Will had gifted me a new puzzle box from JCC with some lovely intricate decoration and a prominent heart on the top… it was clear that it would have something to do with the solution, but it stubbornly resisted any attempts at getting it to do anything interesting… for quite a long time. Finally I found something potentially useful to explore before making a bit of progress, but it still took a while for me to stumble across the right thing and open the box to find a very compact mechanism housed inside the lid of the box – very neatly designed giving the right amount of puzzling and leaving plenty of space for the obligatory loaves of bread.

I’d printed a couple of copies of Mowens’ Paino Box for folks to have a bash at and Louis duly spent a while dismantling one copy entirely… stopping and starting it a couple of times as there’s a really sneaky bit after the first five or six pieces. Once he’d bashed through that wall, the rest yielded appropriately. He spent a while admiring the design of a number of the pieces (they really are intricate!) before working through the reassembly, occasionally stopping to reverse a few steps and insert a piece that should already be in there already… judging by Louis’ reaction it works quite well as either an assembly or a disassembly puzzle.

After some coffees and plenty of puzzling, I dropped the guys at their AirBnB and went home to crash.

Next morning I got all my stuff together and collected the boys on the way to the hall to get set up. Chris was already there and the Brass Monkey mobile with Mike and Rich in tow arrived just as we got there… Sam and Dale were having a chat in the carpark – great to see Sam again after quite a long break. It’s great to arrive and find a bunch of friends already there keen to get puzzling and chatting.

I left the lads setting up the tables and chairs while I headed off to grab some cold drinks and some fresh milk and by the time I got back I could tell which tables Steve had set up: there was a neat square of tables around the edge and two tables pushed together at a jaunty angle in the centre.

I’d taken along Planet with a Ring I & II for folks to compare (and more likely contrast!) and several folks seemed to enjoy them over the course of the day.

Having recently received a copy of Loris, I decided to take all of my Frank Chambers puzzles out for a play too and they seemed to go down very well indeed, albeit I don’t think I actually saw anyone solve Loris… let me know if I’m wrong! Ring Box raised a LOT of laughs, with almost everyone solving it under the table for some reason and some folks having something to say about certain others' enthusiastic resetting techniques. If you know, you know…

I had a lot of fun toying with Rich while he tried to solve Peter Hajek’s Matchbox – if only he’d just asked the question he wanted to, somebody would have given him an honest answer! (Probably…)

Juno’s Tetracircles got quite a lot of interest. Rob had made short work of both sides the night before and during the course of Saturday several more declared victory over it… leaving me gently sobbing as I haven’t managed either side in what seems like ages… one of these days!

Fraser brought along his own twist on Kohno Ichiro’s Three Cubes puzzle… with articulating pieces which adds another few degrees of freedom and a whole lot more puzzling. He was dishing out copies left, right and centre and I suspect that everyone ended up with their own copy – thanks Fraser!

[I won’t bore you with yet another description of the pig rolls, but they were good!]

Kyle had brought along a prototype for the new MW Puzzles pinball machine that’s been teased on Discord a bit… I think some folks made a little bit of progress, but I got absolutely nowhere – saving all the joy in the hopes of managing to grab a copy for myself at some point… it looks absolutely brilliant in real life.

Phil had brought along a few copies of his new version of Spinning Tumblers (v2) so I gave the man some cash and put a copy aside to play with later… when later came (on Sunday) it thoroughly kicked my R’s – and I have yet to make much meaningful progress… when I do manage to solve it, I’m sure you’ll hear about it!

Jesse’s Fibonacci box got a fair amount of interest, albeit given the indeterminate state it’d spent most of its time in, nobody managed to open it, until Sunday when Louis sat down with a sheet of paper and drew an exhaustive map of all of the states it can be in, and from that we determined the start and end positions and the all-important numbering system, which gives it its Fibonacci-ness – albeit only after I managed to seriously confuse things by being absolutely certain about the start of the series, only to find out I was wrong after Louis’ map suggested otherwise and the internet confirmed I was being a numpty.

Wil was selling a few interesting goodies including his latest exchange puzzle, copies of the EPP booklets, JCC’s new Heart Box and a really interesting new Indian-style puzzle lock. I’d managed to solve the lock the night before but during the course of the day I convinced myself I needed to add a copy to the hoard: it looks really familiar and indeed some elements work the way you might expect, but there’s a wonderful twist that puts a smile on everyone’s face when they find it…

Predictably we decamped and there were fish suppers and a bunch more puzzling at my place – and even some attempts at dexterity, but it might have been too late in the day for that… there was a lot of chat – some it puzzling, before everyone headed their own separate ways and I dropped the Dutch folks back at their home from home.

Next morning I collected them after breakfast and we puzzled furiously (I’ve already told you about Louis’ proper go at the Fibonacci box), I had a play with the Criss Cross Cube that Rob had given me on Friday evening and managed to work through a fair chunk of the simpler challenges before the harder challenges slowed me down quite a lot. I suspect the wizard levels are going to keep me amused for quite a while.

I spent a while on Phil’s latest toy, not getting very far at all – that one is going to take a bit more Think (c) and probably a bit of Listen (not c) as well.

Gill cooked us some gourmet hotdogs for lunch that went down very well before I dropped the lads off at BHX for their flight back to AMS… another excellently puzzling weekend – thanks to all who joined us and provided amusement.


Thursday 4 April 2024

A horse with a warrior

The fist time A horse with a warrior came up for sale I missed out in the lottery, so when the Karakuri-clan announced they’d be making another batch I tried again and managed to snaffle one the second time around.
This little guy is very much a statement piece - somewhat larger than your average Karakuri creation - it’s very obviously meant to be a Trojan beast of burden. 

While it’s clearly a horse, it’s definitely not so much of a horse that it’s lost its Trojan roots - those remain very clearly visible… and when you start playing with it there are several nods to that nature along the way. 

Kasho-San has introduced a number of wonderfully playful elements into the solve to remind you of the mythology, and possibly even nudge you along in the right direction. 

There are several pleasing steps along the solve, one or two surprises along the way and some really cool puzzle elements… and just in case you think you’re prematurely finished, there are one or two hints (including  a window into the beast’s soul and it’s very name!) to keep you going until you finally finish this solve… remember that if you haven’t found the hanko yet, you aren’t done…