Saturday 18 May 2024

Spinning Tumblers v2

Phil’s first Spinning Tumblers was a nice puzzle – not massively challenging – things largely did what you wanted them to do - you know – it was fun!

Then Eric stepped it up a notch with Psycho Disks, where some things didn’t quite do what you wanted them to… sometimes. It definitely added some confusion.

Now Phil’s taken things to a whole new level. You may think you know what to expect, but trust me you don’t!

Sure, the family resemblance is still there – the form factor is pretty much identical, most of the disks spin, most of the time, and sometimes you’ll even feel like you can controls things… but just when you think you’ve got it sussed, Phil throws you a curveball and you’ll find yourself having a “what the heck?!” moment.

I spent a while going backwards and forwards and struggling to make head or tail of things… I’d come up with a theory and then have it totally blown out of the water a few minutes later… there are elements that behave in ways we’ve seen before, and then there is just plain weirdness that makes almost no sense…

I’d spent absolute ages plugging away at it while learning very little so I took it across on my King’s Day jaunt hoping I’d get some quality puzzling time… and then Ali duly sat down and solved it in front of me in a matter of minutes – I was somewhat gobsmacked, but when I had a look at what was happening inside there, my admiration for both Ali’s solving prowess and Phil’s puzzle-design-chops grew ten-fold.

The family lineage may be clear, but the guts of this little beastie are next generation… after I’d snapped a pic of my serial number (04 for the record) Ali carefully put it back together and rather kindly left “things” quite near the solved position, which was nice of him… the friendly customs man at Schiphol on the way home managed to undo that kindness, so when I got home and tried to open it up again, I found myself having to start from pretty much from scratch – serves me right, I guess!

Armed with a little knowledge of what I’d seen inside there, I managed, with a fair amount of struggling(!) to finally get STv2 open once again… there is so much more to the second version - think of the first one as your genial nan, and the second one as the wolf in nan’s nightclothes salivating while waiting for Little Red Riding Hood.

Phil, you beat me – I suspect I’d still be wandering in the woods if Ali hadn’t helped me out a bit (OK, a lot!) on this one! 

An elegantly simple, excellent design, beautifully made as usual!!


Sunday 5 May 2024

King’s Day 2024

The alarm goes off at 5:30 last Saturday morning and I’m happy - this is one of my favourite weekends of the year: Wil throws a brilliant get-together at his place in Venlo on this Sunday each year (pandemic permitting) and I get to spend a weekend with my mates puzzling without having to do any of the organising myself!

I get to the airport a bit early as there’s a lot of building work in the terminal and there have been some horror stories of massive queues for security… but I find myself getting sent through the priority lane (for no good reason) and I manage to bypass even the little queue there was… of course my bag gets pulled for checking because I’ve brought Phils latest little brass wonder to puzzle on over the weekend. It gets a swabbing and another run through the x-ray machine before I’m allowed to hit Starbucks for a very leisurely coffee and croissant accompanied by some Nikoli puzzles to get the brain going – I’m not sure it works.

The flight is uneventful and after a bit of a detour through immigration I grab a train leaving within minutes of getting onto the platform. I send up the bat signal to let Louis know which train I’m on and he finds me in the usual spot… at this stage I should probably comment on the massive crowds all wearing orange for King’s Day – I look severely under-dressed without any orange clothing whatsoever – it’s easy to spot the tourist!

I check in and ditch the baggage and we head to Louis’ place where Steve and Ali are in full-on puzzle mode – resplendent in their orange t-shirts… I feel even more unpatriotic! Louis puts on a massive spread for lunch before we settle into some communal puzzling.

I’d taken along a bunch of copies of Rik Bouwer’s KubusMix, courtesy of George Bell’s STLs (Thanks George!) as well as a couple of 3D printed Wayne Daniels Four Piece Tetrahedrons, once again courtesy of George’s STLs. The boys didn’t take long to assemble them and I reckon everyone gets a kick the first time they realise what those six strange-looking pieces in two colours might just make…

Ali had a go at my copy of Phil’s Spinning Tumblers v2 and made relatively short work of it – so I now know that I have #4. I have a quick squizz at the innards before Ali very carefully puts it back in the bag ready to open… although he needn’t have bothered – by the time I get through Schiphol security they’ve had it out and fiddled with it and when I get home I found it’s all locked up again… serves me right for trying to be cute!

Minima’s Domino and Twig are also a hit at the table, but nobody manages to find a solution for Delta Force that Tye chucked into my last order (“so that the box wouldn’t be empty!”)…

I have a fiddle with a few of Ali’s Craig Lawton 9-Layer Puzzles – they really are nicely made from nine laser-cut layers of wood and acrylic. I manage to solve one of them properly, another opens with a bit of luck but the others remain well and truly locked up… maybe next time…

Louis orders in a pile of pizzas for dinner before we head out to an escape room… in Belgium. With everyone wearing orange all day and most of the locals visiting either a music festival or a street-market somewhere, all of the local escape rooms are closed, so Louis has found one for us half an hour away in Belgium, as you do…

The escape room turns out to be a bank heist and the gang throw themselves into it as though this was their day job. We play dress-up – Louis looked particularly fetching in that red coat, break into a couple of safes, crack several passwords, abuse an ATM and defeat a Mission Impossible style laser-field to grab the gold… we did spend a while trying to get through the laser-field “properly”, i.e. Louis tried to climb over and around the beams but that wasn’t particularly successful, so in the end Steve just barrelled through it and grabbed the gate before it had a chance to lock itself. After our successful escape we had quite a long debrief in the car on the way back to Louis’ with Steve comparing his dash for the gate to the grace of a gazelle, while others preferred comparisons to silverbacks and rhinoceroses.

A few more hours puzzling back at Louis’ before he dropped us back at the hotel somewhere around midnight… I crash and get up in time to join Ali and Steve for breakfast… it’s a long breakfast with plenty of chat, including discussion of the relative merits of gazelles and rhinoceroses. Louis collects us and we head off to Venlo. (No rhinos spotted en route.)

Wil greets us like long-lost friends and he’s soon plying us with coffee and tarts (of the local fruity variety). Folks start arriving from all over the countryside and soon there’s a pretty decent throng of puzzlers filling up the house and the garden – complete with a new roof extension covering half the garden – that pays for itself later in the day when the heavens opened briefly and we were able to shelter outside without overrunning the living room.

I spread around the remaining copies of KubusMix and encourage folks to have a play and help themselves to a copy and I manage to get rid of all them, just so I don’t need to cart them all home again, you understand. Only a few folks manage to get the colouring wrong and incur a little abuse as a result.

At lunchtime there are some really scrumptious pizzas and we get to meet Wil’s daughter… later there’s more of the usual spread of sandwiches and sweet treats and plenty of coffee and coke to go around.

At some point Steve and I gravitate upstairs to trawl through the many crates just in case there’s some treasure in there. Steve gamely unpacks a crate at a time for us to rake through until he realises his mistake and finds himself trapped behind a wall of puzzles and to-be-puzzles – although in fairness to Wil, sometimes it’s not easy to work out the difference between the two – everything is a puzzle for Wil… some of them just aren’t quite finished yet.

I have a great time catching up with old friends, passing on some English chocolates and exchanging some foldy stuff for a couple of old Rockys and a Petit Four I’m missing.

Everyone has to spend a while playing with Oskar’s latest creations (it’s da law!) and I find myself really enjoying his latest Zigu-variant so I purchase a copy of Zigu-Hook as it’s really fun to fiddle with. He has all manner of new bolts and gears and toys and it’s easy to spend an hour or two just fiddling.

Sometime after five, Wil rounds everyone up and we pile into cars off to his favourite Chinese Restaurant that's just in the throes of reopening properly after the pandemic. We must have about 16 people and they manage to deal with the challenge of feeding a bunch of hungry puzzlers who are dead-set on puzzling most of the way through their dinner… the food is as good as it ever was.

More puzzling and chatter back at Wil’s place after dinner before Louis drops us back at the hotel and I mange to crash at about 1am… I’m not built for late nights anymore!

The monkeys join me for breakfast bright and early next morning even though their flight is only late that afternoon. We chat about the fun we’ve had, puzzles we’ve unexpectedly chanced upon and solved and the relative merits of various sorts of wild animals, oddly. (rhino > gazelle)

I grab the train to Schiphol and kill a few hours with my Nikoli booklet again. Aside from a bit of a wait getting onboard the aircraft due to a delay in getting some inbound passengers off it, my travel home is pretty uneventful… even if I have to leave the sunshine behind at Schiphol.

Thanks Wil for hosting us all and Louis for taking care of us the whole weekend – that was a really brilliant weekend.