Sunday 23 June 2024

Air Lock

One of my favourites from an earlier Pelikan release, Air Lock is a classic Goh Pit Khiam design: a simple frame and five straight-forward pieces begging to be placed inside said frame – the only possible hurdle is the rather narrow (two voxel) opening in the frame – that and the clear acrylic that’s stopping you from simply dropping the pieces into the frame.

A simple visual inspection of the pieces is going to show you that not only are rotations required just to get at least one of those pieces into the frame at all, once you get some of the pieces inside the frame, there is very little room to actually do anything useful… there are ample holes in the clear acrylic to allow access to manoeuvre those pieces, there just isn’t an awful lot of spare room!

…so a plan is going to be required.

Of course I set out “knowing” where some of the more troublesome pieces would have to go and I duly spent a while trying to make that work… as you might expect, that turned out to be pretty fruitless and I went back to basics and jettisoned all of my “knowledge”.

…that allowed a couple of rather more helpful discoveries, and in due course the discovery of a wonderful solution path that that is an absolute delight. Everything needs to be done in just the right order, or nothing works… I did say it was a classic Goh Pit Khiam design after all. 


* No that isn’t the solution – there’s a stray voxel in the opening – that’s not allowed.

Sunday 16 June 2024

Cash Back

I managed to snag a copy of Cash Back from Alan’s second release and it arrived at the tail end of the week. Gill had a pile of pals around so I spent some quality time fiddling around with the latest little cubic wonder.

It’s the same size and colour as it’s brethren, there’s the familiar coin/token waiting patiently to be freed and the usual assortment of holes and slits around the sides… oh, and the rather obvious bolt. Of course there’s also the familiar instruction card telling you not to break the puzzle, as if…

I duly get sucked into this one and find myself doing the obvious things and I find I can make stuff happen, and even make it unhappen (sometimes that’s important!). Stuff moves around and I feel like it’s useful, but it’s not getting me very close to freeing the coin…

… I spend quite a while trying very similar things and getting exactly the same reaction and keep hoping that something different might just happen… Yup, I should know better!

After a particularly fruitless period I try something different and find the in my lap – which is great, except I seem to have found myself up a creek with my paddle stuck in a tree. You had one useful tool and you managed to get it jammed! Call yourself a puzzlist?

I spend a little while panicking and trying increasingly desperate things but I can’t find my way out of there… and I begin to doubt the designer’s abilities – have I been able to do something I thought was sensible and bricked my puzzle?

Turns out the answer to that is “No, Alan Lunsford is a damn good puzzle designer!” – I’m just not quite up to his level of thinking yet… it does take me a little while longer but I finally manage to get there and my faith in the designer and his mighty excellent puzzles is thoroughly restored…

I really loved the cat and mouse game that I nearly lost in there… highly recommended if you know someone who needs taking back down a peg or two.

Saturday 8 June 2024

Hugo the Hippo

TLDR: Juno has yet another award-winning puzzle right there!

When Juno announced the imminent arrival of Hugo the Hippo, he was at pains to point out that this wasn’t a sequential discovery puzzle – it was a secret opening box – and one that he thought wouldn’t be particularly challenging for puzzlers. It was almost as though he was trying to manage expectations down and dampen down any enthusiasm…

As it turned out, his entire first batch sold out in under a couple of minutes so I was lucky to be around for the sale and managed to snag a copy that duly arrived about a week later.

Hugo is a handsome hunk of Fijian Mahogany (with a few little bits of Jarrah for colour and some other bits and bobs for the mechanics). He has eyes that follow you around the room and a cheeky personality with a big grin inviting you to have a go at discovering his secrets.

I’m not going to describe much of the solve because I think that’s such a fun little journey that everyone needs to enjoy themselves… I will confirm that he has a massive toothy maw and that the cheeky little fella will give the unwary a little nip from time to time. (I loved that bit…)

The puzzley bits are most definitely sequential, with several fun discoveries along the way. The mechanisms are wonderfully robust, as you’d expect from Juno, so you won’t have any qualms about letting anyone have a go at Hugo.

For me, this is a classic Juno puzzle that really hits the sweet spot for maximising puzzling fun. You don’t need to be a black belt puzzlist to stand a chance of solving Hugo, and I reckon that literally everyone will get a decent dopamine hit from playing with Hugo.

It’s the sort of puzzle that would probably do very well in a sort of head-to-head competition where puzzlists choose their favourite new puzzle… if there were such a thing, of course.

Sunday 2 June 2024


This was definitely the most exclusive MPP in a long while… we had none of the usual overseas visitors and Big-Steve was over in Hobbit-land visiting his mum. As a result MPP literally only started at 10am on Saturday for me instead of the evening before. I picked up some milk and cold drinks on my way to the hall and I’d just about got most of my stuff out of the car when Ali and the London gang pulled in.

I set up the stuff in the kitchen while the lads unpacked some tables and chairs… clearly channelling Steve in the process… they settle on one straight row and a zig-zag row to encourage conversation, with one table up against the wall for anyone we didn’t like… in the end that one didn’t get used – draw your own conclusions!

I’d printed a bunch of things to dish out and spent a while encouraging folks to have a play with a three-piece cube assembly I’d found on Printables by something called mad gardener – I’d printed off a pile of the 4*4*4 cubes because I thought they were fun, and a couple of the 5*5*5 cubes because I thought they were less fun… clearly I’m not a good judge of puzzles as everyone who played with the 5*5*5 succeeded in assembling them rather rapidly and pronounce them good… I managed to find homes for all of the 5*5*5’s and a chunk of the 4*4*4’s, but there’s still a pile of those left, so I may need to take them to America to foist them on some unsuspecting puzzlers who don’t know better.

I’d also printed off a few sets of George Bell’s Hex Screws – I’d tried, spectacularly unsuccessfully to put the simple assembly together so I offer rich a copy if he’d assemble a set for me – and of course I wanted the difficult assembly – it was Rich after all! He ended up spending a fair amount of time, but managed to crack it in the end and I now have an assembled copy in my cabinet – and if anyone disassembles it, they will probably be drowned in the tears of a disentanglement of puzzlers – you’ve been warned…

Rich brought along a couple of sets of Akaki’s baskets and a few folks who hadn’t yet made their acquaintance ended up scoring a few of them – he’d re-printed a set in a different size so he was giving away the smaller set – good lad!

Rich also brought along a bunch of his own designs – a couple of design studies of three-linked six-piece burrs -one set included Love’s Dozen and Piston Burr tied to a third burr to make for some interesting interactions – I can vouch for the fact that it’s well-challenging trying to keep your head around them…

He also had a few simple little two piece take-aparts that lead you nicely up the garden path and then stop you and make you think when you get onto the third one…

One of the good things about having a smaller bunch this time around was that we got to spend some time getting to know folks a little better – I had no idea that Pastor Dan was in fact a Reverend (available for weddings, divorces and burials – apparently he never leaves home without a shovel just in case he’s called upon) and we heard about the time Kyle thought he’d nearly died in a hot tub (literally days before that Friendly actor did) – he’d finished off (but not in a weird way – © KCM) in the hot tub outdoors in the driving rain (again, not in a weird way – © KCM) when he became very light-headed (you’re getting the hang of this now, aren’t you?) and he swears there was no Ketamine involved, but apart from that, the likeness with Matthew Perry’s death a few days later was apparently uncanny! (But not in a weird way – © KCM.)

Kyle had a set of his wooden puzzles and I took the opportunity to play with them as I hadn’t seen them before… I can definitely see why they’ve been so popular on Discord – I managed to limp my way through the first two, but the third one had me asking for a hint and still not getting any further… so I’m going to have to try again in the future.

Hugo the Hippo had arrived earlier in the week so he had an outing and several folks enjoyed taking him to bits and then reassembling him…

We totally managed to miss out on the pig rolls, arriving on the high street just after they’d sold out so I ended up with pork en croute and an onion bhaji. Healthy eating at its finest!

Dale tormented Frank and a few others with Teddy’s Bear(?) which arrived and left in bits – spending a brief amount of time badly (very badly!) entangled, but never solved.

Back at the house afterwards Frank and Chris had a go at Jesse’s Captain’s Quest – Frank doing most of the solving with Chris proving a running sound effect score to enhance Frank’s solving experience (but not in a weird way – © KCM). When the sound effects weren’t amusing Chris sufficiently, he resorted to words of encouragement (“Pump, it more Frank” – albeit not in a weird way – © KCM). At one point most of us were in tears – but to their credit, they did manage to pretty much complete the solve…

Some of Juno's older designs had a thorough playing with and Lilly showed the boys a thing or two onAir lock and Ziggu-Hook. Alexander Magyarics' Delta Force (courtesy of Tye) had a good playing with with quite a surprising number of folks managing to find the symmetric assembly...

Somewhere in between there was some fish and chips and most folks headed home as it was getting dark, so not too late an evening… and then on Sunday, I find myself with time to write up the obligatory blog post… and while it still feels weird not having any visitors at all for an MPP, it was a damn fun day’s puzzling with my mates – thank you all for the amusement you provided, intentionally or otherwise!