Sunday, 19 March 2023

Window Lock 2

I really enjoyed Dick Hensel’s Window Lock so when I heard Peter talking about a second Window Lock, I pricked up my ears and duly dropped Dick an email asking to be placed in the queue.

A little while back I had the notification that my copy was ready, so PayPal headed one way across the pond while a small package headed the other way.

There’s a really strong family resemblance here – there’s the familiar wooden case and shackle, this time in oak, and the big acrylic window taking up almost the entire front of the puzzle. Everything is on display, right?

A quick wiggle of the shackle shows that it’s firmly held in place on the left by a large ball bearing and several oddly-shaped bits of wood seem to be holding the right hand side in place. There’s a stray brass ball floating around the middle of the lock and a vast number of carefully shaped little wooden obstacles getting in the way of that ball and indeed of one another.

There’s a tool that can be used o manipulated some of the bits and pieces inside, but form the start there’s almost nothing that can actually be done… so the first order of business sis to find out what’s stopping you from doing anything…

A bit of jiggling and prodding and poking and you can start moving things around a little and freeing up some space… only Bill’s carefully designed things so that you’re invariably going to have to double back on yourself a few times when you realise that you really should have done something else right at the beginning.

I ended up thinking I was making stunning progress several times until I got stopped dead in my tracks by something that needed doing, only it couldn’t be done in the current configuration and everything needed rewinding…

Try and think a few steps ahead, but be prepared to be outfoxed by Dick!

I really enjoyed working out how to get everything where it needs to be and then executing it and (finally) seeing the shackle swing open.

Oh, and you might want to plan the reset as well!

Saturday, 11 March 2023

Noodling Box

Eric fuller was a giant among men. Not only as a tall, imposing guy, but often as the bloke with the serious mohawk at our annual puzzle parties. Softly-spoken and an absolute gentleman, he had a rapier-sharp sense of humour and puzzle-chops like nobody’s business. He was a great solver of puzzles, but he had an absolute gift for both designing puzzlers’ puzzles and for selecting interesting designs from others… most people will know him best for the amazing craftmanship in the puzzles he’s been making and selling through Cubic Dissections for years.

The puzzling community lost one of the good guys when he passed away last year – I’m going to miss his larger-than-life personality at IPPs, and I know that there will be thousands of folks who have an Eric-shaped hole in their lives now. My heart goes out to his friends and family who must be missing him so much more than me – hugs to you all.


Noodling Box was one of the last projects that Eric worked on – he’d spoken about it now and then and it sounded one of those projects that he’d dip back into every now and then, noodle around a bit, and then work on something else… until he thought it was ready to unleash.

The name, apparently comes from the act of catching catfish with one’s bare hands (not one’s bear hands, that’s another sport entirely!) by enticing them out of their underwater caves and then presumably grabbing them. I’m no expert, but I wonder if there’s potentially a more effective way of doing all that… either way, I’m sure that it’s at least partially relevant to the puzzle – or just another of Eric’s jokes on an unsuspecting puzzler.

My copy has an African Teak case with a Quilted Sycamore drawer – at least I assume it’s a drawer as it wiggles a bit, but resolutely won’t open. There are a few noticeable holes around the sides, some of which seem to have something lurking just below the surface (a catfish, of sorts?). The front of the drawer has a round knob with a little bit of a wiggle to it… but again, nothing that seems useful at all…

I end up spending quite a while making absolutely ZERO progress until I notice something worth exploring. One thing leads to another and I find myself in command of a small, but perfectly formed, tool.

At this stage I’m pretty chuffed and I reckon it’ll probably be plain sailing from here on in having finally cracked my way in… disappointment awaits… and I end up contemplating increasing dangerous things that I could do with my little tool, as I try things in turn, none of which seem to be of any use whatsoever…

There’s an obvious place for me to want to get to at this stage, only my tool won’t allow… I spend several days Think- (c)-ing to almost no avail.

Progress finally comes from trying something I hadn’t thought of yet – which is obvious really, until you think of it… only you don’t, and you won’t, because it’s Eric, and he knows exactly how puzzlers think… and then uses that against you, totally.

From there on I manage a bit more sustained progress and actually get the puzzle to where someone who hasn’t come across Eric yet might consider the puzzle to be solved… only you haven’t seen his hanko and there are some as-yet-unexplained noises going on inside the box, and there’s altogether too much space left…

Onwards, and sometimes upwards, until some further discoveries, including at least one that will literally blow your mind and then you’ll have not only the hanko, but also your prize – totally befitting a Noodling Box.

The puzzling journey is beautifully designed with definite stages of discovery along the way – there were two or three times that my head was blown on aspects of the solution. Everything is that precisely made it’s virtually impossible to guess what’s going to be happening until it actually happens

The gang at Cubic have really done Eric proud on this one – well done folks!


Sunday, 5 March 2023

Even Dia-BALL-icer

Since printing out a few sets of George’s Octaballs, I spotted a new design on his Etsy shop for a rather handsome variant – also called Octaball -  so I shopped a little, you know, to justify the postage across the pond and ended up getting a copy of George’s Flippe Ball (I should have got one of those ages ago!), a Frankenstar and a copy of his Maze Pennyhedron Puzzle which I really enjoyed playing with in the Design Competition. 


This Octaball is properly round and has a great Yin-Yang thing going on in the colouring of the pieces. It’s a variation of the basic Octaball 2, with the exterior expanded into a complete sphere. It retains the great little expansion and contraction feature of the original, although the shapes you’re looking for on the outside are a bit different – you can still play with expanding and contracting by pushing on the opposites sides.
Expand it fully and you’ve got the four strange shapes in two pairs to reassemble. This time it’s worth giving a little thought to the colouring so you get the full impact of the Yin-Yang-i-ness going properly.

While the pieces may have a little more material, it’s still a wonderfully slippery sucker to put together – you will be “blessing” George’s "creativity" when you’re struggling with this one too!


While I’m on the topic of balls, George threw in an extra chocolate box to go with the Triple Chocolate Box set I bought from him a while back. He’s been working on the set and found a fourth box shape that’s been christened Hershey.

As with the previous challenges the object is to place all of the conjoined balls inside the box so that the lid shuts (easily!) – I’d really enjoyed playing with the first three – and was particularly impressed that all three appeared to require a different form of packing to get the pieces into the box…

This box doesn’t disappoint! 

I spent a while trying to establish what the likely packing arrangement between the different layers could be and then it took me quite a while to work out where the pieces needed to be to construct those layers…

If you already have George’s Triple Chocolate Box, be warned, there’s another candy bar in town. (Gill and I have volunteered to sample further chocolatey delights in the pursuit of any further boxes that require naming.)

Monday, 27 February 2023


[Disclaimer - do not use my roman numerals for anything - you will be tirelessly mocked - yes I know they're wrong... they have been for quite some time...]

Our first MPP of 2023 was a fairly sedate affair – a small, select group of puzzlers gathered for just an afternoon’s puzzling as the hall wasn’t available in the morning (for the first four months of the year!). That probably discouraged some of the usual crowd, and then a few folks cried off on the morning with a variety of ailments from light sniffles through to full-blown COVID – thank you for not bringing those!

When I rolled up to the hall, Steve, Ali and Rich were already waiting patiently and Phil arrived immediately afterwards. The lads set up some tables and chairs while I sorted out the refreshments (priorities!) and then unpacked some puzzles, grabbed a cup of coffee and a fistful of biscuits before settling down to some puzzling.

Oli and his clan arrived, and after the obligatory greetings Kirsty and the boys headed out to the science museum while Oli was allowed to stay and puzzle for the afternoon. Tamsin, Mike, Frank and Dale appeared at some point and that was it for the rest of the day – 10 happy puzzlers passing puzzles around and “encouraging” one another… with plenty of biscuits because I’d typically catered for double that number.

Phil had brought along a few copies of his latest creation, Free the Washer, and I hastily shoved a fistful of twenty pound notes in his hand and took a copy off him. It’s a hefty brass and steel cage with a little split washer languishing around inside - the steel bars doing a pretty good job of trapping the washer. I saw Frank playing with a copy and found out the next day that he’d solved it at MPP – it took me a while to solve it over the following two days – Frank definitely deserves the bragging rights on that one!

I’d taken along the latest haul from Pelikan, some of which I’d managed to have a play with already… Cerebrus was the definite favourite – three pieces in a frame that wind around and round one another over a huge number of moves before the first piece is released from the frame.

Ali had brought along a huge container jammed with Lego puzzles and after enjoying my first experience of a Lego puzzle quite a lot, I ended up spending a fair while working my way through a few of them until disaster struck and I sprayed Lego pieces across the floor and then spent ages unsuccessfully trying to rebuild the puzzle… I even involved the local Lego expert, Oli in my ultimately unsuccessful attempts to rebuild it so had to give it back to Ali in bits, and grovel quite a bit. (It took Ali all of about 5 minutes to rectify the situation the next morning proving that (a) I know nothing about fixing Lego puzzles and (b) I need to find a new Lego expert.)

A few folks had a bash at my Pooplock and all got stuck pretty much exactly where I’ve been stuck for a few months now… which is a pity because I was hoping someone would be able to make some further progress so that I’d be able to follow in their footsteps… sadly that sneaky plan came to nought, and Quigley just watched us suffering and grinned.

Ali and I had a long chat about PuzzledByPiker’s Pocket Change puzzles – we’d both solved the Yellow and Orange puzzles and had both made exactly the same discoveries on the red one and stopped in exactly the same spot… I don’t know if our chat helped Ali, but I’m certainly none the wiser and still stumped!

A few folks had a bash at Eros, but I didn’t spot anyone making any serious progress so I ‘m probably going to have to solve that one on my own too!

The Christmas Karakuri boxes all got a good playing with Kawashima-san’s Origin Regression Cube definitely winning out on the puzzling front, while the Angry Lion and Cat & cardboard box vied for cutest of the bunch.

Somehow our five hours flew by and we found ourselves hurriedly packing up to vacate the hall by 6pm – we almost made it…

Sadly there would be no fish suppers at chez Walker this time either, so it really was a strange MPP – normal service should resume at the end of May!

Saturday, 18 February 2023

ShiftBrick Mini Lego Puzzle Box

One of the great things about hanging out on Peter Hajek’s Virtual End of Year Puzzle Party is that you get to see what puzzles everyone else really enjoyed over the last year… and every now and then you get a recommendation from one of your mates that you just have to try out.

…and so it ‘twas that Peter Wiltshire made me aware of a great little Lego puzzle from ShiftBrick. Now Peter knows his puzzles, and if he reckons something is good, there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to like it… so I ordered a few copies thinking that some of my local-ish mates might want a copy too…

It duly arrived, rather well-packaged and I have to say it’s a cute little guy! There’s a handsome coloured pattern on the top, one or two gaps around the sides, and a single little green brick on one side… and your mission is to expose the money tile on that little green brick.

I started fiddling and found myself making some progress before having to shift gear a little to make some more progress and then after a few more steps, amusingly I found myself a little stuck – which might be a bit embarrassing if you think this is just a little one-inch cubed collection of Lego bricks…

It turns out this little puzzle has a couple of unexpected tricks up its sleeve – it may well lull you into thinking you understand what’s going on and all you need to do is explore all the possibilities – until that stops working and you might even need to Think ©! <I did!>

Compact little gem of a puzzle that I’m really glad Peter alerted me to… cheers Peter!