Friday, 13 January 2017

Sinterklaas 2016

One of the wonderfully unexpected side-effects of having Louis and his family around for a few days after Christmas was Gill and I being showered with gifts from Sinterklaas that had thoughtfully been left at the Coolen’s in early December. All we had to offer in return was a few days board and lodging and some time with the new puppy – I suspect we’ll be let off!

One of the gifts was a large wooden lock in the style of Richard Hensel… although it had a few strangely familiar features on it. 

Richard sold quite a few of his wooden locks on Puzzle Paradise a while back with the offer of a partial refund if you could solve it within a week – all of the puzzlers I know politely refused the refund offer, but he kept offering it! His original design went through a couple of iterations and it’s pretty much settled down now… and I’ve been meaning to buy a copy for a while now! 

Opening this present from the Coolens made me grateful that I hadn’t yet, and then I realised it wasn’t quite what I thought it was at first glance – there were a few unusual features on this one (that sprung panel on the front, that thing in the slot at the bottom) that seemed familiar – as well they should because I wrote about a lock that Louis had designed a couple of years ago that shares those features – except that one was a small, white 3Dprinted version... designed to take advantage of a number of the inherent qualities of the material it was being printed in – this was made of wood!

Over a cup of coffee Louis then told the story of sending a copy of his lock to Richard and Richard then asking if he could make a copy in wood – uncharacteristically, Louis said “No” and then went on to explain about his use of the material’s inherent qualities – it’s not called white strong and flexible for nothing, after all! Richard persisted and said he had some ideas… and then a while later Richard’s wooden version duly appeared – and there was a certain degree of gob-smackedness! 

Louis subsequently asked Richard to run off a copy for me and my Dutch Christmas present appeared… 

Richard has done a great job of maintaining the original solving process and has only had to resort to a non-wooden artefact for one piece … and he’s working on a wooden version of that piece too! 

A treasured addition to the collection – thank Sinterklaas!

Saturday, 7 January 2017

EPP 2016

Peter Hajek hosts a cracking puzzle party at the end of each year where he invites puzzlers from around the world to submit their best puzzle (-related) finds of the year… those that can attend in person present their choices to the assembled puzzlists and then Peter combines those and his written submissions from around the globe to pull together a fantastic little booklet, which is then available to (only) those who have submitted something. I’ve been lucky enough to go along to a few of these now and they’re a wonderful opportunity to catch up with friends from far and wide (there’s usually a few Netherlanders there!), puzzle a little, see some impressive magic and eat a lot!

This year was no different… a couple of days after Christmas, I headed down to London and enjoyed the wonders of English traffic that added an hour and a half to my journey… good thing I set off a little early! When I arrived (late) I received the usual warm welcome from our host, which was even warmer after I’d pulled out a couple of Gill’s walnut cinnamon swirl cakes (they went down quite well during the course of the afternoon/evening). 

I grabbed a drink and set about wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and catching up with puzzlists I hadn’t seen in a while. Oli, Shane, Big Steve, Wee Steve, Tim, Joop, Wil, Laurie and Ethel, Gerard, Clive, David and Louis had all beaten me there so I had a lot of catching up to do… having dispensed with the greetings, Peter herded us all into his living room for the show and tell session for each of us to present our finds of 2016. 

This year Peter had introduced a possible fourth choice – if none of your three main choices were a commercially available puzzle… which was handy if you were struggling to whittle down your puzzle finds of the year! 

My three picks for 2016 (plus a bonus commercially available puzzle) were: 

Another of Jane Kostick’s wooden wonders from me this year: Quintetra is a ball-shaped object made up of 30 identical pieces held together with magnets. Inside is a triacontahedron box made up of six identical panels held together by magnets. Inside that box is a great little packing puzzle consisting of twelve identical, if oddly shaped pieces of wood, and a wooden cube, all of which need to be placed inside the box. Fiendish!

MikeToulouzas’ Fairy’s Door is really special – it is a thoroughly beautiful object and a delightful puzzle that won the Puzzler’s Choice award at IPP34! Broadly speaking, it’s a puzzle box with an exquisitely detailed Fairy’s Door on the front of it. (Stunning details in the distressed panels and wooden hinges.) Finding your way through a series of puzzling locks is a whimsical experience until you’re finally able to open the box and reveal the surprise inside.

From the slightly twisted puzzling mind of Ken Irvine comes Little Bruce – the successor to Little Kenny. Four simple pieces, a couple of spare voxels inside somewhere – lots of ways to assemble some of the pieces – and no way in heck of getting the final piece into the right place… it definitely requires some Think©ing and it rewards experimentation and rigour… and everyone I’ve given it to so far has not only solved it, but enjoyed solving it… you can’t really ask for more than that! 

A thoroughly unconventional hedgehog puzzle from Radek Micopulos – definitely a puzzler’s puzzle that will amuse even the most jaded of puzzlists. Each end of the cage has an embedded (swivelling!) ball bearing race in it… giving it a brilliantly industrial look. The spiked ball is clearly(!) too wide to get between the bars on the cage, and the spikes are too long to permit any sort of passage through or around the bearing races…

Little Bruce appeared a few times, and Shane’s Haleslock 2 appeared several times, as did Radek’s Axis Hedgehog, Kagen’s Lotus Box and our host's How Box.

After the puzzle presentations, we all tucked into Peter and Katja’s wonderful dinner spread (it’s always terrific!). Some of us had several goes at it and it was brilliant… and after supper Clive treated us to a highly entertaining if somewhat self-deprecating magic show – in spite of his own protestations he was both highly entertaining and mildly baffling. (Thanks Clive!)

Post magic there was coffee and (more!) cake (have I mentioned Gill’s delicious walnut and cinnamon swirl cake?) alongside gentle banter and sociable puzzling.

Some highlights that won’t easily be forgotten: I now know exactly where Wally is, the look on Gerard’s face when Louis decided his Goblin’s Door wouldn’t be fully solved until the solid silver coin jigsaw had been scrambled and reassembled, Steve’s spontaneous disassembly of his Parsellus (sp?) puzzle during his presentation and Wil’s presentation taking the Michael out of Clive after they’d both nominated the same wonderful little Karakuri box.

Another superb EPP thanks to Peter and Katja’s excellent host-age.

The drive home was a lot more pleasant than the drive out on two accounts – the traffic was significantly lighter and I had Louis for company as Mieke and the kids had dropped him off outside London en route to my place where they’d be spending the next few days visiting us…

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Haleslock 2

[I've had this post teed up ready to go for a while but I wanted to put some space between my write-up and Kevin's - over here... a suitable time has now passed.]

A few months’ back Shane was visiting along with a fair bunch of other puzzlers. At one point during the afternoon he pulled me aside and said he wanted to show me something… actually he had a few things to show me, but one of them is the subject of this blog… he had a candidate design for Haleslock 2 and he was looking for thoughts on it… in his usual self-effacing style, he wasn’t sure if it was good enough… so a couple of us played with the prototype and we all told him to stop worrying and make up a large batch of them – it’s a great puzzle!

…a couple of months later I came home to find a padded envelope from a familiar London address. Inside was a preview copy of Haleslock 2 in all its glory, along with a sealed solution sheet. I love coming home to unexpected puzzles!

After dinner, I set about running through the solution and was delighted that (a) I could remember how I’d solved it the first time, and (b) it still puts a smile on my face even though I already know the solution. 

Shane’s taken the prototype and produced a highly professional version here – the doctoring of the lock has been beautifully done and the finishing and attention to detail – right down to the stamped signature and number “2” on the top plate of the lock… it looks the business!

OK – let’s talk about the puzzle a bit then – this is nominally a puzzle blog after all! 

Haleslock 2 started out life as a size 37 Squire Strongholdpadlock – but I suspect there’s only a passing resemblance to that original state now… it comes with a useful length of chain locked to the padlock with the appropriate keys on a ring… although one of those keys doesn’t look very useful in the traditional sense… and as you might expect, trying the keys in the lock has little or no discernible impact! (It wouldn’t be much of a puzzle if it just opened, now would it?) 

Along the course of your solve, you will be allowed to see some of Shane’s rather nice handiwork and might even learn a little bit about padlocks along the way… it’s not extremely complex or complicated, but it will definitely put a smile on your dial…

[As I write this, Shane has sold out of all of his copies of Haleslock 2 … they should be available from the usual fine purveyors of puzzles… ]