Friday, 17 November 2017

MPP 30

It was always going to be a big weekend!

 Louis was bringing Laura over for an English immersion weekend after she’d started at a new school where the lessons were all in English… Frank and Jo were coming around on the Friday evening for dinner and to stay over, as was Ethel… and we were being joined by five first-time MPP-ers, including a pair of friends from Sweden and a chap who’d found us on FaceBook who was coming from Bulgaria(!) – for the weekend… Oh, and most of the usual bunch were coming too… what’s not to love?!
Straight from work on Friday afternoon I headed out to the airport to meet Stefan off his flight from Sofia via Frankfurt… I got to know him a bit in the car on the way to his hotel (Walkers’ B&B being full to the gunwales already!) – actually the heavy traffic meant we had a while to chat and make all our arrangements for the rest of the weekend before I dropped him off and headed home, where Frank and Jo and Ethel were already entertaining Gill in the kitchen while she cooked dinner.

Frank and I trawled through a couple of boxes of puzzles that Ethel had brought along to sell the next day and I managed to purchase a few really nice puzzles – including a massive disentanglement puzzle that I’d played with on a visit to Laurie and Ethel’s a couple of years ago.

Dinner was yummy and we had fun catching up on “stuff”, before I headed back to the airport to collect the Dutch contingent. We got back to the house to find an extremely competitive game of Blokus in progress between Gill, Ethel, Frank and Jo… in between the hello’s and how-are-you’s the game continued and it was quite cut-throat. It seems Frank had made the mistake of winning the first game and as a result the ladies felt the need to punish him in the second game which is where I came back into the house… it is safe to say that Frank did not win that game.

The girls went off to bed at some point leaving the boys to puzzle on the dining room table… I was flagging and ended up leaving Frank and Louis with a bunch of puzzles to be solved while I headed off to bed… Barkley had other ideas and got me up a couple of times while they were still puzzling, and the next morning they were neatly arranged into clumps of solved, not solved and partially solved puzzles… (very helpful!)

We headed down to the hall a bit early and managed to get everything set up in plenty of time to collect Stefan from the hotel and introduce him gradually to the assembling knot of puzzlers… Daniel and Johan arrived shortly afterwards and they were soon sitting chatting to puzzlers with a puzzle in their hands.

When Wee-Steve arrived he’d brought along an unexpected guest in the form of Rob, one of our Dutch puzzle friends – I hadn’t realised he was joining us so it was a lovely surprise to be able to welcome him, and indeed to have him around to the house later on, after I’ve made a habit of visiting him before every recent DCD meeting in The Hague! 

James had made the trek up north (all things are relative!) with a few crates of books and lots of puzzles… including a super-sized Peppermint Twist puzzle which a few people couldn’t resist having a go at before Chris eventually assembled it properly… or reasonably properly, even though James was muttering about the ends not being neat enough… it looked solved to the rest of us!

Oli had brought along a massive balancing nails puzzle where you need to balance 17 nails on a single standing nail… these were large, heavy, twelve-inch nails – and the single nail was literally being held in a large rock… when you put it down on the table, this thing stayed down! There were a few goes at it, and some surmising that it was probably not possible until some of us just assembled it and balanced it rather steadily on the up-ended nail… a little while later Big Steve decided we should try and spin the nails to see how far around we could get it to spin without falling off… his first tentative nudge got a 90 degree turn…I raised the ante a bit, he countered and I duly spun it about 540 degrees… sensing victory he gave it a whirl only for the inevitable loud crash to announce the end of the game… we stopped at that point for fear of spearing the floor and damaging the parquet. 

Johan and Daniel were systematically introduced to a bunch of different sorts of puzzles and puzzlers and I think they managed to get some useful research to build into their gaming ideas – everyone always seems happy to chat about what makes a good puzzle for them...

Ali had brought along a Christmas bauble for our amusement: basically, one of Johan Heyn’s big wooden ball sculptures, filled with a number of Big-Steve’s 3D printed balls (neatly nested!), some large burrs and a disentanglement puzzle to suspend it all from a suitable Christmas tree – assuming it had been structurally reinforced, given the extreme weight of said bauble… puzzlers are a weird bunch!

Ethel’s table did a reasonable trade during the course of the day and I suspect that quite a few people left with a bit of the Brokenshire collection having been added to their own… I couldn’t resist picking up a few extra little pieces, including some rather old cast metal puzzles.

James had brought along a Tea Caddy from c.1790 in pretty good nick that he insisted on me buying… so I now have an Eighteenth Century Tea Caddy with a secret compartment in it… cool! It’ll make a nice place to store other little puzzles… which helps, given I’m running out of space in the Puzzle Cave. 

I’d taken along my copy of Jack and Johan’s wooden variant on Coffin’s 12-piece carboard sheet puzzle… it’s a fun assembly that's not really all that challenging if you approach it reasonably logically – something I’d proved to myself a couple of times at my desk on my own… yet somehow at MPP, it required a team of four or five to assemble it under Big-Steve’s guidance… they did seem rather proud of their achievement though! (In truth it’s a LOT easier to assemble than the steel plate version… the wood is a lot grippier.) 

Several people had a bash at a modified Bits and Pieces Kamei Ribbon Box that James had brought along. It seems that Strijbos had decided that the traditional Ribbon Box was way too simple and had modified it for the more serious puzzler… several years later, James had forgotten the solution and was trying to get us to open it for him… I tried, and failed, as did several others – in fact it wasn’t until later that afternoon after James had left that Louis managed to crack it – and having seen the mechanism, I have no shame at all that it flummoxed me… it was a classic, simple Strijbos modification that turned a straight-forward puzzle into a monster. 

During the course of the afternoon Frank managed to solve his Mr Puzzle 50th Birthday special – and treated us all to the sight of the naked lady emerging from the cake – classic Mr Puzzle touch! :-) and a cracking puzzle to boot: he’d had it unsolved for a month or more but the calm, inspiring atmosphere of an MPP helped him to solve it in style – that or the goading and banter of his “friends” – not sure which. 

Stefan had brought along a 3D printed blind maze with a quick reset function for us to try – I think he’d designed it for a friend’s Escape Room and it looked great. Several people had a bash at solving it, and I didn’t see anyone troubling the quick reset mechanism all day… Trifcho 1 -  MPP 0 

On the Friday evening Louis had given me a copy of his latest WSF Shapeways puzzle: Tricklock 2017. I’d played with a near-final prototype in The Hague and it had kept me out for quite a while… thankfully I didn’t embarrass myself this time and I managed to remember most of the solution and derive the rest without spending too much time dithering… Thanks Louis! On the Saturday, Louis had a small pile of his locks available for sale, and sell they did! (I’m sure it’ll get a proper write-up in due course… exec summary: it’s great, get one if you can!).
Rich Gain brought along a number of brilliant examples of his 3D printing – he manages to get a superb finish on the pieces and spent ages sharing his experience with various printers and materials and software – really helpful for anyone wanting to get a head start and not need to spend ages experimenting.
I’d taken along a couple of Japanese Joint burr puzzles that I was hoping to get assembled, and several people had a pretty good tonk at doing them, but sadly the one I hadn’t already found a solution for remained resolutely unsolved all day…

Dale Overy showed us the solution to his now-defunct credit card challenge to stack a complete set of UK coins onto a standard credit card… defunct with the recent change of the One Pound coins to a new size and shape… Dale reckons that in all the years he’s been handing them out, he’s never had anyone email him a solution, so his puzzle remained victorious while the right coinage was available. 

At the end of the day quite a few folks, including Johan’s parents, decamped back up to my place for a fish supper, and some more puzzling… including letting the newest MPP’ers loose in the Puzzle Cave where one made a bee-line for the Kagen boxes, one went for the Karakuris and another piled into the Popp locks… plenty to go around. It was great to see everyone enjoying the puzzles… even Johan’s folks who’d been dragged along from Sweden, were gamely solving puzzle boxes and packing puzzles with the rest of them in the Cave. 

The usual banter and puzzling carried on until reasonably late before people decided they really ought to head out given they still had a couple of hours driving ahead of them before they’d get home… at which point I dropped Stefan back at the hotel… now with a seemingly permanent grin attached to his face for some reason… I guess your first experience of a puzzle party might just do that that to you?

Once again, I left Louis puzzling when I crashed for the night and once again there was a neat row of solved puzzles on the desk in the morning. 

On Sunday morning I collected Stefan from the hotel so we could have a couple more hours puzzling before he needed to catch his planes back to Bulgaria in the afternoon… and he, Louis and I spent a good couple of hours chatting puzzles and playing, and even occasionally solving a puzzle, until I had to drop him off after an epic weekend…

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Wayne Daniels All Five

I’ve owned a MI Toys copy of All Five for a long time… and for an even longer time I’ve lusted gently after a real Wayne Daniels original copy of All Five… earlier this year I was offered a copy – it is now safely in the humble hoard.

All Five has featured on a lot of blogs (Brian, Gabriel), in learned magazines (Science), in less learned ones (Games – forgive me guys!) and even been in the New York Times!

Definition of Platonic Solids: according to Wikipedia (so it must be right!) – Platonic Solids have congruent, regular polygonal faces with the same number of faces meeting at each vertex. It turns out there are (provably only) five Platonic Solids – the Tetrahedron, Cube, Octahedron, Dodecahedron and Icosahedron.

Wayne Daniels genius was not only to find a way of nesting them inside one another rather efficiently (that had been done a long time ago), but also to fill up the remaining voids with pieces that were themselves either Platonic Solids or would combine with other pieces to make Platonic Solids… 

...and then actually craft all those bits, rather beautifully in some exquisite hardwood… NOW do you see why I was lusting after an original copy?

Each of the Platonic Solids can stand on its own, or nestles inside its neighbour, with space-filling pieces to keep it snug…

I’ve always loved the concept, but I find myself really marvelling at the craftsmanship that gives life to a thoroughly beautiful object that contains the essence of Plato’s mathematical beauty within…

Disassembly will pretty much take care of itself if you help it along at the appropriate points… and assembly is a wonderful exercise in careful, neat packing.


Sunday, 5 November 2017

Ken’s Migraine

[Let’s see what the ‘bots make of that title!]

Back in my blog post about MPPXXXviii I mentioned that Ken Irvine had been staying at our place and he’d rather generously given me a copy of his latest design which he’d called Migraine – now this must mean that he’s either been let down this year and there isn’t a new grandchild to name this year’s favoured design after… or some poor kid’s going to be growing up called Migraine – you decide…

Anyhow – enough waffling, back to the puzzle. Migraine breaks the mould a little being a 4*4*4 cube rather than Ken’s traditional 4*4*3 cuboid… when he gave it to me, he apologised for the fact that one piece was sticking out a bit and suggested I put it back in properly… wry smile… yeah, right! You’re being set up here!

That sticky-outy piece duly pulls out and a quick examination of the hole it leaves behind confirms that if the piece were “simply” inserted the other way around, it would be fine…

Of course, with all the other pieces in situ, that’s a lot easier said than done, so it’s probably worth trying to take things apart gently and seeing whether that piece can indeed be inserted correctly along the way…

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions of course, and I probably missed a trick somewhere along the way, but I needed to disassemble the whole shooting match… and at that point recognised a few more of Ken’s trademarks: a couple of the pieces have half cubies on them – that’s helpful! It certainly was very helpful on Little Kenny and Little Bruce…

OK, so set about trying to reassemble this little guy and you’ll find it isn’t too tough, as long as you don’t mind leaving out one or two pieces. Insist on using every single piece and you have a much harder challenge on your hands… one that has all the hallmarks of a great Ken Irvine design: low piece-count, obvious final shape, not a lot of alternative positions for the pieces and a fantastic “A-Ha!” moment… 

It makes an excellent number three in the set… and it’s not just me that likes it… Eric Fuller decided to make a run of 50 copies earlier this month and they were all sold by the time I was writing this post just over a week later… if you didn’t get a copy, it’s worth borrowing a copy from a friend and having a fiddle with it – it is fun!