September 29, 2009

Costa Rican Wire Puzzles

As I mentioned in my post about Danlock, I traveled to Costa Rica for spring break, which was a lot of fun. I actually have a travel blog here (March 2009), so check out that if you're interested, but I'll skip straight to the good bits: I encountered a street vendor in the town of Puntarenas selling a variety of wire puzzles that he had made!

Needless to say, I was quite excited: I was abroad and going through puzzle withdrawal (I think I had solved Danlock by this point). I walked over, and saw that he was showing the classic ring-and-spring puzzle to curious onlookers. He would demonstrate how he could easily remove the ring from the spring, then he would hand it to an onlooker who couldn't do it.

He saw that I was interested and handed me one as well, of course I know the trick so I popped the ring off quickly, before anybody could see what I was doing, and showed it to him. He chuckled and asked if I would like to try something more difficult, of course I said sure!

I guess I should mention now that he only spoke Spanish, and I speak very little Spanish, but I could get the gist of what he was saying. Fortunately the word difficult sounds the same in Spanish. Hooray for cognates!

He handed me the puzzle shown here, which I don't know the name of. I need to get Dick Hess' Compendium of Wire Puzzles so I can look this sort of thing up! Anyways, I fiddled around with it for a while and was unable to solve it, much to his delight. I told him that I'd like to purchase it and asked him (as best I could) to recommend something else that was very difficult.

He pointed me to the puzzle shown here, which I think is also known as Rat Race. I couldn't quite make out what he was saying, but it had something to do with a labyrinth and the fact that this was a difficult puzzle. Enough said! I'll take it! I think I paid him something like $1 for both of the puzzles: in hindsight I should have bought a bunch, since this was a great deal. Oh well, next time!

After making my purchases, my girlfriend and I headed over to a nice little spot for lunch. I played around with the easier of the two puzzles for about 15 minutes and eventually figured it out! Here's a picture of me ignoring my frozen margarita in favor of this $0.50 puzzle. I had a lot of fun solving it: definitely a good value in terms of dollars per minute of puzzling fun.

The second puzzle I played around with for a bit, but didn't have much luck with. I set that one aside and worked on it again on the bus ride back to the capital city, San Jose. Fortunately, the bus ride was quite long, I think about four hours.  I worked on damn puzzle nonstop for about an hour and a half before I finally figured it out. This one is tricky, but quite enjoyable!

Tomorrow, another ridiculously hard Hanayama that took me forever to solve.

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