April 24, 2010

Double Escape and Crazy Elephant Dance

When I was down at NYPP, Brett Kuehner was kind enough to give me Double Escape, which was Markus Götz's IPP26 exchange gift. It is a disentanglement puzzle, and Brett isn't a big fan of disentanglement puzzles, so he thought I might enjoy it. Thanks Brett!

Most of the disentanglement puzzles I have are of the 'all rigid' variety, such as these Dick Hess wire puzzles. The ones with a flexible component like rope can be pretty tricky and it is sometimes easy to get them all tangled up, so I have shied away from them somewhat. However, I really enjoyed Dinghy and Holey Bolt.

Double Escape is a cool idea: there are two objectives of varying difficulty. The dark ring on the right hand side is "easy" to remove (according to Markus), but the one on the left is more difficult because you are restricted by the length of the rope. It is an extension of his earlier design, Narrow Escape.

Since I'm not too familiar with this type of puzzle, even removing the easy ring took me about 30 minutes or so. Now that I know how to do it, it seems pretty easy, but at the time I remember being pretty puzzled.

Removing the second ring baffled me for quite a while. I left it on my end table and worked on it on and off for a few weeks. Usually I didn't spend much more than 10-15 minutes on it, so I think the total time is somewhere around 2-3 hours.

Since I tend to be better at solving puzzles in the morning, I decided to give it a shot this morning when my mind was fresh. Typically, I was only working on it after work, and work was pretty busy so I think my mind was a bit weary. Sure enough, after about 30 minutes I had figured it out!

The solution is quite cool: you really need to think about your strategy for removing the first ring and see how you can apply it to the second ring. Simply doing the same type of moves doesn't work, because of the length of the ropes, so you need to be a bit creative to find the space to remove it.

Markus rated it a 5-6 on a 1-10 scale in terms of difficulty, but I found it a bit harder than that. It really depends on your experience with a particular type of puzzle, I think. Overall, a great puzzle: it is a very nicely crafted puzzle with a nice finish. It is also fairly large and quite sturdy.

When browsing Markus's website, I noticed that he was also the designer of Crazy Elephant Dance, which is a trinary version of one of the puzzles that started my interest in puzzles, the Chinese Rings/Patience puzzle. Crazy Elephant Dance won an honorable mention in the 2005 Puzzle Design Competition at IPP25.

Its mechanism is similar to Spin Out (which is Chinese Rings with a different mechanism), but rather than having two positions for each disk (binary), there are three positions (trinary). This means that rather than doubling the number of moves with each additional disk, the number of moves triples! Well, the actual formula is more complicated than that, but it is close. In addition, unlike Spin Out, you can make wrong moves that leads to a dead end, so it is a bit tricker!

I had always wanted to give this puzzle a try, and Markus actually has a Java applet on his website that lets you try his puzzle online! It was a lot of fun, since the applet allows you to see how the mechanism actually works when you click the mechanism button. Definitely check it out if you haven't had a chance to try it before and enjoyed Chinese Rings.

1 comment:

  1. I have Gotz's "Devils Keyhole" from puzzlemaster.ca, really confusing! I can't even get it back to the initial state at this point!


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