March 16, 2011

2011 New York Puzzle Party (Part 5)

After a lovely time at the New York Puzzle Party on Saturday, I spent most of Sunday morning and afternoon at Brett Kuehner's house solving some puzzles. Rob Stegmann was there, and Ken Irvine also stopped by.

This puzzle kept my attention for a good while. It is called "The Five Minute Puzzle That May Take a Little Longer" by Andy Turner. Interesting name! I was intrigued. This puzzle was made by Eric Fuller and entered into the IPP 2009 Design Competition.

I started to type a description of the pieces, but it is a bit hard to describe. Instead, check out this photo from Rob's site. Two of the pieces are two units long, and the rest are all one unit cubes. The pegs must be in the correct orientation relative to a hole in the adjacent piece. The correct solution has no exposed holes or pegs.

The box is mainly just decorative, though it also serves the function of keeping the pieces from falling apart if somebody idly picks it up. It looks nice too!

I spent a bit of time on Saturday evening, but didn't have much luck since I was getting tired. Sunday morning I took another crack at it with renewed vigor. The interesting thing about this puzzle is that the obvious solutions don't seem to work. I sat there and tried all the permutations I could think of, but oddly none of them worked! Clearly I wasn't approaching it correctly. I tried a few things that I thought make be the trick, but they didn't work either!

Eventually, I had a revelation that led me to the solution, and was quite impressed. This is a very cool puzzle design. I didn't think I would like it, but I was mistaken. You really need to go through the process of solving this one to appreciate it though. It definitely took me longer than 5 minutes! Probably closer to 45 minutes.

I was pleased to try a few boxes by Kim Klobucher as well. Check out his website Kcube Designs. The first one that I tried was his 419 move box, shown here.

I had tried his MMMDXLVI box that requires 3546 moves to open while at IPP30. Check out this entry if you'd like to read about my struggle with it. The 419 move box was a piece of cake by comparison!

It has a regular pattern to it based on a trinary gray code, so it is mainly just a matter of keeping track of where you are in the pattern. It isn't too hard since you can really only go forward or backward in the pattern, but sometimes it is easy to get confused and start going the wrong direction. I think it took me a good 30 minutes or so to open and close this one, maybe a bit longer.

I really liked the appearance of this box, but I don't think it is something that I will be purchasing, since it is such a pain to open. It wouldn't be much fun to give to folks to try since it is so difficult, and I probably wouldn't repeat solving it often (if at all).

Personally, I preferred the next box that I tried "The Void", shown here. It looks quite similar, but is somewhat larger and has an interesting feature that I will attempt to describe.

Most of Kim's puzzles have a pins moving through keyways such that the keyway is just as wide as the pin, like in this small maze (source). In The Void, the pin moves through a void in the path (like a big room in the maze), and you need to find the exit on the other side. This is harder than it sounds, but I can't tell you why without spoiling some of the fun. Notice that the brass inlay on the top depicts the process of travelling through a void.

I spent a good while on this puzzle before I started to figure out what was going on: the first few moves come quite easily, but eventally you hit a dead end. Nothing that you would expect works, so it really makes you think about what is going on inside the puzzle. Eventually, I figured it out, and was quite pleased. I do hope he makes some more of these!

The last puzzle I'll write about is a clever design by Tom Jolly called The Tangler, made by Eric Fuller. This puzzle consists of two complex pieces that are intertwined: the goal is to separate them. It soon becomes obvious that the solution involves rotational moves, which are fun.

I think I spent a good 10 minutes on this one, and enjoyed solving it. At first, it seemed like only one path was possible, but then I hit a dead end. After puzzling over it for a bit, I discovered the solution. Pretty tricky, but doable in a reasonable amount of time, which I liked.

That brings me to the end of my series on my trip down to New York for the New York Puzzle Party. Thanks again to Brett Kuehner for inviting me to stay in his home, and to Tom Cutrofello for organizing the event. I'm looking forward to it again next year!

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