February 15, 2012

2012 New York Puzzle Party (Part 3)

We woke up bright and early on Saturday to head into New York for the 2012 NYPP! The event started at 9:30 AM and we wanted to make sure we got there a bit early in case seating was limited. Fortunately, this year the event was held in a large room with a good number of chairs set up to watch the talks and tables set up for buying and selling.

Before the lectures started, folks milled about greeting each other and showing the various puzzles they brought. I saw a number of people that I knew from previous NYPP and IPP events, including Tanya Thompson, Saul Bobroff, Chris Morgan, Tim Udall, David Leschinsky, Tim Rowett, Will Strijbos, Tom Cutrofello, and many more.

I set up on a half-table that I shared with Rick Eason, where I laid out some puzzles that I brought. When I got a chance, made a bee line for Will's table, since there were a few puzzles that I was considering purchasing from him. The prices were the same as usual, but at least I didn't have to worry about shipping! Plus, there's the instant gratification aspect. I ended up purchasing 4 Steps Visible Lock (last year's IPP Design Competition winner), which I had been regretting not purchasing at IPP. I also got a Washer Cylinder, which sounded like an interesting challenge.

Tanya had brought one ThinkFun's latest puzzles, Turnstile, which I was also quite interested to see. I had helped test it, so I was interested to see how the physical version compared with testing it online. In all, the mechanics seemed to work quite well! The turnstiles clicked around into place nicely. One thing that I noticed was that the pieces tip over pretty easily, so I may fill the bases with putty or something to give them a bit more weight. Perhaps you get used to it after playing with it a bit though! As a puzzle, it is top-notch: you really have to think about your moves to succeed on the tougher challenges. It is on sale now at Amazon.

At about this time, the talks were ready to start so we headed to our seats. The first talk was given by Rob Stegmann, who spoke about a puzzle called Hoo Doo by Tryne in the 1950's. It is a puzzle where you need to arrange colored pegs in an 8x8 grid to meet certain criteria, but the problem Rob talked about was arranging them such that there are no duplicate colors in any row, column, or diagonal. He then drew a parallel between this and the classic 8 Queens Puzzle, since it equivalent to having 8 simultaneous solutions to this problem. Using this and some additional research, he drew the conclusion that the puzzle was impossible. He then walked through a similar analysis was done of the Orchard Puzzle.

Up next was a presentation by Oded Light on a new product called DBox. It is basically a puzzle construction set similar to LiveCube, however the pieces twist together rather than press together, so the connections are more stable. Also, the pieces are quite a bit larger at about 1 inch wide. This makes DBox potentially better for smaller-format puzzles such Soma cubes.

You could build something like a 6-piece burr with them, but you'd need to purchase a few sets (32 cubes per set). The presentation was pretty engaging, though it did come off a bit like a 30 minute sales pitch for DBox. The puzzle set comes with a number of challenges, generally assembly puzzles similar to Soma but with different pieces and color patterns. I ended up purchasing a set, so I'll do a full review at a later date.

After this talk, we took a break for lunch. I went with a fairly large group that headed to Saigon Grill, a very tasty Vietnamese place that did an excellent job of accommodating our big group. I had a cold and had partially lost my voice, which was pretty annoying what with all the talking that I was doing, but the big bowl of La Sa Ga soup helped things a bit!

When we got back, folks socialized and bought/sold puzzles for a bit before the next presentation started. Next was a presentation by Haym Hirsh who spoke about his hobby of collecting craft art. He brought in a number of examples which were laid out on tables. These included chains made out of bottlecaps, boxes made out of cigarette wrappers, a clock made out of matchsticks, and many other things. I wish I had gotten more pictures of his table, since there were some really cool items there.

The next presentation was also pretty interesting: Michael Cahill gave a talk about how he assembled an 18,000 piece jigsaw puzzle! Aside from being quite an undertaking, he also had some funny anecdotes about various problems he ran into, including a cat upsetting his work and the trouble he had getting the puzzle to NYPP. It all culminated quite nicely when he unveiled the completed puzzle, which was mounted in four separate frames.

The final presentation was Tom's annual review of his favorite iPhone/iPad puzzle apps from the prior year. He briefly went through each one and described the mechanics. It is always interesting seeing what creative developers have come up with! Unfortunately, I didn't take notes on this one, so you'll have to head over to Tom's blog to read about his thoughts on puzzle apps!

After the presentations were done, there was a bit more socializing before everybody headed out for the evening. Brett, Rob, Rick, Nick, and I went back to Brett's house where we had some pizza and played with a bunch more puzzles. Check out Part 4 for that!

A big thanks to Tom Cutrofello for organizing the New York Puzzle Party! It was a great event and I look forward to seeing everybody again next year!


  1. I'm thinking of subscribing to the Black Letter Game. http://blacklettergame.com/faq.html
    Have you heard anything about this?


  2. Thanks for the tip! I just subscribed, figured for $60 it was probably worth checking out!

  3. So, what do you think?


  4. Quite cool! I joined with a few other puzzlers I know (Rob, Brett, Jim, and others) and we had a good time working out the first artifact. Did you join?

  5. I did! But I'm stuck on "when" and "what"!!!


Please don't post spoilers! Thanks for commenting!

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