August 16, 2010

Rochester Puzzle Picnic (Part 5)

After Jim Strayer's talk, we hung out for a bit and Jeff Aurand started his talk about the Ten Plates puzzle. This is a puzzle designed and made by Jean-Claude Constantin which consists of plates that are to be assembled in the cubic configuration shown here. Each piece consists of five slots, some are long and some are short. A long slot must meet a short slot and visa versa.

Jeff tried to solve this puzzle for a while, but was unable to do so, so he wrote a program to help him do it! His presentation talked about his journey through this process, and was pretty interesting. It culminated in an analysis of all of the possible configurations of this puzzle, based on the 18 distinct pieces that can be created and using sets where all pieces are different. Pretty neat! Rob Stegmann has also analyzed this group puzzles, as you can see on his website here. He refers to this category as Crossed Sticks puzzles.

At the end of the presentation, Jeff drew names to find out who would get a free copy of Ten Plate, and I won! I haven't tried it yet, but I'll write about it when I do. Jeff said that Jim was able to find a few solutions manually, so it is doable without a computer. We'll see! Thanks Jeff!

As I mentioned earlier, there was the Puzzle Paradise Contest for the best made puzzle. Unlike the Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition at the International Puzzle Party which focuses on design, this competition places the emphasis on craftsmanship. There were three entries: Peter Wiltshire's Artichoke Box, Stephen Chin's La Bomba, and Brett's brother's unnamed entry.

Rob Stegmann and Jim Strayer were chosen as judges, and here is a photo of them judging away. Rob is holding the La Bomba, Jim is working on the Artichoke Box, and the unnamed entry is between them.

I actually wrote about the Artichoke Box in Part 2 and the Apple, which is similar to La Bomba, in my entry about the 2010 Puzzle Design Competition awards ceremony. I had even tried Brett's brother's entry back in February when I visited Brett's house for the New York Puzzle Party. All three were very cool!

Stephen's La Bomba won the judge's choice, since it is really a magnificent piece of craftsmanship. It really is a beautiful puzzle and it is very difficult to make. There was also a People's Choice award which went to Peter's Artichoke Box, which is quite understandable since it is a remarkable box. Congratulations to the winners!

Throughout the course of the day Peter Wiltshire and I worked on the new puzzle chest that Kelly Snache made for Jim Strayer named The Lost Week. Jim wanted to wait till he got home to try it, but he was kind enough to let us give it a try while we had a chance. Here's a photo taken by Rob.

This photo doesn't really give you the sense of the size: it is about 3 feet wide and quite heavy. The only thing that is immediately obvious is the dial on the front. The lid pulls open slightly, but won't open completely.

It is beautifully crafted out of old wood from a barn, which gives it a great antique look. It looks like something you might haul out of a pile of junk in an old attic, which contains untold mysteries. Very cool look!

Peter and I spent a while poking around at this one before we found anything at all. When we finally did start to make some progress, we got a sense for how massively complicated it was. There are some hidden clues which were helpful, but we needed a few hints from Kelly to interpret the clues and continue making headway. Even once we had a good understanding of the exterior locking mechanisms, it still took us quite a while to actually get it open. I'm not sure how long we spent on it, but I think it was something like 6 hours!

Even once we got it 'open' we still couldn't access any of the hidden compartments, of which there are several. We surrendered at this point, since this chest could have easily sucked up the remainder of our time at the picnic, and I didn't want to be too antisocial. Plus, I doubt we would have been able to even come close to finishing it, even if we had worked all night.

In this photo, Peter is opening Feather Chest by Kelly, and I'm using my kung-fu stance to try to figure out Lost Week. In my hand you can see a little flashlight, which came in quite handy this weekend for peering into dark spots in puzzles looking for clues.

Feather Chest was also quite cool, but not nearly as complex as Lost Week. It is more usable for storage, since it actually has some fairly large compartments. In the photo, you can see a bird's nest with some eggs, which are actually part of the puzzle. Cool idea!

More puzzling to come, so stay tuned for Part 6!


  1. Holy cow! How many parts does the RPP have? It is sounding like it lasted a few weeks!

  2. It was pretty epic! Hopefully I can wrap it up in another entry or two.

  3. BTP:
    Wow! I'm going to have to take a day off from work just to catch up on all your blogs and the puzzles you've described. Do you still have your day job or has blogging become your thing?
    I loved the crossed plate puzzle and great that you won one. Do you plan to write a program to solve it, or just do it the old fashioned way?

    Great posts


  4. Brian

    LOVE the photo of you in your kung fu stance! I couldn't believe that you and Peter actaully got the top off! It was fun to watch you both think your way through this one. Can't wait until RPP next year!

    Maybe you will all come to Peter's if we do our CPP (Canadian Puzzle Party) at his place like Jeff did at his. Only 2 hours from the border!




Please don't post spoilers! Thanks for commenting!