August 24, 2011

2011 Rochester Puzzle Picnic (Part 1)

Two weeks after the International Puzzle Party, Jeff Aurand hosted the second annual Rochester Puzzle Picnic! You may think that it's odd that it is so close to the IPP, but that was by design: the idea is to give everybody a chance to get together after the IPP and share the puzzles they got. This is also a good chance for folks who didn't make it to see some of the new puzzles that were released at the IPP.

I headed up on Friday, and made it there after a fairly grueling 8 hour drive. There was a vehicle on fire that blocked the highway for a bit, which is why it took longer than usual!

When I got there, only Jim Strayer had arrived so far. Jeff, Jim and I had a bit of pizza while we started working on puzzles. The first one I decided to try was Rainer Popp's T5 Popplock, since I have really enjoyed the other Popplocks that I had tried (T3 and T4).

The T5 Popplock is good and solid, like the T4 in terms of weight. It comes with a key, and has an odd looking mechanism on the front. I really liked the circular "bullring" shackle on this lock, it sets it apart from the usual U-shaped shackle. This may leave you wondering a bit how it may open.

In terms of difficulty, I found this one only moderately difficult: it took me about 20-30 minutes to solve. It was easier than T4 and about the same as T3 for me. There are two distinct stages to the solving process, both of which I found to be equally challenging. The first stage is good, but what I really liked about this one was the second stage.

Overall, I really liked the T5 Popplock, I can't really think of any negatives other than its fairly high cost. It is currently one of my favorites in the series, along with T4.

Later in the weekend, I tried T2 Popplock, but I figured that I should talk about it now since I just mentioned the T4. I forgot to take a picture, so this picture is from Oli's blog: check out his review of the T2 Popplock.

The T2 Popplock is a bit thinner than the T5, but still quite substantial. It comes with a key with an odd pointy thing coming out of the handle. Like all of the Popplocks, it is beautifully machined.

I found the T2 Popplock to be more difficult that the T5, but not quite as hard as the T4, which took me a few days. I think this one took me around an hour to solve across a few puzzling sessions. The first step probably won't elude people for very long, though it did actually take me a little while. After that, it gets quite a bit more complicated, since there is a lot going on with this lock. I had a fairly good idea of how it worked, but I couldn't quite get it to open.

At one point, Jim mentioned that it took a fair bit of force to actually pull open the shackle even when it is unlocked. This helped me quite a bit, since I had just been applying a bit of pressure with the top of my index finger as I fiddled with the lock. With this in mind, I was able to open the lock a few minutes later. Thanks Jim! I don't really consider that a spoiler, but just a tip to keep you from wasting too much time once you've already practically solved it, but let me know if you feel differently.

Next up, I tried an interesting-looking puzzle box by Hiroshi Iwahara. It is named Chiyo-Musubi after the name for a knot made in a belt or paper tape. It is a fairly large box at almost 10 inches long. The craftsmanship is quite nice, as you would expect, though Jeff pointed out a spot where the red wood bled a bit into the light-colored wood, which is unfortunate.

As a puzzle it was not particularly challenging, but still pretty fun to solve. It takes 19 moves to open it completely, and the moves follow a pretty logical progression. I got stuck at one spot, but it was just because one of the panels was a bit hard to slide. It is a nice box and probably worth the price ($540 for Karakuri members before it sold out) in terms of craftsmanship with all the odd angles, but I'd prefer something that would keep me busy for a bit longer if I'm going to spend that much on a puzzle.

This next puzzle is one that Jim suggested I try: it is called Letter from Forest by Yukio Ogura. It looks a bit plain from the outside, though there is a design on the top that I didn't much care for. It looked a bit more like paint than an inlay, but it was hard to tell.

It was an interesting box with an unusual movement, which is always fun to see. After the first bit, there is an interesting little surprise that progresses to finally opening the box. That next step isn't particularly difficult, but fun. Overall, a nice box! It is currently for sale on the Karakuri Creation Group website.

Well it is getting a bit late, so I'll have to pick up with this tomorrow! Plenty more to come!


  1. Twenty to thirty minutes to solve the T5? Damn you, Brian Pletcher! I did finally solve it, and I can't figure out why it took me so long! Maybe I'll start working on the T5 with the new tip in hand!

    Great seeing you!

  2. I definitely think it's worth mentioning that some force is required to open the shackle on the T2. It would've saved me a load of time if I knew that! And if I hadn't broken the key too of course...

  3. Hah, thanks Jeff! It was great to see you too!

    Glad you agree that the tip is handy, Oli! I definitely appreciated Jim saving me some time by telling me that.


Please don't post spoilers! Thanks for commenting!

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