August 30, 2011

2011 Rochester Puzzle Picnic (Part 4)

The puzzling continued throughout the day on Saturday, here you can see Jeff working on one of Ken's cube puzzles. To his right was the complete set of Hanayama puzzles that I brought. That's enough to keep someone busy for quite a while!

The next puzzle I tried was Turtles Heart designed, made, and exchanged by Yoshiyuki Kotani. It is a cute little puzzle that looks like a turtle, and the goal is to remove the cute turtle's legs. But to do this, you need to first remove his heart!

Despite being a bit morbid, it was actually a good puzzle! Diagonally opposite legs are connected (e.g. front left with back right), and you can slide them back and forth. Both leg pieces have some gaps around the center of the turtles' body, which is where the "heart" sits. The heart is a yellow semi-circular piece. The heart is thick enough that it interferes with both of the leg pieces, as well as some other fixed pieces within the turtle's body. The challenge is to navigate the heart to a hole through which you can shake it out. This is all pretty obvious when you have the puzzle in your hand, the challenge is actually doing it!

It took me about 5 minutes to solve this one, it was mainly challenging because the pieces are opaque, so it was hard to see what was possible. With a bit of fiddling, I could tell what I needed to do, and it just took a minute or two more to actually accomplish it. Putting it back together wasn't too hard, since the move sequence was fairly short and I remembered what I had done. You have to make sure you get all the way back to the start though, since otherwise it will be too easy for the next person to solve.

Next I tried Jerry Slocum's Exchange puzzle that was designed by none other than Stewart Coffin! It is a sliding piece puzzle where the pieces consist of either single round pieces or two round pieces glued together. Some of the doubles have a single circle with a red dot on it. The goal of the puzzle is to move the pieces from one dot configuration to another, and there are three challenges on the back of the paper.

I tried the easiest one, and it took me a little while, probably about 5-10 minutes. The pieces have an (intentionally) annoying way of binding, so you can't quite rotate them the way you want to until you make enough space. Contrary to a puzzle like Rush Hour where each move is along the unit grid, this puzzle requires a lot of small moves to get the pieces lined up right to enable certain rotational moves. Another cool idea by Stewart Coffin!

Next, we have Borromean Braid by Theo Geerinck. The goal of this puzzle is to create a borromean rings structure using these three bent pieces. Borromean rings are three rings that are linked in such a way so that if any one ring is removed, the other two will fall apart (known as a Brunnian Link). You may remember this topological construction from some of Dick Hess's puzzles (i.e. The Yak). I had done a number of Dick's puzzles using this construction, so I was pretty familiar with borromean rings.

Still, the puzzle provided a good challenge! At first, it seems impossible, and of course it would be if all the rings were solid. However, one of the rings comes apart. It is joined using these plastic pin joints. I would have preferred wooden dowels for the pins, but I think the flexibility of the pins may be necessary to complete the construction. I spent quite a while trying out various configurations, but I kept finding that the pieces weren't long enough. After a while, I finally discovered the correct assembly, but now was the problem of actually constructing it! The pieces need to weave together in just the right way to make it possible, and I had a bit of trouble doing it. This was a very cool idea for a puzzle!

In taking another look at Jeff's shelves of puzzle boxes, I noticed another box that I had missed before: RL by Hideaki Kawashima. This is a very large box, about 4.5 inches wide. This gives it quite a presence, and I really liked the way the dark wood was laminated together with the light wood on the exterior panels.

As a puzzle, this one is pretty challenging, particularly if you haven't seen a particular trick before. This one takes it to the next level and has a very complicated mechanism. Due to its design, it is quite easy to get disoriented and forget what was going on. A very clever box! It is currently available on the Karakuri Creation Group website for a pretty reasonable price, given the complexity of this box.

Here's a photo of a few people working intently on puzzles: Tanya is sitting down on the left and working on One Four All & All Four One, Brett's son Kai is taking a look at Tubular Burr, while Brett is busy trying to put my copy of Rosebud by Scott Peterson back together.

Well, that's all for today's post, more to come tomorrow!

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