August 13, 2012

IPP32: DC Tour and Founder's Reception

This last weekend was the 32nd International Puzzle Party in Washington, DC, an invitation-only gathering of serious mechanical puzzle collectors. It is an awesome event both for the excellent puzzles and the chance to socialize with other people who are similarly obsessed with puzzles!

Kellian and I arrived on Wednesday around 9:30 in the evening. It was only a short flight from Boston, which was a welcome change from Japan and Berlin, though the locale was a bit less exotic to us! Unfortunately, we cut our departure a bit close and didn't have time for dinner, so we had to eat when we arrived. This is unfortunate because I had to walk past the design competition room, with 80 puzzles that I was really looking forward to trying, and seek out food instead! Luckily Kellian was there, or I would have probably just skipped dinner!

After finding a place that was open past 10:00 PM (which was a bit of a challenge), we hurried back to the design competition room at around 11:00 PM. I was pretty overwhelmed: there are so many puzzles, it is hard to figure out where to start! Since I'm a fan of puzzle boxes, usually I'll start with those and then work my way to the others. I will post a series of entries about each of the design competition entries later, so I won't get into detail about the individual puzzles here.

I stayed in the competition room until 1:30 AM, thanks to Nick Baxter kindly allowing me to just lock up the room whenever I felt like leaving this year! This was quite a treat, since usually I am in quite a hurry to finish trying all the puzzles in the limited time available. Fortunately, there were a few other die-hards, including fellow blogger Neil Hutchison, who stuck it out into the wee hours with me.I would have stayed longer, but the following morning (Thursday) I was signed up to go the bus tour of Washington, DC at 9:00AM.

Stephen Chin and Goetz Schwandtner
in front of the Korean War Memorial
The tour was a lot of fun, it was great to see old friends from past puzzle events, I ended up on the bus with Matt Dawson, Peter Wiltshire and his wife, Jim and his wife, Stephen Chin, and a number of other folks, so it was great getting the chance to catch up with them. Also, it was a great way to quickly take in some of the sights in DC! We got to see The Pentagon, Arlington Cemetery, The Marine Corps War Memorial, The Lincoln Memorial, The Korean War Memorial, The Roosevelt Memorial, The White House, The U.S. Capitol Building, and a number of other things.
It was blazing hot, so it was nice getting to climb back on the bus after looking around each location for a short period! After the tour, they dropped us at the Smithsonian Museum of American History where we wandered around a bit before heading back to the hotel.

The design competition room was open again, so I started feverishly working on puzzles again from around 2:00 until Nick Baxter and a few volunteers started packing the puzzles up for the Founder's Reception at 6:30. We brought all 80 of the puzzles to the banquet hall, so people could try them out during the reception.

At the Founder's Reception I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Yarger, who has built some of the most amazing and intricate puzzle boxes I have ever seen. Robert has somewhat reclusive tendencies, so it was a real treat that he made it out for the puzzle party! It was great hearing him talk about his puzzles and get to know him better. He's on the right in the photo, and on the left is Gregory Benedetti, who is also an excellent craftsman. Robert is holding a cute little puzzle box that Peter Wiltshire made and gave out to a number of us, I'll be writing about it at some point in the future! I also got a chance to meet another fellow blogger, Allard Walker, who made his way here all the way from the United Kingdom with his wife. It was great meeting him as well!

At one point in the evening, Zandraa Tumen-Ulzii wheeled out an amazing piece of puzzle furniture he made that he brought all the way from Mongolia. It consisted of a chess table, which was really a massive burr puzzle, and each of the pieces was a smaller burr! You can't really get a good sense of the size from the photo, but it was probably a good 3 feet in diameter. Very cool! Mr. Tumen-Ulzii has a museum dedicated exclusively to mechanical puzzles called The International Intellectual Museum.

I spent the remainder of the evening hunched over the tables with the design competition puzzles. There were a ton of people there, so it was a bit hard to concentrate, but I spent a good 2-3 hours on them before Nick and some fellow volunteers started packing the puzzles up to bring to the design competition room. We hung out in the design competition room until about 1:00AM this time, continuing to work my way through the puzzles. I decided it would be best to head to bed, since the puzzle exchange was starting at 9:00AM the following morning, and I didn't want to start getting too sleep deprived!

Much more to come, so stay tuned!


  1. I hope, Brian, one day that I will be invited and also get to meet another puzzle blogger!

    Looking forward to many more posts!


  2. Thanks Kevin! I'm sure you will soon!


Please don't post spoilers! Thanks for commenting!

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