August 15, 2012

IPP32: Washington DC Puzzle Party

Saturday was the day of the actual "puzzle party" where puzzles are bought and sold in a big room with tables. Again, I had to get up pretty early to make sure I didn't miss out on any of the good stuff! The room opened up at 9:00, and I was ready to go!

As you can see, the room was packed with folks rushing around and buying puzzles. First I did a quick sweep of the room to see if there were any Roger puzzles available, since they are pretty rare, but unfortunately there weren't any. After that, I had a list of puzzles that I was looking to buy, and went straight for those tables just in case they sold out. I was most interest in Perry McDaniel's latest petite four puzzle box, Hobbit Cake, so I grabbed a copy of that first. Then I headed over to get Sandfield's ReBanded Dovetails. Next, I went over to Brian Young's table to get his Washington Monument puzzle. Finally, I got a copy of Matt Dawson's exchange puzzle, A Plugged Well.

After I got those puzzles, I wandered around a bit more slowly to see what everybody was selling. I was pretty psyched to see that Rocky Chiaro was at the party: he machines some really cool puzzles out of brass. I have tried a number of his puzzles, but don't actually own any yet. Still, it was a pleasure to meet him and get a chance to see some of his puzzles that I hadn't been able to try yet.

In particular, I had a chance to try three of his secret-opening puzzles: Beer Stein, Ice-Bucket, and T-Pot. I started with Beer Stein and had a bit of trouble with that one. Eventually, I figured it out: it has a cute and fairly simple solution, but there are a number of red herrings that can distract you for a while.

T-Pot was the second one I tried, which I was able to open with a bit of strategic shaking the hell out of it. The actual solution is a bit more clever, though I think most will stumble their way to opening it rather than figuring out the proper solution the first time. Finally, I tried Ice-Bucket which was a bit similar to one of his other puzzles. I think Beer Stein was probably my favorite of this group. I didn't end up getting one, since it was $200, though that seems like a decent price considering the amount of work that must go into these puzzles. He machines each one of them personally, no CNC here!

Alan Boardman was also in attendance, who I also hadn't met previously. He is known for crafting particularly tiny and precise puzzles. While quite impressive, these don't quite appeal to me since they're pretty difficult to actually play with! What did catch my eye was a few normal-sized puzzle boxes that he had on his table. I spoke with him about them, and he said that they were based on Chinese puzzle-safe designs, and were prototypes to gauge interest.

I first tried playing with the one on the right, which has a similar mechanism to a commercially available box, though this  version is much better crafted and the mechanism is simplified somewhat. The middle one was also pretty simple, the moves were extremely well hidden but fairly standard. The one on the left was probably the most interesting of the set. It had similarities to a few puzzles that I had seen before, so it didn't take me long to solve.

They were a cute set of boxes, but unfortunately the expected price was around $700 each, which was a bit rich for my blood! I thought they were very nicely crafted, but I didn't find them to be particularly complex or interesting to the level that I would expect at that price.

I wandered around the tables a bit more, before heading out to grab lunch with Peter Wiltshire. We got some Chinese food to-go and sat outside the puzzle party room while we ate.

We started chatting with a woman who was sitting nearby, and she told us that she was really interested in puzzle rings. D=D= (pronounced Dee Dee) showed us an impressive selection of puzzle rings from her collection, a bunch of  Jose Grant rings, and a number of others. It was really neat seeing D=D='s enthusiasm: she was really quite thrilled by puzzle rings!

Unfortunately, she wasn't actually invited to the puzzle party so she wasn't able to go inside, but I suggested that she might want to chat with Bram Cohen, who has been doing some interesting work in the field of puzzle rings recently. I ran inside to get him, and he came out to speak with her.

They chatted for a bit about her collection and the work that Bram had been doing, and I suggested that Bram grab some of his new designs from Oskar's table, in case D=D= was interested in purchasing something. He came back out with a bunch of puzzle rings and started explaining some of the nuances of his different designs. Being an avid collector and quite interested in new designs, she bought two of each design! One for herself, and one for her even-more-serious-ring-collector friend, Dan Danzi! It was a lot of fun meeting her and talking to somebody so passionate and knowledgeable about a particular group of puzzles.

I headed back into the puzzle party to take another pass and make sure I wasn't missing anything. There were a bunch of other great puzzles, but nothing I really couldn't live without. Here's the full haul from the day, along with some other puzzles I acquired throughout the trip:

In the top row is Mini-Perplexus IPP32 DC (Tanya's Thompson's exchange), Washington Monument (Brian Young's exchange), A Plugged Well (Matt Dawson's exchange), and Mouse House (Stephen Chin's exchange). In the next row, New*T (Nick Baxter's exchange), Two Key Lock (Nancy Alliegro's exchange), Caged Coin (Norton Starr's exchange), Sway Cube (gift from Peter Wiltshire), Hobbit Cake by Perry McDaniel, ReBanded Dovetails (Robert Sandfield's exchange). And at the bottom is a cute magnetic puzzle by Jane Kostick that was given to members of the IPP32 planning committee. Not a bad haul!

After the puzzle party, I headed down to the design competition room for a while. When dinner-time came around, Kellian and I went out to eat with a bunch of puzzlers. We went to Mexican place that was pretty tasty. In the photo you can see Peter holding a Rubik's cube that shocks you when you try to turn it. I knew this, and it still scared the bejesus out of me when I tried it! I jumped out of my seat and dropped it, much to everybody's amusement!

After dinner, I dashed back over to the design competition room where I again camped out until around 2:00 AM. The puzzle party had been a lot of fun, but I'm going to need a vacation when I get back to catch up on my sleep!


  1. What a haul! I would love a complete set of Rocky's bolts and keys. Unfortunately this ends up really very pricey!

    A Rubik cube which shocks you! With my recent twisty habit and obsession then I reckon I would be found dead at the table!!!


  2. Hi Brian, thanks for the write-up. Like your haul, especially the Hobbit Cake!

  3. Thanks guys! Indeed, a full set of Rocky's puzzles would be great...maybe someday if I can hold off buying puzzles for a few months. Seems unlikely unless Robert, Eric, and the Karakuri club all go on sabbatical!

  4. tikarko nakama of the brazil
    thank you for beautiful puzzles.


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