Friday, 2 October 2015

Stickman #8 aka 3-Lock Box

Happy Birthday to me.
Happy Birthday to me. 
(…I don’t think I need to include a copyright symbol in there any more…)

This is a truly gorgeous Stickman Puzzlebox. Rob has clearly spent a huge amount of effort on making this box look like a stunning, standard sliding panel puzzle box. Of course it isn’t, Rob doesn’t do standard-anythings!

This is a fiendish puzzle that seems to misbehave… normal sliding panel puzzles behave in a simple, predictable way: move a panel and something happens – every time… but on the 3-Lock Box when you move a panel, something happens – but only sometimes! Sometimes it doesn’t…!

Rob’s description of this puzzle points out that he’s implemented a rather ingenious set of three way switches on the panels, so rather than being either this way or that, the internals will depend on how many times they’ve been this way or that…!
There happened to be an MPP shortly after I received this box so along it went and Louis duly solved it in very short order – showing me an open drawer in the base before promptly locking it all up again… of course when I tried, I ended up doing battle with those little switch-y things and getting nowhere fast… actually, that’s not quite true – I could get some useful stuff to happen and managed to remove a bit which I thought would be useful, but I couldn’t get it past the next stage and ended up cycling between half-open and fully closed…

A few other folks managed to open it and I had a good go at it a couple of days later, only to manage to break one of those ingenious little devices allowing the top panel to come off entirely – of course I still couldn’t get it fully open, even with the top panel removed! (That probably tells you a lot about (a) my puzzle-solving skills and (b) Rob’s puzzle-making skills!)

A quick email to Rob resulted in a detailed reply on how to go about fixing and reassembling it… and a couple of weeks later I managed to find some time to drill out the remains of a little dowel and replace it, before reassembling it…

Once I’d done that I got my trusty tester to confirm that it was all working properly (Yip, I still hadn’t managed to open it!) – which he duly did smiling broadly while displaying the open drawer, again!

…now, a few weeks on, I can finally say that I get it – it’s very sneaky… understanding that three-way switch is crucial, but there’s even more to it than that… it is fantastic!

Sunday, 27 September 2015


A cool cultural reference and the puzzle’s goal encapsulated in a simple name – Pac(k)Man is another neat little aluminium puzzle from Gary Foshee’s workshop. It comes in one of his customary purple velvet drawstring bags and it’s most definitely pocket-sized.

In its unsolved state it has a large screw-head protruding outside of the little aluminium cube and you’re told that your goal is to get everything either inside the cube or at least flush with the sides. The projecting screw-head is nicely knurled, making it pretty easy to unscrew it with just your digits. There’s an obvious place to put this screw, except that it’s pretty clear that there’s something blocking the hole so the screw can’t get all the way home, leaving it projecting a bit.

Well it was never going to be that simple, was it?!

OK, so what else have we got? Well there’s another screw in there, but it’s flush with the surface and unless you have Chris’ weird fingers, you’re going to need a tool to get that one out… it needs a hex wrench… but you don’t seem to have one… examining things a bit more and you’ll see that there’s an exit hole for what appears to be the goodie partially blocking the screw hole you want to use for the big screw…except it’s being held in place by that flush little hex-headed screw… so where is that hex tool?

Depending on how you approach these things it might only take you a couple of seconds, or it may take quite a while, but when you find it you’ll grin a bit… that lets you make a little more progress but pretty soon you’ll find yourself stumped again – and I really loved this second little brick wall that you hit – you think it’s all plain sailing from there only to find another road-block that requires an altogether different approach to problem-solving!

Great little puzzle!

[In answer to the inevitable question: privately – they haven’t been generally available for many years!]

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Stickman #1

The Oak Wood Slide Box definitely wasn’t the first Puzzlebox that Robert Yarger produced, but it was the first design that was given a number and signified intent to keep them coming… so from that perspective it’s an important puzzle in the canon.

On the outside it looks reasonably modest – a simple little chest of drawers without any fussy decoration – or indeed any way to open the drawers that are all rather securely locked in place. The ends of the drawers seem to have finger holes in them, but they don’t seem overly useful, yet.

Examine the box closely and you’ll find a few interesting features, that will in turn lead to another that’s hidden away inside – find what it does and you might find a drawer unexpectedly popping open… and you’ll see that Rob’s gone to town on making the insides pretty – lining the drawers with green crushed velvet – nice touch.

From there you need to experiment a little to find how to get into drawer number two, but given you’ve got this far, it probably won’t take you very long to find your way into number two.

…at this point you might be reasonably satisfied with your progress, but you’ll probably notice that you haven’t used about half of the available space in there so you might just be suspecting that there’s more to be found, and you wouldn’t be wrong… getting into it is a little trickier though.

I spent quite a while trying to imagine how the heck Rob has achieved what he has using the bits that interact to get them to behave the way they do… and then gave up. Clearly he has used some of Terry Pratchett’s practical magic inside there to get things to perform different functions.

For me, this is the start of the series (yes I know there were others before that, heck I even have some of them in my collection!) and that makes it a little bit special… it also just happens to be a really nice puzzle too! 

Everyone’s a winner!