Each year Peter Hajek hosts a puzzle party with a difference: puzzlers are invited to submit their three best puzzle finds of the year and he collates them into a small book that is published soon afterwards. Those that can attend in person present their finds to the assembled puzzlers who can then have a bash at them… and then there’s entertainment afterwards… it’s usually a cracking day out.
This year lived up to all expectations, and then some…
I arrived a little late (but well before Laurie arrived!) and duly divested myself of a small gift for the host and a large batch of chocolate brownies from Gill for the assembled puzzlers. Katja fixed me up with a great cup of coffee and I wandered among the puzzlers for a while, catching up with Steve and Ali and Oli and Shane and Duncan and Gerard and David and Wil … you get the picture … and of course our host, Peter.
Wil had brought over stocks of his latest creations and a not-quite-orderly queue (more like a gaggle to be honest) formed around the good man while he explained puzzles, listed prices and then started swapping cash for merchandise… I took one of each of the two new puzzles, picked up a prize for my competition and then spent a while embarrassing myself at being unable to get into a simple little Kamei Cube Box (#1 if you’re interested) – it was only when Oli came along and gave it a bit more welly that I finally found the solution for it… great little box – yes please – duly added to collection.
We snacked and chatted a bit before Peter herded us into the lounge for the presentations. Tim started us off with a talk he’d done at the latest Celebration of Mind on extreme puzzles (biggest, smallest, simplest, most complex …you get the idea…) – all very entertaining with Tim’s usual brand of wit coming to the fore. One of his extreme puzzles was a copy of the Elusive E puzzle that came with a 5p coin – everyone was given a copy of what would have to be the cheapest puzzle in their collection – since it cost each one of us -5p!
Next up was Fran with a presentation on star maps hidden in objects – with examples of a giant carved rock, a mirror and an ancient coin… one of which was explained – the others left as a puzzle for us.
From there on we ran through the individual puzzle finds of the year, each taking our turn at presenting our nominations and the reasoning behind them… this year mine were:
Stickman #29 – Matchbox Puzzle: Robert Yarger always seems to feature somewhere in my top three puzzle finds of the year. This year it’s because the Matchbox Puzzle is beautifully themed - all of the components combine to play a part in the solution. The detailing is terrific: from the redheart box with the yellow Stickman-branded inlay, right down to the purpleheart and maple matchheads… and it’s a great puzzle box!
I was fortunate to be given a copy of Shane Hales’ Pentagon puzzle this year. Shane makes only a handful of each of his puzzles and gifts them to people in the puzzle community. It’s a wonderful sequential discovery journey where The Pentagon is only discovered after unlocking the secrets of the beautifully detailed case it travels in… then there are many layers to unlock before finding the disarm code deep inside.
Lee Krasnow’s Barcode Burr is a superbly crafted six-piece dissection of a cube. Each piece has a combination of pins and mazes that interacts with its neighbours, producing a binary sequence that requires 64 moves to remove the first piece. Easily the most beautiful implementation of a Gray code sequence available anywhere… very chuffed to have found one of these.
It was brilliant to see several people nominating Louis’ Lock 2015 in their finds of the year – well done Louis!!
When we’d all finished our presentations, Peter told us that Wil’s Butterfly Lock Box was the stand-out winner this year and that he’s had almost 75 entries for this year’s book – that’s awesome.
There was a bit more chatter before we traipsed through the kitchen to load up on dinner – as usual Katja had laid on a fantastic spread for all of us – filled with all my favourite sorts of things… and I even managed to grab one of Gill’s chocolate brownies afterwards…
I had a lovely chat with Martin over dinner and he rather astounded me by insisting on giving me one of his 72 Pencil constructions (one of his three best finds of the year)! I’ve seen these on the web in various forms and have been meaning to try and make one for myself at some point – now I don’t have to anymore – but I’ll probably want to have a bash at doing one anyway – and perhaps I’ll give one to someone else then… :-) Thanks Martin!
Another of Martin’s finds was a puzzle from Donald Bell (that Donald was dishing out to everyone who was there as well) that requires 5 copies of a 3-4-5 triangle and your challenge is to create a line-symmetric shape using all 5 pieces flat on a table, without any overlapping… it’s a cracking puzzle!!
After dinner we settled down to a somewhat mind-blowing close-up magic show by Joe Barry… now I used to do a little magic in my dim and distant past and I don’t find myself impressed by magicians very often – this chap thoroughly impressed my socks off, smacked my gob and blew my mind… then he did his second trick… and it got worse from there – Joe Barry, serious tip o’ the hat to you, sir!
A little more banter after the magic – including a lot of comments about just how good Joe had been – before we all headed our separate ways after another great EPP.