Saturday, 11 February 2017

Karakuri Christmas 2016

I joined the Karakuri Club several years ago and I've never been disappointed, and I tend to encourage any other puzzlers I come across to join up. For a fixed sum per craftsman you get a set of wonderful presents just in time for Christmas... You never know what you're going to be getting, but you're pretty much guaranteed good value for money - and along the way you're providing the Karakuri guys with working capital for the year - I think it's a great deal for everyone.

Last year I opted for six out of the eight craftsmen knowing that I would almost certainly like their presents. 

Tatsuo Miyamoto brought us the Clown Fish box - a super colourful decorated box with an obvious break across the lid of the box. Exploring the lid yields some interesting movements and a peek inside at an animated clown fish. Very cute! 

Osama Kasho produced a Pelican this year, although I must admit that I took a while to work out what it was and spent quite a while thinking it was something akin to the rabbiduck ambiguous drawing ... Of course as soon as someone points out that it's a pelican, you can't unsee it... A reasonably simple opening with a huge storage space inside the big bird's bill, as you might expect!
Fumio Tsuburai brought us a new variant on the Coin Bank, which if the name is anything to go by is the 16th variant the Karakuri folk have brought us over the years. The mechanism for this reminded me a little of one of the other Coin Banks I have and one or two purists have been known to grumble about the need for an external tool...  

Twin 4 is a further development in Hideaki Kawashima's Twin-series. This is a great little puzzle box that uses all sorts of interesting movements and combinations to eventually allow you to find two large recesses... And the wonderful thing is that you still aren't finished at that point. All of the boxes have their maker's mark on them somewhere, usually on the inside... And if you've been paying attention, when you get to find the second recess, you still haven't found Kawashima-san's hanko- so you need to keep going until you find it... Really nice puzzle!

Akio Kamei gave us a String Box variant that looks pretty similar to some the earlier variants, only this one doesn't behave like them at all! In fact I had a lot of trouble with this one and ended up getting Louis to give me several large hints - it is a bit of a sod and requires a fairly deft touch... You should be able to work out what's going on and what you need to do, but it's pretty darn tricky!

The final puzzle in my Christmas haul was Bean Bag Drawer 3 from Hiroshi Iwahara - if Kamei's puzzle was tricky, this one's a beast! The drawer pulls out a bit quite easily, but it's clear that it "should" come out a lot more, and there's a red slider that doesn't seem to do a lot at all - and somehow you need to manipulate "things" in order to fully open the box. 

Like previous year's Bean Bag Drawers, this puzzle has a wonderfully delicate reset feature that I found myself triggering rather often. A careful inspection does yield some helpful clues as to what you're trying to do, but even then, it's rather tricky, quite fiddly, and then there's that darn reset waiting to send you right back to the start again... It took me a long time to open this one for the first time - Christmas was a dim and distant memory when I opened it on my own for the first time... I write this blog I've just signed up for this year's Christmas presents. 

Go on. 

Spoil yourself!

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Seriously humbled…

…several ways! 

Shane’s been busy again… a while back he mentioned he’d had an idea for a variation on Stewart Coffin’s Three Piece Block puzzle – knowing it was Laurie’s favourite puzzle, we’d seen him work his magic on a rather obtuse variant at Peter’s place just after Christmas. He’d then gone on to tell everyone about a variation he’d discovered among my collection that he hadn’t seen before – I’d thought it was a bog-standard version only for Laurie to explain that it was subtly different and he wanted to know where I’d got it from… I pointed him at Brian Menold who hadn’t realised that he’d varied it slightly from the original – and Laurie duly commissioned a pair of variants from him… 

Seeing this, Shane decided he wanted to make a version in Laurie’s honour with some traditional Hales’ Secret Sauce, and a week or two later he sent me a pic of a locked up set of Three Piece Block bits and I duly shouted lots of encouragement down the old email tube… a few weeks later he was back on the blower offering me a special patchwork version in honour of something that Gill had organised for Laurie last year… somewhat humbled by the offer, and the thoughtfulness behind it, I was never going to turn it down. 

Last week I received the well-packed box from Hales HQ – a well and truly locked up set of familiar-looking pieces… except there’s a bath chain locking them together with a neat little padlock… and not a key or other suitable tool in sight anywhere… so I did the obvious and took out the packaging and raked through it carefully (nope, hadn’t missed anything!) and then re-read the accompanying Hales-doc (nope, no clues in there either) – so started puzzling… 

…and I duly puzzled for many a night, playing this way and that and not finding any way to unlock the padlock – I’d developed quite a lot of respect for this puzzle when I eventually sent up a flare to Hales HQ to ask if any external tools were required – let me tell you that I deserved every little bit of the slightly derisory reply I received – I needed a telling off… I redoubled my efforts and still got precisely nowhere!

Taking pity on me, Shane sent me a sideways hint and I found the vital step I’d been missing and I was truly humbled by this puzzle in a second way – this time in the proper “You’ve been PWNED by the puzzle” sort of way – Hales had TOTALLY caught me out and he deserves a right proper degree of respect for this one – it is brilliant and I am somewhat ashamed that I didn’t find it on my own… 

Unlocking the pieces leaves you with “just” Coffin’s Three Piece Block puzzle… which on its own is formidable enough for someone like Laurie to proudly list it as his favourite puzzle of all time…

Shane – you totally owned me with that one!

Thank you…