Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
29Aug/141

Ring & String, or perhaps “Something memorable from IPP”?

Hi all, it's been a good few weeks since I sat down and wrote anything, but then after a fantastic three and a half weeks touring the UK, catching up with friends and family; a wonderful long weekend with the MPP crowd soaking up the fantastic hospitality of the amazingly humble and welcoming Walker household; a week of IPP and many puzzle friends old and new, all mixed in with my one year delayed Honeymoon, it's good to be back, and probably about time I put a pen to paper, or finger to keyboard.

There's a good few puzzle bloggers out there who are writing about IPP, and all the fabulous conversations and events that took place over the week, so I'm not going to give you my account of what happened. But I do suggest you go read Allard's Assessment, Rox's Ramblings, and Jerry's Journey. They're all well worth reading, and will give you a good feeling for what a fantastic time was had by all. I've said it before and I'll no doubt say it again, the people in the puzzle community are an amazing group, and I'm proud and humbled to know each and every one of you, and to be able to call so many friends. Thank you.

I will give one special mention to Allard and his wife Gillian (as well as their two dogs, Ben and Jerry) for welcoming my wife and I into their home, putting us up for 4 days, feeding us, making us so welcome and at home, and not accepting a single penny in thanks. You truly are great friends, and I can't wait to return the favour at some point. Fortunately no harm came of the dogs who decided to eat some of my green packing peanuts while we were all out. The only casualty with Allard's lap when one of them decided to throw up on him. (Sorry!)

Anyway, I do want to mention one great experience from my IPP. While there Dr Colin Wright was wandering around talking to people and showing us some interesting little tricks. Colin is a Juggler, magician and specialises in Communication. I spent quite a bit of time talking to him, given that I juggle, have done my share of magic over the years, and with all this writing that I do, I have to accept that I have something to do with communication as well. (Ed: So hurry up and get to the point!)

Colin was wandering around with a length of chain around his neck, attached to it there was a steel ring. At one point as I was wandering around talking to the myriad of puzzlers Colin had a group around him, and he was doing something interesting with said ring and "string".

"Now, hold it like this ...."

As you can see, being the curious chap that I am, I wandered over and listened in to what he was saying. Before I knew it, he's turned to me, and I have the apparatus around my hand, and with a huge grin have been shown how the magic happens, and have now done it for myself. Yes, I really did have a huge grin on my face, as Colin explained what was happening, and that he had analyzed the behaviour to work out exactly how things worked, and perfected the one-handed technique. A few other people commented that they'd seen it before, and even done this before but using other grips, two hands or even a table. (Ed: But what was it ... get to the point already!)

Well when I got back from IPP, I went to the local hardware store, picked up a couple of rings, some chain and made my own copy, and one for my son. I knew he would like it, and for a couple of dollars, it's a great toy to have. Anyway, the picture above surfaced on Facebook, and I was tagged. A few comments from confused readers later, and I find myself making a video showing what we were doing. (Ed: But you've still not told us what that was.)

Rather that try to explain, I'll just leave you with the video below. I am fortunate enough to have a high-speed camera now, so I took some footage at high speed showing what happens, and put that in the video. I don't show how to do this, but it's fantastic to see what's happening.

Now, I took this to work with me to show a couple of my colleagues as I knew they would appreciate it. What happened though was entirely unexpected. Rather than asking how to do it, I was relieved of the pieces, and the team started trying to work out how to do it themselves. (I'm and engineer, and this has become a problem to be solved). For me this was fantastic. I've now seen about 4 different ways that can reproduce the result, none as elegant as what Colin showed me, and none that are nearly as reliable.

So here's a challenge. Go get yourself a solid ring, a length of chain and try this for yourself. I'd love to see how you get on in the comments!

Until next time, when I'll be back to puzzles, enjoy the video.

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29May/141

A few changes and things you may not even have noticed

WordPress

This will be a rather short post, since it's not a puzzle review but rather one of my infrequent general ramblings. Many of you won't notice a lot of the work that goes into maintaining the blog as it's pretty mundane stuff like making sure WordPress is up to date, and the latest security fixes are applied. All rather dull, and uninteresting for most of you.

Recently I've been making a number of updates which you may not have noticed, but I hope will become useful. Quite a few people have asked if I allow people to register with the blog, allowing them to get notifications of new posts, and to possibly allow access to some subscriber only content. Up till now, I've not really had anything like that, but there are a few pages lurking around that you don't see, and I have kept for my own info, like a Puzzleography of the puzzles I've made, details about the number of copies, woods used, who bought them and the like.

So in the last few days, I've finished adding all the pieces of the puzzle to allow you to register with Puzzling Parts, and login. Once you do, you'll see a couple of new menu items will pop up along that top bar. And one of those is the records I've been keeping about the puzzles I make. It's still a little bit of a work in progress as I clean things up, but you might find it interesting.

As always, feel free to leave me comments and suggestions below. I do try to respond to everyone that gets in touch.

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14Sep/130

Where were you?

Well it has been quite a while since I've written anything here, and I'm sure many of my regular readers will have wondered what happened. You'll he happy (at least I hope you will) to know that I'm still alive and well, and I've not abandoned the puzzle community. I've loads of puzzles to review, and lots to talk about, so expect many updates soon. Rather than write about everything I've been up to, hopefully the video below gets you up to speed.

Thanks for reading, and look out for some updates real soon.



5Jan/130

My Second IPP in 2012

We've made it into 2013, and I find myself wondering where the year went. Seems like I achieved a lot when I look back on it, and even though I didn't write about as many puzzles as I may have wanted to it seems like I got though a fair few. My collection continued to grow, thanks to some great designers and craftsmen out there, and I was invited to my first International Puzzle Party.

I met many of the people I've spoken to over the internet and made many new friends while I was there. One of those was Dor Tietz, who I was introduced to on the first night when a group of us went out for dinner. As we talked, I mentioned that I'd been to Israel a few times and given my day job, I'd probably be back again. He told me to let him know if I was going to be in Israel at any point as he'd organise a get together. So when I was traveling in October, I sent Dor an email, and he arranged my Second IPP for 2012. The Israel Puzzle Party! Before I leave 2012 behind I really need to write about this IPP as it was a very special meeting for me, and I had a lot of fun. It would be a shame not to write about it.


Dor very kindly picked me up from the Office at the end of my work day, and we drove the twenty minutes back to his house. While on the way Dor's phone rings and there's a short conversation partly in Hebrew and partly in English, as Dor confirms that we're on our way.

Getting off the phone, Dor tells me that the call was from Dan Feldman who was on his way. Dor had arranged for a small, select group of local puzzlers to come along while I was 'in town', and had hand picked people to join us. Quite an honor, and as Dor pointed out, made sure that it wouldn't be overwhelming for me.

Dan Feldman, Abraham Jacob, Me, Dor Tietz, Yael Meron, David Goodman

Dan Feldman, Abraham Jacob, Me, Dor Tietz, Yael Meron, David Goodman

The small group included Dor, Yael Meron, Dan Feldman, David Goodman, and Abraham Jacob. Dor and I arrived a little ahead of the rest of the group, so I was given the tour of Dor's collection. Sadly I didn't take photos, but it's fair to say he has a great collection. Various Hanayama's and Puzzle boxes are on shelves in the living room, and there's a dedicated puzzle room with one wall filled with bookcases of puzzle books and several cabinets with drawers filled with puzzles, all organised by type.

I didn't have much time to rummage, as the rest of the guests started arriving, so I was introduced to the rest of the Israel team. Having met Yael on the first night at IPP, it was good to see her again and be able to catch up. Not to mention that another familiar face always makes things easier. Although I didn't realise it initially, I'd also met Abraham before as well.

When I was helping out in the Puzzle Exchange at IPP, I had spoken with Abraham as Diniar and I exchanged with him. His wire puzzle 'Encircling the "X"' looked very interesting, and his explanation of how it was made really intrigued me, however I didn't manage to pick up a copy at IPP, and given that I had no money with me still don't have a copy ... I'll remedy that the next time we meet!

David Goodman is a puzzle collector and designer who I'd not met before. He designs some great 'simple' puzzles. You know the sort that you look at and wonder where the challenge could be, and then spend weeks trying to figure out. I'll get back to that though!

Finally we have Dan Feldman, the designer of the DanLock. Having seen my review of the Danlock, Dor thought it would be good for me to meet Dan, and be able to chat with him. As it turns out Dan reads my blog, and had read my review, so it turned out that I wasn't the only one who had questions!

Given that I didn't know whether I'd be able to meet up with Dor given my work schedules, I didn't bring any of my work with me except a copy of Stewart Coffin's Cube-16 that I'd made a small batch of thanks to a recommendation from John Devost. I gave that as a host gift to Dor. Everyone else had also brought puzzles with them so there was plenty to talk about and play with.

As we sat around Dor's table and talked people delved into bags and boxes they'd brought with them, and started handing me puzzles to play with as we talked. It seemed that my ability to solve (or not solve) a puzzle just let to more and more challenging puzzles being presented. And by that you should read simpler puzzles being presented. Seems that not only twisty puzzles can stump me, but those with just a couple of pieces too.

Double Loop, unsolved

Double Loop, unsolved

Double Loop Solved

Double Loop Solved

Dor asked me whether I'd managed to get a copy of his IPP31 exchange puzzle "Double Loop" which I hadn't. He promptly unboxed a copy, and made sure it was in the unsolved state by scrambling it for me. His theory is that if you get it solved you'll probably never play with it, so this means that I would at least be able to enjoy playing with it once. The puzzle is an extension of the well known "Snake Cube", but as the name suggests, rather than just one string of linked cubes, the Double Loop has two interlinked loops, making solving a lot more challenging and adding a whole other level to the puzzle. As you can see Dor, I did manage to solve it, and had fun playing!

9 Parts

9 Parts

He also gave me a copy of his IPP32 Exchange the "9 parts packing problem" as well. This one is designed by David, so it was great to be able to meet the designer. The challenge here is simple. Just pack all nine parts into the large container, and shut the lid. What could be difficult about that? Well it's another challenging little packing puzzle, that kept me busy for a few hours. I'm getting a lot better with packing puzzles, but I'm still not quick with them!

Damn Saddam!

Damn Saddam!

Damn Saddam's face

Damn Saddam's face

Shortly after arriving, David went into one of the boxes he had with him and puzzled out a copy of "Damn Sadam". This six piece puzzle is 'taken apart' by throwing it on the floor. A fair bit of force is required, and I wasn't sure whether he was joking when he told me to throw it, so I handed it back to him and watched as he took three attempts throwing it harder each time before the pieces flew apart. Of course when they did, they were handed back to me to put back together. Fortunately I had seen a similar puzzle before and was able to put it back together pretty quickly. This ended up being a gift from David, so went into the pile of puzzles I was accumulating to take home with me.

Triangular Pyramid pieces

Triangular Pyramid pieces

David then handed me a copy of "Triangular Pyramid" which was a previous exchange from David at IPP. It turns out that when David gave the puzzle to Dan, he found something of a useless machine when it was in its solved state, so that became a second challenge for the puzzle. Once you've combined the puzzle into its pyramid shape, you can move pieces in and out in a piston like motion which will continue indefinitely, making for a great distraction. I wasn't able to solve it while I was sitting at the table, and although David offered to show me the solution I declined as I prefer to be able to work these things out myself. Besides with only 5 pieces it seemed so simple! David gave me the copy I'd been playing with so that I could finish solving it. I have to say it's a great puzzle, for such simple pieces, and I highly recommend it. If you're thinking about making your own puzzles, this would be a good one to try given it's simplicity, and the challenging solution.

Ring a Nail

Ring a Nail

Another simple yet challenging puzzle David gave me was his "Ring a Nail" puzzle. Similar to the Nine Nails puzzle, this takes a slightly different approach, with a similar goal. The idea being to balance the five rings on the point of the nail. Yet another puzzle which seems so simple but really makes you think.

While sitting talking Dan asks me what I thought about the Danlock, given that he had read my review. It was very interesting talking to him about the puzzle and how it's made. Dan explained a number of the possible ideas he had for the lock, including another mechanism which would prevent the broken key from turning in the lock if the lock was not oriented in a certain direction. Seems like the puzzle could have been a lot more devious, given all the ideas floating around in Dan's head. His view is that the puzzle should be challenging, but not so difficult that you can't see a way to proceed, or that you need to do something where there would be no reason for that action, such as hitting or tapping the puzzle. Another idea such as requiring to tap the puzzle to release an internal lock as an example, which Dan felt didn't belong in the puzzle.

For anyone wondering why Dan doesn't make more of the lock more frequently, given its success and high demand, the reason is quite simple. Dan doesn't have his own workshop, so has to sub-contract various parts of the process. Getting someone to take on the small numbers he creates is a real problem, and often he finds that someone who he used in the past is no longer in business to help again.

It was fantastic to meet Dan in person, and to be able to spend time talking to him and getting to understand the designs he's come up with was a fantastic opportunity.

J-Cubes Sheets

J-Cubes Sheets

Folding the J-Cubes

Folding the J-Cubes

Not to be outdone, Abraham had a few of his puzzles with him, including a very interesting paper puzzle from a previous IPP Exchange called J-Cubes. The puzzle consists of a number of laminated sheets with a number of images on them. The goal being to fold these into cubes, made from several of the pieces joined together, and meet a couple of challenges based on the images on the faces of the cubes. This is made harder by their being a number of different ways to fold the sheets, and joining them into cubes isn't trivial either. Now given that I have found a love for impossible folded objects, this puzzle is right up my street. For something which seems so simple, it may have been passed up by many puzzlers. I have to say though, having played with them myself, if you have a set of these, do yourself a favor and go find them and play with them. They offer a good amount of puzzling, and will certainly make you think. the first challenge to get all the faces with the same image is not too tough, but the second challenge to make sure all the images are in the same orientation and you only use 6 out of the 7 sheets, finding the 'odd one out'.

J-Cubes, cubed

J-Cubes, cubed

Abraham asked me to play with the J-Cubes and let him know what I thought of them as he felt many puzzlers may have overlooked them given that they are 'just a paper puzzle'. Well I can happily say I have played with them, and I think they're well worth the hours I spent fiddling with them. They're well thought out and certainly have a lot of puzzling in them. If you'd like a set, let me know and I'll pass on Abraham's details as I'm sure he'd be delighted to send you some.

Trio F&L

Trio F&L

Quartet F&L

Quartet F&L

As well as the J-Cubes, he had a number of his wire and string puzzles with him. Initially I was handed a copy of Trio F+L Puzzle (left above) which was fairly straight forward and I solved in under a minute. With my confidence restored, he handed me Quartet F&L Puzzle (above right) which is much more challenging, and I manged to do little more than tie it in a knot. That said, it's not a problem with one of Abraham's puzzles as the string can be split and rejoined thanks to his thoughtfully placed clasp.

In a bizarre coincidence, as we were leaving Abraham commented that it had been his birthday two days prior. That's also my birthday. Turns out it really is a small world. Ok, so Abraham has a few years experience on me but it was fun to find that we shared out birthdays.

Stick Up!

Stick Up!

One of the puzzles I was handed by Dor on the night was this incredibly simple looking 'pub game' puzzle. The idea being to use one of the long sticks to create a tripod with the v shaped stick, and then use the second long stick to pick up the tripod from the table. Sounds simple right? Well I spent 40 minutes just looking at the puzzle. This did amuse Dor as I didn't attempt to pick them up since I felt it should be possible to solve the puzzle by thinking about it, which is exactly what I did. Everyone decided that I would solve it in 5 minutes when I didn't have four sets of eyes watching me. I wasn't that quick I'm sorry to say, but I did solve it since Dor told me to take that away too so I could solve it. It may have taken me 2 months thinking about how to solve it, but I did solve it on my first attempt. Have a think and see if you can figure it out ... or make yourself a copy and try it. Let me know how you get on as I'd love to know.

Trapped Penny

Trapped Penny

Coin Balance

Coin Balance

Strange as it was this reminded me of a couple of 'pub puzzles' which I'd not shown anyone in over 20 years. I promptly set them up to give David and Abraham a shot at solving them, which turned out to be a great idea. I never really thought about it but these puzzles are so simple, but may have been lost to many for a long time. Seems like I need to try to bring them back to people if I can.

The first is the coin under the glass (left). The idea is to get the coin out from under the glass without touching the glass or the coins it is resting on. (You'll need to set this up on a tablecloth). Do you know how to do it?

The second is to balance the coin on the brim of the glass, and get the coin over the glass (right). You can't touch the glass or the coin. The coin should not end up on the side of the glass nearest you, or inside the glass. (Try doing this in the pub with a half full pint!)

All in all I had a great night with the Israel puzzlers, and have to say a huge Thank You to Dor for arranging everything. There was a lot more that we talked about over the night, and a good few more puzzles played with too, but I think I've covered enough for this trip. I'll be sure to let Dor know the next time I'm traveling.

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24Aug/121

IPP 32 – Day Three

The Third day of IPP is what some would regard as the main event. It's the say of the Puzzle Party, a chance for puzzlers to buy new puzzles and designers and builders to sell their puzzles. I was very much looking forward to the day both to be able to pick up some new puzzles to add to my collection and also because I'd been making a few copies of the Hex Stair by Derek Bosch which I was planning to sell on the day. I also had one copy of the Unhappy Childhood I'd made last year still available so I took that too.

The day started fairly early, with the sellers getting into the room around 8.45 to be able to setup their wares before the doors opened to the throngs at 9am. I only had around a dozen puzzles with me, so it wasn't going to take long to get organised, however I was still there early to get setup, and also to take advantage of being able to wander the room before the rest of the buyers were let in. At least that way I knew where the couple of people I really wanted to visit were and I could make a bee line for them when I got a chance. Fortunately Derek Bosch was sharing the table with me so that he could gauge interest in his Rhombic Maze Burr Puzzle which meant I'd be able to get away from my table to shop.

Me at my table at the start of the day

Me at my table at the start of the day

Thanks to Rox I was able to grab this pic of me sitting at my table. I'm talking to Derek at this point, and the black and white object in the left of the photo is his RMB. This must have been around 40 minutes into the sale as I've already sold a couple of the Hex Stair Puzzles. I've added a photo of Derek's maze burr below. If you're interested in a copy, then let me know and I'll put you in touch with Derek. He's taking orders currently, with two sizes which will be available. I've played around a little with the puzzle (and hope to be reviewing it soon) and I really like it. It can be configured anywhere from ~50 moves to ~400 moves to open it, all with the plates provided, so there's certainly no end of challenges there. Derek plans to have a book with the various plate configurations so you can set it to whatever level you feel like tackling.

Derek Bosch's Rhombic Maze Burr Puzzles

Derek Bosch's Rhombic Maze Burr Puzzles

As a seller it's interesting to see who comes to look at what you have, and those who look but don't touch, touch and then apologise when the puzzle separates in their hands and they then hand it back sheepishly, and those who try to get it back together. All told the puzzle on my left was picked up and handed back to be put back together most often. I certainly enjoyed the experience as a seller. I managed to sell all of the puzzles I'd brought, and also had a fair amount of interest in either slightly different sizes or sets with the same woods for a Domino Tower and a Hex Stair. All in all a pretty good day.

I'd also taken the copy of my first ever puzzle box with me (you can see it to my right in the photo) and it had a reasonable amount of attention as well, with a number of people asking when it would be available for sale. So it seems like I have some work to do to get the box working the way I wanted, and iron out the issues I have with it. Maybe there is a demand for it after all.

I did have one incident, when William Waite came to buy one of the Hex Stair's. When I picked it up and when to show him the movement, a couple of glue joints gave, and the puzzle broke into slightly more pieces than it should have been. Clearly I couldn't sell it, so I apologised and put the pieces in the bag I had under my table. Fortunately Stickman happened to be sitting behind me, and had a repair kit with him, just in case he needed it for any of his puzzles, and he'd also fixed a couple of broken competition entries as well.

I knew Robert had a kit with him as I'd used it to repair the copy of "Genie in the Bottle" which was made by a friend of mine as the back piece was starting to come away from the puzzle towards the bottom, through a lot of use over three days. Fortunately I was able to borrow the repair kit, and so sat and fixed up the puzzle. A little sanding to remove the old glue (since I didn't have a razor) and then I was able to use the puzzle itself as a jig to ensure the pieces were kept in the correct locations. After about half an hour the puzzle was fine, but I decided to put it back in my bag and not sell it. I certainly didn't want to have it break again before the glue was fully cured.

The buyers and sellers at the Puzzle Party

The buyers and sellers at the Puzzle Party

The buyers and sellers at the Puzzle Party

The buyers and sellers at the Puzzle Party

As you can see the puzzle room was full of tables with puzzles from every genre, and a lot of very eager buyers. I was fortunate to be able to get most of the puzzles I was looking to buy from the exchange, and also picked up a few copies of puzzles which were in the Design competition that I really enjoyed too. I know it seems cruel to keep teasing you with the promise of reviews, but I will start reviewing all the puzzles soon, I promise.

Toward the back of the room Rocky Chiaro was sitting with a table full of his puzzles. I managed to play with three of his bolts and solve them fairly quickly. It was great to talk to him about the puzzles, and how they're made. He was very happy to show off his puzzles, and to know that each and every one is made by hand, no CNC machining is truly breathtaking. I was hoping to be able to get a copy of his Harley puzzle but he didn't have any left by the time I got to his table. I'm sure I'll be able to get one from him from the website, but I can recommend any of his puzzles. The craftsmanship is excellent, and Rocky is a great guy.

As things were winding down Chinny showed me one of his run spinning tops made from gluing together coloured pencils then turning them on his lathe. This particular one is pretty hard to keep down and will hop back up after you knock it over. Not really a puzzle, but a lot of fun, so I ended up taking that home with me too.

After five hours of buying and selling puzzles things were wrapped up and people kicked out of the room so it could be switched around for the day's lectures. Bret Rothstein, talked about the earliest known piece of art that features a puzzle and gave some insights into what the puzzle represented and how it was viewed by the artist. He also talked about some of his own work in reproducing some old wooden puzzle designs. Markus Götz then talked through the construction and solution to his IPP31 "Berlin Wall" host puzzle which was an interesting insight into the creation and thought that goes into making a host puzzle. Johanna Hottola then talked about about Pulma-hanke/The Puzzle Project a fascinating project to bring puzzles into more people's lives and use puzzles to help children and the general people of Finland. Finally, Eric and Martin Demaine from MIT, who talked about some of their latest puzzle-related research including problem difficulty and ended with an amusing video of a human dice rolling problem which looked like it might have been a little painful.

Some of us who were out for dinner

Some of us who were out for dinner

Saturday night is left for the puzzlers to do their own thing so we got a few good friends together and headed to one of the local places to eat. During dinner there were a few puzzles handed around which seems to be the norm for anything surrounding IPP.

The 1 Bit Puzzle from G4G10

The 1 Bit Puzzle from G4G10

One very interesting puzzle which was handed around was the 1 Bit Puzzle. This is a puzzle from the Gathering for Gardner 10 meeting. The puzzle was a tiny circuit board which had a little blinking light (hence 1 bit). The idea was to decode the blinking light to solve a puzzle. Based on the discussion, the initial blinking led you to a website. From there, you put the puzzle in the cold, and the blinking would change, leading you to put the puzzle near a radio tuned to a particular station, which led you to something else and so on. It sounded like a fantastic little puzzle, which so much being put into such a small package, and would probably have been a lot of fun to play with.


Shocking!

Shocking!

Before long someone produced my nemesis, the Rubicks cube. This one had a rather shocking secret to it though which got Brian so well, he gave out quite the shout and dropped the puzzle on the floor. Despite expecting it, it seems that this little cube packs quite the punch!

After dinner it was back to the hotel to play with more of the design puzzles. Since Brian had the key to the puzzle room, there was little chance of us missing anything! I had made pretty good progress through the puzzles, and had narrowed down my favorites so I had a pretty good idea which puzzles I'd be voting for. With only one day left I didn't have a lot of time to finalise my decisions.

The final day holds the Awards ceremony and I'll cover that in the next post, so come back tomorrow for that.

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23Aug/120

IPP 32 – Day Two

With the first official day of IPP 32 seeming to vanish in a flash, I was up early for the second day. Today was the day of the Puzzle Exchange. The exchange is where the participants create a new puzzle design, make a load of copies and then exchange their puzzle with every other participant. As this is my first year at IPP, I'm not allowed to take part in the exchange myself, however I had the pleasure to take the role of assistant to Diniar Namdarian.

I hadn't managed to find Diniar to introduce myself on the first day of IPP, so I had no idea what he looked like. I had heard that he'd been spotted so at least I knew he was here. It seems that a number of the exchange participants had dropped out in the run up to the event, as it's not easy creating 100 copies of a puzzle in time. On the day there were 79 people taking part, so that's a lot of puzzles to be passed around. The exchange itself started at 9am and was scheduled to run until 3pm. Before going into the event, I really couldn't see how it could take that long, but as it turned out, I couldn't be more wrong!

I was running a few minutes late as Jen wanted to get a coffee and donut before I left her with her new friends for the day, so it was nearly 9.05 when I got into the exchange room. Apparently Diniar was wondering what had happened to me and had left a message on my hotel room phone to find out where I was. As soon as I walked in he ran over and introduced himself. I have to say he seemed a little relieved that I was in fact there.

One Circle - Two Circles by Diniar Namdarian

One Circle - Two Circles by Diniar Namdarian

So with the panic averted, Diniar showed me the puzzle he had created for the exchange, and explained how it worked and showed me the various movements possible. He also explained that I'd be his camera man for the day, as he wanted a photo of himself and each person he exchanged with. Oh, and did I mention that since his English isn't great (but far better than my German is ... I'm a little rusty) I'd be explaining and demonstrating the puzzle to everyone we were exchanging with. It became pretty obvious I'd be doing a lot of talking!

This is one of the truly fantastic parts of the exchange. Rather than just being a case of handing over a puzzle and getting one in exchange, each person tells you a little about the puzzle, the goals, and often an amazing story about the puzzle, so each exchange takes several minutes, but you get to meet and talk to some great people, and hear some stories that you'd otherwise never hear.

One circle configuration

One circle configuration

Now as it happens, before we could exchange any of the puzzles, we had to open each puzzle and check it was working correctly. So I also became Diniar's tester. Some of the screws which hold the puzzle together had come a little loose thanks to the vibrations during transport, so we needed to tighten the screws, and make sure that all the pieces turned smoothly. Given the variations in thickness of the plastic, some were a little tight, so we put those to the side. My "spiel" about the puzzle went something like this:

"Hi, this is Diniar's exchange puzzle. As you can see we have two rings of beads which can rotate freely (rotating beads to show this), you can also rotate the centre (rotate centre of puzzle) so that you only have one ring of beads. (spin the single circle of beads) The goal is to mix the pieces up, then return the puzzle to its starting position with each set of beads matching the colour on the frame (pointing out the colours) Red to red, Blue to Blue, White to white and so on. You'll find that if you use four fingers to rotate the single circle it moves much easier than using one (again showing this), and when you rotate the centre, make sure you always have 4 beads in each track, having three in either side is not allowed. Now which colour puzzle would you like?"

Diniar had several different colours of puzzle made, and in was interesting to see the look on people faces as they realised that it wasn't a straight exchange and they had to make a choice. Of course there were a few German exchangers there and in those cases Diniar took over and explained everything in German. I kept up with his comments as best as possible. After the exchange was made, I'd take a photo of Diniar and the other exchanger with their puzzles, and check off the exchange on a sheet we'd been provided with so that we could keep track of everyone we'd exchanged with. The whole process took over 5 hours! Now when you consider that some people had a much longer explanation than mine, you can probably understand why. As a thank you, Diniar kindly gave me a copy of his exchange puzzle which I'll be reviewing soon. It's a fun puzzle, and a nice twist to other similar styled sliding tile puzzles.

I have to admit it was a great experience, and I hope to be able to take part in the exchange myself next time... I'm going to have to start making the puzzles now to be ready in time though!

All the exchange puzzles - click for full size

All the exchange puzzles - click for full size

All the exchange puzzles - click for full size

All the exchange puzzles - click for full size

While I'd love to talk through every single exchange puzzle, as you can see there are just far too many to go through. There were a few stand out stories which were told with the puzzles, so I'll talk about them here, and then there's a few more puzzles that I really liked from the exchange which I hunted out on the day of the Puzzle Party to add to my collection, so I'll talk about those later. I'm not listing these in any real order other than the order in which I remember the stories, so there's not favoritism here.

While I'm not going to talk about Laurie Brokenshire's exchange puzzle "Try-Cycle" made by Vinco here as I bought a copy and will review it separately, it is worth mentioning Laurie's IPP journey each year. You might be able to guess from the puzzle name that Laurie (and his wife) are big cyclists. So much so that Laurie rides his bike to IPP each year. Now that's not overly impressive until you realise that he flew from the UK to Alaska (3000 miles from the IPP location) and cycled from Alaska to Washington DC. Not only did he do that but he cycled to the pre-IPP trip location of the Lilly Library in Bloomington, Indiana to visit the Slocum Collection housed there. Now there was a small hiccup as it turns out there is also a Bloomington in Illinois (one state to the west, and 200 miles away), and this is where Laurie ended up ... just a little off track! Now to his credit, this didn't put him off, he just got back on the bike and carried on! Truly a fantastic (crazy?) journey to get to IPP 32. And apparently he does this every year!

Allard and Wil at the exchange

Allard and Wil at the exchange

Getting back to the exchange puzzles, Allard was assisting Wil Strijbos this year. Now it's a little hard to tell with Wil whether he's taking the piss or not, and as I already noted, he's a bit of a joker so when he presented his puzzle, the story that went along with it was great ...

Wil Strijbos' Exchange puzzle named "Exchange"

Wil Strijbos' Exchange puzzle named "Exchange"

As you can see from the puzzle cards, this is based on one of Wil's Coke bottles, however it's in a hospital collection cup. So Wil comes us and starts telling Diniar and I about the puzzle. "It's called exchange, and that's my puzzle. First you have to understand the solution sheet he tells us, showing the small laminated card. Exchange - It's my exchange puzzle, and it's the name of my puzzle, and it's the solution to the puzzle. The second challenge is to take the ball out of the container." (All the while that Wil is telling us this he keeps laughing slightly manically which seems to fit his personality!).

Allard's gift

Allard's gift

After he's told us this he then says that there is an extra gift from Allard if we want it, and hands us a small chain link. This is the third challenge (and I'll leave you to read what the yellow card in the first photograph says) but this is not part of the exchange, and we're warned that there will be no written solution to the third challenge. Now I'm not entirely sure, but I'm fairly certain that there is also no written solution to either the first or second challenges. Now add to that the fact that Wil presents the puzzle as you see it in my photographs (not as seen in the solution sheet) inside the cardboard box he then tells us the last challenge is to get the puzzle out of the box! I should note that the box is taped shut using some very broad tape, and as any good puzzler knows no external tools should be required, so as yet I've not managed to get mine out of the box and have refrained from using a knife to do so!

Robert Sandfield had a nice and short explanation for his puzzle, The "ReBanded Dovetails" box. Apparently the Banded Box which he had exchanged previously wasn't made well enough and some people managed to open them, so this is a ReBanded box to fix that problem! I managed to get a copy of both of his banded boxes so I'll review them separately.

Louis Toorenburg who is a very tall gentleman with a white beard turned up to the exchange wearing a Santa hat, and had each exchanger sit on his knee for a photograph with him when he exchanged. I have to be honest that I don't even remember what his puzzle was, but I do know there is a photo that exists somewhere of Diniar and I sitting on Santa's lap being asked if we had been good, and being checked off the list of exchangers. It seems as an assistant I'd been bad as my name wasn't on the list. I'm hoping no-one finds a copy of that photograph!

After an exhausting 5 hours, the exchange was done, and Diniar had a large box of puzzles to take home and play with. There were some real gems in there and I'll try to cover them when I start reviewing the puzzles.

Given that Jen was off shopping with the girls (or so I thought), I had some time to kill before she got back so I took my daily trip to the Design Competition room to continue playing with the puzzles. By the time the room was being shut, I'd made it through around half of the puzzles with around a 95% success rate in solving them without the solution sheet. I was pretty happy with that as there are some pretty challenging puzzles in there. As it turns out, Jen had returned a little while before I headed to the puzzle room, and was sitting in the bar with the girls, and sat there watching me walk straight past her on my way to play with the puzzles! (Sorry Jen)

Eric Fuller and myself enjoying a pint and a puzzle

Eric Fuller and myself enjoying a pint and a puzzle

The evening entertainment was dinner at the IPP Banquet, with some magic performances, but I'd somehow missed that on the IPP events list, so Jen and I were not attending that particular part. As it turns out Eric Fuller also wasn't going so we'd arranged to meet up and ended up going to Morton's Steak House for dinner, and had a very pleasant evening, an excellent steak, a chocolate cake slice that fed three of us with some left over and I had time to pick Eric's brain about puzzle making and just generally get to know him a bit better. From what I heard, it seems like we may have had the better option, but read Brian's thoughts on the dinner to find out for yourself.

John Rausch trying to fold a Scottish 5 pound note into a ring

John Rausch trying to fold a Scottish 5 pound note into a ring

When we got back from dinner we ended up sitting at the bar with John Rausch and Nancy Alliegro. John ended up folding a ring out of a dollar bill having failed when he tried to use a Scottish note I had in my wallet because it was too short. I'm not entirely sure how we managed to get to the topic of folding notes, but it was great to meet John in person and be able to chat to him for a while. Jen was given the ring, and it's now part of my puzzling collection, and another memory for me from IPP 32.

New puzzle from Jane Kostick

New puzzle from Jane Kostick

John handed me a beautiful puzzle made by Jane Kostick while we were talking as I mentioned I had some of her work. John thought I'd appreciate this one. The puzzle comes in a plastic tube, very neatly presented, and the goal is to make the shape shown above. The trouble is that unlike many of Jane's other puzzles where there are cubes or other guides to help in assembly, there's nothing to help with this one. You have to initially build two pairs of pieces, and interlink them, then finding the correct orientation you can continue to build the rest of the structure. I had real issues seeing the correct orientation and with a few nudges from John finally got there, but it was a tough puzzle. I have to say it may be one of my favorites from Jane, and for now John Rausch is the only one to have a copy. Needless to say I've since asked Jane if I can have a copy too! Jane had three entries in the Design competition this year, all of which were excellent, and definitely far more puzzling that the entry from last year. I'll be writing more about them soon.

Overall it was another busy day where I met some more great people and I feel as though I've already forgotten more stories than I remember from the day. After 5 hours on my feet again, and essentially talking non-stop, I was pretty tired at the end of the day. Talking with Rox about the event who was one of the exchangers (more about her puzzle soon), she was finding her voice going, and she teaches for a living, so her job is to talk. That said I wouldn't have changed it for the world, and highly recommend anyone going to take part, even as an assistant given how much fun the day was.

Next up is the day of the Puzzle Party itself. I'd made a few puzzles to sell so I was looking forward to the experience both being able to buy some new puzzles and also to be on the other side of the table selling. Come back tomorrow to find out how I got on.