Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
31Aug/123

Tetraxis at IPP 32

During the Design competition at this year's IPP I was able to play around with some of Jane and John Kostick's new designs. In total there were three new designs from Jane this year, and despite not winning any awards, they are all great to play with, and much like the Tetraxis I wrote about yesterday, have a quality that makes you want to take them apart and put them back together. A lot.

This year there were many more puzzling elements to the offerings so rather than just making the complete structure, you could spend a lot of time trying to make the other structures mentioned. First up is the 3 Layer Tetraxis array.

Kostick's 3 Layer Tetraxis array on a bronze star

Kostick's 3 Layer Tetraxis array on a bronze star

3 layer Tetraxis array

This is the largest of the three structures, measuring 4.5" when fully assembled. (Thanks Allard for the correct size) Made from a number of exotic woods including Wenge, Maple, and at a guess Bubinga and Spalted Apple, the puzzle looks stunning. Jane's top quality finish on the pieces is clear and the fit is excellent. As with the Tetraxis array I wrote about yesterday the pieces are embedded with magnets which hold the structure together, and help lead you to the solution.

I had a lot of fun playing with this puzzle. It has the initial appearance that it's much harder than it looks which may have put some people off, but it's so much fun to play with that you're really missing out if you don't.

There were seven challenges with the 61 sticks and blocks. None were overly difficult, however each creates a stunning structure which would look great in any display. Also it's worth noting that all of the first three solutions can be made at the same time.

The challenges were to use the set of 61 sticks and blocks to put together seven compositions that symmetrically surround a center:

1. Using one block and the 12 longest sticks
2. Using the 12 blocks and the 12 mid-length sticks
3. Using the 24 shortest sticks
4. Combine 1 & 2
5. Combine 1 & 3
6. Combine 2 & 3
7. Combine 1, 2 & 3

Below are a few images showing some possible combinations, but I'm not going to show all the solutions, you can work them out for yourself!

Tetraxis, outer later removed.

Tetraxis, outer later removed.

The outer 'layer' removed showing the inner structure.

Tetraxis, inner cage

Tetraxis, inner cage

The Wenge 'core' disassembled leaving the inner cage. As you can see the magnets and the lattice hold the structure together without any support.

Tetraxis core

Tetraxis core

The Inner symmetric core. I love this structure.

Tetraxis

Tetraxis

Both parts of the inner core assembled separately. If you look closely, you can see the three sticks in each plane.

Tetraxis, assembling the core inside the cage.

Tetraxis, assembling the core inside the cage.

Here you can see how the inner code is nested inside the cage.

Chamfered Cube

Chamfered Cube

Chamfered Cube

Next up is the Chamfered Cube. This much smaller structure looks exactly as the name suggests, and really stands out with the pyramid shaped indents in each side of the cube. For some reason my photos of the remaining two puzzles didn't turn out very well, so I'm having to use the competition photos from John Rausch's site.

The goal for this puzzle is to use either set of 12 sticks to hold the 8 blocks in place at the corners of a cube and then to add the other set of sticks to make a large chamfered cube, which is the shape of the small white block that can fit in the center of the arrangement. This isn't a difficult challenge as the shape of the ends of the sticks, and the blocks themselves guide you toward the correct solution. Made from Black Palm, Red Oak, and at a guess Chakte Viga it's a striking looking puzzle.

Double Duals

Double Duals

Double Duals

The third entry is Double Duals. Around the same size as the Chamfered Cube, this is another stunning looking puzzle. Made from Leopardwood, and possibly red oak (not sure on the lighter wood), this puzzle is almost an inverse construction of the previous puzzle. Rather than the sticks crossing through the centre of the structure, here they form the outer shell.

The goal of the puzzle is to make a pair of complementary arrangements such that each one contains blocks and 12 sticks symmetrically surrounding a center. Then put them together so that one is inside the other, and they both surround the block without magnets. Then repeat the entire process with each set of sticks making the opposite arrangement.

The clever part here is that as is hinted at, you can swap the sticks between the inner and outer construction. It's a clever arrangement, and really needs to be played with to be appreciated.

Other KoStick Puzzles from IPP

The competition entries weren't the only appearance of Jane's work over the weekend. It turns out that the IPP committee had arranged for Jane to make a very special little puzzle for each of the people who helped run and organise the events over the weekend. That came in the form of a tiny little Tetraxis puzzle.

Brian with his Kostick puzzle as thanks for helping

Brian with his Kostick puzzle as thanks for helping

Brian Pletcher was one of the people helping out and was given one of these beautiful little puzzles. as such I was lucky enough to be able to get a good look at it. It's not a challenging assembly, however the way the blocks have been cut, there are multiple ways to assemble the pieces.

A closeup of the Tetraxis gift made by Jane Kostick

A closeup of the Tetraxis gift made by Jane Kostick

A closeup of the Tetraxis gift made by Jane Kostick

A closeup of the Tetraxis gift made by Jane Kostick


It's a great looking puzzle, and something I'm sure the IPP organisers will be very happy to have in their collections.

There was one final puzzle from the KoStick range which I played with over the weekend, which was thanks to John Rausch pulling a tube with some of Jane's pieces out of his pocket and handing them to me. It turns out having talked with Jane that the puzzle was a 2 Layer Tetraxis array, knows as 4P1S. Now I have no idea what the code stands for, but for me it was probably the most challenging of the Tetraxis puzzles that I played with over the weekend.

Tetraix 2 layer Array 4P1S

Tetraix 2 layer Array 4P1S

The version John had was in a single wood, however when I spoke to Jane about the puzzle she mentioned that she had two versions available. Seeing the puzzle above in Mahogany with Ebony and Holly tips I was quick to buy it from Jane. The puzzle is very similar to the Chamfered Cubes puzzle however there are no corner blocks to help with the assembly. As such this is a much harder puzzle to put together and as such I found it a lot of fun.

In total there are 24 sticks, 12 long and 12 short which need to be combined to make the shape above. It may look fairly simple, but it's not as easy as it looks. Starting off, you make two sub-assemblies which you need to interlock, and then build up from there. Seeing how the first two interlock is the real challenge, and once they are in place, the rest comes together fairly quickly from there.

If I were to recommend one of the puzzles to get, it would be this last puzzle. I did!

Overall, Jane's work is incredible, and really the photos don't do it justice. It needs to be seen to be appreciated, and the movement of the pieces only really becomes magical when you have it in your hands. The wooden versions are well priced for the work that goes into them, but if you want a cheap version to be able to play with and get a feel for how the pieces interact before spending a lot of money, then I'd recommend some of the plastic versions which you can buy on their web shop.



30Aug/121

Tetraxis and Six-Axis

Wow, doesn't time fly. It's nearly the end of 2012, and I realise that I still haven't sat down and written up the Tetraxis puzzles that I received from Jane Kostick over a year ago. Worse that that, I created the video review back in October (last year)! Not only that but after being at IPP and playing with more of Jane Kostick's excellent puzzles, I've bought more from her and really need to review that too. So with all the procrastination out of the way, I hope you enjoy the review of this fine puzzle set.

Some time before IPP31 I came across Jane and John Kosticks website, and really liked the look of their puzzles. Digging around a little, I found that as well as the mass produced plastic versions of the puzzles, Jane also made some rather unique versions from wood as well. So chancing my arm, I got in touch and asked if she would make me a set.

Jane and I chatted back and forth for a while via email, and eventually agreed on some woods to use from Jane's fairly large stock, and she set about making the puzzle pieces for me. I have to admit that I really enjoyed talking with her about the puzzle itself, how the magnets were attached to the sticks, her experiences with different woods, and many other topics, including IPP. In the year that has passed since then I still talk to Jane via email occasionally and on returning from IPP 32 I threw her another email commenting both on the great puzzles that she had in the Design competition, and also a particular puzzle that John Rausch had given me to play with, but more on that later.

Unbeknown to me, fellow puzzler Allard was also having a set of Jane's sticks made and unlike me he wrote about them in a much more timely fashion.

Tetraxis

Tetraxis

My copy is a three layer puzzle with a rhombic triacontahedron in the centre, then Jane and John's Six-axis in the middle and a Ten-axis Tetraxis frame on the outside. The inner parts are made from Bubinga, Black Palm and Maple, and the outer Ten-axis is Cherry. They have trademarked the name Tetraxis, and use it to cover all of the puzzles they make including the Tetraxis Star, Tetraxis toy/puzzle, and Tetraxis magnetic sculptures in wood.

The whole structure shows the fantastic geometric relationships that are found in John's stars and really helps you to visualise the geometry in play. So many puzzles are based on the geometry here, and you'll probably recognise the shape of the six-axis Tetraxis as the same shape as Stewart Coffin's Jupiter puzzle (amongst others).

Tetraxis Bronze Star

Tetraxis Bronze Star

When I originally ordered the puzzle from Jane, things took a little longer than she would have liked due to some dull saw blades, so she ended up sending me one of her husbands Tetraxis stars (4 axis) as a little extra to say sorry for the delay. Now given that this was a custom order I really don't think it took long at all, and the craftsmanship is superb. To my mind there was no delay and really it wasn't an issue at all, so thanks for the little extra Jane, it's beautiful too.

Tenaxis Closeup

Tenaxis Closeup

The Sixaxis partially solved

The Sixaxis partially solved

Sixaxis showing the five sticks coming together

Sixaxis showing the five sticks coming together


As you can see from the closeup pictures, the fit and finish of the sticks is excellent, and Jane has even signed the pieces which on this scale is no easy task. The overall structure may be fairly large as you can see in the video, measuring 4" however each stick is just 0.25" thick on the outer Ten-axis assembly.

Tenaxis Signed

Tenaxis Signed

Sixaxis Signed

Sixaxis Signed

Putting the pieces together isn't overly challenging, and the magnets pull everything into place nicely so in terms of a challenge, this isn't the most difficult puzzle you'll play with, however it is remarkably relaxing to just start putting the pieces together and hear them snap into place. The resulting shape has a sculpture like quality which sits very proudly on my puzzle shelves, and gets a lot of attention from visitors.

Tenaxis Puzzle

Tenaxis Puzzle

The inner Rhombic Triacontrahedron

The inner Rhombic Triacontrahedron

Tetraxis layers

Tetraxis layers

It's a beautiful puzzle, and truly a work of art. This year at IPP, Jane and John had a number of new designs entered which I was fortunate enough to play with. Not only that but John Rausch had a one off puzzle Jane had made which he handed me to play with. Having talked to Jane about this puzzle after IPP, I now have a copy of that too, so come back tomorrow to read about her IPP entries and a new design that I fell in love with.



25Aug/120

IPP 32 – Day Four

Day four is the final day of this year's IPP and is the last chance to play with puzzles from the Design Competition. The end of the day is marked with the Awards Banquet, and a very special event which I found out later on. Having played with most of the puzzles in the exchange, there were only a few I had yet to spend any time on, and I wanted to give as many puzzles as possible some time before casting my votes for the puzzler's award.

There wasn't really anything else going on in terms of formal events on the Sunday, it was a day to take in "The Mall" in DC, and to do some sight seeing, so Jen and I headed off for Arlington National Cemetery to watch the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. It's a fairly impressive sight and something that I would recommend people do. Since World War II, The Old Guard has served as the official Army Honor Guard and escort to the president. In that capacity, 3rd Infantry soldiers are responsible for the conduct of military ceremonies at the White House, the Pentagon, national memorials and elsewhere in the nation's capital. In addition, soldiers of The Old Guard maintain a 24-hour vigil at the Tomb of the Unknowns. Quite an honor and very moving. To see the ceremony, watch the video below which I took while there.

After that we headed for another couple of the Smithsonian museums, before returning back to the hotel to see who was around and get ready for the evenings events and the Awards Ceremony. The guys and girls from the Renegades Forums had already arranged to get a couple of tables together for the evening, so we met up slightly beforehand in the bar for a few drinks and the continuing rounds of puzzles being passed around. I haven't mentioned previously (or at least I don't think I have) that Ken Irvine was wandering around all weekend with a bag of puzzles designed by his good self. Ken doesn't have a table saw so had to rely on the kindness of another Renegade to cut sticks for him, however the puzzle designs he handed round were superb. On one evening, Ken handed me a new 4x4 cube each time I solved, and restored the previous puzzle he'd given me. I'd very happily have taken any and all of those puzzles from him there and then, but he wasn't selling them. Fortunately Tom Lensch and Eric Fuller are both making copies of his designs so keep an eye out for them. You'll not be disappointed as the designs are great. Not too tough, but not simple either. Most didn't have names, but the "Accordion Cube" is to be highly recommended.

The Puzzlers of the Renegades Forums

The Puzzlers of the Renegades Forums

The previous night we'd tried to get a photo of all the Renegades, but we'd had a few missing. Before the awards started Rox wandered onto the stage, grabbed the mike, and asked all the Renegades to meet at the back of the room. The photo above is the result of that request. It was a pleaseure for me to meet all of these people having talked with them online and been given so much advice and help as I started making puzzles. They are a great bunch of people in person, and I'm glad to be able to call each and every one of them a friend. Thanks for making my first IPP such a great event everyone!

Top Row(L-R): Brian Young, Scott Elliot, Matt Dawson, Richard Gain, Nick Baxter, Brett Kuenher, Ken Irvine, George Syriaque, Brian Pletcher, Jim Strayer, Peter Wiltshire, Neil Hutchison and Robert Stegman
Bottom Row (L-R): George Bell, Eric Fuller, Allard Walker, Roxanne Wong (lying down), Stephen Chin, Robert Yarger, Jeff Aurand (lying down), Gregory Benedetti and Derek Bosch.

The wives of the Renegades

The wives of the Renegades

Of course the weekend wouldn't be complete without the wives and other halves who put up with our puzzling addictions so thanks to all the ladies as well. I get the feeling some more good friendships were made over the week here too.

(L-R): Celine ?, Holly Syriaque, Marc Hache, Susan Strayer, Jen Jackson, Michelle Bosch, ?Stephen Chin?, Denise Kuehner, Leslie Wiltshire, Gillian Walker, Kellian Pletcher

The Twisty Forums crew

The Twisty Forums crew

Next up was the turn of the twisty puzzlers, including Oskar working out with his Bar Bell. Now you know I'm not a twisty fan, but for those guys, here's your pic. If someone can give me the list of names then I'll gladly add them!

Jeff running around with Bug's monkeys

Jeff running around with Bug's monkeys

There was a fair bit of fun going on too. Rox had her daughter with her for the week and she'd been carrying around a stuffed monkey for most of that time. Jen had taken her out and around on one of the days to let Rox go puzzling, and I think had become quite fond of 'Bug' as Rox refers to her. When we were out earlier, we'd come across a smaller monkey sporting dome DC gear, and Jen decided to buy it for her. Now when Jeff decided to steal the monkeys and run off with them, Bug gave chase. All in good fun, and certainly had a smile on everyone's face.

Apparently there had been a few issues with long lines for food on the Friday night so this time tables were called out one by one. Given that we were at the back of the hall, we were around last to go out but there was plenty of food to go round. With everyone happily fed, the evening got underway. First up were the thank you's and announcements about the locations of the next two IPP's including some very convincing arguments as to why you should go. Obviously I can't give anything away about where they are, but I look forward to both of the next two IPP's!

So down to the nuts and bolts ... who won? Well watch the whole thing on the video below.

The awards are as follows:

Top 10:
Blind Burr - Gregory benedetti
Locked Room - Sam nightingale
The Vault - Mike Toulouzas
Ze house of mouse ze duong - Stephen Chin

Honorable mention:
Heptagon48 - Koshi Arai
Root Prism 2 - David Pilcher

Peter Wiltshire with his prize

Peter Wiltshire with his prize

Brian and Sue Young with their Prizes

Brian and Sue Young with their Prizes


1st prize:
Ferris Box - Peter Wiltshire
Houdinis Torture Cell - Brian young

Jury grand prize:
Double G - Jinhoo Ahn
Smart Egg - Andras Zagyvai

Puzzlers choice:
Square in the bag - Iwahiro

IPP 32 theme awards:
Mini perplexus - Tanya Thompson
Washington Skyline - William Waite
Washington Monument - Brian Young

A huge congratulations to all the winners, and to everyone who entered a design in the competition. There were so many good design's that it's hard to pick winners.

Jerry Slocum with the Grandfather clock talking to James Dalgety

Jerry Slocum with the Grandfather clock talking to James Dalgety

There was also some sad news. Jerry Slocum is stepping down from his position as the head of the IPP. As such he was given the typical retirement gift of a watch. Well not really, he was given #1/28 of the Stickman Grandfather Clock puzzle. A truly fitting gift and a great puzzle to boot.

Chris Morgan with the host gift

Chris Morgan with the host gift

There was one final gift to be given, and a few of us had heard that such a puzzle existed, and were excited to see it. That gift is the Host Gift, given to the host of the IPP and is usually a unique puzzle made with either the host or the city in mind. Chris Morgan is a bit of a musician and was presented with Kagen Schafer's Pipe Organ Box as this year's gift. It's a beautiful puzzle, and a truly unique piece. I look forward to seeing the opening of it at some point.

Matti Linkola's IPP hair

Matti Linkola's IPP hair

There was one final part of the night which it would appear is the true end to the IPP. Each year Matti Linkola has had his hair shaved into the IPP lettering you see above, and each year at the end of the IPP, he has the letters shaved off, at the end of the Awards Dinner. So the scissors came out, and the Letters came off. Matti had a story for us though before the job was completed. Apparently his barber has told him that this will be the last year he can do this, since he's not enough hair left to keep doing it!

Me and Tom Lensch

Me and Tom Lensch

At the end of the proceedings, I had Tom Lensch come up to me and ask for a photograph with him as he hadn't met me before. The really amazing part for me was that Tom asked to see one of the puzzles I'd made. I had one left, so I went and grabbed it for him to see. He was very encouraging and like everyone else there gave me a few tips and some advice which is more than I could have hoped for. Thanks Tom, it was a pleasure to meet and talk to you in person!

After the celebrations were over people started to drift off and say goodbyes, and the Renegades returned to the lobby to continue talking and to have another pint. There's so many more stories from the evening, but I think I've written enough for one post so that will have to wait.

Next up I'll start reviewing some of the great puzzles I played with throughout the week, and share my thoughts on them.

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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.



22Aug/120

IPP 32 – Day One

The first official day of the IPP 32 started on Thursday and many more puzzles were arriving. There was an organised tour of DC however Jen and I weren't on the list. Originally our youngest son was coming with us, and at 14, being stuck on a bus and having to do something organised probably wasn't going to be the best idea, so we'd not booked any of the trips. As it turns out he decided he didn't want to go after all, so it was just Jen and I but we were too late to get on the tour. Instead we ended up doing some more sight seeing ourselves, and took in the Air and Space Museum, Native American Museum and the Art gallery.

Heading back to the hotel in the early afternoon, I spent some time in the design competition room playing with a few more of the entries I'd not played with the night before. I plan to write about each of the entries I played with so I'll not talk about them here, just stay tuned for more posts coming soon. I did manage to solve over 50 of the 80 entries without the solutions, but there were a few I didn't even play with. Given that I love puzzle boxes I started with those, and from there played with the puzzles that looked interesting to me. With so many puzzles to play with you really have to make some choices and perhaps even ignore some. For me I mostly passed by the twisty puzzles, as it's not something I really enjoy (or am very good at) but that still left a lot of excellent puzzles to spend my time on.

Also in the Puzzle Design room was the Holbrook Puzzle Collection Exhibit. This included a number of superb puzzles from the Holbrook Collection. Rather than try to describe them all, just have a look at the photos below. There's some superb puzzles in there, and also some great IPP history.

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

Holbrook collection

Collection Pictures

When the puzzle room shut for the day, I took the time to have a quick shower and freshen up before the Founder's reception. I'll be honest, it really wasn't what I was expecting. Given the cost of the 'dinner' I expected a sit down meal with some sort of formal event organised. Instead, it was a buffet style finger food with sliders and salads. Not only that but the drinks were not on the house, and had to be bought separately. Now at this point you're probably thinking that I'm some sort of tight Scotsman. That is far from the truth as anyone who knows me will tell you, but when you're being asked for $4 for a glass of coke, and you don't even get a full can for that, you can tell that things were a bit steep. Even the main bar downstairs wasn't nearly as pricey. That said, it was more of a meet and greet with only a few words from Jerry Slocum and Chris Morgan who was this years Host.

There were even more great people to spend time with and talk to at the evenings Founder's reception. This was the end to the first official day of IPP, and I found myself introduced to many more giants in the puzzle world including the founder of IPP, Jerry Slocum himself, Marcel Gillen, John Rausch, Robert Yarger, Eric Fuller, Tom Lensch, Gregory Benedetti, Laurie Brokenshire, Stephen Chin, James Dalgety, Scott Elliot, Rocky Chiaro, Robert Sandfield as well as meeting up with my good friend Derek Bosch and his wife Michelle who had made it in late the previous night. I realise now that despite having my camera with me all the time, I really didn't take that many photos of all the great people I was meeting. Fortunately Rox did, so you can see all the people photos that she took instead! Of course there were many people who I know from the local puzzle meets like Stan Isaacs, Abel Garcia, Marc Pawlinger, Bram Cohen to name just a few.

It was fascinating talking to Marcel about his puzzles, and relating my experiences with his rolling pins to him. To hear him talking about the problems working in metal and that he now creates puzzles using a CNC machine and MDF! Having seen his exchange puzzle from this year's IPP, you can be assured that even though he's no longer making puzzles in metal, he's still making great puzzles! The thing that really amazes you when you talk to some of the people who have been in the business of collecting or designing for a long time is that everyone is very open and approachable, and really wants to help you. The number of people who gave me advice or help is incredible, and everyone interested in what I was doing and making.

As people started to drift off myself, Peter Wiltshire, Allard and Derek Bosch with our respective other halves grabbed a few chairs and had a seat. It turns out Peter is a pretty good magician and had a few tricks up his sleeves to keep us entertained. His presentation and patter is superb, and it really took me back to they days when I used to do magic too. He had a particularly fun trick with the key from his minibar in the hotel room (or so he was telling us). A solid wooden bar which had a hone in one end and a chain passing through the hole with the key looped through the chain. Passing it behind his back the hole moved from one end of the bar to the other then back .... ok so not the real magic. The real magic was when the hole moved from the end of the bar to the centre of the bar. At all times, the chain could be pulled through the hole showing nothing tricky was going on. Peter had shown me the trick the night before and I'd been puzzling over how it was done all night. I had a pretty good idea, and from the position I was sitting in at the reception I was able to see the full mechanics of the puzzle. When Peter had finished the puzzle, he turned to me and asked if I'd had a good view of it that time, so he knew that from the position I was in I could see what was going on. That shows a lot of trust as normally a magician will not give anyone the advantage of seeing how a trick is done. It turns out I was right as to how it was done but Peter's presentation keeps the secret perfectly.

As we were sitting one of my friends from back in California Marc Pawlinger wandered over with his son. The funny thing is that Marc lives just a few miles from me, however seems we only manage to meet up at puzzling events! Peter had another great trick with a little mouse which he showed to Marc's son and got a great reaction. So much so that he had to show it to the adults as well who also really appreciated it. Peter also had a really nice card trick that he showed us. Both Derek and myself thought we knew how it was done, but it turns out we were both wrong. I thought I saw something as Peter was showing us, but despite being close to understanding the method, I was a little off.... That had to puzzle me until the Sunday night where Peter showed me how it was done. Thanks Peter!

With the reception over, a few of us drifted back downstairs to the bar area to continue conversations, and eventually end up in the puzzle design room again playing with more of the competition entries. There certainly are a few die hard puzzlers out there who you could find in the design room pretty much any time it was open. I'll not mention names as you know who you are...

Next up is the day of the Puzzle Exchange.

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