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.
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.
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!
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!
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 ...
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!).
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)
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.
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.
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.