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  • 8th May 2002

    More photographs of my collection have been added here.

    It's been quite a while since I last added anything new here, mainly due to starting a new job at the beginning of the year. This is hopefully set to change with more pictures from my collection, and more details of my own designs


  • 8th November 2001

    More photographs of my collection have been added here.

    There are full details of my major puzzle designs and how to order them at PuzzleCraft. Own your own Watson's Wormhole!.


  • 1st November 2001

    My Books page is now updated. Pictures and details of many of the puzzle books in my collection.


  • 31st October 2001

    One of the best-kept-secret mechanical puzzle sites must be the Twisty Megasite, run by an ex-patriate Aussie from Wee Waa (really), living in Eire. As the name suggests, it's mostly Rubik-esque puzzles, but any collector should visit, if only just to see the standard of the site itself. I am humbled! He has advice on mantaining and repairing puzzles, manufacturing hints in rubber and plastic and an exchange forum. I also came across the puzzle shops section of Toy Directory.

    Hot on the heals of my recommendation (see below) of Kadon's Kate Jones's naming convention for the 166 hexacubes, Ed Pegg does the same. It is the best way of identifying the pieces. I am in the middle of checking the ones my friend Fred has made for me so far, as I currently have more pieces than he thinks he's made for me! Checking 130-odd hexacubes is a nightmare!

    Another new puzzle from Binary Arts is That-A-Way, a totally novel approach to edge matching puzzles, which do tend to get a bit monotonous after a while. This breathes new life into that old chestnut, and is wonderfully brain-twisting, not surprising therefore to see Serhiy Grabarchuk's name in the list of credits. There are ten ways of arranging pairs of arrows pointing N, S, E or West on domino cards. Arrange the ten cards to match the range of target diagrams. Puzzles vary from Tricky to Nightmare. This is really worth a look, and you can play online, or even print out your own set with their permission! This diagram is a challenge of my own design, using the 10 cards to form a capital M. While looking for a UK outlet for That-A-Way, I found Happy Puzzle who sell all the Binary Arts range by post-free mail order, as well as many other puzzles for all ages. They also do custom-printed foam cubes. I placed an order via the net on Monday, and the goods arrived Wednesday. The website did require me to reconfigure my cookie options, though.



  • 26th October 2001

    I had a puzzle-buying day on Wednesday, visiting the fairly new Bluewater shopping mall near Dartford, just outside SE London. It's built in an old quarry! There are several shops selling puzzles, but nothing worth travelling too far for.

    New from Binary Arts is ROADSIDE RESCUE, a new sliding puzzle. With their earlier sliding puzzles, including Rush Hour, Rail Road Rush Hour, and Safari Rush Hour, the object was to move one piece to somewhere else. With Roadside Rescue, the object is to move as many as three different pieces to somewhere else. Some of the pieces actually overlap each other, definitely the work of arch slider Serhiy Grabarchuk. John Rausch and Nick Baxter also get mentioned on the packaging. John and Nick have on-line versions of some of Serhiy's puzzles. I will be adding photos of some of his from my collection soon.

    I also bought a Geo Loop from Binary Arts. It's not new, but I've never had one. It consists of a loop of 24 hinged triangles. The loop can be twisted and folded into many interesting shapes. I wondered if all 35 planar hexominoes could be made. They can. It took me over an hour. The cross is the most difficult, followed by any of the others which can not be traversed sequentially.

    From The Discovery Store I got a new cube assembly, Crazy Cube. It consists of 4 identical mirror pairs of octocubes, for a 4x4x4 partly sequential assembly. Not very difficult but quite pleasing, and only 5.

    I also visited Village Games in Camden Lock. Pentangle have recently started producing Hybrid, the 14 piece version of the Altekruse Puzzle. All pieces are the same, but the assembly is noticeably different from Holey Cross, the 12-piece version, widely available in the UK from Lagoon Games.

    Another new puzzle from Pentangle is QED, which Barbara in Village Games told me has a new trick to it. I've found a little secret, but haven't decided how to exploit it yet. It's big in size and price, but quite beautiful.

    I also bought this nice idea, probably designed by Jean-Claude Constantin, an 8-piece edge-matching cube assembly.

    Also new is Tiffany, the latest in the Transposer series, from Albatross Games UK. 8 hexagonal disks show different two-sided arrangements of holes and up to four colours. The cards must be stacked so that only one colour shows on each face of the stack. The disks are a little small and fiddly, less then 2.5 inches, much smaller than the triangular version. Not yet mentioned on their site.

    Finally from Village Games I bought a table-top skewed Soma Cube. It probably has a single solution, much harder than the standard cube with its 240 solutions. Visualisation is a lot harder, with the skewed pieces, beautifully cut from exotic hardwoods..

    If you're in London make sure you visit Village Games, open weekends, closed Mon/Tues. Say hello to Ray and Barbara. See location instructions on my UK Suppliers page.


  • 21st October 2001

    One minor recent solving success was the dismemberment and reconstruction of a small 12-piece Hikimi penguin, a souvenir of August's visit to Hakone Mountain in Japan.


    Another failure was my latest attempt to solve Tucker's Tormentor, a 5x5x5 cube assembly, with 9 truly awesome pieces, some of which are shown.


    From time to time I try to reassemble Mayer's Cube. This is a 6-piece 4x4x4 cube, from Pentangle. It needs about five moves before the first piece can be removed, then it just falls apart in your hands. It did this many years ago! Reversing this chaos is the secret to its reformation, but alas it is a secret which still eludes me. Five pieces can be easily arranged to form a cube, but the central piece must be installed first. Sadly, for the last 5-6 years the last piece has protruded above the top surface of the cube, earning it Alice's name of 'The Periscope Puzzle', from its resemblance to an angular ship's periscope. It sits on a shelf in our living room, taunting me. One day...



  • 18th October 2001

    The 12 pentominoes are easily identified by using the letters which they most resemble. FILNPTUVWXYZ. Kate Jones of Kadon Enterprises has developed an extensive and fairly logical series of conventions for naming the 8 tetracubes, 17 non-planar pentacubes, 35 planar hexacubes and 131 non-planar hexacubes. A logical naming convention is very useful to help identify each piece. Andrew Clark on his excellent Polyforms site has compact pictures of the 131 non-planar hexacubes. (Follow Polycubes - Hexacubes - 131 pieces). I spent a couple of mind-twisting hours correllating Kate's names with Andrew's images and produced a table to link the two together. My friend Fred is nearing the end of his Herculean task of making me a set of the hexacubes. I look forward to the day I can try to assemble them into a 10x10x10 cube along with a square tetracube. The pieces shown are all L-pentacube derivatives from Fred's set.



  • 12th October 2001

    I discovered Frank Potts' Pottypuzzles a new web-only UK puzzle supplier. Frank has numerous disentanglement puzzles, and some sliding puzzles.



  • 10th October 2001

    Another constant source of frustration has been the challenge of trying to arrange the 8 tetracubes in a 3D structure I first saw in Osho's Puzzle-In puzzle shop in Kyoto, Japan, during the summer. The straight tetracube must be stood on end. The other seven pieces must form a 3x3x3 cube with the last unit cube protruding from the centre of the top layer. The cube must then be inverted and stood on top of the straight tetracube. There are over a hundred ways of assembling the 3x3x3 cube with a central 'chimney' but I haven't yet found the one which is self-supporting when inverted. In shop I saw this interesting arrangement, and went to carefully pick it up. Needless to say, it fell apart in my hands, and I was obviously Osho's latest victim as he laughed uncontrollably. I long to be able to recreate this structure and send a picture of my success. The picture here is an incomplete solution.


    I have a large version of the puzzle called Pagoda, which cowardice has prevented me from dismantling. I have a much smaller one which I recall separating and eventually reassembling in a bar in Bugibbe on the north coast of Malta a few years ago. On Friday I took the small one apart, and several pints of excellent local beer later it was still in pieces.



  • 1st October 2001

    Alice and I had a holiday on a farm in the West Country recently, and I always take my own 'puzzle party in a bag' when we go away. There was a pub at the end of the farm drive, so I spent several evenings there trying to solve Minorou Abe's 'Climb Pro 12' sliding puzzle. If you don't know the puzzle, it consistes of 12 pieces, 4 unit square pieces, 4 domino tiles, a couple of L-tricube pieces and an inverted T tetracube. This latter (the piece with the three holes in the picture) must be moved to the top of the playing area. After many hours, I got it to one row below the target.



  • August 2001

    The visit to Japan. We stayed 5 nights in Kyoto, in a traditional inn, eating meals on a table about 12 inches high, and sleeping on the floor. One of the highlights was the visit to Osho's new shop in the tourist area to the west of central Kyoto. The shop is in a small market area, near the station. Osho greeted me like a long-lost friiend, even though I had only met him once, briefly, during his visit to London in 1999. I spent an enjoyable hour ransacking the shop!


    We moved on to Tokyo for the rest of the holiday, visiting every puzzle shop in the city. I also visited Hakone Mountain, home of Hikimi puzzles and yosegi work, a mosaic wood craft consisting of gluing strips of wood tightly together, then slicing them into very thin sheets for a wide variety of decorative crafts.


     


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