Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Too many puzzles, too little time....

I hate that I have a job and have to work for a living. I jest. I love what I do, it just doesn't leave me with much time to play with my toys. I wish I had more. Time that is....well no, toys. Oh heck. Both!

Today I had a great day. It was one of those days off when I did nothing but lay around in bed doing more of nothing. That lasted for all of about 10 minutes. I simply can't stand to lay around and do nothing. So I got up, cruised around Rob's page for a bit. Checked out the blog updates-thank you Oli, Neil, and Allard. Slapped a few fingers over on TP, teased David Litwin for a bit, read for a while on renegade...and then grabbed a few puzzles and made some videos.

Boredom struck again around 2 so I found a book to read and attempted (but did not manage) to take a nap. So I went to pick up the bug...a nice run down the hill and a half hour wait for her bus.

And all the while I was thinking about having too many puzzles I want to play with and not enough time to play with them. So here we go. I'm going to give you a photo or two of what I mean.

Oh that is a nasty photo isn't it? What about this one? A bit better?
Yes, I know there are copies in there that aren't Hanayama, yes I know there are duplicates, yes I know I am missing one or two....

First, Hanayama. And nails. And wire. So which to choose.

Easy. Alcatraz! It's a dog puzzle. Have you ever played with this one? And what does she mean by a dog puzzle? Well here's an insane story for you-but true.

When I still lived in Texas (good lord that's almost 20 years ago now) I had a beautiful husky. Now this dog was a typical husky in that he hated to be left alone. Leave him outside? I don't think so. The neighbors wouldn't stop calling. I couldn't leave him at home because when I did I would come back to torn up furniture. Same goes for the truck (yes, I had the prerequisite jacked up truck when I lived there) I left him inside the truck one day when I went to grab a coffee and came back to having no back seat. So in the end, the beautiful but insane dog had to be given to a lovely family who had a farm and a lot of land for him to attack.

Oh my, the puzzle. Right. So it's an easy one. But in the beginning I couldn't solve the silly thing. It sat on my table for ages then one day THE DOG came loping in the house, knocked it off the table and solved the puzzle-since that time, any puzzle that has one of those head slapping (is this called face palming?) solutions is a dog puzzle. (I have quite a few)

And there it is, all solved by myself without the help of a dog...

I had the opportunity to visit the Hanayama factories a couple of years back and it was a thrill a minute for me. George Miller was with us, but sadly Oskar got sick in Tokyo and couldn't make the trip. (Can you all hear me saying next year...) Well that didn't stop us, and you can see photos of the trip here. When we were there, I picked up a copy of cast quartet. Literally. I picked it up out of a box of bits that was about to go in the tumbler. Now Kyoo was very nice and let me keep all 5 pieces of the puzzle. 5 you say? yep. And don't ask me why. He never did tell me why I needed 5, and since it has since been released, I'm pretty sure he was taking the piss. Nice guy though. Anyway, a while after we got back to HK, I went over to the office to pick up a few more that I didn't have, and he gave me another unfinished version of the cast loop puzzle. This one is 2 toned, but not polished up yet. Yet another nifty puzzle.
The quartet has two different solutions, and the loop has one that I know of. And why you ask are these puzzles being presented together? Why they are all 3 of them dog puzzles. I hear Homer Simpson shout DOH! every time I take them out. The quartet I took home that same summer and my brother managed to solve it within about 2 minutes, then my dad did it as well! Ok, DOG puzzle. I mean they never play with puzzles. The cast loop? I had it at a filming thing I did and the camera man, again, a non-puzzler solved it within seconds, as did a 9 year old kid. Puzzle master calls the quartet a 10 and the loop a 7 in their difficulty scale. I'm not so sure about that.

Which brings me to the next puzzle. Cast marble. I like this one. It is so tiny you just can't help but think it is going to be a doddle. Now this one is great because it naturally has a turn to it when you first lift it up. And yep, that's what everyone tries to do with it. Turn that bit. Gotcha! NOT! I love it. And yes, I was taken in by that little twist too. But when you see the solution...when it finally dawns on you....it's amazing. Really. It's a great puzzle and I'll say no more.

As for the wire puzzles? Well, there are just so many of them that I really don't know what I have anymore. I have soda cans (puzzle cans that is) filled to the brim with them. The batch seen here are all in a box with my Hanayamas. When I send puzzles home to the nephews, or on to a few young lads I've been chatting with for a couple of years now, there are always copies of these in there. Wire puzzles here I'm afraid are a dime a dozen...ok, not a dime, but around US$3 for 4 of those big ones. Cheap enough for me to pass around to the kids. They like them and hey, they have even started to ask for a few puzzles. My job is done!

So what did I do the rest of the day? Why ordered more puzzles. What else would I do?

Monday, November 28, 2011


Oh I can tell already this is going to read like an advertisement and it's honestly not intended to be that way.

I started off these twisty posts (not because that's what I like best...or was it?) with a tribute if you will indulge me to my friend Frank. Well, as long as I'm thinking of friends, I may as well write about one of my 'oldest' puzzle friends. So there you have it folks, I'm not writing about SmaZ because I like his puzzles or he's a great builder, I'm writing about him because he's OLD!

I'm sure I've written somewhere before about how long I've known Michael Li aka SmaZ. I'll bore you with a reminder anyway. I guess we met around 1998-1999 when he had a little shop in a shopping mall way out in the middle of nowhere. As with puzzling and puzzlers and such over the years we lost touch and got reacquainted later. That was great news for both of us I think....or at least I hope. We've become good friends since then and have more than just puzzles in common (we both like beer and to 'let our hair down' in Guangzhou with the boys) ok. I'll be serious.

I'm not sure when I first asked Michael to make me a puzzle. NO, that's not true. I do remember. He was in TinHau and I wanted a card suit Sudoku type puzzle he made. He wouldn't sell it to me because he couldn't solve it. Well after a lot of pestering I finally got my puzzle and a few more. He sold me more than one 'rare' puzzle he picked up lord knows where. So at first I was just buying premade mass produced puzzles from him.

Then one day I saw him cutting away at something. A rather large 3x3x3 if I remember. And that started it all!

I asked for a axis cube, and for a Fisher's cube, and we got onto a discussion about jelly cubes and then we went on and on and on. I'm pretty pleased to say that I (think) own all but 2 of Smaz's puzzles. I don't have his square 1 pyramid, or the Luxor cube. The rest...THEY ARE ALL MINE! (ok, bragging done)

Today when I was in my office I decided to take some photos of SmaZ's puzzles (I found myself with nothing to do and none of my co-workers would play with me). They all rest comfortably amongst my books over at the office. Puzzles, not co-workers. Co-workers just steal the books. The puzzles aren't the greatest security guards.

What we have here are just a number of 3x3 variations. (SmaZ's puzzles are all over my office, on my shelves, in my cabinets, under the bed...) three worth noting are the 3x3x5 that he made for me last year. I ordered this one almost a year before that, and SmaZ did make them...just not for me. I've come to expect a lot from custom puzzles over the years and he never disappoints me. The puzzles that I have from him in my collection have gotten better and better as time goes by. When he first started making them, they had holes on the inside cuts, then they were capped, but not smoothed...and now we have butter! Ok, so that 3x3x5 sorry got sidetracked. It's fully functional, and the entire thing is done by hand. The puzzle is unlubricated and turns just beautifully. But as you can see, it is unsolved. With this one, I was doing great just to get it back into its original shape. I don't have OCD so I really don't care that it is mucked up.

There's a madness cube in there that was a birthday present from 2 or 3 years back that sits perfectly solved. I mucked it up once and it simply took ages to get back to normal. That one is cool because as you can see from the photo (the green top) the puzzle doesn't have one center. It has an offset center along one section.

The diamond was made because I wanted one and my husband wouldn't give it to me....Others are puzzles I saw and wanted for my collection. Michael was starting to build and I was willing to pay him to give it a go. This has worked out beautifully for us over the years. As I said, I have all but 2 of his creations. The Castle cube is a piece of art. A puzzle and a building. Great stickers to boot. The CityU cube was a gift after I attempted to help him get a deal with the University-and I still don't know what happened with that...

Those are square 1 variations. It's a real shame that the blue star-like one in the center was never made, or the 2-layer square one over on the right. These are all hand-made for me like Michael's other puzzles shown here. Unlike the rest of them, Michael was going to mass produce these. He has a few copies of them somewhere in that mess he calls a workbench, but like many puzzles of late, the KO companies got to them before he could put it on the market. Oh well, that didn't keep a good man down, and he made those dino's I talked about a few days earlier. Dino barrels were before that, and if you pay attention to Mf8 forum or Twisty Puzzles, you probably know his time machine is in the works....(I'll write about those one day if you'd like)

Ok, last set for this evening (although I reserve the right to revisit SmaZ at a later date) here we have a variety of 2x2x2's. The card suit is the one that started it all. It's just an East Sheen with a sticker variation on it. And yes, it's not that easy. Michael was right. The one that has the "PRO" logo on it...well that is VINTAGE Michael. He started out with that logo not SmaZ. That particular cube is an East Sheen 2x2x2 but with springs inside. Yes folks, I'm telling you Michael was the first to do it. Not some fat kid from HK, not Witeden, not Lan Lan or any other company. SmaZ, Michael. End of story. I got this one many years ago from him. The PRO logo? He was using that before (I hope I've got the company right) PuzzlePro became a puzzle shop. But when they came out with that name....well SmaZ became a brand.

The last puzzle in here is an odd one. It is very easy to make from 2 pyrmorphinx puzzle, but wouldn't you know, I had a burst of madness and sold off a bunch of my Meffert's originals and with it went my pyrmorphinx...I was feeling bad about that one day and asked Michael if he could make me one. Sure enough, he went back to his East Sheen preference and cut and capped that star for me. And par for the course, it was mass produced by Uwe a few years later. But you know, I don't care. I have a fantastic puzzle by a fantastic builder (with a lifetime guarantee on quality and for repairs-although I'm pretty sure that is part of the special "Rox package")

With all the shapeways puzzles coming out in recent years, it is getting easier and easier to make puzzles. While I have great respect for the builders of those types of puzzles, for me there is nothing like the puzzles that have the Lurve (Thanks Dr. Panda-you got me writing it now) in them. If I can't have a cast puzzle, I want a cut and cap. As a last resort, I'll take Shapeways. If you are fortunate enough to own a SmaZ puzzle, I don't need to tell you about his craftsmanship. If not.....well what are you waiting for?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Dino's are coming!

Well, no, they aren't. They are here!

I wish I could give an exact date, but I really can't. I'll give estimates instead. Some time in 2009, I went to my friend SmaZ with a rainbow cube and asked him to make me a Dino out of it. Smaz rose to the challenge and made me a beautiful puzzle (which I sadly can't show tonight because the majority of my handmade puzzles from SmaZ are at work keeping my books company). Well, I knew a little bit about Dino's and had him make me 3 more. Yes folks, I have a 6 color, a four color, a two color, and a dinosaur stickered set of SmaZ's handmade Dino cubes. Insane I know.

Well, then a while later he started making them again with his trademark hallow stickers (more on that in an upcoming post) Well, I needed another set now didn't I. So yes, somewhere either in my office or under my bed there is a set of Dino's with hollow SmaZ stickers.

In 2010 sometime, SmaZ made barrel Dino cubes, and I got a few of those as well-not full sets though. I mean really, how many dino's does one girl need? And then.....he mass produced the barrels. So now I have at least 5 barrels at home. maybe more.....(again, I'm not exactly sure where they are.)

So that brings me to today. I texted SmaZ earlier in the week to see if he had the dino's in yet. No such luck. So I went about my business knowing full well when they came in SmaZ would text me and let me know I could collect my dino's. This morning I got a text asking for a cup of coffee...And to pick up my Dino's.

I arrived at SmaZ's shop round about 3, and left at 6. We had a lovely afternoon chatting about puzzles, and future puzzle builds, and future meet ups...Puzzling sort of things. And all the while, poor SmaZ was stickering away at my 7 dino's.

So what is this puzzle like? Well, it turns better than the originals. I have a set sans lubricant. I hate the stuff, and they still turn fantastic. What about solving difficulty? Nope, there is none. Anyone can solve a Dino. I think that is one of the joys of this puzzle. It is dead easy! Absolutely easy. Nothing to it at all. I think it might take 5 minutes for the 6 colored version and you kind of work your way to zero from there. As for the two colored one I think the puzzle is in trying to mess it up.

A fun puzzle to have if you don't have an original, and at the price SmaZ is charging, you can't go wrong. If you want one, you can contact him via: 1smaz@facebook.com. I'm sure he'll hook you up....White coming soon. Oh, and I forgot about the really cool little bags they come in. Each puzzle has it's on protector bag. I just picked up another 7 of them as you can see above. Dust proofed puzzles. Can't go wrong there...

Oh, and one last photo:

If you look really carefully, you can see SmaZ's logo on the corners. Mf8 is in there somewhere as well, but I didn't capture it here.

A handmade dino barrel is in the photo above. Stay tuned for a post about SmaZ's handmade puzzles. Great stuff those are. And the barrel's are ever so slightly trickier.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! Michelle!

I wish I had a turkey puzzle to show you all but sadly (or maybe not) I don't. I'm sure I can find something.

Ok, so it's thanksgiving today. Well, on this side of the world anyway. The dinner has been eaten, the pie is done and I'm into my cups. So what am I thankful for this year? Besides another fantastic year with a great family and wonderful friends? Well my toys of course. Or maybe I should amend that to say my 'boys and toys'. I've had a great year with puzzle friends. Three meets in China, IPP, a few meet ups here in HK. It doesn't get any better than that. Or does it???

At this years IPP I had the pleasure of visiting with a fellow puzzler at his home. I was really honored that he invited us (and think I still owe him some money for the van much to my embarrassment) Well, while there I saw a number of puzzles I had only ever dreamed of seeing, or that I thought I would never see in real life. At the same time, I was 'introduced' to a few that I had never seen or heard of before.

When I got back to HK,I hunted and hunted until I could put a name to those puzzles, and then I hunted and hunted until I could find some. Well, I got my first in today. And there WILL be more. I have my heart set on 3 of them...

So here is my mystery puzzle. Today I got Portrait de Michele in. What a thing to be thankful for. I'm very thankful the DHL man delivers on Thanksgiving. :-) Where are those smiley faces when you need them?

So what does it look like? How does it work? Nothing to it really. It's a 17 piece burr. 18 if you count the plastic stand it all sits on. When the box came in, I was excited. I knew it was on the way and was tracking the package all day when I was stuck at a retreat for work. (I'd have much rather been at home waiting for the DHL man) I had to do an unboxing video of course. (Since when did those become a requirement?)

Well, thankfully there was an undamaged puzzle inside that box. Dirty, but undamaged.

The front doesn't look too bad, but the back! What a mess. I could see right away that it was going to be a bit of work to clean up. Who would do this to a puzzle I ask you! They should be taken out back and beaten with my bootlaces.

Well, not to worry. Rox has her handy dandy soft hotel toothbrushes. A bit of warm water and we managed to sort it out. This one was filthy. There was so much crud in there, it had to soak for over an hour to help loosen the stuff up.

Mr. Man says he thinks it was plaster of paris. Somebody must have been attempting to make a duplicate of her. Oh well, I managed to take her apart and got out those brushes and gently scrubbed away. She did take a bit of a bath while we ate dinner though.
Nothing like a bit of good old elbow grease to get the job done.

Yep, that's me scrubbing away with the toothbrushes. All 17 pieces needed a good clean up. And clean up very nicely they did. I now have one amazing puzzle in my hands. She's a beauty. Now I just need to hunt down David and Goliath to go with her. :-) While I'm looking, many more horses would look nice to...

So here she is all laid out getting ready to be put back together.

And here she is good as new. Nice puzzle for a nice price. Money well spent.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Ok, so today I bring you a gripple puzzle. Or rather 3 different versions of them.

I guess I should start off by explaining what the gripple does. It has a series of dials on it that turn. The three different versions I have all have a different method to move, and a different solution. So the only way to do this is individually.

The first was made in Russia. Now this one I got in a trade for a puzzle made in China. (How funny is that?) This one is a very dull green with white numbers on it. By the time I got it, the previous owner had underlined the 6 and the 9 to be able to distinguish them because, let's face it. There is no difference in this puzzle.

OK, well, I'm not clever enough to get those two photos to load side by side so there you have it folks. All right, so how does the Russian gripple work? Those 5 knobs on the back turn 4 dials each. Quite easy to understand really. The outside 4 knobs turn the 4 dials in their respqctive corners. The center dial turns the 4 center numbers. Easy enough.

The next puzzle is made in Taiwan. This one is very colorful by comparison, but also very different. This one has 9 dials on it and each of the nine dials only turns one circle. Each circle has 4 slices and a center bit. The 4 slices are not fixed, but they move around depending on which of the other dials is turned. So, if I turn that upper middle dial in the photo below to the left, the green slice from the top will now replace the blue slice and all slices will move one segment counterclockwise. Easy to understand? :) um well, give it a go. It is really. I wouldn't lie.

The last one? Well, the gripple gripple. This was the first puzzle named Gripple that I was made aware of. Wayne Johnson found one in his sons (?) kindergarten all covered in sand in the sandbox and saved it. I mean where else would you expect to find a puzzle but in the sandbox.
His post on that day caused me to go hunt down this puzzle. I managed to find one on an auction many years later, and now very pleased to have my own version of it. This one solves exactly like its Russian counterpart. The difference? The dials are on the top in the form of buttons. so each of the colored buttons is able to move independent of the center, but each is also able to move on it's own. This one has little stickers that are numbered to make it that much more difficult, or not if you choose to keep them off the puzzle.

Gripples over all are not that hard to solve, but they are fun little puzzles to spend a few minutes or more on. They are becoming harder and harder to find, so if you do manage to spot one on an auction site near you and it is going for a reasonable price, well pick it up before someone else does because they don't come along very often!

Until next time, I hope the dust bunnies hop away from your collection of toys....

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Christmas lists part 2

Ok, so maybe not part 2 but the real Christmas list. When I was younger, I was Thrilled by going through the JC Penny's catelogue each year and circling what I wanted for Christmas. I remember one year I circled this thing called a CRACKED marble menagerie . My mom said absolutely not, and in the run up to Christmas that year I was the saddest girl in town. Imagine my surprise on Christmas Eve when I was handed a very noisy gift by my mom! Well, it was straight into the kitchen to boil those marbles for me. Forget the rest of the gifts....

Well, that's a bit how I feel this year again. My husband has decided that he will just give me money. But he's stipulated that it MUST be spent on toys. :-) Does he know me or what?

So what's on my Christmas list then? Well, I'm a simple gal really. I don't ask for much. Silly as it sounds, I want a Hanayama Donuts. (No, I haven't got one yet. There is nowhere in HK that sells them, and to buy one from overseas...I may as well wait until next summer) I guess those are around US$12 give or take. They also have some really neat new puzzles! Oh I want those too.

I want some SmaZ dino cubes-8 of them to be exact. I want a mass produced version of each handmade he has made for me. (hmmmm. Maybe I should write a page about him one day)

I'd add the Mf8 kilominx to the list, but since I've already ordered it....I guess I can't.

I'll add a few Karakuri boxes to my list. The egg is one I saw in Japan 2 years ago, and I'm sooo tempted to toss away my list and just go for this one, but then...I wouldn't have enough money left over for the dice box that I foolishly didn't make that same year. Maybe the rest of the small boxes would be good too.

Now, if I could find a real jugo flower, I would love that, but since I already have one of Wil's versions, I'll not hunt too hard. But as long as I'm talking about Wil, I have heard he makes some pretty cool bolt puzzles...

I'm wondering what is left to collect. I have almost every twisty puzzle made~ok you nay sayers, I just haven't gotten around to posting videos of everything I have. Or maybe I should say I have what I set out to get. That sounds so much better. No, most of what I set out to get. I am still missing that Gundam Zaku puzzle, and the pudding dog and hello kitty heads but other than that...Oh I'm sure I'll be able to find more if I look hard enough.

But what I really really want....is a bigger house to store all these toys in!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Christmas lists

Now how odd is it that started my last post discussing Christmas Puzzle lists and never talked about them. Maybe tomorrow, but I"m afraid I would have to steal photos from others and I'm not sure if I want to do that.

I managed to make an number of videos about Frank aka Flambore's puzzles. They can be found on my YouTube site Enjoy. I'll give you that list tomorrow! Tune in tomorrow. Same bat time, same bat channel.

What's on your Christmas list?

Mine? Well, it's pretty big. But I won't be too sad if I don't get everything I ask Santa for. But as long as I get one or two I'll be more than happy. What? Christmas I hear you scream. It's not even thanksgiving yet. True....but, its never too early to write those Santa letters.

So I promised a twisty puzzle by a dear cyber friend and that is what you are going to get. A few actually. In fact, I have 5 to show you today. So who is the mystery cyber friend? Why Frank Schwartz of course. And before any one comments that this post is in bad form, please don't. It's meant to be a tribute to a great builder from early days, and a strong gentleman from later times.

I first contacted Frank in mid 2008 about a puzzle he had built. For the life of me I can't find the one I'm looking for. Doesn't matter. The prices Frank charged were reasonable and I bought a nice one from him. I'm sure it has a name. Rolex something or other. :-) I'm terrible with these things. Names I mean, not the puzzles.

This was the first of many puzzles I bought from Frank in the short time he was a member of TwistyPuzzles. It's basically a pyramorphix but bigger. I found the name: Reuleaux Mastermorphix. Is it solveable? Of course. But Like many of my puzzles, it has sat on my shelf for quite a few years now. When I took it down to photograph today, it was 'stuck' I bet you didn't know plastic puzzles did that. Oh, I guess I should mention that all Franks puzzles that I have are cast puzzles. I think he used that oomo stuff.

Well, we carried on a puzzle friendship via pm that later evolved into emails. Near the end of Frank's time with us it went to phone calls as well, but I promise not to make this a sad post so I'll just show you the next puzzle I saw this morning.

An axis cube. Now this one has been made by many before and after this point. I bought one of Franks early on, and then showed it to SmaZ who made me a cut and paste version, and now they are mass produced by some KO company in China. Franks version? It's cast.

A nice heavy puzzle that I really enjoyed playing with. This one is a 3x3x3 and I know it uses cube4you puzzles as a base. How do I know that you ask? Well, I'll tell you (even if you didn't ask). Frank and I were chatting about my intense hatred of high shipping costs. And he began lamenting the shipping cost out of China-ok, so it does go both ways. Well after a long while we brokered a deal. I wanted an egg he was making and a few other puzzles and he wanted 3x3x3's. Shipping to HK from Shanghi is cheap. Shipping from HK to USA is cheap...so why gouge the buyer? A bit of reboxing and time, and Frank had his 3x3x3's (50 of them if I remember right) and I had my puzzles.

The egg won't be shown here today because I want to put all my eggs in one basket. (Yes, you can groan again)

This briings me to the end of this blog about Frank's puzzles that I had handy on the shelf today....I give you the last 3 puzzles I received from Frank. None of them have names that I know of. If you do, please post them in the comments for me.

The first is a start like thing he made. I thought it was pretty and asked to buy it off him in his last days before he left us. Again, this is a 3x3x3 but this time the core is a mini-diansheng. I sent Frank and David Calzone a boat load of these at the same time I shipped out the c4u puzzles. At that time they cost me a whole US$0.35 or some such. I picked up a gross from my local wholesaleshop and think I might have only one or two left now. I passed those things out to everyone who asked.

Well, when this box came in, Frank had also included a couple more puzzles I was asking over that he had unfinished on his shelf. (Romantic thing that I am, I really did believe that if I had some of Frank's unfinished puzzles he would stick around longer to finish them for me. Silly I know but that is me.)

The first one: the jr. barrel I think it's called, remained unfinished for a while and just sat in a ziplock bag. I took it over to show SmaZ after Frank passed, and SmaZ put it together for me. It doesnt' turn well at all. This is one puzzle that Frank didn't get quite right. The only one as far as I can tell. And I'm pretty sure that is why he always refused to sell it to me.

The last puzzle I have no name for. I do know it's a 3x3x3, but I have never played with it. That writing means so much more to me than the joy of playing. The fuzzy writing reads: "Rox, Thanks for being a friend, Frank." It has sat on my shelf since it came in. I might have taken it down one or two times for photographs, but that's about all. Sadly Frank left us for a better puzzle place in May 2010. But his work remains an integral part of my collection. He remains in my memory as one of hte best cyber friends I have ever had. I'm just saddened that I never got the chance to meet him.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Numbers, numbers, numbers!

Those things terrify me. I am the only person I know who had to take basic algebra year 1 3 times and still didn't pass the darned class on her own merit. (I still swear that lecturer felt sorry for me. I was moving to Hong Kong after graduation-if I passed algebra that is.) So what do I do then? I go on to be an English teacher via a failed career as a History teacher (oh for the wisdom of the HK government!) And what does that have to do with anything? Well, indulge me a bit if you will.

Round about 1985 or so, my mom gave me a 15 puzzle. I mucked about with it for a while and was never able to solve the thing...only to find out many many years later that it is kind of designed that way. Fast forward to the mid to late 1990's and Rubik's (Then owned by Matchbox) brings out it's version of the 15 puzzle and I couldn't solve that one either. So in a box it went. (I was studying then anyway and when you're young, who has time to play with toys AND study?) Well, round about 2003-2010 my good friend SmaZ makes a modification from a super square 1 puzzle. It's a bunch of circles of varying colors. He later added numbers to it, and by then the numbers had long since stopped bothering me. (something to do with statistics and crying in a class and Johnny Walker...)

So that brings me to today. I still hate the numbers, they still terrify me, but give me data and I'll run the stats on them for you till the cows come home. (Ok, Ok, I know. There are many of you who read the TP forum and probably vaguely remember me crying over how to work the darned numbers-but remember, that was way back in 2008-see, the same time frame) But here's the funny thing. All these years I refused to have anything to do with numbers. I mean, I even hid a poor puzzle away in a box just because it had numbers on it. I mean really, how sad is that? (I wonder if there is a phobia word for 'fear of numbers')

Well here we are folks, it's now almost 2012 and I have overcome my fears, I have conquered my number nemesis! I am ready to play with toys again. And where should I start???

How about with Eric Harshbarger's "Digits in a box" It's a simple concept really. You just put the numbers 0-9 in a box. What could be easier than that? Apparently a lot of things :) My friend Otis from Beijing was back home in HK last year and I brought the puzzle along to a dinner we had. Well, like all good puzzles he mucked it up, and like all good puzzle owners/friends I said don't worry about it, I'll fix it later-here's another one to play with....I really should make one of those 'you mucked it up, you stay over night till you solve it' but I would probably have house guests that get as old as fish, and my husband would have long since left me.

Well here you go:

One year on and it's still not solved. It's really a great little puzzle. I like that you can flip the numbers every which way. I bought two sets from Eric when he offered them up and the funny thing is, they are different from each other in the color/number matching. Which is pretty cool because I can't look at the still sealed version and say hey, red goes here and green goes there. It simply won't work. But who would do that anyway.

A couple of other number puzzles I've picked up are "DigiGrams" designed by Martin Watson, and reproduced by many. I got mine from Creative Crafthouse

I liked this one, but was a bit tipsy one night and bored out of my mind so I started to play. I think it took me all of three minutes to solve it-and while on video at that! Are you impressed or what? Don't be, when I watch the video, I realized that I left 3 of the pieces in the box. Easy to solve when you do that. But in fairness to myself, I've done it quite a few times before and after that. So the puzzle, I like the design and the price was right at just around US$20 now (I think I got it at a discount though). My only complaint? The wood isn't really smooth. I can feel the grain if that makes any sense at all. Nothing wrong with that, but I'm not used to that feel and would have much preferred a more polished version. Having visited the Hanayama factories, I know how easy it would be to polish the pieces. But then the puzzle is made in the US and labor charges are higher so it's a trade off.

And that brings us to the last of the puzzles. When In Japan in 2010 I had the great pleasure of meeting Bob Hearn of the first person to solve the latch cube fame. He had a puzzle with him that he exchanged at G4G8 and I managed to buy one off him. "Easy Eight, Hard Eight" On the train from Hakone to Osaka, I solved the difficult side. It took me the rest of IPP to solve the easy side, and this was a long IPP-1 week! This puzzle is great fun because you simply (she says) have to put the letters E-I-G-H-T in the square (easy eight)
or the oval (hard eight) and leave it to me to solve the hard side first. This is a puzzle I have yet to get tired of. I've taken it out a few times since I got it, and it's still as fun to solve now as it was then. And through all of this puzzling, I have managed to loose my intense fear of numbers. They can be fun. Especially when they are toy! I mean toys are never scary are they?

So this is odd...Rox writing about tray puzzles? What is wrong with her? She must be sick. Nah, These puzzles are all within easy reach. If I mention something that has been written about before, someone please tell me to shut up. I get verbose at the best of times and when I start doing puzzles...well there's no shutting her up.

Tomorrow? I'll go to a twisty. I think I'll start with a few custom made puzzles made by a dear dear cyber friend....

Until then may your cube lube never mold and may your wooden boxes always remain un-humidified.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What? Another post so soon?

Well yes, of course. I'm bored. So what should one do when bored? Why not play? I read this book once. It was recommended by Mr. Tangle (Richard X. Zawitz of Tangle Toys) Anyway, it was called...what else...Play. (You can find it on Amazon among other places) Well, what was so great about this book is that it talked about the value of play to stimulate the brain and cause the creative juices to flow. Well I just love that book an use my play time as an excuse to become creative! Yep. That works for me and I'm not changing my mind. It's interesting, according to this author, animals play naturally. Children play. It is only adults that seem to devalue the value of real play. So us puzzlers? I think we are the lucky ones. Our hobbies allow us to play. Now if I could work out a way to make a living off this...

So why play now? Well, my class is taking an exam. I have to sit here and watch them to make sure they aren't cheating and all that, and this little 4 ducklings puzzle is perfect. It fits in my pocket and I can pull it out and play at will.

See, small puzzle. Easy right?

Wrong. This one I have changed the name on. It's no longer 4 little ducklings but 4 toilets. I have come to hate this puzzle! I really have. It has been in my bag since I got back from IPP and I have yet to solve it. Ok, I can get the 4 ducks in the top bit. But the bottom? Nope. Only 3 ducks fit. Like with the bears, I'm ready to cut off their little feet (and make someething tasty??) Those things definitely fit into the 'frustrations' part of this blog.

I downloaded burrtools the other day and am attempting to learn to use it. Perhaps I should attempt to put those 4 toilets into the program and see what happens...

Right. So enough feeling sorry for myself, I noticed something today. I have a number of puzzles sitting in the windowsill at work and aside from the discolored stickers, I noticed a funny with a wooden puzzle I have. It must be all that lovely Hong Kong sun, but this one has had something happen to the wood so that it now solves itself. I've never seen this before...

That gapping in there is huge! Ok, shadowy phone photos don't do it justice, but you get the picture. (oh no, another bad pun) So can that puzzle be unshrunk? Maybe I'll dunk it in water for a while. If it soaks up enough it might just work...but then I'll have a wet puzzle that will need drying out and it will have to go right back into the windowsill...

If you give a girl a puzzle.....she'll have to play with it.....and if she plays with it she'll have to ask for......(go read the books! :) )

Monday, November 14, 2011

What have I been puzzling over this today?

Well, the honest answer to that question would be nothing! And everything. I've been a bit under the mental weather-happens every time I have a deadline I don't want to meet-so I have been unable to focus for more than a few minutes at a time. Add to that my dear friend Uwe putting the pressure on to write him up a blip and I've mush for brains.

So where then does one start a blog about puzzles? Well how about with the first of the puzzles that got you interested in never growing up? Add in a puzzle that I've had on the desk for a while and one that has been recently obtained and we have our first blog entry!

And thus it begins! The first real puzzle that excited me beyond belief was the Babylon tower. I have had one of these beauties on my shelf for forever and a day. It's a deceptively simple puzzle that everyone who sees it just wants to grab. 6 layers of ever so slightly darker colors of beads makes you just have to turn it. The center bits spin round very nicely, and it's ever so easy to solve. Even the thickest of co-workers is taken by it.

But wait, it gets better still. Once the twisting and turning to no where gets dull and boring, there is that great AHA! when you notice that one bead can be pushed in. It's a whole 'nother ball game now son. Suddenly the puzzle can be mucked and we're entering the solving zone. Honestly, this puzzle is a novelty to me now. I've many variations on the same theme, but the classic ivory Babylon tower will never go out of style.
It remains a favorite that is there for the solving when I'm having one of my dumb days.

Bugs favorite puzzle? Why another tower. This one comes to us all the way from Hanoi via China as shown on the box via a wholesale street a few stations from the house via a nice little shop on the corner that sells way too many baby toys and not enough real puzzles, but hey? what's a gal to do? I'll take what I can get when I can get it. I'm not too picky when it comes to puzzles. So now that we've established that I'm easy when it comes to toys, let me say that I'm very particular when I give them to my bug. This one is surprisingly good quality and very well made considering where I got it from. As a puzzle to solve? What a waste of time. Boring and tedious. Not my idea of a fun day. But shhh. Don't tell the bug. She loves being able to show up her cousins and solve this one!

Now if I have managed to do this correctly, you should be able to see a link to a video of me royally messing up the solve on this puzzle.

So there you have 2 old favorites, How about one that has been sitting on my desk for a while? Well here you go. it's a blue box! Done. Puzzle presented. You tell me what to do with it?

As you can see in the photo there's a magnet on there. Guess what? No magnets involved. Well this one is just going to sit a bit longer until I get good and frustrated by it and take a chain saw or some other man tool to it. What is it? A trick opening box. What is the problem? 3 panels to move around. but here's the catch. The morons who built this thing papered or painted or some other nonsense over the sliders. So what do we have then? A puzzle that is closed tight. Yes yes I know, from the photo it looks like I've managed to unstick the stuck stuff. Not so she says. That paint or whatever it is goes right down into the plates internal bits. Bloody morons. Who the builders? Nope. The moron who bought the puzzle! Look no further than the mirror my girl. You have no one to blame for this frustration but yourself!

And now for a recent obtainment (my spell check tells me that IS a word!) This one is called "Ich bin ein Bärliner' It was Marcel Gillen's IPP 31 exchange puzzle. And it is a beast. Or should I say a bear. (Feel free to groan. I am) I have been playing with this one for a while now. Maybe a few weeks???? Why? The silly thing appealed to me. Bears. I mean come on! Who wouldn't be impressed by bears. Add to that that it is just a packing puzzle and we're in business. Or NOT! I have managed to pack in 8 of the 9 bears. I've managed to pack in 8 of the 9 bears AND the little cube. But can I get those 9 bears to lay in bed together nicely? No such luck. Reminds me of that kids song I used to sing with bug when she was all of a little thing "there were 10 in the bed and the little one said..." Well, the bears stopped singing at 8. But hey now, the instructions say nothing of the pieces all laying flat. So maybe, just maybe this is a solution after all!

And the inevitable poor sound quality webcam video for your viewing pleasure.

Why have a blog and only use it once a year?

I've been reading blogs like the puzzle starved fool that I am and realized that no one posts nearly enough to satisfy my puzzle lust. Some of my favorites are Neil's, Brian's, Allard's, and Gabriel's. But since they don't update daily....

Well, if you can't have a blog, why not a web site? I'm a religious reader of Twistypuzzles and not just for the obvious reason that I'm supposed to be a moderator over there, but because I really do love to read what other puzzlers are creating and enjoying. I'm tickled that the fine gents over at renegade puzzlers decided to let me into their holy halls of puzzledom. I've managed to get Wil's email, but have yet to get on his mailing list. That saddens me. But not for long, because all I really need to do then is head over for a walk down to my favorite wholesale shop and see if there is anything new to be found.

One of the great joys of living in Hong Kong is my ability to find puzzles almost without looking for them. My street corner buys...what can I say? Well nothing. I'd be bragging. But if you are interested in something I have shown somewhere do tell.

I am lucky to attend puzzle parties in China and the last two IPP's. I'm excited about the next one because I'm certain I'll see old friends again and meet new ones or some that I've only 'met' virtually.

So why write now? Well, why not. I have decided that maybe YouTube video making isn't enough. Or maybe it's more than enough. Lord knows I'm not very good at keeping that webpage of mine up to date. It has seen better days that is for sure. So this page??? Let's see if I can't make a post or two to keep you entertained, and keep me out of trouble.

So for today? Why not go over to YouTube and take a look at a few of the videos I've put up this morning. That should do you for a while. I'll have to sort out a first puzzle to write about....should it be a twisty? or wood? or maybe a hanayma? Stay tuned friends. I'll let you all know in the morning.