Notes from Puzzle Palace

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Thoughts on display and duplicates

 George and I have spent a great deal of time thinking about and discussing display options for our museum.  As noted in my last post, we have decided upon a mix of cubies and book cases.  Our go-to for this museum is IKEA.  Yes, you read that right.  IKEA.  The Kallax cubies are what we used on the front wall in the great room and kitchen, and in the downstairs guest room.  The library, half-way bedroom, and master bedroom will all be equipped with Billy Bookcases.  Now I know this sounds cheap, and it is.  BUT!  It is not.  We are fortunate to be living in a cinderblock home.  All units that are attached to the outside walls are mounted directly into the cinderblock walls.  Each bookcase is 93" tall and 30" wide.  This allows for mounting to every other stud of the building on internal walls.  

People have said this will not hold up to the weight of the puzzles, but unlike most, our shelves will not be crowded with puzzles.  Our motto in Puzzle Palace has been since day 1: Display and Play.  The same goes for the Puzzle Palace Museum.  The shelves are 11" deep, and I suppose it is possible to have the puzzles 2 or even 3 deep, this is not something we want to do.  If they are like that, you can't see the puzzles, and you will be unable to play with them.  The bookcased rooms are done that way in order to provide living space for any guests we may have.  

The Kallax cubes are a different story.  Each cubie will have six 14"x6"x4" clear PET lidded containers inside. Each will hold up to 8 standard sized Rubik's cubes. Each container will be labeled and each puzzle inside the contaier will have a unique identifier. This will allow visitors to quickly access the puzzles they are looking for.  

We plan to continue to use the Horden-Dalgety classification system with a few tweeks and additions.  Most notable of this is the absence of any classification for Twisty puzzles.  I have also spent many hours pouring over the Slocum, Hoffmann, von Delft & Botterman's, and Rob Stegman's puzzle classification systems. With each of these, there are many good points and there is always the possibility that I will be incorporating parts of them into our system.  If you have any constructive ideas, please feel free to pass them on to us. 

The library will house all of the puzzle books. Sadly, the only way I can see to hold all of them is to store them by height.  This will allow us to maximize the space in the room.  There will be a computer set up in the house with access to the public database for all guests.  

As for storage, we don't really see this as a problem.  All duplicates will be stored in the attic space of Puzzle Palace or the garage of the Puzzle Palace Museum.  All other puzzles will be on display as per our MO. 

And now on to duplicates.  Since we have announced this acquisition, we have had many requests to sell our duplicates.  Yes, we expect to have many but at this point we are not at all interested in letting any go. We have agreed with James that we will not put any up for sale for at least 3 years.  I expect it to be much more along the lines of 5 years.  It is my goal to have the collection completely catalogued before I even begin to think of disposing of any duplicates that we have.  As an example, when George and I combined our collections, we discovered around 3000 duplicates.  I have yet to sell any of those.  We have our treasure chest and duplicates are placed there for guests to take one when they leave.  We plan to continue this practice.  We also plan to trade puzzles for puzzles at some point in the future.  Perhaps when the dust settles and I have the puzzles put on shelves and catalogued we may run a special auction.

In the mean time, we are looking for yet more puzzles.  Unlike some museums that shall remain unnamed, we have every intention of increasing the size of our collection.  If you feel there is a puzzle we simply must add to the collection, please let us know. If you wish to donate puzzles to the collection, we will readily accept them without the need for you to provide any sort of funding.  Like America, our museum is a melting pot.  Send us your tired, your poor, your unwanted puzzles yearning to breathe free. 

Before I close, a small update on the progress of the museum.  This past week has seen the completion of the outdoor area.  All pavers are in place and work continues on leveling the driveway and completing the walkway to the pool area. We have had four more walls of shelving units completely mounted and another started.  Final plans have been ok'd for the workman's bathroom disentanglement walls.  The electricians have entered the building and have finished installing lights in both downstairs bedrooms and the great room.  The olive oak trees have been removed from the front of the property and a pool polluting oak has been removed from the back of the house.  The wood from the later is now curing in the garage to be used in the fireplaces.  Work continues at a steady pace.  I'm sure we will be completely finished by the time the puzzles arrive. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Building a Museum

 So by now, I'm sure that most of you who attended the VMPP last weekend will know that George and I will be the new guardians of the Hordern-Dalgety puzzle collection.  Accomplishing this is no small feat.  On James' side, he began looking for a new home for his museum many years ago.  In 2016 he put a call for takers into CFF, and his website has had the same call on it for as long as I can remember.  George and I were dreaming one day as I looked up something on James' site and went and bought a house to hold it.  No, that's a bit of an exaggeration, we began emailing James to say if he had no takers to add us to the bottom of his list as we knew his desire to keep the collection in Europe.  

We spent quite a few long what'sapp calls with James and many many more long emails of back and forth on the logistics of all of this.  Poor James has had the hardest job of all so far.  He has to find the movers and get the puzzles packed and ready to ship to us.  We greatly appreciate his trust in us.  We know how very hard it must be for him to have his collection leave his home after so many years of collecting. 

On our end, in the off chance we were able to obtain the collection, I started looking at commercial properties but they were simply too far away.  We then started looking at the non-gated communities around us but all the homes in our price range were too small.  As much as we hated to do it for many reasons, we finally looked within our own club. We found the perfect house to turn into a museum and promptly bought it.  This is before we became guardians of the collection.  If it didn't pan out, we have a weekend home, or more selfishly, a place to keep the kid closer to her mom for a few more years-yet far enough a way to still be able to have a private life. This house is a short 8 minute walk from Puzzle Palace and has been appropriately named the Puzzle Palace Museum.  It is 3,427 square feet, has 4 bedrooms and 4 1/2 baths.  Like Puzzle Palace, this house is being kitted out to hold the incoming collection.  We will have around 40,000 puzzles coming in as well as around 3000 puzzle related books.  

We've kitted out every room with 15x15x15 shelf cubies.  Each main box is 2 of the cubies high by 4 long. They are stacked on most walls 3 boxes high.  Depending on how many puzzles we have in this collection, each of the small cubies will hold six pva clear lidded drawers.   Each drawer can hold up to 8 Rubik's cube sized puzzle.  The beauty of this is that you can see each puzzle, and still be able to play with them while we are maximizing the space. In the great room, there are a total of 98 of these units.  This is an area that will hold just over 37,000 puzzles.  We have an extra 14x14 bedroom on the main floor that will have a total of 304 linear feet of shelf space.  This area will hold an additional 1200 puzzles.  On top of this there will be a number of map cases in these rooms that will hold another 3000 puzzles.  We have also installed wire puzzle hooks in the outdoor powder room that will hold approximately 500 puzzles.  The cabana bath also has another set of shelves that will hold around 200 puzzles.  The laundry room-cum-bar will have additional puzzle hooks to hold another 200~300 puzzles. For those that are better at math than me, this lower level of the house should be able to hold at least 42,000 puzzles.  

I have been posting photos and videos of the great wall on FaceBook and have gotten a lot of comments about it not being sturdy or collapsing under the weight of the puzzles on it.  This wall is 10 wide x 26 feet high at the apex.  What you don't realize is that it is a solid concrete wall.  The cubbies are mounted directly to the wall with concrete anchors in four places per unit.  Each unit is connected to those surrounding it.  The center of each cabinet is further supported by more planks and those are also mounted to the wall and to the cabinets around them.  This thing is going no where.  I feel for anyone who purchases this house after we are gone.  Those things are there to stay.  This particular wall was not designed for the main purpose of storage.  It is here for visual impact.  When you enter the Puzzle Palace Museum, you will be amazed by this. It will be a wonder to behold. For those of you who have visited James' house, you may not remember all of these puzzles.  Why?  He had them in a beautiful cabinet behind closed doors or on the top of his custom made cabinet.  These are not puzzles to be played with, but rather puzzles to be looked at.  

James has graciously given us his collection of puzzle books and we have decided to use one 14x14 bedroom as a library.  I don't believe there will be room for a bed in here, but I do plan to put in a table with comfortable chairs so one can read or research in comfort.

I guess any other puzzles will be placed in the midlevel and master bedrooms.  We will have a large number of puzzle 'posters' and 'artwork' on display as well.  These will be placed in the uncabineted areas of the 26' walls.  You will have to look up to see them, but there are also two wonderful viewing areas over either side of the great room that will very easily allow observation of any hung art works.

To make this museum work, we have had to do quite a lot of work on the house.  Don't get me wrong, the house is in amazingly good shape.  We got such a bargain on it.  It is very museum-like in design; the high ceilings, the angles, the amount of natural light that comes through the windows.  It's a wonderful place to house the collection.  

One of James' concerns (among many I will address here) was exposure to UV light. He's worried and rightfully so about fading of the puzzles.  The way the house is situated, there is a lot of natural light, but very little light that falls anywhere but on the floor.  The few rooms that have more exposure are covered by our jungle.  The windows also have blinds on them that can be drawn if need be, but after having spent the last 2 weeks here, we realize that it won't be necessary. The lights I chose to install are all low UV emitting LED lights.  None of the puzzles will be directly lit up as all lights are to be angled away from the walls and more towards the inside of the room. In order to ensure good visibility, I am having 99 lights either replaced, or installed.  The lights themselves are on a Lutron system that is voice activated through Siri on either the HomePods that are scattered throughout the house or the iPad that has been installed in the kitchen.

Everyone is concerned about dust, but we have taken care of this as well.  As in Puzzle Palace, we have just installed new HVAC systems.  This house has 4 units (overkill for the size of the house) all equipped with a Remy Halo air purifier. We have these in the big house and love them.  Since installing them, the dust level has dropped significantly.  The systems also have the added benefit of keeping the house humidity controlled.  We have the temperature set between 70 and 77 degrees.  Currently the humidity is at 60% but the system has only been working for 2 days.  This will be monitored and adjusted as necessary.  The house also has that fantastic in wall vacuum system.  Amazing thing that is.  I wish I'd have had those in other places I've lived in.  

We have entrances all around the house.  There are 4 sliding glass doors to the pool area, the front entrance of course, and a garage entrance. This house doesn't have a screened in pool, but we do have screens on all of the windows so no bugs here.  We are not worried about break-ins because of the excellent security in our community.  We will be installing motion detectors outside the house and some security cameras inside but this is more for us to maintain an eye on the collection from our own home. This is of course a smart home and I can control it from anywhere thanks to modern technology and telephones but a little bit of added security won't hurt.  

We have contacted Tesla and will be having solar installed here as well.  Additionally there will be 4 power walls to store energy in the event of a power outage.  We are not in a flood zone, the house is equipped with full hurricane shutters, although direct hits from hurricanes in this area are rare.  We aren't in a hurricane evacuation area.  The last major hurricane to hit this area was Irma and it didn't do much damage at all.  While we do get hurricanes, we are far enough away from the water that we are not in the high wind areas.  

The kitchen has been filled with all one needs to live in a house.  There are silverware, dishes, pots and pans, ovenware, a coffee maker or two.  There is food in the cupboards and wine in the bar.  Guests that stay here will have a choice of 3 bedrooms or the great room.  We are not installing traditional beds, but rather will have a Castro Convertible in each of the rooms.  There are additional air mattresses for when we have larger parties.  And if there is so much demand for space after both the museum and the Puzzle Palace are filled, there is a hotel a short 10 minute walk down the road.  

And although we don't watch it, we do have a television installed in the master bedroom.  With the way the room is set up, we can also use it to host presentations.  Folding chairs are easy to store.  The cable is hooked up and the internet is up and running.

Should the puzzle collection grow beyond its current size (and we all know it will), we also have a 2 car air conditioned garage that we can convert into a puzzle room.  This area even has its own powder room. Currently it is only being used to store a 4 person golf cart that we purchased so guests who don't want to walk can travel between the two houses. 

A landscaper has been contracted, new sidewalks are going in, the pool and spa are being redone, outdoor furniture is being brought in, the putting green is on order.  This house will soon be ready for visitors once the puzzles have arrived.  

We really have no words to express how thrilled, grateful, humbled we are that James has chosen to entrust us with his wonderful collection.  He and Lindsey have a vacation home for life.  We really feel honored that he has done this and hope we display the collection in a way that does it justice.

I'll post photos and make more updates as the museum is updated. 

As always, Puzzle Palace is open to fellow puzzlers by invitation only. 

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The King of 3D printing is at it again!

 George has always been a pioneer in the area of 3D printing.  His first printer was bought in 2003 after he saw an exhibition in Chicago.  Oskar called him over excitedly and told him he had to see this machine. When George got home, he bought the Stratasys Dimension printer and the rest is history.  He bought the machine and hasn't looked back.  He has often told me that that first printer cost more than I've put into my VW Beetle.  More than most people spent on a car at the time.  

Over the years he has purchased quite a few different 3D printers.  He brought a FormLabs 2 SLA printer with him from California, I purchased him a Creality CR6 SE and a Creality 3D PrintMill (CR30) printer through Kickstarter.   We also have 2 JGMaker Artist D's on order.  His last purchase was the Ultimaker S5.

Heck, he even brought a DaVinci Nano 3D printer on a trip to Antarctica! This was later gifted to Oskar in the hopes that he would begin using a 3D printer himself.  In case you didn't know, Oskar has embraced 3D printing on his own.  He's now teaching George things.  The student now teaches the teacher.

But none of these can hold a candle to what arrived on Monday.  Once again George has proven himself to be a pioneer in 3D printing.  His Fuse 1 SLS printer finally came in! GoodBye ShapeWays. It has been a very long wait.  We ordered this in June of 2017.  That is a long time.  (Although, I have been waiting longer to get my Tesla Roadster.)  George ordered this one all jazzed up and jellied out.  He added the sifter, the benches they stand on, the vacuum.  He's getting a tumbler to put in his dirty workshop.  You name it, he'll have it. 

The best part of this?  Well, we get to make puzzles of course, but the company has a 1 on 1 two hour training session that we will be taking together. This way I can learn to use the printer as well.  This saves George the time it will take to train me.  He's already read the manual, and I'm now working on it.  We expect a month or so before we take those lessons because we are busy with something else right now.  

I'm expecting that as soon as he really learns how to use the machine we will be in the 'business' of making 100 puzzles.  He's already calculated that our next IPP exchange will take something like 3 days to complete.  This is exciting! Can you imagine the possibilities?  

Saturday, February 6, 2021

George and his Burrs

My beautiful lover began his puzzling journey around the age of 10.  His first puzzle was a kumuki barrel burr, and he's been hooked ever since.  His second one was an elephant.  He has a small burr set from many years ago and proceeded to write to the company to tell them they had analyzed it wrong.  Later when he was in college he made his own burr set taken out of Anthony Phillip Hayak's book Puzzles in Wood.  His copy was copied at a library.  It was written in 1923.  For an overview of his burr obsession, please see the 12th day of Christmas on my blog. 

This love of his for burrs caused me to hunt down a number of them for his birthday this year.  The first is the Combination Burr Box by solve-it-puzzles   While the paperwork that comes with the puzzle says there are 49 different solutions for this 27 piece set, the web page lists only 45 solutions.  Interestingly, when put into Burr Tools, some of the solutions given do not have solutions at all.  It's a rather confusing puzzle for the dumb puzzler such as I. As always, George put the pieces into burr tools and found many many more.  There are actually a total of 65 solutions without any holes.  If you do not use the 0 piece (the solid rod), there are no solutions at all. If you you use the rod, for holey puzzles, you can have 2805 solutions.  Without the rod, there are 2,110,585 solutions. That's a lot of puzzle for $54.54. 

The next set I got him was a 42 piece set made by Jerry McFarland. He called it the caramel box when he first made it.  Sadly, there wasn't one left with the box, but Jerry did sell me a set of the burrs.  I brought them to our cabinet maker and he designed a beautiful zebra wood box for it.  This set was also put out by Wayne Daniel many years earlier. Keven writes about it here.

The last burr set I gave him this year for his birthday this year is available at graveraven.  I ordered him all of the 59 notchable burr pieces that have been produced.  Additionally, I ordered Loves Dozen to add to the set. Again, there was no box so I sent this set to the cabinet maker as well.  He decided this one had to be silver and gold. As you can see, there is room for around 40 more pieces in here.  I'm waiting for some good folks to go in on the ordering of pieces before I fill the holes in.  The set up costs are a bit steep.  Or perhaps when George gets his CNC machine up and running he can make his own.  

One of the nice aspects of the boxes that I had made is that there is room along the sides for additional pieces in the case of the wooden burr set, and as for the metal set, the side room is a nice space for finished puzzles. Needless to say, George loved his birthday gifts and spent a great deal of time doing what he does best.  Burr tooling them.  I guess I'll have to up the anti next year.

As a final thought, it really saddens me to see these beautiful burr sets sell as inexpensively as they do.  I mean, the puzzle designer/builder does not seem to get enough for what they do.  The cabinet maker, while he made some lovely boxes, charged at least three times the cost of the puzzles.  It hardly seems fair. I shall quit complaining about the cost of puzzles from now on.  If you know of any sets my beautiful lover doesn't have that he should add to his collection, do let me know.  If you are interested in obtaining the Burr Tools files, give me a message and I'll have George load them for future reference.  

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Unicorns and Holy Grails

 I posed a question on FaceBook last weekend and will post it here again. 

If you could have any puzzle, old or new, what would it be? 

I ask because George and I have many puzzling discussions and I am continuously trying to find new puzzle gifts for him.  His answer to my question? He wants nothing more than to own every puzzle in the world.  This of course would be an impossibility. How would one ever find them, and where would you store them.  Even our large house is not large enough.  

When faced with this dilemma, he said he wants to own the largest collection of puzzles in the world.  Again, even our large house is not large enough.  Ok.  we have the space, but then the puzzles would not all be on display as they are now.  This would sadden us both. No small part of our attraction to each other is our love of puzzles.  We made a 'sacred' vow that ALL of our puzzles would be display and play.  

Now back to my question.  If you could have any puzzle, old or new, what would it be?  For me, that would have to be the Cleopatra jewelry box by Berrocal (Opus 106).  
I have run across one, but at the time the price of 20,000 Euros was too steep.  No. That still stands, the price is just too much.  Or perhaps it would be La Via de Colombo by Franco Rocco.  

Another puzzle I had the opportunity to play with, but have never seen for sale. These two puzzles would be my holy grail.  I have gone big time into the more expensive puzzles as you can see.  A few others I would love would be an original Dino Cube, or an original Jugo Flower.
 Of course, I've been looking forever for a Zaku 2x2x2 Rubik's cube, but I don't see that happening any time soon either.  These are the Holy Grails of puzzles for me. 

Which brings me to the idea of Unicorns.  I have only recently learned this phrase and I rather like it.  Mine has been Hoplita.  Since I first started collecting Berrocal's I've wanted this piece.  I finally managed to acquire it this past year. We have taken it apart just once when Carl Hoff visited us.  George spent the afternoon reassembling it while I reassembled Coffinetta. So my next question is, when I get one of my Holy grail puzzles, does it become a Unicorn? 

As for George?  He still tells me he wants all the puzzles in the world.  I think he just likes to play. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Hill We Climb

I was moved by this lovely poem and want to post it here as a reminder of what needs to be done and what CAN be done in America. A new era is arriving. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.  

Mr. President, Dr. Biden, Madam Vice President, Mr. Emhoff, Americans and the world:

When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast. We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace. In the norms and notions of what just is isn’t always justice.
And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it. Somehow, we do it. Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect. We are striving to forge our union with purpose, to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so, we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped; that even as we tired, we tried; that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
I like many of my fellow Americans was glued to the television this past Wednesday watching the inauguration. We stuck around for the televised concert later that evening and enjoyed the uplifting music.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid. If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made. That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb if only we dare it. Because being American is more than a pride we inherit; it’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a forest that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy. And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us. This is the era of just redemption. We feared it at its inception. We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked: “How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?” Now we assert, “How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?”
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised, but whole; benevolent, but bold; fierce and free. We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation, because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation. Our blunders become their burdens. But one thing is certain, if we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy, and change our children’s birthright.
So, let us leave behind a country better than one we were left. With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one. We will rise from the gold-limned hills of the West. We will rise from the wind-swept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution. We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states. We will rise from the sun-baked South. We will rebuild, reconcile and recover in every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country our people diverse and beautiful will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.
— Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb,” as recited at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Heptagonal Star

This article was published in CFF #113.  We've attached it here with the Burr Tools files accessible to anyone.  Please enjoy the read.  

Solving Heptagonal Star Using BurrTools

by George Miller, Aug. 2020

Heptagonal Star was exchanged at IPP-18 in Tokyo by Yoshiyuki Kotani.  I was able to purchase a copy recently and it arrived as 7 flat pieces.  I wanted to display it as part of my IPP exchange puzzles collection, but did not know the exchange year, the designer or even the shape it was supposed to take.  By looking through the IPP-18 book I discovered the designer and the date of the exchange.  Sadly, Kotani san’s page neglected a solution or even a picture of the puzzle.  I was able to deduce the final structure of the assembled puzzle by its name, Heptagonal Star.

I quickly managed to piece together 6 of the 7 pieces, alas, the 7th piece stubbornly remained allows for man-insertable.  I decided to move on to the other puzzles that had come in the mail, but, decided to “cheat” by programming the solution using BurrTools.  After all, this is an interlocking combinatorial puzzle.

BurrTools allows for many different grids, but certainly not one with seven fold rotational symmetry.  I tried to simplify the programming effort by imagining this puzzle as a ring that has been cut vertically and spread out flat.  Each piece could be rendered rectangular by cutting the top and bottom of each hexagon.  Each piece had blockage at the top and/or the bottom in four places.  I chose a 5x3 rectangle to represent each piece. The first two blockages of each piece are represented by voxels in the first two columns.  The last two blockages are represented by voxels in columns 4 and 5.  The middle column is left empty as part of the weaving.

The resulting shape will be a flat 14x3 rectangle assuming I could connect the end of the rectangle with the beginning.  But, Burrtools has no such notion so I had to “fake” it by adding 3 variable voxels on both ends of the rectangle as such:

I know this will produce too many “solutions”, but I can go through the results by hand and pick out the real ones.  BurrTools gave 13 “solutions”.  I picked this one as the best one to try:

As you can envision,  the rectangle can be bent in a ring with the blue end fitting neatly under the yellow end.  Both the blue piece and the yellow piece have their blockages on just one side and thus could be dropped in as the last piece.  I started with the blue end and moved towards the yellow end by putting the blue into the red piece, the two green pieces together before putting the pair on top of the red and blue pair next the cyan and then the pink before dropping in the final yellow piece.

Realize that BurrTools is an advanced programming language which is “coded” in BurrGui, a graphical interface.  BurrTools solves the problem.  BurrGui describes the problem. The trick to coding this program lies in transforming the physical puzzle into the BurrGui language.  The language allows for disjoint pieces and variable voxels which used wisely can transform most any combinatorial problem into a BurrGui program which can be solved the companion BurrTools engine.

Below is the .xmpuzzle file.  This is a text file.  BurrTools can read both the text version or the binary version.  To get a text version, I opened the .xmpuzzle file in the BBedit application.  After loading it into BurrTools, go to the START tab and press the START button.  You should see 13 solutions.  Move to the 10th to see the above mentioned solution.

<?xml version="1.0"?>

<puzzle version="2"><gridType type="0"/><colors/><shapes>

  <voxel x="17" y="3" z="1" type="0">+++###########++++++###########++++++###########+++</voxel>

  <voxel x="5" y="3" z="1" type="0">#_____#__#_#_##</voxel>

  <voxel x="5" y="3" z="1" type="0">#__###__#__#___</voxel>

  <voxel x="5" y="3" z="1" type="0">_#_##___###____</voxel>

  <voxel x="5" y="3" z="1" type="0">##_###__#______</voxel>

  <voxel x="5" y="3" z="1" type="0">##_#_##_##____#</voxel>

  <voxel x="5" y="3" z="1" type="0">##_##_#________</voxel>

  <voxel x="5" y="3" z="1" type="0">_#_#_#____#___#</voxel>



  <problem state="2" assemblies="13" solutions="13" time="0">

   <shapes><shape id="1" count="1"/><shape id="2" count="1"/><shape id="3" count="1"/>

    <shape id="4" count="1"/><shape id="5" count="1"/><shape id="6" count="1"/><shape id="7" count="1"/>


   <result id="0"/><bitmap/>




Since you are viewing this article online you can download the Heptagon Star.xmpuzzle file directly by clicking here or here.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

A year in the life of a puzzler. Looking back on 2020

 2020 has been a bittersweet year.  

In January our IPP puzzles finally arrived and we had Nick Baxter over for an afternoon and a dinner.  Little did we know this would be the last of the world as we know it.  Our daughter was sicker than she has ever been but we forced her to continue to attend classes.  Thankfully she was at university and we didn't get sick. I ordered our tickets to IPP and began looking forward to a year of travel and puzzling. 

In February the world started to slowly learn about COVID-19.  Our president said it was under control and would not effect us here in the USA. It was a China problem.  We were making plans for yet another three month cruise.  George's workshop was finished and the cleaning and organizing was to begin.

March saw increased concern over this virus.  People around the country started hoarding of all things TOILET PAPER.  What is happening!  Our golf course closed and we decided to throw ourselves full tilt into fixing up Puzzle Palace.  George kitted out his workshop and I began working on cataloguing our collection.  We had plans for the first Boca Bash, but sadly it was cancelled due to Covid.  

The summer saw us continue with our work on the garage and the house.  I discovered a new 'room' in one of our attics and decided that I didn't want any more bare floor joists showing at all in any the attics.  George put down plywood flooring in two of them and I hired contractors to make the newly discovered area into a room.  We later had this painted and carpeted so George could have a new 3D printer room and storage area. 

Golf opened up again with tee-times.  Something we have never had before.  We met our dear friends the Bookatz's and have been playing together ever since.  

The kid was sent home from uni in late spring because of COVID-19 and began photographing our puzzle collection.

Then disaster struck.  IPP was cancelled!  Our main puzzle party of the year was not to happen.  We along with many other puzzlers around the world were devastated.  The organizing committee put together a few zoom meetings at odd hours of the day for those of us in the west.  I think we were still asleep for the first one.  The Midlands group put together a number of zoom parties and staggered them into three 2 hour sessions so as many people as possible could participate. 

By the end of September the bridge to link George's new workshop and the garage attic was completed.  I began populating the bridge with puzzle games.  After a talk with Rob Stegmann, I devised a way to display paper puzzles.  Our crystal puzzle collection is almost complete and almost completely assembled.  George's workshop is finished and is being used.  We have built at least 2 years worth of IPP exchanges and have ideas for another two or three.  

I managed in October to get George to blog with me.  He's posted a few times and will in future load his CFF articles that need burrtools files.  Dutch Cube day was cancelled as was our circumnavigation of Africa.  Another puzzle party bites the dust. 

In November we voted!  Thank heavens the tRump reign of terror is over.  We continued to work on a variety of puzzles in the house. George got fixated on doing a puzzle analysis for Oskar and we finalized the design for our new driveway and ordered the pavers from Canada.  Thanksgiving was a rather casual affair.  We brought it down to Miami and had an outdoor picnic with the kid.  Sadly, all too many in America did not stay at home, or follow social distancing protocols.  The airlines saw an increase in travel again and the US saw another surge in the number of confirmed cases.

Early in December we picked up the kid from Uni and the poor thing has been stuck with old boring parents ever since.  Although, I'm pretty sure it is us who is suffering more at this point.  The driveway was dug up mid-month and the pavers came in.  The good folks at Genesis Alliance Group and Balderez Construction worked full out to get it in a useable condition before the holiday.  Carl Hoff came out for a rather short visit and left with a CNC machine. 

George built me an Advent PuzzleTree and he was a lucky man.   I gifted him 25 puzzles via the tree and a couple more on Christmas morning.  He gave me the wonderful gift of 3D printer lessons just as soon as the kid goes back to Uni.  

The year ended with my version of the 12 days of Christmas.  I wish you all a Healthy and Happy New Year.  I hope 2021 is better for one and all.  And as my dad always says upon hanging up the phone, "Stay away from the virus!"

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

12 Days of Christmas PuzzlePalace style 2020.

 On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me

12 Burr Puzzle Sets

Here we have 12 burr sets.  Starting left to right.  The white box was made by George when he was in college.  He found a book that listed a set of burrs and he set about making his own.  This set is not pristine, there are many perfect imperfections in each of the pieces, but given that it is one of his first puzzles, it deserves a place of honor in our collection.  He tells me the book was written by Anthony Filipiak but I couldn't find it in the book he has.  Having said that, he's the one who built the puzzle, who am I to argue.*

In front of that piece is Boite 13 by Jean Claude Constantin.  I got this set from  It is said to make 40 six-piece burr puzzles.

Next in the back row is the Chinese Cross made by Pentangle.  This puzzle I won on auction earlier in the year. This set can make 314 puzzles.

In front of this is a "Professor" burr set from the Yamanaka Kumiki Works Japan. George got this set as a Christmas gift when he was around 13.  He promptly wrote to the company to tell then there were more solutions than listed on the box.  He got no response. 

Next to this is a burr set listed on Thingiverse.  We have here the starter burr set and the extensible burr set. After seeing them on FaceBook, I pointed George in the right direction and he immediately printed a set.  Too bad he didn't print the box...

In front of this we have the Darryl's Dense Dozen designed by Darryl Adams, machined in Brass by Bryan Turner and purchased through CubicDissection.  

The final two in the back row are the Pentultimate Burr from Cubic Dissection and Sherlock from Marbles the brain store. 

The next row holds the Phoenix Family burr set (Allard writes about it here) by Jack Krijnen and Rombol's 151er Teufel.  

The final two are a Level-5 burr set by Jack Krinjnen and a simple burr set we picked up when we visited Dilemma games in Cheng Mai Thailand. 

This will not be the end of our burr collecting.  My beautiful lover really likes burrs and he enjoys sets even more.  I'm looking for a Jack Krinjnen copy of the Ultimate Burr set and would be over the moon if I could find a copy of Wayne Daniels 42 piece Interlocking set or Kamei's set of 52 pieces.

We hope you enjoyed this years version of the 12 Days of Christmas and had an enjoyable holiday season.
*I just found reference to this book published in 1942. Looks like he really was right.  

11 Workshop Machines 

Today’s Christmas post is brought to you by George.  As many may know, we built an addition to our garage so that George could have a nice workshop.  Today we bring you 11 of the many machines he has in there.  I hope you enjoy his contribution to this year's song.

The first up is the laser cutter.  I got rid of my old Epilog and purchased a new Flux Beambox Pro.  Unlike my old one, I can now use wifi to send projects to the cutter.  I purchased this one after moving to Florida because it works with Macs and has a built in camera that allows me to see the work going on.  It has a water cooled laser and is just more modern.  

Again, out with the old, in with the new.  I gave a way my 3 axis Roland Modela MDX500 and purchased a new Roland 4 axis Modela pro II MDX-540.  This milling machine was too good to pass up.  It has a full enclosure and all the additional bells and whistles.  Add the fact that it only had 60 hours on it and this baby had my name written all over it. 

This machine is a vacuum forming machine that I made in 1998.  I purchased a kit and set to work.  It has seen many projects and will see many more once Roxanne learns how to use it. 

Up next we have a drill press.  I have added a small XY vise to the base so that I can easily align the bits.  Also added is a laser crosshair that spots the place on the work piece which will receive the drill bit. 

This bandsaw was purchased at Harbor Freight.  I left the old one in California and this was the perfect size for the bench top.  It is a nice little machine for the price.  We even used it to cut frozen pork ribs one day.  DO NOT try that at home. It's an absolute mess to clean! (I had to take apart the entire machine).

Here we have a jigsaw also probably purchased at Harbor Freight.  Again, the old one was left behind because it was broken.  I really like the idea of having all of these machines on the bench top and this is no exception. 

Here we have a mini sander.  I've had this one for years.  It is super thin allowing me to sand small parts.

This belt sander is much larger than the previous one. As you can see, it also has a disk sander on the side. The attachment allows for different angles to be sanded.

Here we have my Saw Stop.  There was no question of leaving this one behind.  It takes up the majority of one garage, but is worth it in that since we have been here, it has saved my fingers once, and the fingers of a construction worker once as well.  This has a rather large bench attached to it and a router as well.  It's a very handy machine.

This little machine is a Hegner MK4.  This is a German machine that was discontinued in 2010.  They are difficult to find now.  It was originally advertised as a toy makers saw.  This seems to fit with what I do.  

This final machine is a DeWalt planer. It is used to flatten wood.  

I hope you enjoyed reading about a few of the machines I have in my workshop.  

10 Spanish Anvils

You knew we couldn't get through this without a Berrocal reference.  Puzzle Palace has one of the largest Berrocal collections to be found.  I know there are some who scoff at the quality and durability of the pieces, but to me they are just beautiful.  I remember  an art exhibition in HK called "Naked Art".  We had to take off all jewelry and be blindfolded. Upon entering a room, we were encouraged to touch the art on display.  I loved the sensation and perhaps that is why I love the Berrocals.  They just feel nice.  

This set is called Desperta Ferro (Opus 240-249). They were made between 1979 and 1982.  Each piece has been built around an anvil and has a number of different pieces.  Our set is quite unique in that each one has the same serial number: 41/200. Having had many conversations with the members of the Berrocal foundation, I've come to realize that these are much more unique than I expected. While it says this was a run of 200 it may not have necessarily been so.  Usually when I see these pieces come up for auction it is one piece at a time.  I have never seen a full set for sale.  

These were made as part of his multiples that were produced. The original sculptures were a set of 20 - ten were the Desperta Ferro and ten were the Almogávares.  The latter are a rather large set of torsos that can often be found on display in different museums around the world.  These were inspired by the warriors sent to Constantinople by the King of Aragon between the 13th and 14th centuries. Each anvil has the name of a member of these warriors.   If I understand correctly, the original Desperta Ferro were made of wooden pieces shaped around the anvils and are no longer in existence. Later the Desperato Ferro series were made into the smaller brass versions you see here. 

Pictured below are our set.  As you can see, only one is polished.  We have chosen (for now) to leave the rest with their natural patina. Each piece is rather heavy as they are built around an actual anvil. I'd guess they come in between 10 and 15 pounds.  Should you ever visit PuzzlePalace, the pieces are available for disassembly as are all the other Berrocal's in our collection.  

An even better idea would be to visit the Berrocal Foundation where you can learn a great deal about the sculptor himself.  We had the pleasure of visiting in November of 2019.  Click the link to go back in time for a few blog posts about this trip.  

The Almogávares were on display in 2020 at a museum in Malaga and a nice write up of the exibit can be found here.  

Finally, on The Epiphany (6th of January) the Berrocal Foundation will be holding a zoom journey through the foundation.  We participated in the last one and it was well worth the ten euro cover charge.  Sign up here and tell them Roxanne sent you. I get no kickbacks. Just continued friendship.  If you miss that date, click this link to see more upcoming dates. 

9 golfing clubs 

Pool?  Who cares about pool?  Golf is the way to go.  I started playing to get into George's good graces (read pants) and have loved it ever since.  We play at least 3 times a week.  George more than that because he plays with the ancients twice weekly.  These sticks?  They are the main clubs my beautiful lover uses.  me?  Not so much on the woods I like the irons myself.  I myself am a dæmon with the 4 iron! And heaven forbid you cross me while I've a driver in my hand.  The last time someone did that, his bedroom door window was smashed.  

Should you make a trip to PuzzlePalace, we've plenty of extra sets for your pleasure.  Come for the puzzles, enjoy the food, stay for a round of golf.  

8 pool table balls

Ok. So as it turns out, puzzles are not the only thing in our lives.  We've a beautiful rainbow pool table in the billiards room and we have been known to shoot a game or two.  Although, I must admit, My beautiful lover is much much better at the game than I am. Come on over and challenge him to a game or two.  He'll love it.  This table was shipped over from China and installed while we were on the container ship heading home.  It's a 9 foot professional table.  Much harder to play on than the ones we find in the local pool halls.

Of course, the 8 balls in the middle go with the table, but the other items you see here are all puzzles of sorts.  I mean a magic 8 ball is a puzzle isn't it?  How does it give such good answers?
The second row holds a 'world's smallest' 8 ball and a plastic burr picked up from a gumball machine. 
On the bottom are three old Binary Art's puzzles called Diamond Bob's Billiard Puzzles.  All were made in 1998.

7 Christmas puzzles

Now I know most of you are thinking these are puzzles I was gifted for Christmas, but they are not.  Each of these puzzles was a part of my Christmas decorations this year.  The large Christmas tree in the background is called "Around the Christmas Tree".  It is from Bits and Pieces and was produced in 1997.  This 750 piece Jigsaw puzzle when assembled can be glued and stood up as you can see here.  

Under the tree from Left to right is a snowman jigsaw ball by Ravensburger.  It has 77 pieces and was produced in 2007.   You might be able to find it on eBay, or at Ravensburger

Next up we have a hand carved and painted Santa that I got off eBay many many years ago.  His sack is a disentanglement puzzle, and inside he holds yet another disentanglement. 

Next to him is a gingerbread man cube from Professor Puzzle.  It's been out of stock for a few years and I was lucky to find this on eBay.  There is also a Santa, and an Elf in this collection.

The Christmas tree was produced by Jeruel in 2016.  It has 69 pieces and comes in both green and white.  As far as crystal puzzles go, this is an easy solve.  Too bad there are no ornaments to go on it.

In the front row we have a Rubik's brand 1x2x3 shapemod made by PolyTwist Designs.  Somewhere along the way Winning Moves picked it up and branded it.  There is a much cheaper version available elsewhere

The final puzzle in this photo was made by yours truly.  I was upset last year because there are very few Christmas puzzles outside of sticker variations on Rubik's cubes.  I went to TJMaxx and bought a box set of these Chinese made burr puzzles and a few eyes, pipe cleaners and baubles.  An afternoon with the hot glue gun and a bit of creativity later and I made 8 different Christmas puzzles.  All are still fully functional as a puzzle. 

Without realizing it, when I took the photo there was one more puzzle in there.  If you look carefully, you can find a U-Gears Christmas stocking hanging off the tree.  

6 New Brass Monkeys

We all know them. Those two gents from the UK who seriously must be over compensating for something with all this heavy metal hanging around. Really, these puzzles could have been made of plastic or wood and people would have been satisfied.  But noooo, they had to go the extra mile and make everyone who doesn't have these get brass envy.  I can't wait to see them come out with a set of brass (puzzle) balls.

First up we have the trio of Brass Monkey's: the classic one, two, and three.  These are tough little buggers. The first step is of course to work out how to get the protection off without breaking it.  The last thing anyone wants is broken protection. Then, there are these dumb buttons you have to push.  I broke a nail trying to solve one of these things.  George had much more luck than I did with them.

Next up we have the hyperboloid burr designed by Oskar.  This was an IPP exchange given out in wood.  As expected, these two had to go one better and Brass it up.  George played with this one at a DCD and when it became available we just had to grab it. 

Feed the monkey is yet a heavier puzzle from this duo. To keep this blog Rated G, I removed the rather large banana that Mrs. Monkey is eating.  This one is a packing puzzle in the extreme. This poor girl has to have 16 varying sizes of shaft inserted into her.  

With a grin like that, what's not to love.  Nova Plexus sounds like it could be  a good puzzle, but I've no idea because it came in and went right up to the metal room.  George was unimpressed that I had once again brought in shiny puzzles for him.  This pair comes in brass and stainless steel and will probably remain unfinished on the shelf until we get a real monkey over here to put it together.  

Kong.  Who doesn't want big brass rods?  I purchased this one from their Kickstarter campaign knowing it would be hidden away until Christmas.  Well, Christmas came and with it, 4 pounds of rock solid rods.  It now sits on the master bathroom counter waiting it's turn in the queue.

And here it is.  The one we've all been waiting for.  The Joy of Hex.  Yes, you see that right, this set has 4! boxes of hex pieces, it's very own manual of different positions and a hex aid for when you need a little extra help.  

All of these puzzles and more can be found at Two Brass Monkeys.
And yes, I have the Monkey's nuts.

5 Puzzle Rings

The colorful one on the left was made by Carl Hoff.  I believe it is called Wasp.  It can be purchased in a much smaller version at Puzzleringmaker. This particular version was sold to me at an IPP a few years back.  It's much to large even as a bracelet.  I can wear it around my  upper arm.

The large yellow one was made by Oskar and I'm sure you can still find it on his shapeways shop or on Puzzleringmaker.  Again, I bought this at an IPP many years ago.  At the time, it was raining and the dye had not quite set yet.  I looked like I had urine running down my arm from the dye. The green ring is also made by Oskar.  This one can be unwound and worn like a necklace.  This and other variations of it can be found on Oskar's shapeways shop.

The grey ring was made for me by George.  I wanted a puzzle ring that was attributed to Miguel Berrocal but was actually made by Antonio Bernardo. I didn't realize this at the time, and only later discovered taht his rings sell for upwards of $5000.  George made 3 copies of this ring.  We gave one to his son Joe and the other two are in my collection.  They were made on an SLA printer in Hong Kong, and he says as they are so much work, he'll never make another.  I'd love to have one made in metal and perhaps one day I'll send his design off to Thailand...This copy is sufficiently different from the original to not be a copy.  He didn't want to make me an exact duplicate. 

The final gold ring is my wedding band. It was designed by Oskar for George and me.  The difference between this ring and other puzzle rings is that all three bands can be separated when the ring is taken apart.  George's has a phallus like protrusion while you can see mine has an opening.  Yes, they can be combined in a rather interesting manner.  Oskar sells a rated G version called trinity ring on his shapeways page. 

4 (00+) Crystal Puzzles

I started putting these puzzles together Christmas of 2010. The bug and I went to the Toys Street with my then sister-in-law and my niece and nephew to look for some Christmas bag goodies.  We came across the 'bags in bags' store and discovered our first crystal puzzles.  (Not really, but this was the real start of our addiction.) We had a few from the toys fair in earlier years, but this year we found a bag of 20 for less than 1 US$ each.  We bought the bag, took all the duplicates, and gave the rest for goody bags.  This was the beginning of an obsession.  In Hong Kong, the kid and I assembled around 50 of the larger pieces and at least as many keychains.  When we left, her father refused to let us have them. No skin off my nose, I have friends in high places and managed to get all but 5 of my original puzzles back.  Now I hunt auction sites worldwide to find those missing pieces.  

These are simply 3D jigsaw puzzles.  Many come with solutions, but many more do not have them. Knowing how to read Japanese (yeah right!) helps.  But seriously, the google gods know all if you need it. I've found my own special feeling way of solving these puzzles.  Last night I managed to solve 6 dragons of 56 pieces each in less than 2 hours.  After a while it just becomes second nature.  If you haven't tried one yet, I recommend them as a good form of calm.  Perhaps that is why I like them so much.  I  just go into a zone when I'm puzzling in this way.  Very zen-like. 

Since the beginning of the quarantine, I have assembled 530 of these.  I just adjusted my spreadsheet. I guess this is a bit more than 400+!!!

3 3D Printers
My beautiful lover is the father of home 3D printing.  He bought his first many moons ago and spent a long time perfecting the art of 3D printing.  He is the premier prototyper.  When he left his life in California and came to Hong Kong to live with such a woman as I, he left behind his printers.  He engaged the services of a 3D printing company to aid him in his continued puzzle printing.  He used 3D Mart Hong Kong who had wonderful service. When we finally arrived in Boca Raton, he purchased an Ultimaker S5, the same as was used in HK.  He has enjoyed printing many a puzzle on it.  

The next machine we see (with my monkey on top) is a FormLabs 2 SLA printer known for its high resolution and weird method of printing from the bottom.  

The final printer was purchased through kickstarter.  After a scam I endured, I never expected to receive it but the Creality CR-6 SE is in the dormitory installed and ready to go.   Filament is commonly available in the two standard diameters of 1.75 mm and 2.85 mm and now he has two FDM machines to handle filaments of both sizes.

2 Crazy Puzzlers

and a SPH in an APT

A standard puzzle hamster in an advent puzzle tree