Notes from Puzzle Palace

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Crossing over to the darkside

 Ok.  I've gone and done it now.  I've crossed over!  Jigsaw puzzles.  Ugh!  What made me do it?  I need help!  Get me out of this madness zone.  I'm on the fifth one now.  I need intervention!

 I've had a few Rubik's jigsaw puzzles for a very long time and have just now gotten around to solving them.  The first is the Rubik's Royal Brain Teaser.  Not at all a Rubik's cube, rather a rather poetic use of the name to sell a jigsaw puzzle. It was made by Springbok consisting of 400 pieces. This one has jewels on a rope going around the puzzle.  Challenging?  Not in the least.  But fun to put together anyway.

My next puzzle was the double sided magic. This one was produced by Milton Bradley during the 80's Rubik's craze and at least has some sense of Rubik'sness attached to it.  It has a looped rings magic on one side, and the magic with the rings unlooped on the other.  This one has 300 pieces.  While it has fewer pieces, it was much more challenging than the first because of the number of black pieces.  All black.  No hints there.  And don't let the 'double sided' fool you. It is easy to distinguish the two sides aided by the cutting technology of the 1980's.  You simply feel the difference and go with it. 


 

The next puzzle I did was called the Rubik's zigzaw.  This one is much smaller with only 131 frog shaped pieces.  It was a fun one to do.  I got tripped up on it while piecing together the outer edges.  Once I found my mistake, the puzzle itself was a piece of cake to finish.  NOT!  This one has 3 dimensional cubes on it and did cause confusion because of the repetitive pattern.  

The final Rubiks branded puzzle is a double sided tile puzzle that needs to fit into a hexagon.  I gave up on this one. Put it in the frame and mounted it on the wall.  If you ever come to Puzzle Palace, please feel free to open the frame and solve it.  


We no come to my next bit of insanity.  On a whim in Barcelona, I bought a 42,000 piece puzzle entitled "Around the World".  It has sat under the desk in the breakfast room for the better part of the year while I worked up the courage to open it.  Yesterday the day has come. I expect it to take me around 6 months of puzzling to complete it.  It arrives in 7 bags of 6000 or so pieces.  NO, I did not open them all and mix them up.  I'm not a jigsaw type person and therefor not a purest.  6000 pieces is still a lot.  I could open them all and assemble it on the floor in the void but oh my poor back.  No, I think I'll stick with the smaller chunks. When completed, I'll post again with a photo of it in situ. It will be permanently mounted to the wall on the bridge.  Until then I'll go back to regular blog posts about normal type puzzles.





Saturday, November 14, 2020

Kickstarter

 I've backed many kickstarter projects over the years.  My most recent one that was completed was from Two Brass Monkeys.  But I'll not discuss that one for a month or two yet...

I've just found these two and thought why not.  The first, A-Puzzle-A-Day reminds me of the Philos birthday puzzle although, it doesn't come with the 3 1/2 inch floppy disk.  The man obviously bought a laser cutter and wants to use it.  Should I tell him tape will stop the burning of the edges of the wood?

  

The second Neuschwanstein Castle is dear to me.  I love the crystal puzzles and would really like to see this one come to be produced. I've assembled 380 of these since moving to Florida in August of 2018 ( I left a collection of well over 200 assembled puzzles in Hong Kong when I left but that's a story that won't be told here) and really would love to put this one together as well.  Sadly, with 16 days left, I don't think it will make the funding goal.  The price is in Hong Kong dollars which probably put most people off.  The HK$ is pegged to the US$ and the exchange rate is 7.8:1.  The puzzles are not as expensive as they look.  I ordered the early bird tier iv because I realized this drops the price of each puzzle to under US$15.  I can't buy them at that price here in the US.  I believe I even paid more for the larger ones when I bought them direct.  Even the castle by itself is well priced at US$31.  Add to that the option of getting a blue duck and a yellow apple on the higher tiers and I'm sold!  

The other problem with this kickstarter that I see as being a non-issue is completion once the funding period is over.  Lately there have been a lot of Hong Kong based Kick starters that have not been completed once the money has been handed over.  I don't see this as a problem at all.  First, Jeruel is a well established company.  They started out making kinatos in around 2002.  The company has really come along since then.  Now they make smart eggs as well as the crystal puzzles.  If this kickstarter is to be completed, I know they will produce this.  I think this is all part of the new bandwagon I see with other manufacturers.  I guess it helps with the initial molding costs.  Speaking from experience with my own puzzle, the amount they are looking for sounds about right.  

For those who don't know, Jeruel makes the crystal puzzles that are sold in the US branded as BePuzzled.  They have licensed their products to University Games.  In Asia you can find the under the Beverly brand name.  Along with Hanayama, they are the premier producer of these three-dimensional jigsaws. 

Add to that the fact that I count Lawrence Lau among my friends and I can guarantee he will follow through if the kickstarter goal amount is reached.  He is a kind and honest soul.  I feel honored to have met him so many years ago at the HKTGF.  

I really hope this one goes off. It would be even better if I could get an advanced copy to trial.  I can't wait to see what he has in store for next year.  I'm still pushing for a Santa Claus and his sleigh.  



Saturday, November 7, 2020

Viruses Times Three

Today's puzzles are brought to you by the Corona Virus that has been crippling the world this past year.  Whether you had a day without toilet paper and other necessities, became unemployed, or lost a loved one, this past year has affected us all.  It's been one heck of a ride so far and I for one have had enough of the worry of catching a disease there is no cure for.  Living in the US is worrisome. The President thinks that because he had the best medical treatment available and was 'cured' that the virus is under control.  He refused to lead by example and by doing so, has endangered the lives of many Americans. At the time of writing this post, over 9,570,000 people have contracted the disease and 237,000 people lost their lives.  We spend our lives sheltering in place (here at Puzzle Palace, we are fortunate to live on a golf course and have all these puzzles and games to entertain ourselves with), not going out to eat in restaurants, no more concerts or sporting events, no family gatherings, and the obligatory dreaded masks.  If we all do our part and follow WHO and CDC guidelines we can eliminate this virus. 

Which of course brings me to my first puzzle of the day:  Eliminate the Virus.
This puzzle was obtained in 2020 from I have no idea where.  Ebay, Amazon, Taobao?  Maybe it was one of many puzzles that have been sent to me to try. I don't know if it came from China or Taiwan.  I've purchased so many puzzles that I just can't keep track anymore if it isn't written down when it comes in.  The puzzle is a logic puzzle that uses coverup pieces.  It has 6 clear pieces of plastic that are used to shoot disinfecting spray at the many viruses on each of the 60 challenge sheets.  This puzzle is very similar to many others produced over the years.  SmartGames has a number of them from Raf Peters including Down the Rabbit Hole, and the Go-Getter series. 

The best part of this puzzle is not the puzzling itself, but rather the instructions.  They are a public service announcement.  I would like to say this is reminiscent of what I would see on TV when I lived in Hong Kong and assume it is from China.  The only problem is, there is no Chinese on the instructions.  I'd also like to think this puzzle was produced prior to the discovery of COVID-19 but again, I can't be sure.  

The first 15 puzzles have lines drawn as to where to place some of the tiles.  Puzzles 16-24 give the position of two sprayers, 25-30 give the position of one sprayer, 31-35 give either one or two sprayers in a shadowed sort of way  and the final 16 have no clues at all.  


George had a crack at it this morning.  He saw how solution one was done, jumped to puzzle 36, and now he is attempting 60.  All in all, it's a fun puzzle variation on a familiar theme.  I wouldn't go hunt it down purposefully, but if you find it, it is appropriate to the theme of 2020. 


Following on from there, we have Anti-Virus.  Again this puzzle has 60 challenges but this time with 11 pieces that need to be shifted around to get the red virus out of the board.  This puzzle was designed by Oskar van Deventer in 2003 and was brought to market in 2008.


This puzzle was originally designed by Oskar using plastic sheets, and exacto-knives. He then designed one that was tin cast in a laser cut mold!  Ah the technology he used.   The puzzle was put on Jimmy Stephens website as a puzzle called the Bulbous Blob.  Later Oskar designed the wavy board that was ultimately used and George prototyped this one for him. It was delivered to Smart Games and the rest is history.  



As with Eliminate the virus, I really enjoyed the instructions for this puzzle.  It makes one wonder if Oskar could foretell the future.  I later learned through looking at George's stl files that there were googly eyes on the pieces and to me they looked more alive. 


Unlike most puzzles of the 'remove the piece' type, this one has pieces that move on a diagonal instead of the normal left/right, up/down moves one would expect.  I revisited this puzzle this past week and have found this difference in movement to not work well with my simple brain.  I'm just not used to it.  I originally got this puzzle when it first came out and because of my lack of other entertainment I worked my way through the challenges.  I wonder if I found it easier then than I do now.  Perhaps if I were to go through all 60 challenges again I would find the moves to be easier.  And I wish I had access to this giant version! That would look so cool on our coffee table. 

  
The final puzzle of the day is Anti-Virus Mutation. This one was based on Oskar's original puzzle but re-designed by Raf Peters. Instead of 11 pieces, it has only 6.  It is sold as a travel game, and the case for it makes it much easier to take on the road.  The other major change is that the pieces can be moved in that left/right, up/down positions.  It is no longer a diagonally based game.  This makes it much easier for my simple brain. 

Oskar tells me that since the date of release that Anti-Virus has sold 450,000 units at the end of 2019 and Anti-Virus Mutation has sold more than 50,000 pieces between 2016 and 2019.  Who knows what this year will bring for these puzzles.  

Smartgames has this as an online game that can be played here.  You can sign up for free and play for 6 months.  Now that is what I call a deal!

Below is a video of the storage solution we have come up with for this type of puzzle.




 

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

VOTE!

 

Today is election day in the United States.  I implore all Americans to go to the polls and VOTE.  Uber and Lyft are offering 50% off rides if you can't get there on your own.  People all over the US are volunteering to drive people to VOTE.  

This is a very important election.  Get out and VOTE!  


Here's hoping for change at all levels.  The "swamp" was not drained, it was fed.  Do your civic duty.  If you don't know where to VOTE, click here and enter your home address.  It works! 


 

Help make a change so we can get back to puzzling without worry.  

GO VOTE


Saturday, October 31, 2020

Edge matching puzzles

You have any number of small edge matching tile puzzles.  What do you do with them?  If you are like me, they are chucked in a drawer and forgotten.  Left alone and unloved, they simply cease to exist as a puzzle.  And yet, some of them are rather beautiful  Most are very colorful, all are worthy of a second look.  

We have this motto of "Display and Play", and this category of puzzle has been problematic for me.  What do we do with them.  If they stay in the drawer, unless I label it in neon paint, they will never see the light of day again.  Last week after a conversation with Rob of Rob's puzzle page, we have a solution.  Wall space in the corridor to the gym! We use part of this to hang magic puzzles and another part to hang sliding tile puzzles.  You know the kind: those that every collector has but never really touches. Well, the edge matching tile puzzles are the same.  And we have wall space in that corridor.  The ceilings in there are 7 feet high and the length is 20 feet.  Forget the door in the middle, there is room enough for at least 75 of those puzzles.  Going against my natural need for order, I placed these puzzles rather randomly along the walls.  I first hung the largest of the frames and followed that up with progressively smaller pieces.  We end up with a rather large hodge-podge of puzzle viewing.  Sprinkled throughout the corridor are a number of symmetric shape puzzles, a few folded playing cards, and any number of old IPP table cards. 

Technically these are not Display and Play as I put each of them in a poster frame or a photo frame.   But if anyone were to want to play with them, it is easily done.  Because these puzzles are the type that need to lay flat, I added a bit of BluTack to the back of each piece and mounted them that way.  Not all of the puzzles are solved. To be honest, I don't take great pleasure from them so I lost interest after I did 12 of them this afternoon.  (I've subsequently realized that many of the puzzles which are from the same companies have exactly the same solution. Lagoon Games is especially guilty of this. If you are looking for a challenge, don't bother with them. Once you've solved one, you've quite literally solved them all.)  

The poster frames are from Walmart and run about $6 each.  The photo frames I got from the dollar store.  The floating frames are from Michaels and are rather expensive at $26 each, but thankfully we only have 3 double sided puzzles.  The shadow boxes were also bought from Michaels and I managed those for $11 each on a sale.   George wouldn't let me spend more on the frames than I did on puzzles.  Although there are 6 of them I bought in HK for less than 50 cents US so I guess I blew it on those frames.  

After the frames came in, I decided that maybe I would solve most of them after all. The smaller 9 square versions take very little time now.  I guess I've done enough of them that I can spot the similarities right away.  The larger 16 and 25 piece puzzles are a bit trickier. I'll be honest, a few of them just gave me too much gas so I left them for someone else to deal with.  As you saw from last weeks blog post, George even helped out solving that rather unique one we found.  The final puzzle to be solved was the Rubik's tangle 10x10 grid.  It combines all 4 of the 25 piece tangle puzzles.  Unfortunately, it is unsolvable.  It turns out the manufacturers printed a duplicate of the wrong piece.  It's a good story to tell though.  

I used small 3x5 and 4x6 frames to hold a number of symmetrical puzzles, IPP table puzzles, and impossible cards that we have been given. The final items to go on this wall area will be a few old Rubik's jigsaw puzzles that I got back in the 90's. It's about time I put them together.  

All in all, I am quite pleased with the way this new display method has turned out. Thank you Rob for the suggestion. You helped rescue these puzzles.









Saturday, October 24, 2020

48 Queens Puzzle-Roxanne's take

 Wow!  What a puzzle! This was found in a box of older IPP exchange puzzles.  It was probably made during the early 1990's but we can't be sure as we don't read Japanese.  On one side there is a standard edge matching puzzle with some child-like cartoon animals.  On the other side is the 8 queens puzzle that George wrote about last week.  Either puzzle is quite difficult.  

This puzzle was designed by Hisayoshi Akiyama.  He attended first at IPP 9.  Over the years, he has designed many puzzles and written a number of books on puzzles.  His puzzles can be found on Cubic Dissection as well as at Puzzlemaster.ca.

After scratching my head over this for a few days, asked George if this puzzle could be put into a solution on both sides. Sadly, the answer is no.  One side at a time only.  

My next question was can it be made using additional colors so that no square is without a colored circle and still be solved.  Again, Burrtools came up with a definitive no.  

Again, thanks to Rob, we now have an additional link that gives some information on this puzzle.  Sadly, it's in French.  "There is another solution to the superposition of six sets of eight queens each on an 8x8 board, published by Lucas (inventor of the Towers of Hanoi problem) in his 1895 book, on page 232: https://archive.org/.../larithmetiquea.../page/n231/mode/2up".

As a bit of background, edge matching puzzles were invented by E. L. Thurston in 1892.  A copy of his original patent can be found  here.  They are  puzzles which have an edge color, image, number, etc. that must match the adjacent piece.  A very detailed explanatory article can be found here.   These are readily available in stores everywhere.  Puzzlemaster sells the scrambled squares puzzles for a relatively low price.  They can also be found on many other online sellers.  As for me, I've spent the past few weeks solving this type of puzzle and have decided they just aren't for me. I eagerly await George's Burr Tools program so I can put the rest of the unfinished puzzles on the walls.  





Saturday, October 17, 2020

48 queens puzzle


George is at it again this week.  He's given us a link over here if you wish to open this as a pdf.  The pdf has a clickable .xmpuzzle files for your pleasure. The .xmpuzzle files need to be downloaded for viewing.  Hint: you'll also need Burr Tools.   

Here is a preview:  

The latest puzzle to catch my attention is one called 48 Queens on 8 Cards which was published in Japan and designed by Hisayoshi Akiyama.  It comes on 8 cards which can be laid down into an 8x8 array of colors and spaces.  Each card is a 2x4 array containing exactly 6 different colors and 2 spaces.  


Mr. Akiyama (the inventor) writes “You know of the famous ‘8 Queens Problem on a chess board’.  This puzzle is a new variety of multi-queens problem.  There are 8 cards, each one has six different color spots.  In this puzzle, I mean the same color spots as Queens to be hostile to each other, and different color spots as queens to be ignored with each other”.  


Please let us know if you prefer to read these posts online, or as a pdf.  We would appreciate any feedback on the usability of the pdf format.  The conundrum lies in the use of xmpuzzle files as a means of communicating puzzle strategies and solutions.  The blogger editor is somewhat simplistic and not user friendly for a first time blogger.  The pdf format allows George to have greater (easier) usability.  The blogger program also does not allow us to copy and paste images into it so even though I can add the entire post here, the images will not show up.  I feel like I'm learning this all over again.

Please do click on the link.  It's a great article. 
Thanks

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Magic and more

We've been collecting puzzles for too many years to count.  During this time we have amassed a large number of puzzles that do not really get played with, or even a lot of attention.  Normally these puzzles would be tossed in a drawer or a box in the back of the closet and be forgotten.  I decided that they too had to be displayed.  To do this, we had to get creative.  I'm talking about sliding tile puzzles and folding magic type puzzles.  

First off, at one point in time I had a great fondness for magic type puzzles.  I had many custom made by my friends Cynthia and Michael in Hong Kong.  I hunted down every commercially made version I could find.  Fast forward to 2018 and we now have a house that can display these items.  The problem is, they are flat.  In Hong Kong, they were under my bed in a box marked "Magic puzzles", folded as compactly as possible and kept away from fingers that would play and the dust bunnies.  The flatness of the puzzles ended up being a good thing for us.  I spent days trying to work out how and where to display these. They take up a lot of shelf space if they are laid out flat.  On my way to the gym, I had an epiphany!  Use the walls!  And the rest as they say, is history.  

I ordered 100 Command Strip hooks and a box of BlueTac and went to work.  The Command Strips are wonderful as they can be removed and replaced at will without damaging the walls.  BlueTac has been my friend for well over 20 years now. It is beautiful in that, it too can be removed from walls without causing damage (if done right, and if your walls have good paint on them.) I designed a pattern for the magic puzzles and began placing hooks around the wall for the magics to slide into.  Where these did not work, or were too large to hold the smaller puzzles, I used BlueTac to hold them in place.  This collection is complete as far as we are concerned.  If newer versions come out, we may decide to expand but this is most likely not going to happen.  

The wall opposite the magics holds a number of sliding tile puzzles and mazes.  These too are puzzles that we are not keen to collect more of unless of course a new and innovative design comes out.  Many of these are from my daughters toys when she was younger.  This makes them just too sentimental to get rid of.  And yet, we know they will never be touched by us. Again, Command Strips and BlueTac to the rescue.  We used larger hooks to hold up the big puzzles, and BlueTac to hold the small light weight pieces.  

All in all, I'm quite pleased with the way these puzzles have been displayed.  Had it not been for 'modern hanging technology' these puzzles would still be in boxes in the back of drawers and closets.

And now for the downside.  I've discovered that over a period of two years, some of the Command Strips have lost their grip.  When this happens, not only does the puzzle fall off the wall, but there is also a chunk of paint taken off.  In hindsight, perhaps this isn't the best way to display these puzzles.  But what I've noticed is that the puzzles that this is happening to are the larger heavier puzzles.  The strips seem to work for up to 8 tiles, but more than that and it's hit and miss. As I lay here typing this, I have heard two puzzles fall.  I guess I could combine the BlueTac and the Command Strips and hope this will work.  I'd hate to have a more permanent solution.  The wall would look like swiss cheese. 

At last count the magic wall had 93 puzzles, and the sliding tile wall had 97.  That's quite a few puzzles for something we just don't collect.







Saturday, October 3, 2020

Building Puzzle Palace



Collecting puzzles is a very space heavy, time consuming job.  You read that.  I wrote job.  There is a lot of work that goes into maintaining a collection as large as ours.  Maintaining is the wrong word to use.  I see myself as more of a curator of our collection.  

Each morning I log on to my computer and browse through my favorite websites in search of missing puzzles from our collection.  This usually takes me around 3 hours each morning.  I have about ten webpages I  look through each morning.  I'm always on the hunt for more pieces by Berrocal and Rick Irby.  My current obsession is to complete our Uncle's Puzzles collection.  I believe I am short by 12 more pieces.  From here I will move on to hunting down Toyo Glass puzzles.  This type of puzzle hunting is easy to do as there are a finite number of pieces produced and the collections can be finished relatively easily.  And of course, anyone who knows me will realize that I am still hunting down a few more Berrocal pieces. 

Whenever there is a specialized auction, I make sure to compare what is on offer to what we have in the collection.  There are a few pieces from days gone by that we are still looking for.  IPP puzzles are one. We are hoping to have a complete collection one of these days.  This will take us quite a while to complete as we are still missing well over 500 pieces.  

I also maintain the twisty puzzle collection by purchasing at least one copy of new mass produced puzzles as they come out.  I have made a conscious decision to not collect custom made twisty puzzles as there are just too many of them out there.  

The final thing that I've done to add to our collection is to order a number of custom puzzles.  I won't tell what they are because all are a surprise for George that I'd like to keep a surprise.  Of course George is always designing and building more puzzles so he is constantly adding to our collections.  He has always had a prototype shelf in his past homes, now he has two prototype walls.  Both are full of puzzles that he has worked on.  Where applicable, they are accompanied by the mass produced version of the puzzle.  

I know that storage is a problem for a collection that has over 10,000 pieces but not in Puzzle Palace. At least not right now.  We have 2301.15 linear feet of shelf space.  There are another 70' that have just been installed on the bridge.  Additionally, I have purchased 20 shelving units that have 4 sets of 36" x14" shelves each.  This adds another 240 linear feet.  That's a lot of storage ~1/2 mile of playable puzzles.  

When we bought this house, we wanted one that would hold our combined puzzle collections.  We found a house that has almost 10,000 square feet under air and expanded on it.  The first thing we had to do was to install shelves.  The house originally only had 204 linear feet of shelf space. We added over 2000 more feet.  This might seem like it would be enough, but each shelf we installed was purposefully made only 6 inches deep.  We did not want the classic problem of having puzzles hidden behind puzzles.  We know we have room yet for about 10 more years of IPP's but then we need to add more shelves.  

The easiest solution would be to build an addition to the house, but we are limited by zoning rules.  As it is, we are pushing the usable land space.  Our solution? Build out the attic spaces.  By doing this, we have added another 1400-1500 square feet.  George has one section of attic that he uses to store his puzzle building supplies in.  Another section holds all of our duplicate puzzles.  The largest attic is designated to hold George's printer farm that is on the way.  The final attic is used simply for normal household storage right now, but can be converted later on to hold more puzzles if we need it. 

George has always had a workshop for his puzzle building and we decided that this home would also have a workshop for him.  As it turned out, he has 3 workshops.  The Printer room where he has his 2D and paper printers, the Dormitory which will hold his 3D printers, and the main workshop which holds all of his 'dirty' machines.  Unlike his previous workshops, this one is attached to the house.  In fact, it is a section of the garage. When we bought the house, we had a three car garage.  Now we have a four car garage.  We extended the single garage to the fullest possible length allowed by zoning regulations.  George now has one very long workshop.  

People always ask me how long it takes to clean the house and dust all of the puzzles and shelves.  Everything in the house is open to the air.  There are no puzzles behind closed doors.  The entire house and workshops are all under air and this makes the cleanup very easy.  We have a wonderful HVAC system that includes UV lights which eliminate almost all dust.  The little bit of dust that does show up can be wiped away quickly with a feather duster.  We do a major clean once a week and that is all that is needed.  The other beauty of the system we have is that it has a built in de-humidifier.  The temperature is at a constant 77 degrees and the humidity level is set at 55 percent. Puzzle heaven. 

While Puzzle Palace is a private museum; it is open to visitors.  And of course, everything here is display and play.  Contact me if you are in the south Florida area and would like to visit.  You won't regret the time spent here if you love puzzles.  

Monday, September 28, 2020

George is Coming Online


 Hello World! 

Roxanne has allowed me to post stuff in her blogspot (not to be confused with her g-spot).

I hope to publish a series of solutions to puzzles on which I am currently working.  I try to use Burrtools for solving.  I have figured out a way to allow readers of this blog to download the Burrtools .xmpuzzle files so they can see the solutions in living color (assuming they have downloaded Burrtools from click here ).  Once  you have Burrtools working on your computer you can test out this method of online reference with the test file seen in the previous blog.  

Thank you for your indulgence,

George