Notes from Puzzle Palace

Friday, October 26, 2012

Micro David

I've been on a mission since bringing Michelle home. I am hunting for all the Berrocal miniatures. (I'd love some of the full sized ones but my house just won't hold a puzzle of that size)

Miguel Oritz Berrocal  (1933-2006) was a Spaniard who moved to Italy to set up a foundry to manufacture his puzzle torsos.  From what information I have been able to gather, the largest, Goliath has 88 pieces and Otra and Otto are the smallest with 4 pieces each.  The miniatures that I have been hunting all run around 20+ pieces.

In my hunt for these little treasures I discovered that Berrocal made micro pendants as well as some other jewelry. Now I don't plan on getting all of these as well, only two have caught my eye; Many More horses and David. I don't expect to get the horses any time soon as I've seen so few of them at any auction houses. (if anyone finds one let me know please!)

Back to David. He's beautiful! I managed to find this one at an insanely low price and couldn't pass it up. Besides that, what girl wouldn't want a naked mans torso hanging around her neck?  Check out that spine!  And those solid shoulders?  BEAUTIFUL as I said.

Like all of these miniature Berrocal's, David is a puzzle. He is made up of 16 pieces including the base. And like others in the mini series, David also sports a mesh ring inside.  (the miniatures have a solid ring, and as best I can figure from my sizer, it's about a size 5)  For those of you with small enough fingers (this one is probably a size 4) who want to wear it, I would advise against it. See, in David's case the ring is made up of his genitalia. Not a huge problem, but people notice these things. Since I got him I've had more people comment on his bits than I have had notice any other necklace I've ever worn.

He's an easy lad to take apart and put back together again.  To disassemble him, you unscrew the bit at the top that holds the cord.  His shoulders come off first, and then the top two chest pieces slide over the top.  His heart can be removed next, and as a guess I'm going to say it looks to me to be coral.  The other side of his chest cavity needs removing and then the lower abdomen can be removed followed by the ring assembly and the genitalia.  Finally, his thighs (and buttocks) can be unscrewed from the base.  A very simple puzzle as far as these go.  To reassemble, the pieces only go in one way-I know, that's what puzzles do-but in this case, it's all just sliding down on the main center column.  I did have a bit of a hitch when I put the heart back in place.  There was a need for a bit of wiggling.  When he's completely put back together, he is still a bit loose.  It seems his base and the hanging bit need to be lined up in some way.

I sit here researching the sculptor so I could give you a bit of information on him and as I do so, I've come across two very wonderful pages.  One by an educator I've had the privilege to meet.  And the other by a puzzle collector I one day soon wish to visit so I can play with his Berrocal's.  Both of these pages have me drooling and turning green with envy. It seems I need to find a different line of work, or finish that funny hat.  These things are expensive if you don't know where to look!  In the mean time I continue my hunt....

Average prices on this one range from US$550 to US$1000 depending on where you go hunting.

Only 3 more miniatures to go.

As an aside, I am looking for the dimensions of Alexander.  How tall is he?  I have found one at a decent price, but if he's larger than the miniatures I'll have to pass him up.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A box of burr bits

I saw this pictures of sticks over on A puzzle forum I browse regularly and later saw a battalion of burrs on Facebook and thought I'd be cheeky and order one. Lucky me! About a week later I got a bill and a request for a mailing address.   I felt lucky to get it because the designer didn't make that many.  I think it might have been only 8 sets.

Jack did a wonderful job on these!  When the box came in, The first thing I did was feel that burr inlay on the cover.  See, I thought I would be able to feel it, but it is so smooth that I can't feel a thing.  Very nice work.  I spent a bit of time looking at the outside box.  It really is nice.  The fit of the cover is fantastic.  So much so that I found a bag to put it in so it wouldn't get all scratched up.

Time to open it up and see what is inside! Upon opening, I was in for a surprise. There are 42 different burr pieces in there.  It's such a chuckle for me to see this.  I'll be honest, I was expecting it to be much bigger, so this just tickled me.  A Roxanne sized puzzle! That isn't something you see every day.  Looking further, you will also notice that there are 7 cards with a total of 181 different puzzles inside.  That should keep me going for a long while!  Each of the burr pieces is nicely labeled so you know exactly which ones to grab out of the box to play with.

The best thing about this set though has got to be the little tiny set of tweezers!  Jack mentioned that the burr bits measure 1cm x 1 cm so unless you grow nails,  the tweezers are a must.  He's thought of everything  here.  I can't wait to start building some puzzles.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A screw! A screw! My collection for a screw!

I'm often baffled by puzzles. Solving all too many is often beyond me. But I have never ever had problems building them~or should I say putting them together~twisty I mean. Until this past week.

For want of a screw the tool was lost.

I made the most horrible mistake. I ordered from Shapeways. Oh fool am I.

For want of a tool the puzzle was lost.

Two puzzles caught my eye over the past six months or so and I decided to go for it. I mean it's only a screw, a man tool, and a bit of patience. I can do that right?

For want of a puzzle the brain was lost.

For shame on you and your thoughts Rox. Nothing is as easy as that. I did the obvious. I went through all the drawers and jars and boxes and tins in the house looking for the screw I needed. But it was all to no avail. Not a screw to be found. What to do?

For want of a brain the thought was lost.

All is not lost. Go to a hardware store. There are plenty around. It should be easy to find the screws you need. You silly girl!

For want of a thought the girl was lost.

With a goal in mind and determination I set off for a district renowned for man tools and things. I entered shop upon shop in search of my screw. But not a man around was willing to give me one. I begged. I pleaded. I offered to pay double the going rate. Nothing. Not a taker in town. What is wrong with me I ask you? Am I that horrid that no man will give me what I want. Nay, by this time it's no longer a desire, its a burning need. One that will soon be beyond control. I simply must have a screw!

For want of a girl the collection was lost.

In my desperation I momentarily thought of begging Mr. Man for a screw, but then sanity returned and I saw the folly in that thought. A fellow blogger offered to send me one all the way from the UK but even in my moment of desperation I saw the foolishness of that. No, I needed to think of something else. And what's the best way to think? Why by puzzling of course. And that's just what I did. I read my three favorite forums (no inspiration but a good laugh or two). I picked up 'lean two' yet again (didn't solve it~didn't solve my screwy problem). I picked up a Jing's pyraminx. And as i twisted and turned and took out my frustrations on that poor piece of plastic, inspiration struck! My sanity could be saved. My money would not be wasted! I had found the solution! Go rape a cube. (or would that be plunder? Technically I'm not screwing it, I'm unscrewing it. ;) ).

And all for the want of a M3 screw.

I've learned a lesson this week. What you seek is often right in front of you. And....all of life can be reduced to a nursery rhyme (with a bit of adapting).

*now if someone can tell me where to find dye~and I don't mean the stuff in my bathroom cupboard.

**and then teach me how to put this damned thing together because for the life of me I can't work it out. It would be a real shame to leave this one in pieces now that I have gotten my screw.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Another successful puzzling weekend.

As always, it's a sad time when friends go their separate ways.  Sunday was the end of the event and it was doubly sad because it was time to say good bye to friends.  I always hate that part of the puzzle events.  Saying good by is painful even at the best of times.  This weekend it was extra hard because I know it might not be until after the first of the year that I see my friends again.

Because I'm so bored at these things, I first decided to go to my favorite shop and get a few puzzles for Otis.  Every time he comes over he brings me some so I decided to return the favor.  This time I picked him up a few classic puzzles, Make the letter: A, K, M, T.  A Hanayama (or maybe Beverly) soma cube type puzzle and a Lotte Crunky bar game/puzzle/toy.

When I got there, it was just bug and I for a short while, Michael came next and Da Yan.  It was a real treat because I enjoy watching all the kids faces when they realize who they are talking to.  When Uwe showed up, I think they were all in puzzle heaven.  I could give a more vivid description, but all I can think of right now is a tad bit vulgar so I'll pass.

After a while, a chap brought out some dice and showed us how to stack them using cups.  It was good fun and we all had a go.  Me?  I could get 4 to stand up.  Bug managed 3. I'm not sure about the rest of the guys.  Matt came around 7 to pick bug up as it was a school night and I took the opportunity to introduce him to Da Yan.  I've been going and spending weekends with the guys for around 3 years now, and this is the first one Matt has met.  See all you non believers, I'm such a good girl my husband trusts me. All I get up to is good clean fun.  Had to snap a photo with him in it just to make sure he was there.  It might have been a dream otherwise.

After Matt left, I had to take some photos for Uwe.  Turns out he pulled out some of the 4 layer pyraminx's and gave them out to a bunch of kids.  The deal was if they could solve them he would let them keep the puzzle, if not, they paid for it at a slightly reduced cost.  Good deal hey?  This was as close as they got on Sunday, but all were given a weeks grace period and trust to be honest.  Here's hoping one of them solves the puzzle.  

After Matt and bug left, the awards ceremony began.  Michael was up first, I followed as did Da Yan and Uwe.  There were a lot of awards and I bet this took over an hour to do. I think The Japanese ruled the day, but I could be wrong.  Remember, I don't take much interest in the competing bit so I take about as much in the awards.  All that won though were lovely kids and they had huge smiles and all wanted to shake hands with us.

When all was said and done, We took the time to snap a photo of the four of us in front of the stage.  And I enjoyed watching all the different countries competitors take photos in front of their flags.  I'm pretty sure they enjoyed it as well. The kid with Michael was the youngest competitor, the girl with me was a pyraminx winner, and the one with Uwe won on one of the Meffert's puzzles.  Gear cube I believe.   

Time to head out to dinner before removing all our puzzles and taking them home. Otis joined us and it was another first.  We had never all had dinner together before.  Michael pointed out that we have never been at the same place before so that makes perfect sense.  The food was good as was the beer. Even Uwe had a Stout with us.  But we did have a slight problem.  The photo on the right shows Otis and Uwe so engaged in conversation that you will notice, the rest of us had empty glasses--Otis was in charge of the pouring.  He got so engrossed in the conversation he forgot his beer duty.

Around 10:30 Otis took Uwe to the train so he could make the border crossing and we all went down stairs to pack up.  30 minutes later and we were in a taxi heading to Michael's shop to store the toys for the night.  As always, we ended up in a bar somewhere playing drinking games.  This time I joined in the fun and learned how to count to six in Mandarin. I still lost quite a lot even after learning because I had to count on my fingers.  A poker player I'll never be.  Otis at the end of the night was looking a bit forlorn at the cube I just stole.  Thank you Michael for talking Mf8 into letting me keep it!  It is just so pretty!  I've lusted after it for around 2 years now and can't wait until the rest of you get a chance to play with it. Brilliant puzzle it is.
As for other puzzles, well, Da Yan was his usual generous self and gave me a crazy pillowed three sided puzzle that he made, and another that I can't tell you about because it isn't out yet.  During dinner I pulled out TomZ's constrained cube (the Shapeway's version) and because we were discussing it, He made me another using the pieces of another cube he has made....And that one I"ll leave alone because it still isn't my place to say.  I gave him a copy of my pionir pyramid along with a bracelet puzzle I've put together and a copy of the square in a bag.  And no, I know he won't copy it!  He's too honest, and quite frankly, too bright to have to do that.  

All in all, it was a great weekend and as always I look forward to the next one. I hope Tom and Leslie and Ming and Aj and.....can all join us!  I'm thinking December when I head over for a conference. Boring English lecturer by day, not so boring puzzler by night.....

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Friends and puzzles

One of the highlights of my year is the GZ meet in October. It usually happens over one of the weekends of the national day holiday. Mainly I guess because everyone can get there and we have time to spend together. This year there is no GZ meet. Instead, friends have come to HK for the Asian championships. Now I'm not a competitor or a speed cyber at all. But if my friends are there I'll go.

I've been busy working but last Sunday I managed lunch with Otis. Always a pleasure. Yesterday after work I ran to the venue and met Michael, Otis, DaYan, and a lad from Shenzhen whose name escapes me. We all had a nice hot pot dinner and some great puzzle and non puzzle chat. During dinner some great (non puzzle) news was delivered and I discovered DaYan and family were off to Disney on Saturday so I was volunteered to be the tour guide. We rode a few rides (Da Yan Managed to solve a puzzle while riding on Autopia!) and then headed for lunch at the Hollywood Hotel.   I was disappointed because there were no characters there. But the food was good and the kids played a bit in the game room. Then it was back to the park for a few more hours of play. Four rides and DaYan and his family went off to play some more. Bug and Miss N. went their separate way and I headed off to the competition to meet Uwe.

Now I'm going to be honest here and say that I find competitions incredibly boring.  I enjoy the company and the cubers though so I go along.  And even thought I say that, I found this year to be quite interesting as I met a bunch of people from different countries along the way. I walked around, snapped a few photos, chatted with Jing and Ulrich for a while and then we went to dinner.  I guess they were so far behind schedule that our disappearing for an hour or two didn't much matter.  We returned to the venue around 8:30 and waited some more....this is the way of competitions, lots and lots of waiting.

Uwe did a little thing with his ball cubes and the treasure chests.  The players were happy, they got free cubes.

Which brings me to question, what about the helpers.  I know they get the t-shirt and a pin, but does anyone ever think to give them cubes?  ha! I just did!  Lucky draw I guess.  This could be interesting.  :)  I'm feeling devilish!

Today is the finals and the presenting of awards and such.  The end of the competition and the end of the exhibition.  Time to bring my toys back home where they belong.  It was great to see others enjoy them, but it will be nice to see them back on their shelves.

Ok, me?  I'm off to go pick up a few toys for Otis and then head over to bore myself to tears yet again.....

Thursday, October 4, 2012

O'Beirne's cube

Today's puzzle was exchanged by Peter Hajek. It is really a bunch of puzzles in one. When he explained it during the exchange, I've got to admit that I really wasn't sure what he was on about. (not that that means much, at the end of an exchange day I don't even really know my name. It's truly an overwhelming experience that I'll never get tired of.) I did gather that it was a packing puzzle and a fitting puzzle and that's about as much as I managed to take in.

It is first off a puzzle of how to build a box. Now that may seem easy to some but remember this is Rox we are talking about. There are twelve bits that form two boxes. Ok putting together two boxes I can do. Then I noticed that the boxes fit one inside the other! Ha! There's more to this than meets the eye. And I have to say I'm glad. I was worried about how I was going to manage to fit the blocks inside the frame if there was a big hole under the frame. (yes, that thought did cross my mind).

Now here comes the cool part. The REAL puzzle. How does one go about making the bits fit into the frame? There are 6 bits that need to fit into 6 frames. Each bit and each frame is a different size and orientation. So here we have 6 puzzles. But wait! There is more than that! It seems that we get two more puzzles tacked on top of the 7 (or 8 depending on how you count) that we already have. There are two different ways to pack the 6 bits into the box that has been provided. So now we have 9-10 puzzles in one. Value for money or what?

It's fun too. I've managed to sort out how to make the boxes-and let me tell you, that was an all teeth moment. I've also sussed out two of the six frame puzzles. I've got four more to go and for me, this isn't one of those puzzles that I will do once and remember. I'm sure there is some mathematical equation I could do to work out the solution but I much prefer the puzzle talking to me so trial and error it is.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bits and Pieces-The company.

Wow!  What a company.  I have a real love/hate relationship with them. Over the years I've had good and bad service and I really don't know which way to go.  And yet, like a battered wife, I keep going back for more.  We already know I'm a glutton for punishment because I'm a puzzler, and anyone who is a puzzler is a glutton for punishment.  We keep going back to the same old things time and again.  Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.  And that folks is my relationship with Bits and Pieces.

I first encountered this company way back in the mid 90's.  They had a booth at the HK toys fair and I went.  At that time, companies were still allowed to give out free samples and many did give out little bits and bobs in the hopes of drawing in customers.  Bits and Pieces was no exception to this and I have a couple of these puzzles within arms reach.  At that time, the quality was pretty good.  Although, the puzzles were small so I guess that may have had something to do with it.  Now, I'm not so sure.  The puzzles are getting larger, and it seems to be hit and miss with them.  Don't get me wrong, some are fantastic designs.  Others are just bad quality.  Wil's puzzles these are not.  But that's no reason to NOT get them.

Looking at the photo below, all are from Bits and Pieces.  Yes, I have many more that aren't shown here.  These are just the ones that were within reach, or from the batch that came in today.  The wooden 5 piece (The hole in one) in the right hand side is nicely done.  I've no complaints.  Hercules, just below it, is also a nice puzzle.  The Kamei gift box is not too shabby although you can see the lines where it opens.  The One way packing puzzle on the bottom center is ok.  It's a bit loose for the pieces that pack in, but with my humidity I almost like that.  Others will not.  The Kamei heart box on the bottom.  Boy that one is not so good.  It looks pretty, but the opening and design of it is just cheap.  You can see every glue line there is.  To open it, you just need to wiggle it a bit.

On to the metal puzzles.  The top left is called Sputnik and it's ok.  It's more of a guessing game than a puzzle, and other than the rather sharp edges, I've nothing to say about this one.  The next two: EZ Unlink and EZ Galaxy are very different. The EZ Unlink is nice.  it doesn't fall apart in your hands and has a nice heft to it.  I'd get this one. The EZ Galaxy I would pass on.  Go for the Puzzlemaster verion called Great Collision.  Moving down there is a 4 leafed clover and ying and yang.  Both hold together fairly well.  Not too problematic.  The torpedo is a different version of a classic and a bit on the light side.  I worry that this one isn't very sturdy.  The Knot Simple puzzle is dead easy.  In fact as a take-apart puzzle, it isn't a puzzle. It's a joke.  When I unboxed it it fell apart in my hands.  This one is a pass.  Secrets of the heart (that's a Sacajawea dollar on it for those of you who were wondering.) Is ok.  No complaints.  It works as it should and has a bit of weight to it.  The key with the ring.  What a joke!  It is so flimsy and sharp that I've never bothered with it.  It has a carry case, and I took a few photos then tossed it in the box. I don't think it will surface anytime soon.  All Hail the King (Marcel, you don't think highly of yourself do you?) I have two of.  One is boxed, the other is open.  Both are B&P versions.  Go figure.  And finally, Fit to a T.  The puzzle that started my long running affair with B&P.  A nice little puzzle that is just a tiny bit loose in the box. But hey, I'm not complaining, it was free!

And now for the reason I started this post.  Last July I ordered a bunch of puzzles from B&P.  They sent them to the wrong address even though I changed the one on record.  Nothing came in and around September I called to find out what was going on.  I mean they were only sending it to Florida.  When I found out I was more than a little bit upset. Mostly because they no longer had stock of the puzzles I wanted.  The company issued me a credit certificate in November and washed their hands of me.  around 4 months isn't too slow.  Or is it?

It turns out you can only use these if you call in the order. OK, I'm in HK.  The company is in the US.  Toll Free numbers are charged at international rates.  Long and repetitive story short, over the past year I've ordered twice from B&P both over th phone and neither time did the operator let me use that certificate even though I tried.  Well tonight I finally got an operator who was new and I got to use my refund certificate!  Finally. Only 11 months after it was issued!  Nice deal that is.  They have you don't they?  No money back and over a year to get your refund!  WOW!  Ok, so I got a bunch more puzzles that I hope will arrive before Christmas.  Oh, and for my trouble of spending 1/2 hour on the phone, they knocked $5 off the shipping.  Big whoop! 

See, hit and miss.  Love/hate.  B&P and Rox.  I suffer through and will continue to buy from them as the years go by I'm sure.  But I do so willingly and know exactly what I've gotten myself into.  Go check them out, but remember I warned you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tea Time

Today's puzzle sadly is again, not mine.  I had the opportunity to play with this one at IPP31 in Berlin and again last Sunday when I had a late lunch with Otis. 

It is a twist on a classic string disentanglement.  I won't give away the solution for it, but realized when looking at it again it's not as difficult as I thought I remembered it being.  Or maybe I was just overwhelmed with puzzle play at IPP that I never realized at the time.  Doesn't matter. It's a lovely looking puzzle simply because of the materials used.  That wooden cup is mighty thin and I'm sure it would never be used to drink tea from.  

The object of the puzzle is to remove the sugar cube as well as the spoon that are looped through the handle of the cup.  This puzzle can be purchased through contacting the designer, Victor Lam, via email. Information for him can be found on the 2011 Puzzle Design Competition page.   Even though I know the solution, I've just ordered one because it's kind of pretty!

Sick day puzzling

I've been having one of those holidays. You know the kind-four days off and all of them sick.  This horrid bug was brought home by my bug and by Sunday evening I was ready to kill her.  I had a weekend full of puzzling planned and instead, all I got to do was put together some crystal puzzles.  My poor body and brain would take no more than that.

Some of them are from Hanayama:

Some of them are from Beverly:
but most of them are from China:

 All of them are dead simple to put together.  They each have between 36-42 pieces so it's not even a big jig-saw puzzle we're talking about. Bug lives these things, and as they come out, I get them for her. The Hanayama are fantastic because the pieces are numbered and she just needs to follow them.  The Beverly are great because the paper that comes with the puzzle tells you how to put it together.  The China made ones?  They are a pain in the bum!  That upside-down octopus is so badly made its legs don't lay flat so the base is opened.  Nice thought though.

My only complaint?  I'm missing a couple of dwarfs!  Now I ask you, what is Snow White going to do with only 5 dwarfs???