Notes from Puzzle Palace

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Apothecary chest part 2

The bidding still goes on for 2 more days unless according to the rules, someone bids up the price again on the last day then bidding will remain open for yet another day.

I was saddened when my first rather substantial bid was outbid within half an hour.  The second even more substantial bid stayed overnight, but we (a fellow HK blogger/puzzler) and I were out bid yet again.  I'm thinking of selling my bug so I can finance the puzzle.  Maybe take a second mortgage on the house....

More photos of this are coming in as the boxes get mailed to their designers.  I've taken the liberty of collecting them here (read wholesale theft-but I'm sure no one will mind too much as it really is a thing of beauty that they have all done)

Photographs are courtesy of Matt Dawson, one of the artists who designed a box inside the chest.

The best thing I've seen with this though is Jeffrey Aurand's unboxing video. Seeing this just makes me want to really go and hock my husbands new tv.

 (Thanks for letting me steal this Jeffrey!  You're a star!)

And if that's not enough to sway you to go bid, Allard has written a beautiful post about it over on his blog as well.

If you want this beauty, there is still time to head over to Baxterweb and toss in your bid.  But be warned, I'm going to give it one more shot!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Apothecary Puzzlechest

Today I bring you not a puzzle of my own, but one designed by a puzzle friend.  The description below has been written by Robert, aka Stickman.

"The Stickman Apothecary Puzzlechest is a realized vision, over 4 years in the making, with the goal of representing an entire era of some of the best puzzle designers and craftsmen from around the world.  Twelve prolific artists from 5 different countries participated in orchestrating its creation.  Each drawer within has been quality hand-crafted to exhibit the best abilities and individual styles of these artists. 
The chest itself is also a complex mechanical puzzle.  The solution of individual puzzlebox drawers is required to obtain mechanical parts, and these are required to progress its sequential movement.  Within the chest, mechanical pistons lock drawers into place while still allowing them to slide freely.  Pushing in on a drawer causes others to automatically extrude from the chest.  And in turn, pushing those drawers back causes yet other drawers to come out in an apparently random fashion.  Deducing the pattern and sequence of drawer movements is part of the puzzle to this chest, as drawers can only be released under certain conditions.  Once a puzzle drawer has been removed and solved, pressing it back into its slot will automatically re-engage it into its locking mechanical piston. 
Enough cannot be said about the puzzle drawers designed by contributing artists; many of whom have received awards for their abilities.  The only restriction placed upon designs was the size of the puzzle, which required parameter sides of 3” just to fit into the chest, (some puzzles are 3” cube and others measure 3” x 3” x 4”).  The goal was as to require minimal restrictions in order to ensure the true flavor and style of each artist
The designs of puzzlebox drawers vary from the seemingly simple to exhaustingly complex.  Some require just a few profound and elusive steps, while others require moves going into the hundreds.  Many of these puzzles are exclusive to only this chest, or significantly limited in production, and are therefore rare.  With such diversity in complexity, concepts, and styles, there is something appealing to everyone in this chest. 
The chest is crafted from quality sapele wood, decoratively accented with purpleheart inlays, and measures 18” x 16” x 12”.  It rests up on a base of intricately carved wooden feet and comes with a 15-page, fully illustrated instruction book.  All drawers have been signed and numbered by each artist. 
Originally, the only way to obtain one of these chests was to be an artist contributing to the project, and none were intended for public sale.  However project bylaws have since been expanded, now allowing for two additional copies to be sold at auction to help cover expenses.  Stickman Apothecary Puzzle Chests are limited in edition to only 15 completed copies, and this particular chest is #15 out of the limited edition set."

Go over to Apply for an account and start bidding! 

Just want to add this information about the boxes inside the chest.  Links provided to blogs where available.
Knight vs. Dragon
Robert Yarger
Parameter Motion
Kelly Snake
Reversal of Fortune
Jeff Aurand
A Twist of Fate
David Cooper
Trinary Box Hiroshi Iwahara
Now What Box
Peter Hajek
Spinnomotto Stephen Chin
Topless Box Eric Fuller
Thick and Thin Garnet
Mark McCallum
Matthew Dawson
Blocks Away
Ron Locke
Ferris' Puzzle Box Peter Wiltshire
Because of the import of this chest, my usual Christmas post will be delayed until New Years Eve.  I'll have a little something different in store for you all this year. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Blogger meets blogger

A few weeks back I was on Renegade forum and read about a new blogger.  This one posts interviews from the designers of the puzzles we know and love so much.  Turns out he lives in Hong Kong and works just down the road from me.  Well, I sent off a private message right away and we exchanged phone numbers.

A few weeks of messages going back and forth and we finally managed a time to meet up.  We decided a drink was in order (when isn't it?) and met at the local mariners club.

I got there about an hour earlier than Saul and had a beer while waiting.  I'd just ordered a second when he came in, and I've got to say, he's the kind of boy I like.  He walked in, ordered 2 beers and downed them lickety split.

Once we had established that drinking was on the table, we got down to some puzzling.

First up:  Why David of course.  Rox just loves that puzzle.  I would wear him all day long if I could.

We had chatted earlier about a few puzzles and Saul brought along Dancing Shoes.  A really nifty puzzle that is.  It has such an elegant movement to it.

I was asked to bring along Cast Delta because he wants to meet the designer.  I think that can be arraigned at some point...But because of another post over on renegade, I went ahead and brought along a Stickman box.  Saul was taken by it and fiddled away for quite a while.  Delta be damned.  He lost interest right away.   Anyway, here's hoping he interviews Robert for his blog.  There is an amazing puzzle of his and another 15 designers coming up for auction fairly soon.  If I were rich, I would definitely
go for it, but that kind of puzzle auction is way out of my price range.

From there I pulled out Eric's Cigar boxes and we fiddled with those for a while.  A few more toys came out and a few more beers went down. Being the holiday season, when Saul asked for something a bit stronger, I ordered an Advocat and a shot of whiskey.

We stuck around for a short while puzzling some more then headed out to a bar on the other side of town.   Yep.  He's a puzzler I can get along with!  I've decided to take him along for my next boys and toys across the border.  In the mean time, I've loaned him Robert's box and I have his dancing shoes...A perfect excuse to meet again.

A parting shot:
He can't be in that much pain can he?  it's only an innocent kiss from Rox.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Blogger vs blogger.

Stay tuned folks. It's the puzzle girl vs the designer interview guy coming soon to a blog near you.....

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Or not.  This is the height of testing boredom.  A pen maze!
I went in to work this morning fully intending to be good and do nothing but read between.  Yeah right. This is Rox we are talking about.  I can't read for 4 minutes then quit.  When my nose goes into a book it stays there so puzzling is a much better option for days like this.

Now I brought along a few twisties, but the pen on the desk fought my eye and that was that.  Ok ok so we've all seen these before, there's nothing new or exciting about them. You roll the two balls from one end to the other and maze solved.  Not much of a challenge there is there?  So I made one up in my little head and played a game with it.  

Solve the maze under the table while working without looking and without making any noise.  I gave myself 12 minutes to do it and although I've tried 9 times now, I simply can't do it.  Why? The noise rule for starters.  If I'm making ball rolling noise I'll be in big trouble.  The second problem? Well, look closely at the pen.  The ball on top is stuck.  See, all pen mazes are not created equally.  This one has a thicker sheath at one point and try try try, I get stuck at that point every time.  Go back to the first rule: no noise.  

Ok. So I've 6 more goes at this befor I leave here and along with my leaving, I must leave my new found toy.  I don't want to be a pen thief (again).  Wish me luck all!

Update: I found another pen exactly the case maze, but bigger sheath. I guess this does mean that bigger is better!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Escape from Alcatraz

I first saw this puzzle at IPP 34. Needless to say, I didn't solve it.  I find when in the puzzle competition room I'm not at all good at solving puzzles. I look around and see everyone is doing better than I am and suddenly loose all sense of puzzling.

When Wil sent out his October newsletter, I saw it was up for grabs and had to purchase one.  Let me tell you, this puzzle has given me a bang for my buck.  I've fiddled with it off and on since it came in, but have been unable to do anything with it.  Oh the first move is easy-well, the puzzle itself makes the first move.  After that it becomes quite tricky.  I tried solving it on a Saturday while working but between the holiday season sore head and the candidates interrupting me every 20 minutes, I got nowhere.  On Sunday I brought along a few easier puzzles to make myself feel less dumb (see post of 1 December) and as expected, solved them rather quickly. This brought me back to Escape from Alcatraz.

The object of the puzzle is to remove the one euro coin.  Easier said than done.  I fiddled with this one for around three hours in total before I got ticked off at myself and threw it across the room.  Like the metal ball version of Alcatraz, I did something but I knew not what.  When I picked it back up I managed to reset it so followed another hour or so of frustration.  

And then the light went on!
I was almost there. But still not quite.  Oh so close and then I had an inspiration.  After a bit of twisting and turning I discovered this!

  And It has just occurred to me that maybe the reason I was having so many problems solving this one is that I was holding it upside down the entire time?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

She's back!!

Ive been remiss as of late.  Studies, and work, and travel have all managed to stop me from posting up about what I've been playing with.  But now I'm on pj days, reading for my degree and the travels have stopped til February so Ill make up for lost posts over the coming months I hope.

I start out today with a few metal puzzles I picked up in Beijing.  When I was there for the Gathering for Gardner I picked up a boatload of toys.  I'm only now getting around to opening them.  

These are remakes of old puzzles by Mimi toys.  They are heavy.  My poor back will attest to that.  Solving wise? Well, they are remakes of old puzzles and although it may be over 10 years since I've played with them I still remember how to do them.  

First up is a trick bolt. 
This one looks like it just unscrews.  The object of course is to remove the washer.  It looks pretty straight forward, but as with any puzzle, there is a trick to this.  I have another copy of this puzzle that I bought from puzzle master, and to be honest, this version is better.  Mostly because I have small hands without a lot of strength and my puzzlemaster version was stuck tight.  No real fault of the puzzle.

Next up, yet another bolt.  
This one is pretty cool because there are some grooves cut into the head of the bolt.  The first instinct is to twist the washer down into those grooves, and like any good puzzle, this is very much a red herring.  Of course that isn't the solution. What kind of puzzle would it be if that were all there is to it?  I can't tell you much without giving away the solution for it, so I'll just leave off saying it shouldn't take more than a minute to solve....

Final puzzle...
Is one I have hunted for years so I'm glad it has been remade.  This one is called jailbreak and the object is to remove that ball bearing. I'm disappointed.  The quality of this one isn't great.  When I opened the packaging, the puzzle was already solved.  That lead me to believe it was a dog puzzle.  Upon closer inspection I was able to easily see where the first move had to be.  As you can tell from the photo, the second step is easily recognizable as well.  The trick to this puzzle is simply lining up the bits.  Other than that, it's not much of a puzzle.  But I'm glad I was able to add it to my collection.  

It feels good to be back.  Later in the week I'll have more. See you then.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Gathering for Gardner-Beijing

This trip was a nice side adventure that isn't a part of my regular puzzle parties.  I really didn't expect to go, but after a bit of arm twisting-not too hard though-I bought a ticket and headed to the  airport.

I changed my flight because I didn't want to go all the way to Beijing for just one day.  What a waste that would have been.  I arrived Thursday  night just before midnight and Otis was a prince.  He picked me up and let me stay at his flat that first night.  It seems the hotels in Beijing don't like late check-ins.  He was even more of a prince when he let me sleep past 10:30.  I've been exhausted lately and I guess I just needed the rest.

First stop was to go to the hotel and check me in.  From there we had a bit of lunch and met Da Yan and his wife.  They went off to visit an old school friend and Otis and I headed for the Great Wall.  Can you believe, 20 years in Asia and I hadn't seen it yet!  Shocking but true.  In fact, this was my first trip to Beijing.  As such, I wanted to see some touristy places while I was there.

From the wall we headed back into town to go to a speed cubers meet up.  Now I'm not a speed cuber, but this didn't bother me too much.  I just wanted to see what was happening with them.  Otis told me I shouldn't miss it, and I'm glad I went.  I met a couple of puzzle designers and a few of the organizers for the G4G.  We later went to Mr. Yau's workshop and of course I had to buy some puzzles!

Otis and I headed back to the hotel for an 'early' night.  We got in around 12.  The next day we woke at 7:30 and headed to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City.  (See, Touristy things)  I wanted to see Mao's tomb, but as Otis said there were "too many bodies to see the body".  The line snaked around the block and then some. We had to be back to the hotel around 11:30 to meet Nick and Wei-Hwa so we gave the viewing a miss.  Maybe next trip.  I enjoyed the outing very much.  A friend of mine in the States said he wasn't overly impressed with it, but I've got to say, I was.  The amount of labor needed to build those structures...astounding.  I was also a bit overwhelmed by the amount of people I saw there.

We went and saw the room of clocks.  Otis had said he'd never seen it, and I had watched a documentary on it and wanted to go.  IT was well worth the extra admission price.  I hadn't realized the Chinese clock makers were so good.  To be honest, I liked theirs more than I did those from the UK or France.  Or maybe it's just because I've seen that type before.  While inside, I got a call from Wei-Hwa saying they were in the hotel and Otis got a call from Da Yan saying he and Tom were in the square and would meet us out back shortly.  We attempted to get a cab back to the hotel, but none would take us.  Instead we got on a bus and took it to the nearest train station and took the metro instead.  An hour later we met up with Wei-Hwa and Nick and headed out for lunch.

It was a HK style restaurant, which kind of made me laugh because I went all the way to Beijing to eat home food.  Anyway, we showed around a few puzzles, Nick figured out that DaYan was THE DaYan, he worked out Tom's puzzling secret and we just had good fun talking.

After lunch DaYan and Tom went off to the hotel, Otis went to his flat and Nick and Wei-Hwa and I went to a "locked room".  They explained what it was on the way over, and I couldn't wait to start.  To begin with, they told us to go to the bathroom because we would be locked in for an hour...and then they gave us a glass of water.  How logical is that?  We were blindfolded and brought into a room where we were told to count down and take off the blindfolds they had put us in.   Click!  I heard the door lock.

There was a video playing giving the back story of the room, and poor Wei-Hwa just couldn't keep up with the translation.  Did I forget to mention it was all in Chinese? Well, we managed to solve the puzzle with Wei-Hwa as translator and won a prize for it as well. A glass Eiffel Tower figurine.

From there we headed out to dinner with the Beijing collectors group.  I was in for a huge surprise!  When I walked in, I saw friends from Shenzhen and Guangzhou.  I didn't know they were coming.  Hugs all around I tell you.  What else would I do?  As it turned out, it was one guys birthday.  A food fight broke out with the birthday cake, and if truth be told, it was Tom who started it.  There were puzzles a plenty.  I brought the Angel Box, a Stickman, Jerry Loo's cylinders, 2 burrs from Derek Bosch and a few more.  DaYan had some of his as did Tom. But I didn't manage to take a single puzzle photo.  As Nick said later, I was too busy peopling to puzzle or photograph.

From dinner we headed out to karaoke.  A staple of boys and toys.  Well, guess who was good and plastered?  Yep, your's truly.  I don't really remember how I got back in my room.  But I know we left quite early.  My dear friend G. summed it up nicely...

The next morning Smaz called me around 10:30 the next morning, but I was still abed.  I stayed in until lunch and then met up with Otis, Nick, and Wei-Hwa again.  We had Beijing black noodles for lunch and headed over to G4G.

There were a number of speeches all in Mandarin so of course I didn't understand a single word of it.  I stayed through Wei-Hwa's talk and Michael's as well, but then I needed to get up and stretch my legs.  I felt bad leaving, but I just couldn't stay any longer.  I was getting antsy.

There were a number of puzzles on display that I enjoyed looking at.  There were also puzzles for sale, and of course I had to buy a number of them.  I had to head back to the airport early because of Monday morning work.

As usual, it was hard saying good by to friends but I know I will see the guys from China again before years end, and I'll see Nick and Wei-Hwa next August.  All in all, it was a great weekend.  I'm glad I joined in the fun.

Back again

I've been a very bad girl.  I haven't posted in over a month!  What ever is wrong with me?  Work, study, lack of time. But have no fear, I shall attempt to make up for it now.

Since I last posted, I've had 2 boys and toys but haven't really purchased that many new puzzles. (Ok, that's a lie.  I always get more, but none overly exciting.)  I'll start with the GZ open.

1 October is Chinese National day and it's also the date of the annual GZ open.  I haven't missed this since I first started going to GZ 5 years ago and this year was no exception.

I left HK right after I finished my classes at 6 on Monday evening and spent 2 nights with the guys.  Some fool decided to jump on the tracks, so despite my best laid plans, I didn't arrive in GZ until after 10 pm.  As Ming was setting up the venue for the competition the next day he couldn't meet me at the train station.  I'm very proud of myself though.  For the first time ever, I not only made it to GZ by myself, but I also navigated the subway by myself.  I've no excuse now.  I know I can do it and the guys do too so I'll have no more welcoming committee.

 I helped to set up the venue for the competition and around 12 we headed for the hotel to sleep.  The next morning Smaz and I awoke around 10 and headed out for a bit of visiting with cubers and hunting for some gifts for our kids and a thing or two for us.

High on my list of priorities was a flask so I don't have to travel on the train drink free.  Even after having gone to China all these years, and all the conferences I go to I'm still afraid of the train and flying.  A bit of liquid courage is needed, and the flask seemed like a good solution for me.  Sadly because it was national day, most of the shops were closed.

We went back to the competition and saw a few solves, and then got ready to hand out some of the awards.  Jing Meffert was there as well as a representative from Yong Jin.  Smaz and I also gave out a few of the awards.  Standard stuff for us.  But the fun was yet to begin.

After, we all headed out for dinner together and had the usual too many drinks and too little food.  Tonight's dinner was in a different kind of restaurant.  There was even a belly dancer and Happy Angel was enticed to dance with one of the girls.

The best photo of the night though was of the guys puzzling away while the girls danced on.

This is really the reason I go to these things.  To have fun with the guys.  My friends are worth the trip.  As is usual, we enjoyed a bit of karaoke and this time the guys even got me up to sing.

Silly Rox was supposed to go back Tuesday night, but Smaz reminded me of the cheap cost of a train ticket so I stayed overnight and spent an extra day.

On the 2nd we went back out to do our shopping and managed to pick up everything we were looking for except my docking station for my phone.  Another quick dinner and we headed off for the train station.  We just made it and managed to hit HK before the boarder closed and the trains stopped running.  All in all, it was a great GZ trip.  (Like I expected anything less.)

Stay tuned for Gathering for Gardner in Beijing....