Notes from Puzzle Palace

Saturday, March 27, 2021


Way back in 2003 I was searching the toy shops in Hong Kong and came across this bag of seven 2x2x2 puzzles.  They were the Gundam Rubik's Cube series made by palbox.  I took a photo, sent an email to a friend and asked what he thought about them.  The price was rather steep at the time.  HK$100 each.  I guess that comes out to around US$90.  His reply was if I didn't want them to buy them for him and he'd double the price I paid.  Well, this sent off alarm bells as it were and I purchased the set.  The seller said they were so cheap because Zaku was missing.  Well, for the past 18 years I have been hunting for that Zaku.  This past month a fellow twisty puzzler gave me a heads up and said it would go too high for his wallet.  I lucked out and no one bid against me and Zaku has finally come to join his fellow robots. I won't say how much it cost, but given what I paid for the first 7, overall, it was not too expensive.  One less hunt for me.

My next purchase this weeks was a complete set of the Hanayama Cast Puzzle Micro!'s.  Now this is a silly purchase.  I have all but one piece.  I was missing the cast enigma micro and when I saw this set come up, I jumped on it.  I think this set came out to something like US$8 per piece.  I couldn't pass that up.  Now we have extras to add to the treasure chest.  

And now on to the progress of the museum.  This week we had more workers at the big house than here.  The A/C guys moved around a bunch of pipes, laid some flooring, and just really cleaned up the attic space.  We now have another 200 square feet or so of additional storage.  

The museum saw a few art pieces placed, the garage painted in preparation for the epoxy flooring, and a whole lot of Kallax boxes were built.  I had one guy here on Monday to paint the ceilings, but I decided that placement of the Berrocal paintings was much more important.  Scott was meticulous in his placement.  I told him what was in my head and he placed them exactly as I wanted them.  This wall never sees direct sunlight, and we have placed the upper eyeballs so they reflect down on the paintings without having a glare from the glass.  

I framed and George hung a Escher-esque 3 layer jigsaw puzzle.  It was meant to have a piece of plexiglass between each of the layers, but we realized that it looks so much better without them.  The obvious place for this was above the Escher-like stairs we have in the museum. 

George went wild and put together 24 Kallax boxes for the master bedroom walls.  It will be perfect when finished.  I just love the placement of them.  If you stand in the bedroom and look at the reflection in the glass wall while gazing upon the 26' vase wall, the boxes blend into each other.  When they are filled, it will be stunning.  In this room we decided to stack the boxes right up to the ceiling where we can.  The boxes have not been mounted yet so what you see in the photo is not yet completed. Forgive the messy bed.  We are between houses right now.  Everything is a mess.  George has assembled an additional 26 boxes to be placed in the garage.  He's an absolute pro at this now.  

We've been told that 720 packing boxes have been completed.  All but 3 cabinets and 14 packed boxes have been picked up.  This is very exciting for us.  We expect them to be on the ship soon and hopefully they will be in Miami by the beginning of summer.  James said he figured it will take us 3 months with occasional helpers to unpack all of the boxes.  Our plan is to head over to the local university, hire two student helpers in the photography department to photograph while George unpacks and I place puzzles.  It is going to be a real project.  I'm beginning to think we may not be fully done in time for Boca Bash but that will make it all the more fun for our guests.  I'm hopeful it will be all done by the time we have set for our museum opening for the club in November.  

Next week we will have more painters in the house, but that is it for a few weeks while we wait for a white epoxy base to be put into the garage floor.  Our winning competition design will be placed over the top of this.  We really want these to pop out at you when looked at.  It seems that the recent weather has caused havoc with all shipping.  We are a victim of this as well.  Our general contractors are filling in jobs when they get the supplies they need so we have been put to the back burner.  This is fine with us, we are helping a friend by giving him the work, and it gives us a break from the museum.  I'm actually looking forward to this downtime when I can just move back home and enjoy Puzzle Palace. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

A typical day at the museum

 Most people wake up, have a cup of coffee, get dressed and go to work.  We like to be a bit more leisurely in our morning routine.  We enjoy a cuddle while watching highlights from The Late Show, or John Oliver.  After that, we do our exercise, have a glass of juice in bed and take a nice hot shower before dressing and starting the day. By now it's 10 am.  

I head into the office to search the auction sites for puzzles we are wanting to obtain while George putters around with his 3D printers, or designs new puzzles on his computer.  Around noon I head to the kitchen to make lunch for us and we park our bottoms outside to watch the golfers go by while we enjoy a long lunch.  

The afternoon is dedicated to a nap for George and a bit of puzzling for me or a round of golf. I'm currently attempting to put together all of the crystal puzzles I have so when new ones come out I will be caught up.  Dinner in the evenings is a leisurely affair either in front of the big screen with a movie George has been wanting to see, or in the breakfast room with candles lit and a good bottle of wine.  

But now all of that has changed.  It's jump out of bed at the first ping on my phone because the work crews are coming in, lunch gets started around 10 because we usually have a crew of at least 8 to feed.  George is busy building shelving units while I am working on organization of what is about to come in.  At night I make dinner and we collapse.  We purchased an air mattress for the museum and have been using it for the past month since we started working there.  This past week we finally decided to sleep in our own bed.  How wonderful it is.  Such a simple thing.  

But you don't want to read about my daily life, what you are interested in is information on the transfer of puzzles.  The movers have begun packing puzzles and they will be boarding a ship soon.  We've been told they estimate that 1/3 of the puzzles have been packed up and moved into storage. The trip across the ocean will take a month, then it's the wait for customs and driving them up to us.  Yes, I said them.  This will take TWO containers to get to us.  TWO.  I had no idea.  Then there is the unpacking....AND, I'm still working on that catalogue...

These shelves look very different from the last time I saw them.

One truck down, so many more to go.

On to the museum progress. The library is finished and from the looks of the photos James has sent us, we will need every inch of space. George is experimenting with his phone camera. The shelves are flat, I promise. 

The garage powder room has had all the disentanglement hooks installed, and the bar cum laundry room hooks have been painted and hung.  The shelving above the washer/dryer have been installed and are awaiting painting and trim.  The doors to close off the washer and dryer are on order.  George calls this area the room of 1000 erections.  We plan to keep wire disentanglements here.  Should we run out of space in these two rooms, we have at least 4 more areas in mind to put them.

The holes in the walls have been patched, the shelves are being covered for painting and the hook has been placed in the ceiling to hold a puzzle sculpture we have coming in. 

The ceiling has been painted, the calking work has been completed in the library and all the book shelves have been remounted so we can get to the electrical outlets, and finally the under-stairs cabinets have been built.  It's amazing how many small details go into putting this place together.  The guy calking the bookshelves in the photo below didn't like the way they looked when mounted so he has now trimmed them all and has done a real bang up job on making these Ikea book cases look like they were purpose-made for the space.

This set of cubies is a double set of Kallax boxes with  a custom made end that weighs a ton.  It was measured to fit the width of two Kallax boxes and the angle of the stairs.  It simply didn't look right with out the addition.  

Tomorrow I take one more load of the Kallax boxes from Ikea.  This time it's much smaller.  I believe we only have around 53 of them coming in.  It should take a week to assemble and place them.  After that, They will be on their final push to be mounted and the garage floor needs finishing off.  Then it's just waiting on the arrival of the puzzles.  This project is a puzzle cave in the extreme. When we started it, we had a dream.  We had no idea how much work would go into actually bringing that dream to fruition.  

Finally, a bit of puzzle candy: Three for the price of one. This museum piece belongs in a museum.  Open the drawers and you will find surprises a plenty.  The golf ball is hanging off the edge because I got tired of finding it each time someone wants to see the marquetry.  And of course, what's a museum without a dinosaur skeleton or two-yes, they are puzzles!  Made by Beverly for the Japanese market.

It's all coming along nicely now.  I am eager for July to roll around so we can start unboxing and installing puzzles.  That's when the real fun begins. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Cataloging puzzles and databases and mini-competition

 Today's blog post is a plea for ideas and help.  I have been studying the Hordern-Dalgety classification system and have run into a few problems. I applaud James for all the work he has done on this.  I know I could never have accomplished this.

The first issue I have is that the sequential puzzle section seems to be very vague when it comes to twisty puzzles.  I'm trying to work out how to catalog these.  James has also mentioned having this same problem. Should it be by shape, by number of sides, by mechanism?  What would you do?  How do I make this a user-friendly section that can be navigated by the non-puzzler? 

Another section that has not really been fully classified is sequential discovery puzzles.  I'll be honest, I'm not a huge fan of these types of puzzles, but I do know we have quite a few and will be receiving more this summer.  How does one catalog these?  What main classification should they fall under? Are they opening puzzles? Are they assembly puzzles? Or do we need another classification that has only sequential discovery puzzles in them? 

My next thoughts run to databases.  There are databases all over the world: Rob's puzzle page, Goetz page, The Lily Library...The list goes on.  Each one of these is unique and stands alone.  While we could link to each one, it seems a lot of extra pages for people to go through.  George has this idea of allowing people to link their collections to ours while still having it be a separate page.  By this I believe he wants it to be something along the lines of the collections page.  Unlike that one though, he wants people to be able to add their own puzzles to their own database.  He envisions people working together to help develop the webpage interface.  He's looking for a world standard I think.  We of course would host the database.  Any thoughts on this?  

My final question is more of a mini-competition.  We have a rather large 2 (1/2) car garage (23'x22') and a golf cart garage (10'x12') Both of which have a rather boring grey floor.  You see, we have no need for a garage here so we plan to use it to display yet more puzzles. Yes, it is temperature controlled and even has its own powder room (dedicated to wire disentanglement puzzles).  We want to have something puzzle related epoxied into the floor.  My thought was a maze in the large garage and a couple of pentomino puzzles in the golf cart garage.  There was an arrow maze done for the IPP in San Francisco, but George vetoed that one.  We'd like to open this up to the public to come up with a puzzling idea.  If we choose your design/idea for the floor, we'd like to invite you to stay a weekend in the Puzzle Palace Museum.  Send your ideas to katsmom01 (@) gmail (dot) com.  We plan to leave this offer open until the end of May.  At that time we will choose a design to place on the floor before the puzzles arrive. Based on our experience with the floor at Puzzle Palace, this process takes up to one month to finish.  Forgive the messy photographs.  Right now the workmen are storing all materials in there.

On to the weekly update.  George has finished installing all of the bookcases in the Library, Guest bedroom and closets. The lights have all been converted over to low UV emitting LED lights.  The putting green is finished and it is great fun!  The landscape lighting has been finished and security lighting is up and running.  We have holes all over the walls that need patching, but this is my fault for moving too many switches around the house.  We found some odd switching in the house and have begun working on fixing the problems.  One set of lights had the switch buried in the wall.  Even the previous owner didn't know where it was.  One light has 4! switches to run it.  And the worst infraction is 3 rooms on one switch.  The electricians and I have a love hate relationship.  They love the work and the food, but they hate the work and the changes when they think they have all but finished the job.  All but one of the ancient (circa 1985) intercom systems have been removed.  I have learned how to use the kitchen built in radio.  The old phone jacks have been removed bar one or two for humorous sake (my 19 year old didn't know what they were used for).  The old pool equipment has disappeared and a new pump is sitting waiting to be installed.  And me?  I still cook for all the workmen every day and run back and forth to the big house while the lighting system there is being updated.  

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Pavement Puzzles

Some of you may have seen our driveway at the big house (Puzzle Palace).  It has a 3D effect block pattern on it that I think is simply amazing, but others have commented that it makes them rather ill just looking at it.  To install it, we handed 3 different colored pavers to the HOA office and asked for approval.  They ASSUMED it would be a random pattern with the colors of the pavers and the installation began. Little did they know.  

One of the main features of Puzzle Palace is the shape of the majority of rooms.  We live in an octagonal house.  Most of the rooms on the ground floor have this shape.  When we bought the place, there was an octagon bricked into the front driveway right in front of the house.  The wrap around drive features an octagon using side walls and planter beds and we decided to continue keep this.   In the center of this octagon, we recreated the dissection of an octagon into a square mainly attributed to Geoffrey Thomas Bennett's.  Upon further investigation, Martin Gardiner writes in Knots and Borromean Rings, Rep-Tiles and Eight Queens (p. 48, 2014) that this design first appeared in a Persian manuscript in the 1300's.  Whoever made it we are glad it has been developed.  It looks stunning in the center of the driveway.

In the Museum, we decided to use a hexagon and installed Harry Lindgren's dissection of an octagon into a square.  This piece was placed at the top of the drive near the garage.  Unlike the one shown above, it can easily be seen from the street.  Needless to say, it has confused the residents of Boca Grove.  Yesterday the paver layer told me that after he finished putting the design in he went home with a terrible headache.  He ate dinner, watched some tv, and passed out at 8 pm.  He then woke up around midnight very excited. He finally worked out how it turns into a square, AND he understood why the bricks had to be placed as they were.  We had created concentric hexagons!  He told me he loved working on our two projects because he got to THINK.  Normally he just lays pavers as per a standard pattern.  Dull work to say the least.  I laughed and said if he wanted, I could give him a triangle to dissect into a square.  He laughed and went home.  I bet he will be thinking on that one all week now.

Just a question, can you make the octagon or the hexagon to a square using dovetails to connect the pieces so they form both shapes? George thinks it would be much more fun than just having 5 pieces. Or better yet, can they both be hinged so they can easily be reformed into the square?

The final ground design that we have incorporated is a number of Puzzle Palace logos (from George's prior business) throughout the Museum property.  This was based off a Stuart Coffin three piece bock puzzle (number 30, 1980) that George had.  I recently gave him a puzzle that looks similar made by Wim Zwaan in 1993.  He liked it so much he made a 3d copy of it and placed it on a pedestal outside the main door of the Puzzle Palace Museum.  If you are an avid puzzler and eager to get into puzzling when you arrive, the first puzzle is to remove it from its enclosure.  It is our hope that the puzzle is played with by nosey neighbors and passersby.  If it should disappear, it's no great loss, we will just print another and be glad that someone liked it enough to walk away with it.  However, in this community, we know that will never happen.   


On to the weekly update on the Puzzle Palace Museum.  The electricians have managed to fix all outdoor lights, the internal lights have all the cans placed, and we are awaiting the specially ordered bulbs. The outdoor areas minus the driveway have been sealed.  We've a bit of patio furniture poolside. George is in the process of putting the bookcases together for the library and the downstairs guest bedroom.  I have completed all repairs in the kitchen and it is fully functional.  Today the washer/dryer go in so guests don't need to worry about finding a laundromat. Stay tuned next week for a new update.