Notes from Puzzle Palace

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Our mission

I have decided to give some information on Puzzle Palace and the Puzzle Palace Museum today rather than discuss a puzzle. There is a LOT of misinformation going around and I'd like to clear it up.  

Both George and I are retired (24 years and 3 years) and have had the same hobby since we were children.  Over the years we have both made friends in the puzzle industry as well as with many individual puzzlers as well.  George has said to me many times over that he has always wanted to own every puzzle in the world.  This is why he became a puzzle prototyper. When he saw Edward's collection he realized he couldn't afford all of the antique puzzles, but  if he was prototyping puzzles for people he could increase his collection through building.  His favorite fan turned out to be Oskar.  Today the tables have turned and Oskar prototypes George's puzzles, but that is another story for a different day. 

I have always wanted to own every Rubik's cube ever made, and I'm pretty close to that with the mass-produced versions.  We do not have many duplicates, and with the exception of some rare puzzles from the early early '80's, there were not many additions to our mirror room from the HD (Hordern-Dalgety) collection. Since I joined IPP, my focus has shifted more to shiny metal pieces. Since purchasing the HD collection, that focus has shifted further still and I now make a full time job of finding pieces that will fit within the collection or enhance it in some way. George has always loved burr puzzles and continues to have them as his favorite (although, I do see him fiddling with other types often.)

We live in a rather large house that holds much of our collection, and yes, we purchase another home to hold the HDM(iller) collection. It is around three blocks from our own home. As we live in a gated community, it is not open to the public, but is rather open by invitation only. Meaning, if you are a puzzler, send a message when you are in town and you will be invited.  

Additionally, every other year in on the weekend before G4G we will host Boca Bash. A by invitation only puzzle party to last 2-3 days.  All participants will be housed either in Puzzle Palace, or in Puzzle Palace Museum.  If you are one of the lucky invitees, it will be a weekend to remember.  This year because of COVID related problems and the cancellation of G4G, we sadly are having a much scaled down version of Boca Bash.  ALL ATTENDEES HAVE BEEN FULLY VACCINATED. My house, My rules.  We were going to cancel completely, but quite a few of the invitees had non refundable tickets so we decided to go ahead with the party.  

The Puzzle Palace houses around 10,000 puzzles.  The majority of these being the IPP puzzles.  We also have approximately 3,000 twisty puzzles, every Hanayama ever produced, arguably the largest collection of Berrocal's in private hands with over 100 pieces, Our puzzle chess sets now sit at a dozen.  I have assembled and displayed every 3d crystal puzzle produced to date.  My lover's burr sets are on display in my office as he just loves these puzzles and I want him to be able to build anytime he wants.  George's (and others) prototypes as well as our extensive collection of heavy metal are also housed in the Palace. Everything else is on DISPLAY in the Puzzle Palace Museum.  Effectively, the Puzzle Palace Museum is spread across two houses.  One we live in full time, and the other is our 'Northern home' where we spend the odd night when I am in the mood to do a lot of work early in the morning.


Contrary to popular belief, we did not inherit anything. Please do not believe all that you read or hear. We acquired it. And that is THE END of that conversation. James is still very much alive and well. We had a collection of around 12500 pieces (hard to say because I keep adding to the collection on a regular basis). The Hordern-Dalgety collection has an unknown number of pieces as of today (still cataloging) but it is believed to be between 40,000 and 45,000 pieces.  Unlike some other puzzle museums, we are actively adding to the collection. I am a bit of an insomniac and refuse to take drugs to counter that.  Every day I wake around 4 am and for the next two hours I hunt auction sites and websites for newly released puzzles or old ones we've been wanting to add to the collection.  

We have hired two people to photograph all of the puzzles that we have and George is working on making an online database which can be accessed by anyone world wide. We expect this process to take around 3 to 5 years to complete. Unlike other puzzle collections, this one is Display and Play. This means if you are fortunate enough to come here, you can see ALL of the puzzles we have on hand. The majority of the puzzles can be played with by most puzzlers. Some exceptions of older and more rare puzzles do exist though. No children are allowed in the Puzzle Palace Museum. There is too great a temptation to grab everything. There is also a lot of glass in the museum with the Great Wall of china (thanks goes to James for the new name) and the Toyo glass/Impossible bottles wall.  This philosophy is much different than other large collections that are housed in museums.  In many of those, you need to make an appointment in advance and even then are only allowed to examine one or two puzzles at a time.  When visitors come, they are handed post-its to place on the shelves where the puzzles are removed from.  Only one puzzle at a time is allowed for examination, but the number of puzzles to examine are mostly limitless. 

Yes, we take donations. In fact, since we have started we have recieved around 50 donations from various members of the community. Even the couple who live next door have donated a puzzle to the museum. Every donation is labeled as such and will be entered into the database as a donation.  We want everyone to get credit for their contributions. 

We are not a public museum as that would mean actually letting the public into our home(s). We are very much a private museum.  I am putting through paperwork to make Puzzle Palace Museum an officially registered museum in the US. The only difference is the tax-exempt status and in the state of Florida it is not something we wish to do.  I'll pay the 7% state tax.  By living a private museum, we have the right to refuse anyone entry.  I have done this in a few instances; mostly with small children, but also with some adults who do not know how to handle puzzles, or who have just insulted me so much that I do not want to be around them.   

We believe ourselves to be more curators of the puzzles than owners.  We are holding them together for others to enjoy as much as we do.  Our mission as I've said before is to allow all serious puzzlers/designers/manufacturers to come into the museum to use the pieces we have here for research.  Our ultimate goal is to provide a scholarship opportunity for people lasting from a few days to a few months. We hope that by purchasing the extra home to house the majority of the collection that we will have more puzzlers come to see this vast collection.  It is not one we want hidden away from the world, but rather one that we want to be vibrant and well loved by many.  We realize that South Florida is rather far from where the majority of puzzlers live but we have sunny skies year round and truly live in paradise.  When the time comes to pass this on to someone else, we want it to be as complete as it is today-well, actually, we want it to be more complete as we are adding to it on a weekly basis.

Another fallacy that has been making the rounds is that we have a never ending bank account.  This is simply not true.  I am frugal in the extreme and when I purchase puzzles, it is ones that we have been hunting for a very long time, or ones that add something to our collection that was missing.  I do not try to get every puzzle made.  That is an impossible task and I would be broke within a month were I to do that.  We do not receive funding from anyone so all donations are greatly appreciated. We do have around 6~8 companies with whom we have an agreement to purchase all upcoming puzzles. These are puzzles that we both enjoy, and that are highly praised by the puzzling community at large.  

Finally, I am not going to get into a bidding war with anyone. I set a price for a piece and stick with it.  The rare exception being our pirates chest and a Berrocal.  I will not entertain anyone who bids up an item then removes their bids.  I also do not like it when people say I have a lot of puzzles so I don't need another.  In the past two months, I have had a number of people winge about it not being fair that I have so many puzzles, or tell me they knew I was the high bidder so they went directly to the seller to offer a bid above my high bid as a buyout price as I "don't need any more puzzles" or I "have enough puzzles already".  Not only is this just bad manners (why would you be dumb enough to tell me?) but it is also against most auction rules.  I have turned in the guilty parties, not because I am upset about losing the items, but because once someone gets away with it once, they will continue to do so.  This is ultimately bad for the community. I understand how auctions work, and if I lose one, I don't care.  There are always more.  I simply do not like the way these few bad eggs did their dealings. 

We made an agreement with James that we would NOT be selling or trading any puzzles for the first 3 years of ownership.  This means everyone.  We will not make exceptions just because YOU have always wanted X puzzle.   No one gets an exception.  When I have completed the cataloging of puzzles, I will then make a list of what I am willing to sell or trade.  When the time comes, I will announce it on my blog.  Until then, please respect our agreement and do not ask for puzzles. 

Wow! That is a lot of information to absorb.  Sorry for the long rant, but I've really had enough of these rumors, requests, and bad-form auction deals. 

And now on to the Museum update.  This past week has seen the addition of many more shelves.  George has finished the manager's room and the Toyo Glass hallway.  

He is now moving onto the EV room.  The East wall should be completed before the weekend is over.  The puzzle plates will be mounted before the weekend is out.  Our photographing duo continue to do great work.  We have finally worked out how to transfer all of the photos to a dedicated laptop (two laptops and a hard drive actually) and they are now able to rename each of the photos to ease in the ultimate compilation of the online database.  George has been investigating cloud storage and believes he may have a solution for our problem.  

I have been taking photos of the puzzle plates and the known designers.  I have worked out a cataloging system and a method for photographing the puzzles that is very regimented, but ultimately makes it much easier later on. Each Kallex, shelf, or cubie is first given a number and photographed with the puzzles inside.  A post-it is made with the number on it and photographed, after that each puzzle is photographed from many different angles, and finally a photo is taken of either

Mooch the Monkey or our SPH to separate the photos of each puzzle.  This makes it much easier later on when there are thousands of puzzles to go through.  If anyone wants to make a coffee table book of my SPH and George's beanie baby I've got 1000's of photos of them that I'm more than willing to give away.  

Finally, I have completed a number of puzzle tables for the museum.  I started with the sheep of knowledge.  I liked it so much I just had to purchase a few more and now we have a menagerie in the house. I'm putting photos of all of them here because they are just so much fun.  First to build and second to look at.  There are others, but I have more tables arriving tomorrow so I'll set those up before I add to my zoo.  Question: can these be called zoo burrs?

The sheep of knowledge

My unicorn

Next week we are gone for my older daughter's wedding and will be visiting a puzzler or two along the way.  I'll be back to writing about puzzles upon our return.  I'm sorry about the long boring post, but I simply had to get this off my chest.  I've really had enough of the strange things coming out of peoples mouths.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Scannavini Puzzle Chest

One of the puzzles that is a part of the Hordern-Dalegty-Miller collection is the Scannavini Puzzle Chest. 

A video of this chest first showed up  Sun 15th Dec 1996, 19:15 on BBC One London.  

Series 19 

Episode 8: Michelham Priory. If anyone knows how to get a copy of this video, I'd love to get a hold of one. I contacted the BBC and it cannot be downloaded or sold for non-commercial purposes. 

On to the chest.  I spent a long time looking at it and doing nothing.  Since the puzzles arrived at the museum, we simply had it sitting in the great room with a cardboard box on top and a wooden tray on top of the base (impromptu table to hold puzzles). It spent a good 2 months sitting near the great wall away from all of the activity going around in the house.  This week it finally got moved into it's permanent position in the chest room.  

When it got placed, I was very excited. It's a beautiful piece to look at.  I was tempted to open it, but there was so many other things that needed doing so I controlled myself.  Well, the day came when I just couldn't do it anymore.  The workmen were in the house finishing off mounting more of the display cabinets and painting the garbage can shed so I was just in the way.  I couldn't do anything that day so why not.  

I began working on the chest, and before I knew it I had removed 16 different drawers. The first one I opened with one of the workers standing next to me and it was a set-up. James has a childish sense of humor.  The drawer was slightly ajar and inside was a squeaky, worm that jumped out at us.  It worked, we both shrieked and jumped back!

I thought I was finished, but alas, I wasn't. George came down to do a bit of repair to some damage done during shipping and he found 4 more drawers. The best part for me was behind the main arched door.  Inside is a safe that has a "puzzle" lock to open.  To be honest, it wasn't a hard one to solve, but it is fun none-the-less.  I felt like Indiana Jones finding the arc.  

It was almost a religious experience. Next up: the apothecary chest. 

A video of me returning it to a solved state can be found here

On to the museum news.  Once again we have bought out all of the Ikea glass Kallax shelves in South Florida. We are now installing another batch of shelves.  This time we recieved 252.  George has a lot of work to do, but the master bedroom will be completed and he can move on to the hallway.  The last phase is the garage.  We had a work crew out last week to finish up a few jobs: painting the garbage shed, building a massive table, 

mounting a few more shadow boxes 

and hanging a few records.
Soon we will just be photographing and cataloguing.  We are almost ready to open for business.  Invitations have been sent to a select few for a puzzle party next month, and after that, our doors are open for any serious puzzlers who request a visit.  

George has begun the process of developing the webpage.  Read this as he is refreshing his memory on the code.  This is great!  He's moving on this now.  I'm looking forward to our next cruise because it will give him time to finish the program.  I am eager for the collection to go online.

We acquired a piece of art from the most recent Gathering4Gardner auction and have installed it in Puzzle Palace.  The space that it is in has been waiting for 37 years for just such a piece.  When we brought it home and put it in place, it was like putting on a glove.  It's a perfect fit.  This is a physical manifestation of a hyperbolic plane.  Wait until we change the lights to match the sculpture! 
Finally, one of my oldest friends has made us a banner for the museum.  We have known each other since kindergarten and although we live in two different states, that hasn't stopped our friendship.  I've been in awe of all of her afghans and other blankets that she has been making so I begged her to make this piece for us.  George designed the letters and Diane did all the hard work.  I can't begin to thank her enough for the gift she has given us.

Until next week, Happy Puzzling.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Vase Wall

This past weekend we got a rather large chest in the mail.  I was looking on line at Karakuri boxes and came across trick chest made by Tsuchiya woodworking factory for Izumiya.  I saw this chest when I was in Japan in 2010 and wanted to purchase it then.  Well, that didn't work out and I'm glad it didn't. I'm sure I wouldn't have it today. So when I saw it, I bought it. When George woke up the following morning I said, "while you were sleeping I went shopping in Japan."  I did buy quite a few other items that night.  Insomnia is not good for the pocketbook.  

And now on to the real puzzle this week.  Well, not really a puzzle, but a large number of puzzles.  We have completed the vase wall and have removed the scaffolding.  It is time to show it off.  James' helper Mandy has dubbed it the Great Wall of china.  I like it.  I've named it the vase wall because the light system needed a unique name for that set of lights.  The name stuck.  It is truly a sight to behold.  A video of it can be seen on my YouTube channel. 

And now on to the news of the museum.  This week we found someone to take photographs for us that is more reliable than the high school kid we had previously hired. (Two weeks of no-show and no calls.) Meet Morgan and Tevin. Yes, you've heard the names before. They came to our small puzzle party, and we enjoyed their company so much that we hired them on a part time basis to photograph the puzzles for us.  We are starting here in the mirror room, and moving over to the museum when they finish this room.  I am impressed.  In two days, they learned our system and have done 2 of 12 columns.  I think we will keep these two.  Add to that that Tevin is a puzzler and I'm even happier.  He understands how to handle these things.  

George and I like having a variety of puzzles this week we are making a road trip to Atlanta to get one very strange puzzle.

On a recent Gathering4Gardner auction I won a couple of items.  A George Hart sculpture which is now hanging in place in the museum in front of the vases wall, and a massive 2x2x2 meter^3 hyperbolic plane. Today we are on our way to pick it up.  I'm still fearful of flying and George's brothers have a massive pickup truck that will hold this beast so why not take a trip up for a day, pick it up and bring it back home. 

We've got two built in planters around the void.  One has been filled with some strange looking artificial plants complete  with butterfly and ladybug puzzles.  The other has been waiting for the right filler.  This will be it.  By this time next week it will be installed where it belongs.  This item will add a nice splash of color and a bit (more?) of craziness to the Puzzle Palace.  

Until next week, happy puzzling!

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

A small puzzle party

 This past weekend we had a small (7 people) puzzle party at the house.  Covid restrictions are in place and all were respectful of our vaccination mandate. One can't be too careful these days.  Especially in Florida with its high number of hospitalizations and daily new cases.

This group of people are from South Florida and one lone temporarily transported from Kansas. All met on the Mechanical Puzzles Discord.  Given the close proximity of puzzlers, we thought it would be good to get together for a bit of puzzling fun. We all met at Puzzle Palace around 10 am and after a tour and George's post golf shower we headed to the museum.  The folks come from all walks of life and that is what I love about puzzlers. You have nothing in common, yet everything. I'm afraid I must apologize to our guests, I get long winded.  I believe the tour or Puzzle Palace was around 2 hours.  I just love this place and all the puzzles inside but even more so the stories that go with them and once I start with the stories, there is no telling how long something will take.

Needless to say, the chaps were impressed with what was on display and loved George's trip through the dormitory and storage attic. All 5 of our guess attempted the trick door, and surprisingly, the NPSO verbally told them how to open it.  Of course they didn't listen to her and it was hard not to laugh at them when George did his usual opening 'trick move'.  I'm not telling because it is just so much fun to watch people do everything except the solution. Bill said he bets playing hide and seek in this house would be super fun.  I hadn't thought about that, but the few children who have been up there sure go crazy crawling through the mouse door.  

Tevin brought over a box of puzzles that we took a look at and I finally got a chance to see ResQ.  I missed it when it was on sale, and I decided the last CubicDissection auction prices are just too high for me.  I'm glad I got a chance to play with it a bit, I don't feel as though I'm missing that much now.  Although there is always the joy of just being able to play again.  But I digress. I also got a chance to play with the Revomaze Mercury. It of course stumped me but that is expected.  

Each of the lads donated a puzzle or two to the Museum which is greatly appreciated.  I immediately added their names and donation date to the puzzle so they are now immortalized here. Bill and Scarlet donated 3 gravitese water mazes, Tevin gave a free the euro 4 and a puzzle box 4 by Constantin.  Chris gave up his newly purchased mighty pin which thrilled me as I keep missing out on those puzzles when they hit the stores.  I'm not as fast on the keyboard as these young people or maybe our internet speed is too slow.  All 6 puzzles can be seen and played with in the Puzzle Palace Museum. (Shameful plug: we will gladly take any of your castoffs.  Donations are not required to visit, but are greatly appreciated.)

After George finished his shower, we packed up and went to the museum for lunch and another tour.  This time it was George's turn to do the talking while I threw together some lunch. I kept saying play. Play. PLAY! And eventually they took me up on that.  Lunch was a simple affair, brats, grilled corn, shepherds pie, and a macaroni and shrimp salad (did I mention that I love to cook?) Bill brought a bottle of Prosecco and and some beer and all enjoyed the food. After a bit of chit-chat they settled down to playing with a few puzzles.  All were given a post-it placement and took off to look. Scarlet wasn't shy and dove right in to the boxes.  Chris commented that he was just so overwhelmed and was just taking it all in.  

Everyone signed the guestbook and after a few hours we returned to Puzzle Palace where they continued to puzzle.  It tickled me that by this time they all felt comfortable enough to grab a puzzle, plop on the floor or in a chair and just play.  I guess I can understand the early hesitation, I mean where do you start with so many puzzles around.  

Bill solved Tornado, Tevin worked on some packing puzzles and Chris got a kick out of a Rose dovetail.  Scarlet was like a butterfly hopping from one puzzle to the next.   They never stopped smiling and there was laughter all around.  Overall, I'd say it was a good day. 

I ordered dinner from the club and while Bill and I went to get it someone upstairs discovered the pool table.  We all enjoyed some simple overlarge sandwiches and thankfully I didn't need to twist their arms to have them take the leftovers home. When everyone left, we lead them to the treasure chest to get a puzzle of their choice.  When at the Museum the girls got theirs after working out how to open it first. No digging until you unlock it :)

(I have gratefully and shamelessly taken some of the photos Chris sent me for this post)

On to the weekly update.  This week our young man did not come over for the weekend photographs, and I'll be honest, I didn't get many taken yesterday myself.  George is plugging along with the installation of shelves, I finally 'finished' the jigsaw room and Alcoholics Anonymous (don't get any ideas, it's the Museum bar that has keychains around the walls.) We moved all of the perplexus puzzles to the museum and I've almost finished the transfer of wood from my office to the great room.  We have plans to go on a 6 month world cruise in December but is looking increasingly less likely to happen with each passing day.  Because of this, I've slowed down a bit and am starting to enjoy the process rather than rush through it like a dervish.  

I'm pleased to report that we are now only missing 204 of the 2320 official IPP exchanges.  Who knows how many exchanges were made before IPP 10 when it became a real thing. Our ultimate goal is to have a complete set.  There is a massive amount of puzzling history on that wall and it would be a shame to be missing any of it. Once I finish going through the disentanglement puzzles, I will post a list of the missing pieces in the hopes that someone will have them.

Because we are almost at a full set of IPP puzzles, I finally decided to shift the puzzles on the wall.  It is a disastrous mess right now.  This means labeling all the puzzles with an identifier, photographing them, and finally putting them in their new place on the wall. While it sounds like an easy task, I can only label 3 years worth of puzzles in a day. It takes me another day to photograph the same puzzles, A very slow process.  I've really shifted my attention to this task now.  If all the stars align and people start getting vaccinated, we will be hosting a puzzle party here in the next few months so I'd like to have at least this done. With the fools in Florida though, I'm not holding my breath.  

Which leaves me with a bit of advice: For heavens sake, go get vaccinated. End this Pandemic, it's time to go back to living and seeing our friends again.  We all miss our puzzle parties and while Allard and the guys at MPP do a great job with the zoom VMPP's, it's just not the same thing.  We want to invite everyone to come visit this wonderful resource, but have come to the decision that if I don't see a vaccination card you will not be invited.  While the museum is available for all to see and use, it is ultimately a private home and if you don't have the vaccine, don't bother asking for an invitation.  

Until next week, Happy puzzling all!