Notes from Puzzle Palace

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Lovers

 A long long time ago we went to a friends home for Thanksgiving dinner.  While there we saw a sculpture of the man of the house that was exquisite.  We enquired as to it's maker only to discover it was the grandson who produced it.  I was impressed and as is my usual way, I thought about that sculpture for quite a while.  You see, I had this idea of having a puzzle made of George and me since we got together.  But how silly is that? The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.  

After discussing it with George and convincing him it would not only look good in the house, but would also be a good image of us as we were once upon a time, we decided to go for it. He designed the puzzle using bent wire and a string and gave it to his golfing buddy who in turn passed it on to the grandson.  Later George made a 3d printed version of what we wanted done.  

A few months later we met with the grandson (Jordan Simon) and discussed the possibility of having a sculpture made for us.  We initially wanted someone to take photos for us, but our daughter said that was just too gross, and we couldn't think of anyone else close by who would do it.  You see the artist was in Arizona somewhere and wasn't able to do it himself.  We ended up using the timer on the iPhone and had a good laugh getting the photos that we needed.  

Over the course of the next year we periodically recieved update photos and were amazed at how good this artist was.  We could see ourselves coming to life in clay.  the most amazing part for me was the wire articulated hands.  He did this so he could slide the pieces in and out of each other without damaging them.

Throughout the process we recieved updated photos of the progress.  Here we are without arms.  You can see the hollowness of the pieces. 

The parts were cast and the arms later attached to our bodies.  They too are hollow.  The detail in the faces is incredible!

We wanted the puzzle sculpture to be in place for our anniversary but this was not meant to be.  COVID really put a damper on things.  We waited another full year, but finally The Lovers arrived in Boca Raton! This sculpture is a life-sized bronze. The only things that are different are the size of the feet for stability and the length of the fingers so they would intertwine. 

They were delivered in two very large crates each weighing in at around 250 pounds.  

We unboxed them almost immediately, but it took another day to rig up a scaffold so they could be placed.  

Jordan had welded four bolts to the bottoms of our feet to add steel rods to.  These were to be drilled into the floor and later epoxied into place.  George was placed in the floor first, and I was lifted above his head and into his arms.


This took a bit of effort, but was finally completed and The Lovers is now a permanent fixture in the Puzzle Palace.   To quote Chris Ramsay, "This puzzle is One of a Kind.  The Worlds Most Expensive Puzzle. The Worlds Heaviest Puzzle." Seriously, it is part of a 12,000 square foot house.  You can't get much heavier than that.  

They reside in the void overlooking the swimming pool.  The puzzle is to remove the rope from The Lovers. This one is a rather simple disentanglement that can be reconfigured in a number of different ways.  This is our favorite placement of the ropes. 

At night, they have a special spotlight shining down on them.  

When they were first put in place, I was constantly surprised when I walked past.  I thought there was another couple in the room and I'll honestly say, they did give me a start every time I walked past for about a month. Now I'm quite used to having two people standing in that room.  

I am sure I will catch a lot of flack for posting these photos, but they are a cross over between puzzles and art.  No one would say a word if it were another Berrocal.  The only difference?  You know the subjects.  It takes two very confident crazy people to do something like this, and George and I are just those people.  

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Boca Bash

 Well, we finally did it.  We managed to host a rather small Boca Bash.  Initially this puzzle party weekend was to have around 20 people.  We have decided to attach Boca Bash to Gathering4Gardner every other year.  When the G4G was cancelled yet again, we had given up hope, but as it turned out, we had a few friends who really wanted to come and had already purchased tickets.  Because of this, we decided to go ahead and host BB1.  

Tanner was the first to arrive on Monday and we drove to Miami to pick him up.  His flight landed around 11:30 pm and there was no way he would have gotten here at that time of night.  We brought him home and dumped him in a bed.  What a terrible hostess I was.  

Morning came and George commandeered Tanner and they went to work assembling the SLS printer.  

George has only had it since February, but the museum build was more important.  When George took his nap after lunch, I took Tanner for his first visit to the museum.  He was in heaven I've been told.  I watched him solve one puzzle after another.  The first one he hit upon was the Apothecary Chest. The best photo I took was of his first box solved.  

This went on and on and I know he wanted to stay longer, but eventually we had to go home for dinner.  While I was preparing the meal, George taught him how to use a scooter and once we had finished dinner he asked permission to return to finish the chest.  We sent him on his way and explained how to get back into both houses. 

The next day we went to pick up stan first thing in the morning and then headed home for lunch.  Once again, George needed his nap and I brought both guys to the museum.  Do you see a pattern here? Thursday afternoon I played cards with the old girls and the guys all spent the day at the museum puzzling away.  That afternoon Matt D. showed up as did Bill and Scarlet.  Just before dinner Chris came by again and we had a full house.  On Friday Mat N. arrived as did Tevin and Morgan and our youngest daughter.  Dinner was for a full house. 

Saturday was the main event.  Brian G. arrived as did Brent H. (later in the evening). We spent the day puzzling and building furniture. One of the highlights of the weekend was to erect the George Hart Sculpture "People".  Mat and Scarlet attacked it with gumption.  At one point she said a little bit of wood wasn't going to stop her.  All I heard was a bunch of talk about heads and crotches, elbows and joints.  There were also quite few free screws thrown in as well.  

Of course, there were times where the supervisors outnumbered the builders, but all had a go at helping out.  When we got to the end we realized that we had the sculpture inside out so the engraved person couldn't be placed in the piece.  It now rests on the mantle. We managed to get together the rest of the puzzle tables.  Now all I need is the glass.

After a long day of puzzling, I went back out to the house to lay out the dinner. Sunday was Morgan and Tevin's anniversary and we decided to celebrate a day early. Cake and champagne was shared all around and everyone decided without any words being spoken to spend the evening on the IPP wall.  The newly-weds went back to the museum to do what it is young people do. 

Sunday was another long day of puzzling and I lost track of time.  Lunch was had and dinner came and went and the puzzling continued.  By the time I went to bed Sunday evening, I was beyond exhausted.  And I didn't really puzzle, I just hosted.  I can't imagine how those boys all made it through the party


On Monday morning Katherine took Tanner to the airport earlier than is humane.  George took Matt D. around 11 to the airport.  Brent opted out of a ride and took an uber so he could puzzle a bit more.  Finally, Mat N. drove down in the evening.  Stan, George, and I had an earlier dinner and headed to bed.  

On Tuesday George and Stan spent a bit of time in the workshop building a few puzzles.  They got the laser cutter up and running finally.  Stan dismantled a Berrocal and we had a nice chat.  

On Wednesday morning we sadly said goodby to our last guest.  

We hope that in future we will be able to coincide with G4G as originally planned.  If you want an invitation to the next Boca Bash, give me a shout. Mind, we don't expect the next one until 2024. 

I'm sure there will be a blog post or a video sometime showing the events of the weekend. My appologies for a lousy blog post, but I'm still exhausted. 

No museum update this week.  Happy puzzling all. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A puzzling road trip

 On the 2nd of October my older daughter got married.  As she lives in Illinois, we decided to take a road trip to go to the wedding.  3 days of driving for anyone who cares.  We had the time so why not do it.  I am not from Illinois.  My family moved there after my mother passed away, so going 'home' doesn't appeal to me.  It's nice to see family, but it's just not home any more.  

On the way we stopped at a few puzzlers homes to see friends and what they are up to.  

Our first stop was in Georgia to see Mat Nedeljko.  His workshop has got to be the cleanest one I have ever seen.  The floors were so dust free and there was not a speck of wood dust anywhere!  He showed us his beautiful work using an antique french designed machine to cut marquetry that he built by hand.  I've not been so impressed in quite a while.  

George learned how to change the color of wood using vinegar and steel wool and Katherine had fun playing with the world's cleverest dog. 

From there, we went on to Chicago for a visit with Bill Cutler.  It was nice to see some of his early designs, and to verify a few IPP exchanges.  We had a wonderful although short visit because I just kept forgetting to add charging times to our ETA.  Bill even showed us a puzzle he designed and made when he was a teenager.  

The visit to him ended with the gift of a few articles he wrote on burr puzzles that I had been looking for and a very nice dinner in a Greek restaurant. The flaming cheese was interesting, I'm glad we tried it, but once is more than enough.

The next morning saw us at Jerry McFarland's house.  Upon arrival, we went straight to the basement where his workshop is.  This one is much different from the first we saw on this trip.  I was super impressed by the vacuum cutting machine he had set up.  It uses a pneumatic pump that comes complete with a whistle!  
Pneumatic saw

He told me he uses this to cut out all of his puzzles on.  It was run by one of the oldest computers I have ever seen.  The adage, if it works don't fix it fits very well in Jerry's shop. From here we went around the corner and saw his CNC machine.  Again run by an ancient computer.  I was impressed that he could get it down the steps and into his basement.  That thing was huge! Equally impressive to me was that all of his files are written in G-code.  I had no idea one could program with that. 
CNC machine

We watched it cut a few pieces, and then headed out for lunch where I had the opportunity to try and solve burrliphant and another he brought along.  We made a deal and hopefully these two puzzles will find their way to the Puzzle Palace Museum soon.  
Our next stop was an auction house in Chicago where I picked up a number of puzzles I had just won.  And then on to the wedding.  We rushed home to clean the house and get ready for the first Boca Bash.  
A few new boxes

This year even though G4G was cancelled, we decided to go ahead and have Boca Bash for fully vaccinated guests.  Our first, Tanner arrived on Monday evening and after a delayed flight, We were able to pick him up and return home to fall into bed and a blissful slumber.  

The next morning George and Tanner set to work assembling the Fuse 1 SLS Printer that arrived in February! It is now up and running and hopefully this weekend it will have a puzzle or two made on it.  Tanner of course did a self guided tour of the Puzzle Palace, and over lunch he told us that he thought he was in the museum and just missed a room or two because the number of puzzles here didn't match what he expected.  

After lunch, while George was napping, I took Tanner to the museum where he was rendered speechless for a while.  I showed him all of the rooms and left the chess room for last as he told me he was wanting some time alone with the Apothecary Chest.  I dutifully took it down and placed it on the puzzle table in the room.  We chatted for a while while he simply looked at the chest.  And then it happened!  He jumped in and began solving. 
Analyzing the back

He solved his first box
from the chest

I had to return to the house to get dinner started, and sadly we had to go.  When we returned to Puzzle Palace, I had an epiphany an gave Tanner the scooter.  He shot right back over to the Museum and carried on until I called him to dinner.

He and George shot a few games of pool after our meal, and then it was time for bed.  

This morning we pick up Stan Issacs, and the rest of our guests arrive on Friday.  I'm sure someone will post photos of the puzzle party on some form of social media somewhere.  

On to the museum update.  We spent the week tidying up for the puzzle party so not much was done.  The main item to be finished was to get the plates placed on the wall above the breakfast room table.  This is the last major project and now we can get on to the cataloguing. Expect no work done to be posted next week.  

The final plate is placed

He's proud of his work

And now I'm off to enjoy Boca Bash!  Happy puzzling everyone!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The worlds first twisty puzzle chess set

 As luck would have it, my friend Tony Fisher made a chess set out of 2x2x2 puzzles.  He initially intended to sell it at DCD but because that has been postponed yet again, he sent me a message asking if I was interested in it. Of course I jumped at the offer and am the proud owner of the first one made.  

Tony spent the past 9 weeks releasing videos of his build trying to let people know what he did and how he went about making the pieces.  I was particularly interested to hear that he used paperclips in the necks of the pawns to keep them from breaking if accidentally dropped.  

In part 2 Tony continues to develop the Pawns.  I wonder what type of glue he uses for those pieces.

Part 3 covers the Bishops. Part 4 is the rooks. When Tony gets to Part 5, we learn about the Queen. I like that he finally showed the bottles of the material he used.  One has to wonder how many times he can use each mold, and how many full chess sets he actually sold.

Part 6. Thanks a lot Tony!  I had to go watch a movie to get the pun.  It's a good movie by the way.  Highly recommended.

OMG! Finally!  The Tony Fisher puzzles I know and love are back.  He's returned to sculpting pieces and this one is amazing! While I don't want a night to remember with Tony, I'll take this KNIGHT to remember. 

Next up is, Knights in white resin. And finally, there is episode 9: Board of puzzles. It was only at part 6 that I realized all of the titles were a play on words.  Oh am I slow!

By now I'm sure you realize the reason I'm writing this post and putting in all those links to Tony's videos is because we have the chess set. It sits pride of place in the middle of the mirror room table.  It's  a lovely addition to the collection of twisty puzzles, and also to the puzzling chess sets that we have.  As always Tony's work is spot on and of the highest of quality.  You can't go wrong buying one of his custom pieces.  This time I got to enjoy the creation process with him and looked forward to seeing each new episode.  

Tony texted me on 29 May with a video of his top secret project and asked not to show or tell anyone about this.  He also knows me well and instead of offering up one of 3 sets he made, he sold me the #1 set.  Complete with chessboard and signature. I sent a wire transfer and on the 20th of July I recieved three packages in the mail.  He waited until the set was complete using the same material so the colors would match. Wonderful! 

I realized when looking back on our conversation that we have a number of puzzle chess sets in Puzzle Palace. Tony's is joining a fine collection. 

Hanayama silver and gold on Lensch's Dudeney board

Wooden Charles O Perry set

Very large wooden Charles O Perry set

Franco Rocco set

Franco Rocco set

Franco Rocco sets in plastic and original metal

Marcel Gillen pieces

Gold, silver, black Hanayama sets
all on custom boards 
Think fun puzzles

As you can see from the above photos, we have a number of different chess puzzle sets.  The only non-puzzle set is the board under the Franco Rocco sets. You can also see we are missing the bishop in the Gillen originals.  If anyone has one for sale, do let me know. I won the gold and silver Franco Rocco set on auction here in Palm Beach County and a week later, the other set showed up in the Dalgety Collection.  James kept the wooden one in his set of 500 reserve puzzles.  Perhaps one day in the future it will join the rest of the collection. Should you have any news on other puzzle chess sets please send us a message.  This is a collection we would like to keep adding to. 

I would like to add, the person who scrambles that set will be the first death in Puzzle Palace. 

Because we were at my daughter's wedding for the past two weeks, I did not post about any puzzles.  Nor did I do any updates to the museum.  I'll be back to normal next week.  

Happy Puzzling All!