Update 23 October 2017 - Dear Reader, please check out my new puzzle blog and e-store at http://mechanical-puzzles.com
This puzzle is another one of Marcel Gillen's designs and like the name it bears, looks rather like a fire hydrant. In fact if you didn't know it was a mechanical puzzle, you would have mistaken it for perhaps a multi-directional valve or some heavy duty machine part, owing to its industrial-like appearance.
I acquired this puzzle from the same anonymous private seller who had sold me the Queen, Pawn and Rook reviewed in an earlier post. Like Marcel's chess piece puzzles, the Fire Plug is very rare and cannot be obtained from any online puzzle shop as far as I am aware.
The Fire Plug is a very heavy puzzle (feels almost the same weight as a Revomaze Extreme) with a ball burnished cylindrical body made out of aluminium (most likely by cast moulding). Inserted into the sides of the cylinder are 2 brass pegs, each 2 1/2in long with a cross section diameter of about 5/8in. On one end of one of the pegs are the initials M and G. The cylinder body is 3 1/4in tall with a diameter of 1 5/8in. My copy is well made and fit and finish is very good.
The object of the puzzle is to extract the brass pegs from the Fire Plug to reveal a hidden item within the puzzle, in this case a tiny little cute plastic Dalmatian dog with a fireman's hat. Marcel Gillen had chosen to hide a Dalmatian inside the puzzle for good reason - because Dalmatians have long been associated with fire fighting; click here to read the rather interesting history.
I found the Fire Plug very difficult to solve. My initial fiddling with the brass pegs and causing one of them to rotate and slide from end to end gave me the impression that the two brass pegs were locked vis-a-vis the cylinder body. Further more the way the two brass pegs were positioned relative to each other suggested that both were criss-cross interlocked somehow as well. I also heard some other sounds (apart from the Dalmatian rolling about inside) which indicated that there was another moving part involved, either a tiny ball bearing or pin of some sort, which is not entirely uncommon in puzzles of this nature where everything is hidden from view. I thought I could "feel" my way to unlocking and removing the brass pegs from the cylinder. But boy was I wrong! I tried all sorts of moves by the book including twisting and turning, pulling and pushing, turning the cylinder upside down, shaking it, banging it etc but to no avail.
In the end, after some time trying, I gave up and decided to go for the solution. The moment I looked at the solution, I realised that there was no way I could have solved the puzzle without it. The way the brass pegs are locked in place is very clever indeed and to solve the puzzle, one had to execute a number of moves in a particular manner and sequence. However, once you memorise the moves, it is easy to repeat solving the puzzle.
Overall the Fire Plug is an extremely challenging puzzle indeed and aside from its unique (and interesting) appearance, ranks very highly as a collector's puzzle due to its rarity. Don;t hesitate to buy it if you come across one.