Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Drive Down Lombard Street

A Drive Down Lombard Street

Brian Young

Brian Young. Puzzle directly available from him via his website Mr Puzzle Australia priced at A$70/-

Type & Classification
Dexterity & Sliding

14.4cm (Length) x 7.6cm (Width) x 3.7cm (Height).

Materials & Construction
The box is made of Papua New Guinean Rosewood, six sliding tiles made from Western Australia Jarrah, acrylic and steel. Construction fit and finish is to a very high standard. The tiles fit well and slide smoothly. There is enough "gap" between the tiles so humidity would not be an issue for this puzzle.

The Drive Down Lombard Street was Brian's Exchange Puzzle during IPP29 in San Francisco, USA in August 2009. Like most of Brian's exchange puzzles, this one is a themed puzzle inspired by the popular tourist attraction, Lombard Street in San Francisco, which is the world's most crookedest street.

The object of the puzzle is to "take a drive down Lombard Street"; manoeuvring a ball bearing from tile to tile at the starting point on top, ie Hyde Street down to the bottom end point, Leavensworth Street. Each of the six tiles have grooves and notches cut into them to allow the ball bearing to roll atop each tile and to move from one to the next. All the six tiles are also able to move or slide, similar to a regular sliding puzzle. The tiles are covered by acrylic so you cannot physically touch them but must use dexterity in order to move them around within the confines of the box.

Solving the puzzle requires one not only the use dexterity to move the ball bearing from tile to tile, but also  the tiles need to be in the correct orientation to enable the grooves to be aligned properly for the ball bearing to roll from one tile to the next. Basically slide/move the tiles to form a maze with the grooves and navigate the ball bearing through the maze. To make things even harder, the grooves on each tile are cut differently so forming the maze is not that simple.

And because there is a one empty space to allow the tiles to slide, the ball bearing can quite easily fall off a tile (if one is not careful during the sliding  process) to the bottom of the box. I think Brian also deliberately made the grooves shallow enough to allow this to happen to make the puzzle harder. Here you have to reposition the ball bearing on the starting point again and begin all over.

Difficulty Level
The puzzle provides a fair amount of challenge but is not very difficult. Yes, it requires dexterity and some thinking to get the tiles in the right positions. I took about twenty minutes to get from start to finish, with several falls and re-starts in between. After a while you will get the hang of it and you can quite easily prevent the ball bearing from dropping over the side as you move the tiles around.

Brian states that the "ultimate solution" is one with the least dexterity required; with minimal tile movement. I am not sure if I solved it with less or more steps than what he intended as I was just focused on getting the ball bearing to the end point. But his solution sheet requires a minimum of fourteen steps, and this is only after certain tiles are already in the right starting position.

The Drive Down Lombard Street provides a nice and different twist to the usual sliding puzzle genre in that there is also a dexterity element thrown in. It doesn't take too long to solve. But more importantly, I think its a pretty fun puzzle to spend time with.

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