Sunday, 1 September 2013

Manholes 55

Name
Manholes 55

Designer
Frederic Boucher.



Manufacturer
Frederic Boucher. Only two copies of the puzzle were made by Frederic for the IPP33 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition. One has been donated to the Lilly Library Jerry Slocum Mechanical Puzzle Collection. I have the other, hence none currently available; unless Frederic decides to make more.

Type & Classification
Dexterity

Dimensions
8.2cm (Length) x 8.2cm (Width) x 3.6cm (Height)

Materials & Construction
Wood, glass, aluminium, felt, brass, steel, coins. Very well constructed and put together. Despite repeated handling by more than 170 participants during the 3 days judging process at IPP33, the puzzle withstood whatever abuse and did not appear to show any signs of wear at all. Nice size and feels very hefty in the palm.

As you can see from the photos, the puzzle consists of a wooden box topped with a glass cover (which makes the puzzle more classy than if perspex had been used) held in place by aluminium plates. Within the box is a "street" with two manholes, covered by a 50 yen coin and a 5 yen coin (ie 50+5 = Manholes 55). Also inside the box are brass and steel ball bearings.

IPP
Apart from Manholes 55, Frederic's Elle interlocking puzzle was also a design entry for IPP33.

Overview
I came upon the Manholes 55 when I was playing with the various competition entries. What intrigued and drew my interest was this very nice looking box with an unusual combination of different materials used, including glass for the construction of the puzzle. The odd thing was that both Frederic and I attended IPP33; I played with his Manholes 55 and Elle and he tried his hand at my own competition entry Ball In Cylinder No1. Yet we did not meet each other in person the entire 3-4 days while we were both there! I still do not know what he looks like!

After I returned from IPP33, I emailed Frederic to ask if he could sell a copy to me. After a couple of emails, we eventually did an exchange; my new Ball In Cylinder No.2 for his Manholes 55. Frederic had also mentioned that he made the two Manholes 55s from left over parts from his Pyramida Puzzles; no wastage of anything here which has resulted in a beautiful and attractive puzzle.

There are 3 challenges to this puzzle:-

1. Hide each ball underneath the coin (manhole cover) of the same colour.
2. Place each ball on top of the coin (manhole cover) of the same colour.
3. Without spinning the puzzle, move the balls to the green areas on each side of the street.


Challenge 2 solution
Difficulty Level
Challenges 1 and 2 are not difficult. The manhole covers (coins) and ball bearings move into place nicely with the required dexterity. A gentle touch will aid more in the solving than hard shaking. Challenge 3 is the tough one. I tried for a rather long time but could not seem to get the balls onto the felt on opposite sides. I just can't seem to get one ball to stay put while trying to manipulate the second ball to the opposite felt. Frederic provided me with the 3 solutions; there is a certain technique to solve Challenge 3 which I will attempt to try.

Summary
A well made puzzle that is fun to play with, not only for adults but also for kids (I let a friend's 8 year old have a go at it and he got through Challenge 1 without any help). With its glass, metal and wood construction, the Manholes 55 also makes a really nice display item. And if there will only be two copies (or perhaps a few more in time to come?) well,... its certainly going to be a very rare collector's puzzle.

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