Saturday 24 December 2016

Portico J

First off, Merry Christmas to everyone!

This post is long overdue. In fact it is a year overdue. I received the Portico J as a Christmas present from Pelikan Puzzles of the Czech Republic during last Christmas in 2015. Portico J was designed by Stephane Chomine, who (at the time of this posting) has just done over 500 designs on PWBP.

I had played with Portico J for a while, found it a tad too difficult and put it away telling myself that I would come back to it sometime in early 2016...and promptly forgot about it for the next 12 months. 

But over the last couple of days after some much required puzzle closet spring cleaning, out appears the Portico J and I decided to give it a go again. But before that, here are the stats; Portico J measures about 10cm x 5.5cm x 4.5cm. Consisting of an inverted T-shaped support with 3 traditional burr pieces and 2 board ones, it is an unusual shaped and looking interlocking puzzle. I figure this sort of shape may not appeal to everyone, but hey, there are loads of cubes and rectangles about so this is nice change. And I certainly quite like it. Comprising of Wenge and Cherry woods, it's impeccably made by the Pelikan Workshop. Everything slides and moves smoothly. 

It took me a couple of hours spread over several sessions before I finally managed to remove the first piece. It has a level 20 solution and while the movable pieces can move only in certain directions within limits, it's a much harder puzzle to take apart than the shape (or the few number of pieces) would suggest. My early attempts were met with dead ends and when I finally got the first piece out, the process rather surprising, something I did not expect. After that, a bit more puzzling was still needed before the rest of the pieces were disentangled. Full take apart requires 35 moves. 

As with such puzzles I needed Burr Tools to help with the re-assembly before everything was back to original. Can't do by memory here unfortunately!

The Portico J is very tricky right from the start and although not a very high level burr on paper, still it makes for a very challenging solve indeed. Oh, and there is a 5-piece Little Portico around too!

Saturday 17 December 2016

Still Yet Another Burr That's Not A Burr!

Sorry folks for a delayed post as I was on a family vacation to Taiwan...and had too much luggage to bring any puzzles along.

Well, here's yet another pseudo-burr, this time another variation of Ray Stanton's Slideways Burr series, after his Slideways Burr and Double Slideways Burr. This one is called the Quad Slideways Burr (QSB). The QSB was Ray's IPP36 Exchange Puzzle. Made of Cherry, Maple and Mahogany, it was produced for Ray by Pelikan Puzzles with great craftsmanship as per normal. The QSB measures about 8cm all around, a good and necessary size for handling this type of puzzle.

The QSB looks to be made up of many pieces but in reality comprise only 4 pieces each with slanted cuts and notches. Two of the larger pieces are actually several smaller pieces glued together. It is a co-ordinate motion puzzle and the object is to take it apart and re-assemble it.

I had difficulty with the Double Slideways Burr and so I took careful pains with this one to slowly "disentangle" the that the pieces don't just fall apart suddenly, as usually happen to many co-ordinate motion puzzles. The high average 85% humidity of Singapore ensured that the sliding apart was snug but sufficiently smooth and allowed me to make small incremental movements. The puzzle expanded right to the point where one of the two smaller pieces fell apart, followed by the others. 

Its a good thing that Pelikan manufactured the QSB in such a way that the three opposing pairs of faces on the sides of the QSB feature a different type wood; which makes the identification and orientation of the pieces for re-assembly least I knew how the pieces were going to come together. Unlike the earlier Double Slideways Burr, which I needed the wifey's help to hold the pieces (there were 6!) this one I could comfortably manage on my own, sans wife's hands. Finding that single point, ie sweet-spot where all the 4 pieces started sliding back together to form the original shape was actually not as difficult as I had expected. All said and done, this was a pretty fast solve!

As far as I can tell, the QSB is not listed on sale on the Pelikan site. But Ray may have some extra copies left for sale if anyone is interested.