Friday, 15 September 2017


Our 29th MPP was unusual – for one thing we had an American visitor that none of us knew, joining us for the day / weekend - for another, a bunch of the usual gang couldn’t make it for a number of reasons… so we not only had a very select little gathering, we also had a visitor from far afield hoping to meet the puzzlers he’s only ever seen in the virtual puzzling world… hopefully he wasn't disappointed!

On the Friday evening, we’d had Regan around for dinner and confirmed that he probably wasn’t an axe-murderer, although he was a long way from Kansas… we’d puzzled for a bit before sheer exhaustion set in and I dropped him back at the hotel… where a wedding party kept him up all hours of the night, resulting in him having had very little sleep by the time I collected him in the morning for MPP-proper. 

When the two of us got to the hall we discovered Angela and Peter had already set up their For-Sale table and welcomed the chance to chat… which we sort of did while setting up the rest of the tables and getting the refreshments organised and laid out.

Angela had brought along a bunch of autographed 1st edition Martin Gardner books for me and I happily wandered over to the ATM to draw the extra cash I needed to add those to my collection.

Dave arrived somewhere in between me getting the milk and soft drinks and my trip over for some extra cash, and he duly set himself up in a corner of the hall…

Pretty soon the core of the regular gang had arrived from London, with Frank arriving a bit later, having presumably had a bit more of a lie-in than the keener souls. 

Big-Steve had arranged for a group order of some brilliant Japanese puzzles that I’d partaken in and he duly played father Christmas giving a few of us an early present – I got a few of Endo-san’s exchange puzzles along with a recent creation of his that is a fantastic little three-piece interlocking puzzle, a copy of Home Alone Husband and a couple of little puzzley-things that I could never have justified getting shipped on their own… cheers Steve!

The usual encouraging puzzle-banter soon set in, with Regan joining in like he’d been one of us for ages – it seems that puzzlers really are a pretty homogenous bunch in some respects.

Regan had brought along a copy of his handmade safe puzzle for everyone to have a bash at – I’d tried my hand at solving it the night before, spectacularly unsuccessfully as it turned out, and I was having more or less exactly the same level of success at MPP. A couple of the others had a bash at encouraging the little aluminium and brass beauty to reveal its secrets and soon enough Oli had it open and was investigating the innards… where a second challenge awaited.

Chris duly followed suit and cracked the safe wide open, and I then spent another while getting resolutely nowhere! [In fact, I think I only managed to finally open it much later after a significant amount of hinting and suggestion from my fellow puzzlers – only I’m SO THICK that I didn’t realise they were actually trying to help me at the time… no idea why that wasn’t the first thought on my mind when they kept at me with what sounded like some rather unhelpful suggestions!] It IS a stunningly well-made puzzle with a fiendishly clever locking mechanism, the likes of which have virtually never been seen in a puzzle before – I bear no shame at not solving this one – it is very clever indeed!

Big-Steve spent a while trying to convince a couple of people to build his copy of Reza 12-20 that he’d had shipped from Australia in pieces…! We’d all seen how complicated this thing was as one half of the IPP37 Host Gift – and Juno had admitted it took him ages to assemble them WITH the solution to hand… so we all told him where to go… which meant he had to sit down and have a bash himself… and of course he was soon joined by a couple of the hardened puzzlers (Chris and Oli) who manly attempted to assemble the beast, coming reasonably close on a couple of occasions to find that Steve had clearly been sent the wrong pieces, as the final piece left out had the wrong notch pattern to enable it to be inserted into the assembly they were all struggling to keep more or less in the right shape. They gave up after a while so I expect that Steve will bring it back in the same number of pieces next time in the hopes of slightly more luck, or more puzzle-assembly-power, at least partly in the form of Louis. 

Pig rolls and the local chippie provided the usual excellent lunch before yet more puzzling…

At some point Chris must have upset Steve awfully because he duly sat down at Chris’ table and set about disassembling and scrambling all of Chris’ puzzles… so Chris responded as every puzzler should, and calmly reassembled them, including one that he didn’t think he knew how to reassemble… good man!

Michael made particularly short work of an IPP37 exchange packing puzzle that Ali gave him – somewhat gob-smacking both of us at the speed that he’d solved it… and what truly amazed us was that he’d totally overlooked the biggest visual clues and still solved it WAY quicker than either of us had managed. 

Regan was made to feel part of the crowd with a number of people successively shoving a puzzle in his paws and saying “Here you’ll like this…” and then goading him into solving them… usually with a fair degree of success. 

At some point late in the afternoon, silly season took over and we had Ali challenging everyone with a bar bet observation puzzle that had almost everyone going for ages - with those who'd caught on duly egging the rest on with all sorts of helpful little goadings... good fun!

At a suitable hour, we all retired back to my place for the traditional fish supper and more puzzles – and there was a lot more puzzling, until I eventually dropped Regan back at the hotel just before midnight – convinced he must be running on pure adrenaline by now.

Next morning, he and Chris were back around at the house for some more banter and puzzling – and I finally managed to crack open Regan’s safe… albeit with a lot of nudging and clueing from the side-lines…

Early that evening I dispatched him toward London on a train so he could do a little sight-seeing before he headed back to Kansas – thanks for coming to visit and introduce yourself, Regan – it was really great to spend some time puzzling with y’all…

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Ali Morris' Eiffel Six Cube

Apparently, I’m not the only one calling Ali names at the moment – in fact he reckons he’s going to keep a list of the interesting things he’s been called recently… it’s his own fault, really.

This is the first year that Ali has taken part in the Edward Hordern Puzzle Exchange… with an innocent looking little puzzle called Eiffel Six Cube.

He introduced it as a simple little 3*3*3 cube assembly that was so simple that even Lily, his young daughter, had managed to stumble upon a solution for it, so in order to makes things a little more “interesting” he had been forced to put an Eiffel Tower on each face, spread across pairs of pieces in order to make it “hard enough” to be an exchange puzzle… we all duly lapped up the schpiel and gave him one of our own exchange puzzles in return…

From here on I can obviously only speak for myself, but bear in mind that many others have called him interesting names as well…

I tried on a few occasions to assemble the pieces into a cube – there aren’t a lot of pieces to start with, and those Eiffel Towers definitely cut down on the number of possibilities… but finding that single assembly just kept eluding me…

I’d keep coming back to it every now and then, every time with exactly the same degree of success – nil!

I paused, and counted the bits of the towers just to be sure that there would only be one on each face as I’d been trying to achieve – tick – OK, try again…

Eventually over the past weekend I got pretty close to convincing myself it was impossible – I kept ending up at the same impossible almost-solution, I’d tried everything I could think of… and then I had one more thought, and I cursed that friendly man from London, and duly sent him a pic of the completed puzzle along with a small torrent of abuse – he’d earned it… it’s a cracking puzzle!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

IPP37 Sunday – Puzzle Party! ... and the day after

Wake up early with excitement before the alarm goes off, shower and head downstairs for breakfast, leaving Gill still asleep. I have breakfast with Scott and enjoy a great mix of fantastically technical chat and brilliant wit (his) – I really enjoy our chats tremendously!

After breakfast we all gather outside the hall and wait patiently to be allowed in at the appointed hour. I make a bee-line for Perry’s table – the only thing I absolutely HAVE to get is whatever he’s selling this year – you’re never going to be disappointed… I duly acquire a gorgeous slice of wooden cake, knowing that he’ll have sold all he’s brought along well before the end of the puzzle party. 

Next I head to Mine’s table where he’s still setting up so I wander around a little bit… realising my schoolboy error when I return to find an orderly queue of puzzlers waiting to be served one at a time by Mine… I join the back of the queue and then narrowly miss out on a couple of trapped coin puzzles, although I do manage to bag a couple of them, along with some classic Mine tray-packing puzzles… I’m well chuffed. 

Wil has managed to get me a copy of Hanayama’s new Cast Dot puzzle – he’s only got a couple so he’s being a little cagey with them – and I’m grateful. 

Tomas teases me with a Pentangle Burr set and a Gartenschlauch that I’ve been trying to get a copy of for a while… but I pass on them…

Dimitry has some lovely hand-cast puzzles and I decide it’s time to pick up a real Treble Clef because his prices are jolly reasonable!

Alan still has a few copies of Perry’s Brass Balls left and I wonder aloud just how many of those he must have had because he’s been selling them at pretty much every IPP I’ve been to now…

Kotani-san has some terrific new packing puzzles and I end up stocking up on the new ones (I love his little cube series!) and picking up a few interesting acrylic assemblies and a disentanglement…

Jerry and Eric are running order lists and I put my name down for a good few items from both of them… and when the puzzle party is winding up Andrei gives me a copy of a prototype 4-piece assembly puzzle he’s had on his table for folks to play with – Thanks Andrei!

Later that afternoon I attend David Goodman’s Soma workshop where he introduces us to a number of new puzzle and game concepts with a Some cube… several of us display superb incompetence while a few star pupils seem to manage to assemble just about anything known to man with those strange pieces…

We hover around the lobby and bar area bantering with various knots of puzzlers before meeting the girls when they arrive back from their trip to Montmatre and the Sacre Coeur. 

We dress up for the awards dinner and I get a chance to wear my new wooden tie courtesy of Kathleen (Ta!) and feel like I’m one of the cool kids. :-) 

When the awards are announced there are a number of shout-outs for puzzlers in attendance:

  •  Mike gets a huge shout-out for his Rocking Horse Puzzle,
  • as does Brian for Tweedledum and Tweedledee,
  • Andrei for Tripla (the one little puzzle I have been religiously carrying around in my pocket the whole of IPP and inflicting it on anyone who hadn’t seen it yet…) and
  • Stephan Baumegger for his Moulin Rouge which had been in the exchange as well as in the Design Competition

… all of whom earned Top Ten Vote awards.

..and then Jerry’s Burrnova gets an Honourable Mention from the Jury… 

After the awards are announced and the host and his helpers are thanked profusely, I have one more bash at Peter’s Down the Rabbit Hole – this time I make a tiny little bit of progress, but I’m still nowhere near solving it and Peter just taunts me with it…

A couple of us examine Frans’ host gift, a lovely combo of Juno’s bigger assembly and Brian’s latest Louvre puzzle – Steve and I see if we can find the key piece and then experiment with how far we dare push it out, knowing that it’ll probably collapse if we tug it a little too much… in the end, in spite of Nick’s encouragement, discretion get the better of us and we leave it all assembled for Frans…

Outside the room Pavel is running a group-solve of his latest set of word / pun / anagram / puzzles – I can’t help myself and I join in the games managing to help with a couple of the clues…

Among all the wonderful laughter and stories there’s some wonderfully good news that I’d contrived to miss when I solved Adin’s nonogram – a wonderful antidote to the previous day's sad news…

We're up early again for my now-customary breakfast of croissants with bacon, followed by pain au chocolat with coffee - great way to start the day! After breakfast we head out to the Trocadero on the Metro for a fabulous view of the Eiffel Tower - today's touristing. 

We take plenty of classic touristy pics before a gentle stroll across the gardens down to the base of the tower itself... after a bit of queueing and a couple of elevator rides we find ourselves on the top of the world looking down on the streets of Paris – glorious! (Actually some of us had a little more queueing than others at the security checkpoint: Frans forgot he had a box-cutter in his trouser pocket after helping out with some last-minute package service back at the hotel!)

Frans spends a fortune buying Gill and I a glass of champagne and pretty soon everyone is up there toasting one another and a successful IPP37. There’s plenty of posing for the obligatory pics, more than a little silliness and an awful lot of laughter.

When we eventually head down we re-group at ground level before heading off along the Seine in search of some lunch – we settle on a suitable riverside establishment and are soon joined by Dick and Alan Slocum and his lovely wife who duly join us… there’s lots of good-natured banter and more than a little not-so-subtle talk of hosting an IPP – and if Dick hadn’t been the third random individual to raise the topic in less than 24 hours I might not have smelled a rat! :-)

After a really fine salad(!) and a wonderfully cold drink we headed off in search of a Metro and wound our way back to the hotel. 

Back in the lobby I had a lovely chat with Gary and Saul about life, the universe and metal forges before Gary showed me pics of his awesome puzzle room – and I feel a little honoured to have been given a peek at it… my what a collection of books he has in there!
We have an early evening debrief meeting to make sure that we’ve captured all the lessons to be learnt from things that have gone right and from those that might not have gone as well as we’d hoped… I’m still not sure what some people expected our intrepid host to do about the occasional rain, the temperature in the catacombs or the length of the queues at the Eiffel Tower!

Dinner is at a Lebanese restaurant within walking distance of the hotel and we managed to prise Frans away from the French contingent in order to join us for a meal… we have a super dinner – seriously brilliant food!! …and I manage to finally open a box that I’ve been carrying around with me with since the puzzle party.

There’s a bit more chatter in the lobby before an hour’s intense packing puzzle and we’re more or less ready-to-roll in the morning… as long as we can rouse ourselves!

It’s been a long, happy gathering of friends, tinged with a bit of grief at the passing of a good friend, but plenty of happy memories shared of times spent with him… and lots of new happy memories to carry us through another year apart… Frans - you did yourself proud - 37 was a fantastic IPP!

See you all in… next year.