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Monday, 16 March 2015

Le Mini David (Miguel Ortiz Berrocal)

It's hard not to be excited every time a new puzzle is on its way, but for this special case I must've checked the post tracking website twenty times a day until it arrived!

David, all shiny and clean after his bath
This is 'Le Mini David' (I'm going to refer to him here as just 'David'), and I know he (I'm also going to refer to him as a he) looks quite different from most of the puzzles I have spoken about to date.

David was created by the late Spanish sculptor, Miguel Ortiz Berrocal in 1968. Berrocal is best known for his works that blended together sculpture and mechanical puzzle design, of which David here is a fine example. Sadly, Berrocal passed away in 2006.

Ever since I first had the chance to play with one of Berrocal's creations at Gathering for Gardner CoM II (2011), I knew I wanted one. However I knew that due to their rather high average price tag it probably wasn't going to be for a while. Recently however the stars aligned!

I found David here at auction, looking incredibly neglected. When I say he was neglected I mean that I don't think he had been taken apart or cleaned in literally decades. There was metal powder buildup on most of the pieces, and there was dust and dirt clogging up every gap. This edition is nickel plated, and luckily there were no major signs of damage to that.

On the face of it David looks like a standard 'bust' style sculpture, and it's easy to miss the fact that he is made up of 23 unique and quite complex pieces, all fully interlocked into the sculpture you can see here. Since he had not even been taken apart by the seller, I was very nervous to see if all of the parts were actually there, as well as in a functional state.

I started to disassemble the bust, and as well as being very relieved to see that all of the parts were there, I was also surprised at exactly how complex the individual pieces were. One of the parts (usually giggled at by most people when noticed first time) is the genitalia, which when disassembled takes the form of a gold plated and agate stone set ring.

I never thought I'd end up bathing a puzzle someday
I decided immediately after his arrival that David needed a bath. The pieces needed a lot of cleaning, but I wanted to be as gentle as possible. I wasn't exactly going to be putting the poor guy in the dishwasher or anything like that. I decided the safest bet was using only a sponge and warm water. I didn't want to risk anything chemical based in case of reactions with the nickel plating.

The picture here shows the pieces rinsing off after what must've been close to an hour of cleaning. I don't even want to tell you what colour the water was after the first clean!

Overall I'm really happy with the finish I managed to get all of the pieces back to. A few marks remain here and there, but considering the condition he was in, and his age, I think the result is excellent!

I dried all of the pieces off, and further hand dried with a cloth to prevent water marking. Now I could get on with the best bit...the reassembly!

23 unique and surprisingly complex pieces
This is the point where I realised that I didn't really pay much attention when I took him apart. I was so worried about the condition and number of pieces I completely forgot to note how the pieces went together. This was a brilliant bit of luck, because now I got to solve it properly!

It was genuinely more difficult than I thought to get him back together again. The assembly sequence goes from one piece to the next, and occasionally I tried to get ahead of myself and had to go back and put a piece in that I missed out.

When I visited James Dalgety at his Puzzle Museum there was one rule he was very adamant about, and that was that if you took anything apart you weren't allowed to leave until it was put back together again. The only exception to this rule was when it came to the Berrocal's. He said that he enjoyed assembling these sculptures so much that they were the only puzzles he didn't mind people leaving for him to put back together. Now that I have one of my own I can see exactly why these are the exception.

Le Mini David has become an instant favourite in my collection. Not because of something as boring as rarity or monetary value, but because everything about the design is a joy to behold. The assembled look is artistically striking. The pieces are beautifully complex, and fit perfectly. The puzzle aspect is tricky, but certainly solvable by anyone who really tries (Mrs. Paradox did it!).

There's only one real problem, and that is that David here is part of a series of designs...and I just know the hunt will be back on again at some point to find him a companion.

Also check out my video showing the full disassembly and reassembly process:

Friday, 9 January 2015

Puzzle Paradox Is On Facebook!

It's been very quiet on here for a while now, but I've not disappeared!

I have taken most of my ramblings over to the Puzzle Paradox Facebook Page, and if you need a bit more puzzlement in your life then look forward to hearing from you on there.

I still fully intend to keep this blog going, however it will primarily be used for reviews, while the Facebook page will be used for a huge assortment of random mostly puzzle related updates and musings.

Click here to head over to Puzzle Paradox on Facebook

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Cast Delta (Kyoo Wong - Hanayama)

You know what I haven't written about in a long time? A Hanayama puzzle! This puzzle isn't new to the market by any means, but it is certainly worth writing about as it is a very nice piece of puzzle design.

This is the Cast Delta, designed by Kyoo Wong and manufactured by Hanayama. In true Cast puzzle style it is made of cast metal, which gives it a great weight, and the antique colour of the finish is a very nice choice in my opinion.

At first glance the Delta reminded me of the first puzzle I ever wrote about, the Cast News. It has that same sort of enclosed container look about it, except where the News is an extremely rattly puzzle, the Delta feels much more solid in the hand.

After playing with the Delta for a few seconds you will get to catch a glimpse of the inner workings, and then promptly realise that it is not some kind of hidden compartment puzzle, and it falls more into the category of a take-apart puzzle.

Now from this position it is easy to close the puzzle fully, then re open to this point, then close it again....then semi-open it again etc. This is the point where it seems most puzzlers get a little bit stuck.

I had a feeling that coordinate motion would be the solution to this puzzle, but when I spun it nothing happened, and when I pulled them all against each other at the same time...nothing happened. There was clearly something that I was missing.

Then came the obligatory 'Ah ha!' moment, something clicked in my head and the Delta was in three identical pieces. The way that it came apart slightly reminded me of the Cast Rattle, and if you've solved that as well you'll probably know what I mean.

It's not a particularly difficult puzzle, with most people I have spoken to solving it within 5-6 minutes, but the elegant design makes it well worth owning. Plus it's a great one to hand over to non-puzzlers, since it has an obvious solution and they are likely to be very pleased with themselves when they solve it's practically invincible in case someone gets really fed up and throws it out of a window.

The Hanayama Cast Delta is currently available from Puzzle Master and all other good puzzle distributors.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Scacco F.R. Opal Puzzle Chess Set (Franco Rocco)

The problem with knowing so many other puzzle nutters (great guys and gals by the way) is that they also buy brilliant puzzles...and then show them to you. This in turn makes you want said you also go and buy them yourself. The cheek of some people! Therefore this puzzle purchase is totally not my fault, even though I am held to blame for the puzzle purchases of a few (hundred?) others.
This is the Scacco F.R. Opal Puzzle Chess Set. I know, that's quite a mouthful to say. It was designed by the Italian architect, designer and puzzle maker Franco Rocco, and I think the design kind of straddles the lines between being a sculpture, a game and a puzzle.

The original version of this puzzle was called 'Scaccomatto', made in 1977 out of solid brass, with one of the set of pieces being chrome plated. Several different versions of this chess set have followed since then, the one pictured above is the 4th regeneration of the design, and also happens to be the most affordable to date. This was brilliant since I had always loved this design from the moment I first saw it, but I resigned myself to knowing I would never be able to afford one...and now here it is!

This version is made out of cast translucent plastic (methacrylate), with a different colour for each set of pieces. Each cube is made up of seventeen pieces, that includes all of the chess pieces for one player and a sprung locking key piece which is designed to hold the cube in a fully interlocking state until it is removed. No board is included, hence the crappy looking board in the photo as it was all I had to hand.

The idea of having such a good quality puzzle design in plastic was a bit off-putting at first, but because the pieces are cast and not hollow it makes a huge difference. They have a nice weight to them, and there are no size imperfections at all. The fit is absolutely perfect.

I remember that I first came across the metal 3rd version of this puzzle at one of the earliest Midlands Puzzle Parties (MPPs). I took a cube apart and I believe it took me at least 45 minutes to get it back together again! Even though being a puzzle isn't the only thing it was designed to be it is certainly not a breeze to solve. Each chess piece is pretty irregularly shaped, and can interlock into all of the other pieces in one way or another. But every piece is also identical to the other pieces of the same type, so all pawns are identical for example.

This is an absolutely brilliant puzzle in every respect, and for the price (~£50) it is a bargain as well. If you are looking to add one to your collection then have a look at the Puzzle Museum website for more information and availability details.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Cube In A Jar

I remember that a while back I was browsing through pictures of impossible objects on the web, and I came across a Rubik's Cube in a jar. Now at the time I thought two things; 1) Wow that's pretty awesome! 2) I bet I could do that pretty easily. It turns out that both of those statements were true, it just took me quite a long time to get around to it.

The reason that it took me so long to get around to making one wasn't because of the effort involved in physically making it, it was all down to finding the right jar. I kept looking around for square jars just the right size for a cube (without too much wiggle room), but for some reason they always eluded me. This is when I turned to my old friend: eBay.

I found a square jar on eBay, checked the size was okay and placed the order, within two days it had arrived. Immediately I knew something looked wrong. It turns out (being the genius that I am) I didn't realise that most (sane) people when looking at jars aren't looking for measurements of the inner dimensions. The jar turned out to be way too small for a standard size Rubik's brand 3x3 cube.

While being a bit annoyed at myself I decided that I didn't want to waste a perfectly good jar, so I began to dig through my boxes of puzzles, and I found a cheap knock-off cube with what I can only describe as the most perfect dimensions to fit into the little jar. Lucky or what? And 30 minutes or so later I had a fully functional puzzle well and truly stuck in a glass jar.

The process is actually not very difficult, but like with many impossible objects it does require a decent bit of patience to achieve.

A great bit of fun that I'd recommend anyone with too much spare time (and a jar) on their hands to try for themselves.
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