Friday, September 02, 2005

Twinkle Twinkle Evil Star

I have recently begun collecting a publication that was advertised on television, Classic Puzzles and Brain Teasers. Normally I am not seduced by these kind of offers. You know the sort, the first issue is offered for the low, low price of $2.95, while subsequent issues require the taking out of a personal loan and a committment that stretches years beyond the initial impulse. This campaign coincided with the beginning of my recent period of under-employment, I was still struggling to be Zen with the abyss created by the shift from having to work seven days a week to keep my head above water to working only Monday evenings and Tuesdays. In the midst of second-guessing the vagaries of casual short- term employment contracts and wishing my Scrabble playing buddy hadn't moved to Melbourne three years ago, I was enticed by the advertisement's promise of quality wooden classic puzzles that would also double as very nice decorative items.

I searched the first issue down, finding it in the third newsagency I visited, since the first two had under-estimated the popularity of the series and sent their copies back to the distributor. I approached first puzzle, the Tower of Hanoi, with trepidation. What if I couldn't solve it? Would I be left with this strange wooden ornament whose presence would taunt me with my failure rather than, as I hoped, a monument to own cleverness? My anxiety was ill-founded and after a couple of hours, I had completed the puzzle, surprised at myself. What was even better was that doing the puzzle had had the desired effect of distracting me from my lack of employment.

I eagerly awaited the next puzzle, the Elastic Cube. It arrived as a completed cube, which I had to unravel to begin the puzzle. I worried that if I studied the way the cube was assembled too closely as I pulled it apart, it wouldn't present much of a challenge, so I closed my eyes and quickly pulled it apart. It took me two days of twiddling and fiddling, on and off,creating misshapen cubes with various cavities and appendages along the way, to reassemble the puzzle. At 4.50pm on a Friday two weeks ago, I completed the cube with a sense of great satisfaction.

Yesterday, I picked up the third issue of the series. The guy at my local newsagency, looked at the most recent puzzle, the Evil Star, and commented that it looked like an interesting one this time. I was modest, 'We'll see how I go', still not assuming I could solve it, in spite of my success with the other puzzles. When I got home, I had to go out again pretty much straight away, but couldn't resist opening up the Evil Star, just to have a quick look at it. I briefly read the rules of the puzzle--you had to assemble the puzzle in your hands and weren't able to use a flat surface--and took the advice that I should study the accompanying picture of the assembled puzzle. I thought , 'I'll just pull the puzzle apart and start to consider some options for putting it together'. It took more than I expected to pull the puzzle apart even though the magazine had said it would be easy. I attributed the puzzle's resistance to its newness. Then I began to figure out how to solve the puzzle and, in less time than it had taken to pull apart, it was back together! I was convinced I had done something wrong. I pulled it apart again. And put it back together, AGAIN! 'But, but, this is meant to be as difficult as the other two puzzles. Stupid, stupid Evil Star! Call yourself 'evil'? Hah! Lily-livered twinkle Star more like it!'

Back to underemployment.

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