Monday, November 14, 2005

Sage Force

These are the latest instalments in the wooden puzzle series I’m collecting. I’ve shown them in order of receipt from left to right, which is also, in descending order, the progression of their degree of difficulty.

The Simple Star is accurately described. It’s difficulty was rated at the one star level; and even if it only took a few minutes to work out, the pun provided by the publishers added an additional level of enjoyment. The literature accompanying the Simple Star recommends it as a suitable first puzzle to give to children. That recommendation made me reflect that I am collecting something; it isn’t a series of increasingly difficult puzzles I’ve purchased merely to demonstrate the development of my cleverness—tongue very firmly in cheek there—but a group of artefacts that like any collection has a range of pieces each of which represent a unique aspect of the collection’s interest. The Simple Star is an example of an introductory puzzle; the Mysterious Ball was described as ‘a totally new concept in family games: the interlocking puzzle’; and the Infernal Pyramid is a construction puzzle that is solved by an ability ‘to think in three dimensions’.

The name of the Infernal Cube suggests that it is a close relative of a previous puzzle, the Infernal Pyramid. They’re not really alike, the Cube has many twice as many pieces as the Pyramid (12 compared to 6), with a lot more internal fiddly bits, that fall out if you flip it mid-construction for a different perspective. And all sorts of trouble ensues if you put the third last piece in the wrong way.

One of the things that makes me smile about this puzzle series is the advice they offer for solving the puzzles. I’m not speaking here about the rules or instructions or even the tips they give you, as in the hint for the Elastic Cube: ‘To help you assemble your Elastic Cube once you have undone it, bear in mind that all its outward-facing corners are made of light coloured wood’. It’s the gentle coaching about the frame of mind required for success that lifts my spirits: ‘It can be frustrating as you discover that either the end of the chain of cubes sticks out, or the final cube seems to have some small cubes missing’ and ‘Be careful not to force, twist or pull the elastic in case it breaks. Everything must be done gently; patience, calmness and logic are the real keys to success’. Yoda might say: ‘Success: patience, calm and logic are its keys’

I have heeded the advice of this kind that accompanied the Cord and Ring (‘Remember to use your mind not your muscles’ a.k.a ‘May the Force be with you’). Several weeks after I picked up this puzzle from the newsagent’s, I still haven’t solved it. I’ve made all sorts of knots in it, which by some miracle I’ve been able to undo, but I haven’t been able to release the Ring from the Cord. The clues offered draw on sewing and knitting terminology and perhaps that’s the source of my difficulty with it. I can sew, but it’s always been with gritted teeth and a stitch picker. I can crochet, but I’m unable to knit. The years of knot tying as a Brownie and a Girl Guide have not served me well on this occasion.

‘Patience, my child’.

‘Yes, Yoda’.

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