A Bolt from the Blue – Ali Morris

A Bolt from the Blue, is a very sturdy bolt puzzle offered by Two Brass Monkeys. I’ve never owned or worked on a bolt puzzle, but for some reason, this one spoke to me and beckoned for me to purchase it. When it arrived, I was bit shocked at how big the bolt was. This thing is very sturdy with some real heft.

Having never worked on a bolt puzzle, I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, it’s a bolt, how much “puzzle” can there be? It is really a puzzle or more of a magic trick?

The bolt comes enclosed in a plastic tube/case thingy. It seemed a bit strange to me, but upon more reflection, I can see why this is a good thing. First, it allows one to display the puzzle on the shelf. Second, it has the name of the puzzle on it, so the collector’s like me don’t get confused or forget which puzzle is which. And lastly, well, crap, I forgot the last point. oh well.

Once the bolt is removed from the case, it can be worked on. Again, my initial impression is, man, this is a big beefy bolt. The bolt has a fixed nut, a brass washer and a locking nut. The goal is to remove the washer. It would seem that the only way to accomplish this would be to remove the locking nut. Ok, with that obvious observation out of the way, let’s proceed.

Remove the Washer and you will be victorious.

For a long time, I examined the puzzle. And, I kept examining the puzzle. Unfortunately, there is not much to examine; there is not much to do. It’s a bolt with a washer and a nut. No matter how many times I rotated it and studied the details, it remained a bolt with a washer and a nut. What was I supposed to do? It felt like a SD puzzle where I was just staring at it hoping something would come to me, yet making zero progress. It’s a bit demoralizing. I like to push parts back and forth and follow mazes of moves and do trial and error experiments, but with this, there were no moves to be had, no dead ends, no mazes and no trial and error. It was just a bolt with a washer and a nut.

I wasn’t stumped forever though and I eventually discovered a clue. I really can’t say any more without giving it away but needless to say, I found a path forward and that quickly lead to the solution which had me smiling and shaking my head.

The washer has been removed! No spoilers here.

With my first bolt puzzle solved, I have to admit that I’m ready for another one. It was really fun solving this. It was a great moment when that wall of impossibility was knocked down. I can’t wait to show this one to others at a party or event. I imagine that it will be really fun to watch someone struggle with this, all the while knowing that the solution is SO CLOSE!

Once again, I am reminded of why I puzzle. It’s to overcome obstacles. It’s to persevere in the face of doubt and despair. It’s to experience the glory and rush of endorphins when the solution is finally revealed. It’s the feeling of tangible accomplishment. Solving puzzles is fun and all, but it’s also a life skill. The same methodology and mindset can be applied to any of life’s problems. Learning to puzzle is learning to live.

Well, the puzzle is solved and I come away enlightened. I can’t compare this to other bolt type puzzles, but on its own merit, it’s a fun puzzle that has now earned its rightful place on my display shelf. It’s definitely a dinner party puzzle, or something to toss to the guys on gameday and see how they fare.

Kudos to the Two Brass Monkeys crew for providing entertainment and an opportunity for glory and self-reflection.

Grooved 6 Board Burr #5 – Junichi Yananose

It was about 2 years ago (holy crap where does the time go?) When I decided to work through all the Grooved 6 Board Burr puzzles available at pluredro.com

Well, I got through 4 of them in a short amount of time and then, well, I stopped working on them and got lazy with the blog. In the ensuing 2 years, I only completed 3-4 blog posts. Life got in the way and writing blog posts wasn’t high on the list of priorities. I continued to purchase and solve dozens of puzzles, but I didn’t write a thing. Sometimes it’s nice to just do a puzzle and not worry about recording my thoughts. Whatever, I’m here today and I’ve just solved the Board Burr #5.

Somewhere along the way to solving the puzzle.

Like the previous 4 Grooved 6 Board Burrs, this one has 6 boards and utilizes grooves and pegs to make unique moves and positions. The grooves make it difficult, but they also provide clues about how to solve it. One of the things that I’ve learned is that many times, getting the peg out of the groove is the trick to progressing the puzzle.

The last post got me motivated and so I dug deep into my stash of puzzles to locate #5, determined to solve it, or at least make a dent. There was a football game on the tv and all family members were occupied with their own activity, so I sat down and got to work.

The puzzle started with 2 possible entries. One of them quickly hit a dead end, so I was left with only 1 option. I methodically worked the puzzle, stopping after each move to test all the available possibilities. I tried to work through every fork in the road to determine the correct path. Often I’d feel like I was making progress only to end up with the same shape I had 6 moves ago. This thing was tricky.

I set it down a couple of times to rest, but quickly picked it back up again and reworked through the sequence again. At about a dozen or so moves in was where I found the cycle of moves that just kept looping.

One of the configurations I found along the way. This was a dozen or more moves in. And yes I’m wearing Snoopy Christmas pajama pants.

Eventually, I discovered a secret little move that changed everything. I worked through it back and forth a couple of times, but didn’t quite understand what was happening, so I decided to push on. A lot of times when solving these puzzles, I create little bookmarks in my mind. For example, about 12 moves in, I memorized the shape of the puzzle and called this A1. I’d do a bunch of moves but would return to A1. At this point I could start with the unsolved puzzle and take it to shape A1. So then, I start looking for the next bookmark, or A2. These are just things I make up, but they help me keep track of my progress.

The A2 position was tricky and I fooled around with available moves from that position for a while. Suddenly, one of the pieces was free and it nearly fell into my lap. Once again, I worked that move back and forth for a while. I’m not sure if I memorized anything, but eventually I’d had enough and wanted to move forward.

Soon thereafter, I was able to remove the 2nd piece – though it did seem to take another 10 moves. The remaining pieces were fairly trivial and just like that, I had the puzzle separated. Whew, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I remember working on this puzzle 2 years ago and got frustrated and quit. Maybe I was just burned out from the previous 4. But this time, it seemed relatively easy. I don’t know where this ranks on the list of Grooved 6 board burrs, but to me, it seemed easier that the previous 4.

These pieces are so well made. I love how clean the grooves are.

Reassembly was straightforward. I took a couple of photos for the final 3 pieces, so was able to reference those to start the assembly. Call it cheating if you want, but when puzzles get complex, I like to use photos to help with the reassembly. After getting the first 3-4 pieces together correctly, the rest felt like familiar territory. I was able to get the final piece in and the puzzle reassembled surprisingly quick.

Overall, it’s another fantastic puzzle. I’m so happy to own all these puzzles as I really do think they will hold up over time as some of the most forward thinking grooved burrs out there.

In my opinion #5 is the easiest one so far.

I still have #6 to solve and recently purchased #7 as well. I don’t know how many of these Juno will make, but I’ll keep buying them to make sure I have the complete collection. As of this writing, there are still qty:25 board burr #7s available here. While I haven’t yet start fiddling with #7, if the previous ones are any indication, #7 will be the most challenging of them all. And I stand ready to take on the challenge.