Something will go here one day soon...Gaiety, merriment and dancing, etc.


Regular visitors here will have noticed the refurbishment is taking longer than expected.  This is mainly due to me getting very hooked on tracing my family history, which seems to have more skeletons than a medieval plague pit, and as many black sheep as a farm with several black sheep. 

Read about it here.

Martin's first big CR-APP

Martin's First Big CR-APP, the 2013 Croatian Annual Puzzle Party, held in the Croatian city of Split, on the Adriatic coast during October 2013 was a resounding success.  I wanted an unusual venue, and it certainly lived up to it’s nickname of “Split - The Difference”€ť.  Puzzle hunting has become too easy since the arrival of the internet, so part of the holiday involved driving through a minefield, surely the ultimate test of puzzle-hunting nerve?

A puzzler from all over Teddington attended, with partner, and together they celebrated puzzles in their many forms with several days of puzzle-related activities. These included puzzle hunting around the medieval alleyways of Diocletian's Palace, built by the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD; a visit to the Marjan woods, west of Split with a hunt for the long-lost stone and earthwork labyrinth in the beautiful local hillside; the world-famous Impossible Flight of Steps (do they go up or down?); an attempt at the three colossal mythical disentanglement puzzles high above Split, made from Split infinitive pine, and finally a nerve-tingling guided tour through an area of Croatia still hiding landmines from the internal conflict of the 1990s.  Click pictures to expand them.











Split, long famous for the traditional red and white chequerboard puzzles designed from its flag, is a city which has long suffered from an international vowel shortage and it is also from where the traditional party game of Hrvdgnkltnavdnvds originates.  It translates roughly as Split Logs, and can best be described as being like Jenga, but with aspects of Pickup Sticks or Spillikins (originally Split-ikins) thrown in, or rather, on, but using much larger, rough-hewn lengths of untreated branches, piled haphazardly. These piles are often seen in local parks, sheds and woodland, surrounded by bemused locals of all ages, carefully planning their next dendrological extraction. It is usually played against the clock, blindfolded.  Split is also the home of the eponymous -personality, -second, -level, -bill and of course, -headache. It is also known for the local delicacies, Split peas, Split mixer drinks, and of course bananas Split.




Left and below, various memories of puzzle-hunting in Croatia







We had arrived in Split at the end of September, not really expecting to find any puzzles, so I had a few evergreens with me, as well as one of my own design. Our first day in Split involved a walk around the maze of 15th century lanes, exploring the street market which is said to offer one of everything on the planet, then a visit to the Giant Gold Toe, which is said to offer untold wealth and Happiness and new puzzles, to all who rub it.  While wandering through one of the many squares which don't have any right-angles, nor sides of equal length, I came across the only shop in Split selling puzzles. At the west side of one of the city's finest irregular trapeziums I suddenly found a window display of puzzles, which I soon depleted, by adding many of its contents to my own collection.


The pictures show a 12-piece cube-edge assembly, a six-piece boxd burr, an intricate laser-cut comb burr and a radically different cube entanglement. This last came in three designs, this one being the most difficult.  Now why didn’t I think of that...?








Right and above, a few non-local additions to the collection.



My own imported additions to the Big CR-APP are also shown, and should be instantly recognisable, with the exception of my own design, "Watson's Sixteen Reasons". This last- mentioned consists of 16 tetromino L-pieces, two-colour-checkered in all possible ways.  The solver must arrange them in an 8x8 tray so that the white area is contiguous, and the black area likewise.  This design is (c) 2010 Martin H. Watson and available for use as an Exchange Puzzle. Contact me for details and permission to produce more than a single copy for your own use.











One of the highlights of Martin's First Big CR-APP was "The Flounders Deception”ť, a popular game which sees puzzlers firstly visiting the local fish market to purchase the much-needed sack of Flounders, before surreptitiously sidling up to unsuspecting non-participants, and slipping a flounder into their trouser pocket or bag or even hat. First to empty their sack or barbecue the contents wins.





The next day saw us puzzle-hunting on the wooded hills west of the city. Alice the Puzzling Object (she always objects to puzzles) was first to spot the bizarre log and rope configurations near a picnic area. Resembling and named after creatures such as the butterfly and the gull, these are believed to be among the world's largest playable puzzles, and date back to at least last year.  Close by was a giant double-sided rendition of the popular memory matching game, as well as a primitive hopscotch variant, featuring insects, crispy critters and various woodland creatures.










Giant puzzles of Marjan.







One of the big mysteries of the day featured the word 'Labyrint', roughly near the end of the word “Marjan” on the vague map (above) I had of the popular weekend walking area.  Could it, perhaps, be linked with our word 'Labyrinth' or even with the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, an old legend ever-popular in these Mediterranean climes? In conjunction with NASA's GPS satellites, invisibly circling overhead, we followed a dirt road, then onto a path, then a track, then turned northwards pushing through bracken, struggling to gain a hold on the rocky, possibly snake-infested hillside.  No footsteps of earlier explorers were to be seen.  I will let the following photos complete the story of our search for the mysterious set of carefully arranged stones.

















One unexpected puzzle find (above) happened 450 metres up a craggy hillside near Omis, just down the coast from Podstrana where we stayed. We have been geocaching (it is sort of looking for Tupperware lunch boxes in strange hidden places, avoiding the Croatian minefields) for ten years, but very rarely outside the UK. The pictures below show our rocky scramble up a hillside past an avalanche fence (don’t try to free the chain...) to a fortress high above Omis.  My research (five minutes earlier) had shown that there was a cache nearby.  Hidden under a pile of rocks (we checked for snakes first) we quickly found the treasure. I cannot remember ever finding one so easily.  I can only guess that high up there were no obstructions to corrupt the accuracy of the GPS signals. Inside I found this small plastic advertising dexterity puzzle.  I think it advertises a charity for old horses - Google calls it “Hippo-therapy”.  I left akuna.  While the ascent had been steep and rocky, the route down was slippery on scree and loose soil, through wonderful scented pine forests. This was nott the nearest cache to our base, but the one listed as closest specified the essential use of mountaineering tackle!!!

















All in all Martin's First Big CR-APP was a memorable and rewarding exploration of this beautiful Balkan city and its surrounds. By coincidence, it coincidentally coincided with Summer 1983, which was possibly almost near the time 29-31 years ago when I might have first met Ray Bathke and Kevin Holmes at their respective puzzle shops in London's Camden and Covent Garden markets.

Ever since our visit to Split I talk a lot of Balkans...








Above, picture 1, another giant disentanglement puzzle, 2-4 a mystery object, at least until Alice had the sense to open the Braille tourist guide box, other pictures from Martin's First Big CR-APP.


Below, I saw this object, motionless above Split airport to the north at sunset. It was visible for many minutes. Purpose unknown. Picture 2, this is actually an extensible rod for taking self-photos over waterfalls. And I thought taking photos with iPads was stupid!





Below left, this is a giant wine cup, made from heavily-scented pine, which holds in excess of a litre of wine. I managed to understand the complex mechanism. Below right, the tour guides played cards with an Italian set while we partied.










Above and left, the journey through the minefield. Close examination will show the warning signs, although apparently these are often removed by locals so as not to scare tourists.  True.

I started this web site in about 1998.  As of Autumn 2016 it is getting its biggest ever refurbishment. 

My goals are to include more current information, more pictures, no dead links, consistent format and typeface, better readability on more screens, and to get rid of characters that display badly.  But no free beer.

It is a bit untidy and experimental ...but just wait...

Text first, then pictures to be replaced.