Occasionally I write things to a friend somewhere, and then feel that someone else might find the article useful, so I've decided (June 2003) to start putting these articles here, in no particular order. They are not meant to be great works of literary merit, just a repository for things that someone might need one day. There is a similar non-puzzle-related page here.
A quick tip, that I've been meaning to mention for a while. You know how you spend hours working on a puzzle and the last piece doesn't fit? Then you put the puzzle away, and two days later you find the last piece, that you forgot to put away with the rest of the puzzle? Well, devise a special box or drawer for any such pieces, so that when you next retrieve a puzzle and find it has a piece missing, you'll know exactly where to look. I call my such place the Green Box, as it is green and boxy. This might seem an obvious solution to odd pieces, but if so, WHY DIDN'T YOU SUGGEST IT TO ME FIRST?!?!?!? On a rainy day, get all the odd pieces out and invent a new puzzle!!
Do the same with an envelope for any rules, solutions, notes etc., that you mislay.
Another quick tip which might already seem obvious, refers to disentanglement puzzles. Before you start, one way of being sure that you know what it originally looked like is to use a digital camera to take a few pictures. Even better is to film some video of the puzzle, ideally turning it round as you shoot. One of those revolving cake-icing tables is excellent. Use software that allows you to save the video as individual stills.
I am a very eclectic puzzle collector. If I like it I collect it. I do not collect every puzzle I see, but equally, if I like two similar variations of the same puzzle, they both join the collection. I enjoy Sliding Piece Puzzles, Burrs, Interlocking puzzles, tessellations, Cube assemblies, Disentanglements.
I have less interest in secret opening boxes – once you’ve opened them, they’re not so interesting , and puzzle vessels – a potential waste of good beer!
Before I met Alice I used to play Go, the Japanese board game, but as she doesn’t like games I found solace in the arms of the Muse of Metagrobology. My long-time interest stepped up several gears in the mid-nineties after seeing some wrought iron puzzles in a UK shop. As they were of US origin, the price changed from dollars to an equal number of pounds, so I decided to order them direct from the manufacturers in America. The lady I spoke to advised me to buy Jerry Slocum’s ‘Puzzles Old and New’ (see my books section). I was a bit dubious about buying a book unseen, but from the day I received it I’ve never looked back.
I openly admit to not being a very good solver. I am a hopeless craftsman. My skills are based on some wisdom I heard once, “Measure with a micrometer, mark with chalk, cut with an axe!” I have discovered I also enjoy designing puzzles. Each time I have a new idea, I always feel I’ll never have another one!