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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Will This One Really Be Better Than The Others? - SkepTIC



As I was meandering down the TIC path, my good buddy, let’s call him Andrew, advised me to take a different turn this time.  Recent puzzles reviewed from the ACROSTIC series had pieces that could be taken out in 1 move.  Andrew suggested that I quit my whining and just pick a puzzle requiring several moves to free the first piece.  With that in mind, I decided to have a go at SkepTIC, requiring 10 moves before something can be removed.

Would it be possible to like this puzzle more than the previous ones?  Would the larger number of moves required to remove something from the puzzle up front make it more interesting?  Would the lack of space fillers compromise the remainder of the design?   These are questions that a puzzle with a name like SkepTIC begs to be answered.

When I attended by First IPP, I handed out a business card with my contact information, and on the back, I had a single line at the bottom: 10.1.1.1 | 8.3.2.1 | 1.12.2.1 ?  The purpose of this query was to spark a discussion on what type of puzzle people preferred with respect to where the number of moves is allocated across the disassembly: 1 - The puzzle where all the moves are required to get the first piece out followed by a trivial disassembly of the rest of the pieces, 2 - The puzzle with moves more evenly spaced across the pieces (although you can still see my bias of favoring earlier pieces), 3 - The delayed gratification puzzle where the first piece (or several pieces) can be trivially removed, opening space for a piece requiring a greater number of moves later on.  I always considered myself somewhere between 1 and 2 until I came across Andrew’s TICs in the third category.  Although they have pieces that can be trivially removed at the beginning, the extraordinary sequence of moves to solve the remaining few pieces makes it all worthwhile.

SkepTIC is a 4x4x4 cubic dissection puzzle developed by the TIC master Andrew Crowell.  Of course, it requires many rotations to solve the puzzle.  From my own observations, the level of difficulty for this puzzle is 10.3.3.6.  I need to mention that this is different from Andrew’s documented level of 12.1.3.5 due to differences in how the moves are computed.  The cause for the 10.3 vs 12.1 difference was the catalyst for the EnigmaTIC puzzle design described in the prior post: Is Metagrobological Science Broken? - EnigmaTIC.  I don’t specifically mention what it is here, since it provides a minor clue about the solution.  As for the removal of the final piece where I have 6 moves and Andrew has 5, well, this piece requires 4 rotations and I suspect that one of my non-rotational moves was included in one of Andrew’s rotational moves.  Things get tricky when rotations are involved and they are not as easy to track as rectilinear moves.  It’s also possible that Andrew’s program translates and rotates pieces simultaneously thus treating this as one move.

So how is SkepTIC as a puzzle?   I found the assembly to follow a logical sequence of steps and was surprised how quickly the puzzle came together.  With only 5 pieces, it was fairly easy to determine where all the pieces needed to be.  Getting them there is all the fun and I didn’t find this one to be that difficult.  Even with the piece requiring 4 rotations to get in place, I was able to quickly envision the steps required and execute it without issue.  I suspect that some of this may be from quite a bit of TIC experience at this point.  The final 10 moves to get everything packed into a cube was brilliant and thoroughly enjoyable.

SkepTIC is great puzzle with a solid design and a lot of appeal.  However, I found it quite a bit easier than the recent type 3 puzzles that I’ve been reviewing and I missed struggling with the pieces to get them together.  Having said all that, I really liked the 10-move sequence before something separates from the puzzle and have run through that process many times.  It is a must-have for a burr guy like myself.

This is the fifth post of the monthly Andrew Crowell Rotations and Obstructions Series - Turning Interlocking Cubes (ACROSTIC).  You can find the prior posts of the series here:

6 comments:

  1. very well spoken , I made a modell od Skep-TIC for my collection today and I agree with Zenpuzzler;especially the 10 moves sequence is great and makes fun; I had to try it moretimes to find the correct combination; I mad my modell in black (wenge wood, like the crow) + cherry for the smaller pieces

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    1. Must be beautiful in Wenge and Cherry!

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  2. This brings up an interesting point. As a designer, trying to decide what makes a puzzle good. Is clever better if it's also easy? Is more difficult but less clever better? And what is more difficult: more total moves, more moves for the first piece, more pieces, or more rotations? The answer probably varies for each person. But I'll find a puzzle without a ridiculous number of moves or pieces that will stump you someday!

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    1. All puzzles are good puzzles! The trick is to find the right audience for each one. Thank you for making me a target.

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  3. Then there are the puzzles that have a low move count -- 1.1.1.2.2 for example -- but the sequence is forced, and/or the pieces are very similar, so the route to the solution remains unclear. Throw in a rotation or two, and such a puzzle can be as clever, frustrating, confusing, satisfying as the other puzzles. -Tyler.

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    1. "clever, frustrating, confusing, satisfying" pretty much sums up my solving process.

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