May 24th, 2007


A geek with too much time on his hands

So, a buddy had a "third" birthday party last weekend - he was turning 33 1/3, which is a third of a century, so invert and multiply, and the theme of the party was stuff you used to do when you were three years old.

As we left the party, his wife was giving out little bags of candy and toys - the sort of thing you'd get in a plastic bubble from a 25 cent vending machine. One of my toys was a "burr" puzzle - plastic blocks that interlock into a pretty shape, and if you tug on one, they all come apart into your hands, never to get put back together again. And then one piece falls behind the couch and the dog eats another piece, and at that point you throw out the pieces you can find, except one piece shows up two years later.

Appropriate for a young child, though. Not too young, because of the choking hazard. Needless to say, the puzzle stumped me - I could get 5 of the six pieces put back together, but unlike Rubik's Cube, 5/6 isn't really good enough.

So, geek that I am, I wrote a program to solve the puzzle for me. Right away, it spit out one answer, and then shortly thereafter, it gave me another one:

As you can tell, they're not just rotations of the same solution. I feel slightly more justified for writing code to solve the puzzle, as I doubt that I would have found a second solution once I found the first.