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Blog posts in 2014

April — What do the words mean?

Someone asked if I could translate the words on the puzzle on the right, so here we are. This is this year's pun: it is the year of the horse (uma)...

Uma-ku-iku

Since this is written vertically (as almost all traditional writing is), read the columns from right to left, numbered 1 to 8.

1大丈夫Dai-jō-buOK!
2萬事banjiEverything
3まあるくma-a-rukuroundly...
4馬九行くuma-ku-iku(nine horses go)
5うまくいく。umaku iku.goes well.
6笑顔満開Egao mankaiBig wide smile...
7しあわせ街道shiawase kaidōhappy road...
8まっしぐら。masshigura.full speed ahead!

Well, no-one said translating poetry is easy! It is very hard to convey the warmth of words, as opposed to their superficial meaning. But anyway, see how lines 3 and 4 repeat the uma-ku-iku pun to make sure no-one misses it: "Horse-nine-go / well (umaku) - go."

We are increasing the range of puzzles like this: collected together on this page: Art with words. I will always try to add some explanation, but I'm afraid it not always possible to provide a neat and complete translation. Remember that you can find out an amazing amount from Wiktionary — just paste Japanese words into the box, and with luck you will get an English explanation.

June — Puzzle fun

It has been a long time since I did a serious puzzle myself, so I resolved to tackle one of the Epoch (really very) small piece ones: standard 1000 size, but 2542 pieces. And I wanted to do a Horaguchi picture, because they really look fun... and my idea of fun with a puzzle means not looking at the box, avoiding the hunt-and-try stuff, just watching a picture emerge from chaos.

So first some preliminary sorting, then seize on any distinctive colours and textures... the first picture on the right shows some stripey bits, and the beginnings of a piano (the other reason I chose this one, being the most musical puzzle I recall). Meanwhile the box looks like a pink nightmare.

A day or two later, progress is being made. Then disaster! The clumsiest member of the Chandler family (the last one) hurls a carton of milk over the top right corner* of the puzzle. Perhaps at least milk was fairly innocuous: I mopped up, and dried everything carefully overnight; by the morning, there was no sign of obvious damage to the pieces at all.

* The "top right corner" is the one with the pale blue and green bits; shortly to become the lower right corner, since I decided to work with the other way up.

Beginning to make real progress... I had long expected that the two bits of music score might join end to end, but now a creeping suspicion set in that the central "rainbow" bit needed to be turned through 90 degrees.

At last! The major bits I've done so far join together, and the piano looks plausible now...

Updates to follow... Um, disaster number two

Another member of the family (not me!) managed to come back from the print shop without the memory card holding my carefully made sequence of photos showing the puzzle taking its final shape. Sadly, desperate searches have not been successful, so there will just be a finished photo to follow shortly.

So here it is — the finished puzzle...

November — Tenyo puzzles

We are currently having difficulties getting supplies of Tenyo puzzles, so much so that it is impossible not to wonder quite what is going on. The new Tenyo catalog (first for two years) was promised in July (at the Toy Show in June), then promised in October, currently promised in November, but has yet to materialise. A huge number are out of stock, including the best-selling "All-star stained glass" 1000-piece; last week out of the total of 35 Tenyo titles we ordered, just three arrived. The Disney calendar, which appeared in September, and generated lots of orders, was unavailable by the beginning of October, and it seems unlikely that any more will be produced. I apologise for any disappointment, but please be assured that we are doing all we can to get more stock, and we can only hope that the situation stablises at some point in the near future.

Update 11 November The catalog is now promised "early December"... and we have been told the calendar puzzle is in fact discontinued.

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