Goshen News, Goshen, IN

State News

January 12, 2014

IU library puzzle collection boggles the mind

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — In a room full of little mysteries, there is exactly one secret.

Among all the tangrams, the Rubik's Cubes, the interlocking rings — pieces meant to be played with and meant to be figured out — there is a puzzle that perhaps only one man knows for sure how to solve.

And he's not telling.

It's an old-fashioned Coke bottle with a wooden arrow going straight through the glass.

But how did the arrow get there in one solid piece, with ends wider than the holes cut through the glass?

"As soon as you learn the solution, you just lose all interest in it," Jerry Slocum, the puzzle expert and donor behind the puzzle collection at Indiana University's Lilly Library, told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/19Xj0oH ).

It's known as an impossible puzzle, coming from the field of magic. And magicians guard their tricks closely.

In hundreds of guesses that Slocum has heard, none of them have been right.

Of the other 35,000 puzzles in the collection, many come with a series of three hints to help you solve them. If you really get flummoxed, you can sneak a peek at the printed solution.

Unlike a museum, Slocum's collection invites you to experience the art and science of just about every puzzle imaginable — plus many mind-bogglingly complex, unfathomably clever ones.

The wonder of having a hands-on collection lies in letting you feel the frustration of trying seemingly every solution to a puzzle — say, trying to arrange angular pieces into a T shape.

You can feel your resistance to using the clues and your curiosity growing. And then you can feel that oh-so-satisfying triumph of figuring it out (even if, OK, maybe you needed a little bit of help).

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