Saturday, April 15, 2017

What's Knot to Love?

This is not a typical box and booze review.  I should actually say that this is knot.  First of all, I’m going to take us back in history to the ancient Greeks and the time of Alexander the Great.  Second of all, I’m going to cut through all that nonsense with a mighty stroke of the pen.  Just go with it, it will all make sense in a moment.

Gordian Knot by Robert Yarger and Rick Jenkins

The legend of the Gordian Knot dates back to ancient Macedonia, when a prophecy telling of a man driving an oxcart into the capital city of Phrygia came true and Gordia became king.  His son, Midas (a touchy fellow), offered the famed oxcart to the god Zeus in gratitude and secured it in the town square with an intricate, complicated knot which could never be untied.  The rope was made from Cornel bark of the Cornelian cherry tree, a flowering species of dogwood which produces little red fruits.  In 333 B.C., Alexander of Macedonia, the great conqueror of ancient Greece, entered the city of Gordium and learned of the prophesy that whoever could unravel the knot was destined to rule all of Asia.  Truth be told, he could not untie it, but he had better idea.  The “Alexandrian Solution” ensued, whereby he cleaved the great knot in two with a swift stroke of his sword.

Beautiful interwoven strands of exotic wood

Fast forward two thousand plus years and we have the “Yarger Solution”, which definitely frowns upon the use of any sharp object to untie this knot.  The Gordian Knot is Number 22 in the Stickman puzzlebox series, and like its legendary ancestor, has cords of wood which wrap around the box in an intricately interwoven pattern.  The inspiration for this box came from the idea of making a sliding tile puzzle which literally wrapped itself all around the sides of a box and was not merely limited to a single flat surface.  Add to that the interlocking nature of these 130 intertwined pieces, crafted from leftover bits of exotic wood from prior puzzle boxes, and you have the visually stunning and deceptively difficult Gordian Knot puzzlebox.  There are a minimum of 36 steps to discover along the way, including a few pieces which are released completely from the box as it untangles itself.  Most moves are quite difficult to determine and may be found on another side of the box entirely from the move prior.  Some moves are incredibly well disguised due to the shape of the piece, or the solver’s (misguided) expectations. Eventually, if you are as wise as Alexander, a keyhole will be revealed.  Ah, but where is the key? It’s likely that you have it already, waiting to be reconfigured from the pieces you have removed off of the box.  The finale of this box, which is a true joy to solve up to this point already, is absolutely outstanding. The Gordian Knot is one of the most satisfying puzzle boxes I have experienced and is easily one of my all time favorites from Robert Yarger.

The Alexandrian Solution

For such a special box I have an equally special toast which also hearkens back to ancient days.  The cornelian cherry tree, whose bark was used to make the original Gordian Knot, produces little red berries as mentioned.  The flavor of this fruit has been described as a cross between cranberry and sour cherry.  Of course, there is a long history of using this fruit in the making of various regional liqueurs and spirits in parts of the Middle East and Europe.  For example, “kornelkirsch” is found in the Austrian and German Alps.  Since it’s not readily available in the US, I created my own cornel berry kirsch by infusing cranberry liqueur with sour amarena cherries.  Mmmmmm. Not content with just the delicious liqueur, I created a variation of a classic cocktail called “The Last Word”.  The history of this pre-prohibition era drink places it as early as 1916, where it was featured for 35 cents as the most expensive cocktail on the menu at the Detroit Athletic Club.  The Last Word is a perfectly balanced cocktail using equal portions of gin, green Chartreuse,  maraschino liqueur and lime juice.  There are literally hundreds of variations using this basic template, although not all are as perfect.  I love the combination of smoky mezcal with cherries, so in my version, “The Alexandrian Solution”, mezcal meets cornel kirsch and the rest is history.  Cheers!

It's the Last Word in Macedonian Cocktails ...

The Alexandrian Solution

¾ oz mezcal
¾ oz sour cherry infused cranberry liqueur
¾ oz green Chartreuse
¾ oz fresh lime juice

Shake together over ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Commence dispensing with complex problems brilliantly.

Complexity knotwithstanding, these solutions are elegant

For more about Robert Yarger:

For prior Stickman puzzles see:

3 comments:

  1. This is one of the two Stickman boxes that I'm really quite desperate to get for my collection. I very much doubt that I'll ever manage it but I live in hope!

    Kevin
    Puzzlemad

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope springs eternal, Kevin! I'm knot just saying that ...

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the pun! I'm knot just crossing my finger, I'm knotting them up!
      Unfortunately I've more or less lost all hope!

      Delete