Saturday, September 23, 2017

Key Turnings (Apothecary Part IV)

Delving deeper into the secrets of the Apothecary Chest brings us to the next two puzzles found in section two.  At this point, if you have been paying careful attention, you will have discovered a few things along the journey.  Hopefully!  Now we come to another one of the more distinctive drawers in the chest, instantly recognizable thanks to the padlock attached to its face.  The drawer slides out and you are holding Peter Hajek’s “Now What?” box.  Peter’s puzzles instantly taunt you with their name, suggesting there is more than meets the eye in store.  What do you mean, now what?  Clearly you need to unlock the padlock, it’s obvious.  Like his “How?” box, the name provokes you.  He’s thrown down the gauntlet.  It’s a clever strategy, as we tend to confuse things more when under duress.  Peter’s box does not let you down.  You’ll soon be saying, “Now What?” over and over.  

Now What? by Peter Hajek

The puzzle is so well designed and clever, it stands out as one of the best of the bunch in the chest.
The box itself is very nicely made from contrasting wood and has a geometric patterned design.  There is a little padlock on the front, locking a brass latch which appears to be holding the hinged lid down.  If you’re lucky enough to have discovered a key by now, you might find that it even fits the lock!  Ahhh, but does it work?  Did you really think it would?  Now What?!?  Peter Hajek understands human nature and how we go about solving puzzles, and uses this knowledge against us.  He has designed what can be considered a “puzzler’s puzzle” which will require you to use all your skills of observation, logic and ingenuity to solve.  It’s an extremely satisfying puzzle box and would easily make a “Best Puzzles of the Year” list – something Peter Hajek compiles from puzzle collectors around the world at the end of each year to coincide with his End of Year Puzzle Party (EPP), where collectors gather to share their favorite finds from the prior year.  Solving the Now What? box is also key to the Apothecary Chest, as it holds another critical piece of the metapuzzle inside.

The Five Keys cocktail

To toast the Now What? box I present the “Five Keys” cocktail, a delightful riff on the classic Manhattan. As you may know, the Manhattan is one of the all time classics of the cocktail world, and that seemed perfectly appropriate for this incredible classic from Peter Hajek, which is sure to go down in the puzzle history books for all time.  The Manhattan, a tasty combination of whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters, likely originated in the second half of the nineteenth century, with the first written description appearing in 1882.  Many stories of its invention exist, and none are certain, but it was most certainly named to celebrate the famous island in New York.  The original recipes from the turn of the twentieth century add various dashes of sugar and flavor, such as absinthe, or curacao, and included maraschino liqueur and orange bitters.  The Five Keys cocktail is a bit of a nod to the past – perhaps an homage to the five boroughs – in that it includes maraschino, and adds a touch of flavor in the form of Cynar, a delicious Italian Amaro.  Originally created for Blade and Bow whiskey, the Five Keys will unlock your appreciation with any fine whiskey, even if it doesn’t help you unlock the Now What? box.

Now what? Open the box and drink the cocktail, obviously.

The Five Keys

1 1⁄3 oz Whiskey (originally with Blade and Bow)
3⁄4 oz sweet vermouth
1⁄4 oz Cynar
1⁄4 oz Maraschino liqueur (I used cranberry liqueur, which was delicious)

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Garnish with the key to a great puzzle.

Next we’ll go for a little spin around the block as we drive over to Hajek’s neighbor, Chinnomotto.  Just next door to Hajek, on the Apothecary Chest at least, resides a drawer which is truly the only actual drawer in the whole chest.  Inside rests a circular lid, a little rod of some sort, and a cylindrical puzzle nestled inside a pink sock which is decorated with laces and a bow.  This can only be from the twisted turnings of our friendly Australian dentist, Stephen Chin.  Chinny, as he is fondly known by his friends, is a master wood turner and has produced some endearingly elegant creations on his lathe such as One Pinko Ringo and Ze Orange.  

If your puzzle is wearing a sock it can only mean one thing ...

His puzzles often carry a few of his hallmarks, including tiny electronic lights and sounds which are triggered when the puzzle has been solved.  He is also quite fond of whistles and spinning tops.  And his puzzles are often wrapped up in a cute sock.  Odd?  Well, at least now you know where all your mismatched socks have gone.  Exploring his “Spinnomotto” puzzle from the Apothecary Chest reveals that all of his favorite idiosyncrasies are in attendance.  The sock is obvious.  The little rod turns out to be a whistle, which fits into the lid to make a spinning top.  And the cylinder is indeed a puzzle box, with a clever mechanism keeping it quiet.  Until you discover how to open it, at which point tiny lights and electronic music ensue.  Which make you smile, despite how annoying it is!  Chin’s spin on the puzzle chest is a welcome change of pace and as endearing as all of his work.

Spinnomotto by Stephen Chin

I’m toasting the Spinnomotto with another great spin, the “Spin Move” cocktail from Houston native, Speed Rack Champion and LA Rising Star Bartender Yael Vengroff.  She tapped into her experiences in Mumbai, India for this one with the addition of green cardamom pods, which add an exotic, warm spice to the drink.  Based with a mix of blended scotch and cognac, this sour is sweetened with elderflower liqueur and the resulting combination will make your head spin.  It’s a delicious drink for a delightful box.  Here’s to the fantastic twists that unlock the mysteries in life.  Cheers!

Spin Move by Yael Vengroff

Spin Move by Yael Vengroff

3 green cardamom pods
3⁄4 oz scotch blend (org. Dewar’s White Label)
3⁄4 oz cognac (orig. D’USSÉ)
3⁄4 oz lemon
1⁄2 oz simple syrup
1⁄2 oz elderflower liqueur (org. St-Germain)
1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Garnish with a lime top and take it for a spin.

These two are the tops!

For more about Robert Yarger:


For the previous Apothecary Chest drawers:

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