Saturday, September 9, 2017

Wheels in Motion and Blocks Unlocked (Apothecary Part II)

Moving along the bottom row of the Apothecary Chest (introduced in Part I) we come next to one of the more distinct and recognizable “drawers” in the chest, Peter Wiltshire’s “Ferris Box”.  Distinct because unlike most of the drawers, the external face is quite unique.  Once you remove the box, or if you have seen it before, you notice that all six sides of the cube are the same.  Actually that is not entirely true if you are holding one of the original puzzles from the Apothecary Chest – on those, there is an additional panel which Robert Yarger fashioned to hold the box inside the chest.  This comes off easily enough and the true puzzle begins.  The box is a framed cube, with a contrasting maple exterior and a patterned walnut interior which is sectioned into nine small squares on each face.  The box holds a secret, given away slightly by its name, which will put a smile on your face.  The movement is unique and surprising.  So much so, and with such a clever and satisfying solution, that the puzzle box won the Jury First Prize in the 2012 International Puzzle Design Competition.   Peter is a cinematographer, and clearly likes the motion in motion-picture.  This is one movie I’d watch over and over.

Ferris Box by Peter Wiltshire

I’m toasting Peter Wilthshire’s fine box with another tribute to the fantastical flight of fancy which first debuted at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (“World’s Columbian Exposition”).  The 264 foot high structure of spokes invented by George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. resembled a giant bicycle wheel and represented a technological marvel of the time which had fair goers dizzy with excitement. The Ferris Wheel cocktail from San Francisco mixologist Summer-Jane Bell might also make your head spin.  Featuring sweet pear liqueur and the French aperitif Suze, it is finished off with a wheat style beer.  I swapped the wheat beer for a grapefruit style radler from Texas’s Shiner brewery, which did not disappoint. This spin on a beer cocktail goes perfectly with the Ferris Box and is an equally giddy experience.

Ferris Wheel by Summer-Jane Bell

Next to the Ferris Box is another unique drawer in that it functions very differently than any other in the chest.  “Blocks Away” was designed and created by Ron Locke, a friend to the puzzle box world who is no longer with us.  Ron’s boxes are fanciful affairs full of mystery, legend and romance.  He even used gold leaf gilding on some of his designs, and his boxes came with a puzzling riddle in lieu of instructions.  Blocks Away is no less impressive despite the toned down nature of the box, to meet the requirements of the larger chest.  The box has two red wood blocks visible from the front, and when the drawer is removed from the chest, one finds two more along the sides.  These function like a maze burr puzzle, and must be navigated through an intricate dance if one hopes to access the secrets which wait inside the box.  Which is also necessary, whether you like it or not, because other critical elements of the meta-puzzle are housed inside.  I must admit that while opening the box was a challenge for me, closing it up, back to the original positions, was even worse.  I managed it once, and foolishly opened it again.  That’s all I’m going to say about that right now.  It’s sad to know that Ron Locke won’t be making such wonderful creations anymore, and we will treasure the ones he managed to share with the world.

Blocks Away by Ron Locke

Can't seem to get these blocks away

For Locke’s box (a lovely ring to it, no?) I’ve got more locks.  I don’t have socks, although keep your “chin” up - we’ll get to that later.  I’m revisiting an old favorite cocktail I featured in a different version previously, for another fine lock.  The “Lock Pick” is a wonderful summer sipper with bourbon and ice tea.  I featured my own version of it along with Shane Hale’s Haleslock 2 a while back, and now I present it in the original form for Locke’s box.  The drink was created for Larceny bourbon (hence the illicit name) but works well with your favorite corn and whiskey mash too.  I used pomegranate juice rather than liqueur, which is also delicious, but I added more sugar syrup to make up for it.  So mix up one of these bourbon tea treats and go pick a lock – any of Ron’s fine puzzles will do.  Cheers!

The Lock Pick 

Congratulations, we’ve made it past the first set of challenges.  Stay tuned as we move on to phase two of the apothecary box.

Ferris Wheel by Summer-Jane Bell
1 ½ oz William’s Pear Liqueur
½ oz Suze or similar gentian aperitif
½ oz lemon juice
1 ½ oz soda water
1 ½ oz German Weisse style beer (I used Shiner’s Ruby Redbird)
Shake all but the beer together with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Top with the beer and set the wheels in motion.

This pair will make your head spin


The Lock Pick
1 ½ oz bourbon
¾ oz pomegranate liqueur
¾ oz lemon juice
3 oz iced tea (such as orange pekoe)
 ½ oz simple syrup
Shake all but tea together over ice and strain into an ice filled glass.  Top off with the tea and give it a little stir as you lean back and relax.  Cheers!

I'd pick these locks any day

For more about Robert Yarger:

For the previous Apothecary Chest drawers:

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