Surprise! Perhaps it comes as no such thing that I am featuring this particular puzzle in this week’s post. Predictably I do seem to enjoy highlighting this craftsman’s creations around this time of year. His Big Ben, from a few years back, is still one of my all-time favorites. I even made a special cocktail to toast it with and celebrate its prize procuring status. Last year we joined him on a virtual tour of the Louvre to find an itty-bitty purloined painting, and before that, made a long distance phone call (for help picking the lock on his diabolical telephone box).
|Birthday Surprise by Brian Young|
This year we join Brian Young (aka Mr. Puzzle) and his wife Sue for a merry surprise, as only he can deliver. The “Birthday Surprise” is a very limited edition, sequential discovery puzzle box which holds a surprising reward, should you be clever enough to find it, perfectly protected inside. Like most of his prime puzzles, it is crafted from indigenous Queensland woods (Blackbean, Silver Ash and Blackbutt) which are arranged as identical adjoined halves and decorated with contrasting stripes of dark brown and white. On the top piece there is a laser etching of a festive tiered birthday cake, and it is all held firmly together by four imposing brass bolts. Which twist and turn in your grip pleasantly but do not loosen. There is perceptible, perhaps, something going on, which becomes apparent with these bolts, but not the helpful something of unscrewing.
|Baffling bolts of brass|
The story of the Birthday Surprise begins with a different puzzle, the “Three Wise Bolts”, which Brian initially imagined over three years ago (after watching an engineering video on the internet, the ultimate source for private puzzling inspiration). He took that idea and developed it into a workable, fantastically clever puzzle. Around that time he was approached to contribute to the mysterious “Jabberwocky” international puzzle project, a themed chest of incredibly profound proportion filled with contributions from fifteen artists around the world who remained tight-lipped about the proceedings. He modified his three bolt design into a cube with four bolts to satisfy the Jabberwocky size and shape requirements, and gave each half of the cube the hallmark striped shirts and brown pants of Tweedledum & Tweedledee, his theme for the project. Those original cubes bear a laser etching of their namesakes on the top and bottom, and have yet to see light of day in the completed Jabberwocky chest, which remains a mysterious beast only occasionally spotted in the wilds of England, possibly drinking from a teacup. Picture perfect in every way, Tweedledum & Tweedledee luckily slipped into the 2017 International Puzzle Design Competition and garnered a Top Ten Vote honor.
|Tweedletea and Tweedlerum|
Enough time has rippled past that Brian decided to complete and release the remaining stock of T&T puzzles, albeit with a flipped theme, to keep the original Jabberwocky puzzles undiluted and unique. The striped layers of the puzzle reminded him of a layered birthday cake, and the “surprise” inside just seemed to jump out at him after that - use your imagination, please (perhaps use his). The surprise serves as an excellent incentive to get those damn bolts off. It is otherwise an identical puzzle production to Tweedledum & Tweedledee, which is to say a wonderfully fun puzzle, with a few nice moments of discovery and understanding, and an incredibly satisfying “aha” moment at the end. Brian claims that the first few bolts should not be a hardship, promising that the real challenge lies with the last one. So of course it did not take me a week to get the first bolt off. Off course not. This perfect puzzle is also a likely indicator of how legendary the Jabberwocky chest is going to be, and acts as a little teaser to keep the myth (and myth maker) going.
|Chai tea and rum - sipping never had it so good|
As with the award winning Big Ben before it, I’ve created a special cocktail to toast the Birthday Surprise, with a nod to the original. The “Tweedletea & Tweedlerum” is a simple and effective riff on the classic daiquiri, one of my favorite drinks. A (good) daiquiri is equipped with the perfect combination of rum, lime and sugar, shaken with ice profusely, poured. Nothing more, nothing less. It was favored by inspired past personalities such as Hemingway and it instilled pregame pluck in Jack and Jaqueline Kennedy on election night as the ballots were tallied. In this version, the rum is split between a solid white using Plantation Silver (a blend of Caribbean rums with Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad in the mix, and perfect for daiquiris) and a flavorful amber using Denizen’s Merchant Reserve, a funky blend of pot still aged rums from Jamaica and Martinique. These two halves of the whole create a wonderful balance. The sugar comes from a Chai spiced tea syrup, which is delicious as well. But any rum and tea syrup combination will work, if you find yourself in need of recreating this drink and making a toast yourself. Here’s to inventive puzzling pairs, beguiling bolts, wonderful wood, auspicious Aussies and great gatherings. Cheers!
|A pleasant potion and puzzle partnership pairing|
Tweedletea and Tweedlerum
1 oz white rum (such as Plantation 3 Star)
1 oz dark rum (such as Denizen’s Merchant Reserve)
1 oz fresh lime
½ oz tea syrup
Shake together with ice and strain into a favorite glass (or tea cup). Garnish with a little lime wheel fellow. Imbibe pleasurably.
Previously from Brian Young:
Prior intoxicatingly pleasant potions:
p.s. In case it slipped past you, there is an informal puzzle penned into the page's prose. I posit very few can pinpoint all of the permutations properly. Three Wise Bolts to the premier proof of perfect perceptiveness. Hints provided upon request.