Saturday, October 24, 2015

High-Brow Hybrids

Puzzle classification has been a puzzling endeavor over the centuries and I will not presume to generalize about it, but will merely quote James Dalgety and Edward Hordern, who defined it this way: "A puzzle is a problem having one or more specific objectives, contrived for the principle purpose of exercising one's ingenuity and/or patience.  A mechanical puzzle is a physical object comprising one or more parts which falls within the above definition."  Additionally, they define 14 separate puzzle classes.  All of the puzzle boxes and even the non-boxes which have been featured here fall into the category “Opening Puzzles (OPN)”.  But puzzles, like people (and blogs) are not always so easily defined, and quite often cross into multiple categories (like people, and blogs).  A beautiful hybrid puzzle, created by Kagen Sound (a man whose very name is a lovely hybrid), is the Cocobolo Maze Burr.  This stunning piece of puzzle art is made with cocobolo, ebony and holly woods, and is an evolved version of his award winning "Maze Burr" puzzle, which was the “puzzle of the year”, winning both the people’s choice and jury grand prize awards in the 2006 NobYoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition.  

The Cocobolo Maze Burr by Kagen Sound

That original puzzle was a hybrid itself, functioning as a “burr” puzzle, which is a classic take apart puzzle design comprised of multiple pieces which form a “burr” three dimensional, usually symmetrical, shape.  The maze burr came apart into its multiple components of sticks and panels, but utilized a variable maze on each sliding panel, which could be reprogrammed to increase the complexity of the puzzle, from 7 all the way up to 116 moves.  John Rausch collaborated on the mathematical configuration of possible panel positions and moves.  The maze burr is therefore a sequential movement (maze) / burr hybrid.  Each side consists of two separate panels which shift at right angles to one another, with their motion restricted by a rune like maze carved into the uppermost panel and a peg attached to the lower panel.  As one panel shifts, it blocks or releases the motion of a different panel.  The cocobolo maze burr adds to the hybrid by turning the structure into an actual puzzle box, such that once it is opened, it does not come apart into the individual components but retains its structure as a functional box.  Inside are stored more maze plates which can be swapped to adjust the complexity of the puzzle.  The contrasting colors of the beautiful hardwoods and the pleasing fluid motion of the box as you slide the panels this way and that is a calming experience, enjoyable even if you are totally lost in the myriad movements and never open the box.  This puzzle combines the best of many styles into a masterpiece of form and function.  

The rune-like mazes on each outer panel can be configured to create up to 116 possible moves-to-open

To compliment this modern masterpiece we will craft another modern classic, which owes its origins to a few happy hybrids as well.  The combination of equus asinus and equus caballus is a launching point for this famous cocktail, in a way.  Not so coincidentally, October 26 is also “National Mule Day”.  The Moscow Mule dates to 1941 when two friends, John Martin, the new American owner of the Smirnoff vodka brand, and Jack Morgan, the owner and purveyor of “Cock n’ Bull” ginger beer, came up with a marketing ploy to boost flagging sales of their respective wares.  They dubbed it the “Moscow Mule” in reference to the Russian born vodka and the tart and spicy “kick” it packed from the lime and ginger beer.  They commissioned fancy copper mugs and photographed their creation all about town.  It became an instant hit with the LA Hollywood scene and revived the entire Smirnoff brand.  

The Gin-Gin Mule by Audrey Saunders

The Moscow Mule is a delicious drink, but I’m not a huge fan of vodka, and besides, we need another hybrid / variation before we’re finished.  Audrey Saunders, the famed mixologist behind SoHo’s Pegu Club in Manhattan, (and creator of the amazing "Old Cuban" cocktail) created another modern classic with her “Gin-Gin Mule”, which essentially substitutes gin for the vodka.  The Pegu Club was revolutionary when it opened in 2005, by simply using fresh and homemade ingredients in its classic cocktails.  You might say it helped put the “craft” in craft cocktails.  Imbibe magazine even named the Gin-Gin Mule one of the “25 most influential cocktails of the past century”.   And with its simple combination of gin, mint, lime juice, simple syrup and ginger beer, you shouldn't wait to craft one of these for yourself.  Cheers to these marvelous modern mashups.

A pair of happy high-brow hybrids

For more on puzzle classification:

For more about Kagen Sound:

For more about the Moscow Mule:

For the recipe to Audrey Saunder’s Gin-Gin Mule:

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful puzzle - you should have a look at the version made by Tom Lensch which functions as a proper burr puzzle too because you have to construct the whole frame. It also has the advantage of a spring mechanism to allow the maze to be setup without having to do it in reverse first.

    Any drink with gin in it is a good one for me! I heartily approve of substituting gin for the vodka. Now that reminds me - I'm thirsty!