Saturday, November 14, 2015

Writer's Block

At the risk of becoming boxed in, I present a box which turns things inside out for me, as I find myself inside of it.  The creative woodworker Tracy Woods Clemons, from Rochester, New York, has been making her designs in wood for many years.  Recently, she began to produce personalized puzzle boxes for a few collectors.  Her “Aurand” box, created for Jeffrey Aurand, had a few seasoned puzzlers quite entertained at the Rochester Puzzle Party earlier this year.  There were so many pieces I wonder if they got it all back together again properly.  Jim Strayer shared some nice photos of the “key” box she made for him as well, with its many, many drawers.  Otis Cheng discussed the box she created for him on Kevin Sadler’s blog, which is worth a read

The Writer's Block (aka "Into the Drink") by Tracy Woods Clemons

Tracy recently sent me a box as well.  The box is very impressive and has her signature style of wood contrasts and rustic details.  It has the appearance of a typical box, or even a chest of some sort, with an imposing wooden padlock keeping things well secured.  There is no name or announcement across the top, as in some of her work, but only a decorative frame about the top.  Tracy has named this the “Into the Drink” box, and I have taken the liberty of giving it a second name as well, “The Writer’s Block”.  Both names reflect the functioning and concepts hidden within.

First we will need to unlock it!

A hinge at the back suggests how things might open up, but that padlock will have to be reckoned with first.  Perusing the box reveals some lovely details which may or may not be helpful.  If you have seen her work before you might have some thoughts on this, but I will keep things semi cryptic here.  Taking a cue from Puzzlemad, I have placed some more revealing photos on a separate page, linked to at the end, if you are curious for spoilers.  Suffice it to say that a bit of exploration leads to the discovery of a few tools which are required to open that padlock.


Once removed, the box swings open and you discover that this is an old fashioned writing box.  Unfortunately, the internal sections are still securely fastened, of course.

An old fashioned writing desk!

The lower portion has an inviting keyhole ... but where is the key?

Hmmm, a keyhole, but no key ...

Persistent searching pays off eventually and an old fashioned metal key is discovered which fits the lock. 

The key fits ....

Lifting the lid reveals a surprise!

There is storage space for papers, pens, maybe a tablet for the modern wordsmith?  The two side compartments are locked up tight.  In the center is an odd, mostly hidden assortment of puzzle-like pieces, covered with sliding panels which only reveal a bit at a time.  You also discover that one of the tools you have found fits into these puzzle pieces perfectly.  The side panels are linked to this clever puzzle, which must be solved twice, once for each side, in order to open them.   

Now, what's in this top section?

The top of the lid has two sections.  A hidden keyhole admits the same trusty key to get you halfway there, revealing a space for storing some ... liquid inspiration.

The muse is calling ...

But should we imbibe straight from the bottle or be a bit more civilized?  A final trick with the versatile tool pops open the last compartment, where two old fashioned rocks glasses are stored and waiting.  The box reveals itself as the ultimate puzzle box and spirit lover's secretary - a true box and booze box.  Let's have a proper toast to this beautifully crafted, perfectly puzzling writing box and its creative designer.

Now, we are talking, as the saying goes.  Anyone care to join me?

Along with the bourbon, I present a delicious treat made with gin, green Chartreuse, simple syrup and egg white, created by Andrew Volk of Maine's Portland Hunt and Alpine Club.  Egg whites can add exceptional depth and texture to cocktails, as I have explained previously (including in the inauguralpost).  Chartreuse is an herbal liqueur from France with a long and colorful history.  As the story goes, the order of Chartreuse monks was already over 500 years old when an ancient manuscript was given to them in 1605, containing the secret recipe of 130 herbs and plants needed to create the “Elixir of Long Life”.  It wasn’t until 1737 that the manuscript was completely understood and the elixir was finally created.  A milder version, the green Chartreuse of today, was developed in 1764.  

The "Green Eyes" Cocktail by Andrew Volk

There’s more to the story, of course, but rumor has it that even today, the ancient recipe is known to only two old monks who initiate the complicated process in secret, each aware of only half the recipe, who have both taken a vow of silence.  Shhhhh.  They may even be the very same monks since 1605 ….  Here’s a toast to long life, secret recipes, ancient monks, modern marvels, writer’s block and puzzling pursuits.  Cheers.

This writer's block has the cure right on top.  And the inspirational solution hidden inside!

Green Eyes by Andrew Volk:

1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz green Chartreuse
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz egg white

Dry shake (no ice) then shake with ice, strain and garnish with a lime wheel.

For "spoiler" photos of the opening mechanisms see here.


  1. Glad u receive your box Steven. Your box seems very nice & it totally fits you and your blog! I wonder if the wine and the glass cups will break or not during shipping, but it'll be a very big surprise when you see it appear!

    1. Otis it is rather fragile for traveling. There's a story there I will tell you if we ever meet. I have it now though, all photos are from me.

  2. My goodness what a beautiful box! Tracy has hit the puzzle world with such a huge bang! I really must contact her to get my own box shaped sequential discovery puzzle! Or maybe it doesn't even have to be box shaped?


    1. Kevin she even makes non-box shaped puzzles! Look at what Goetz got, a whole board game! Maybe she can make you a shield burr for protection against "whacks" ...