Saturday, April 16, 2016

How to Hale a Billionaire

How? does one describe the results of a seasoned puzzler teaming up with an expert craftsman to produce a new puzzle box?  Exactly.  The How? Box is a collaborative effort hatched in the deviously puzzling mind of Englishman Peter Hajek.  He designed the box and locking / opening mechanism, and gathered components for the box from Ivo Splichal and Jiri Mejtsky, who each crafted certain components.  All of that was then sent to Jakub Dvorak and his team at the new Pelikan workshop in the Czech Republic.  Pelikan has a long history of crafting high quality collectable wood puzzles, and Jakub’s new reboot is living up to the old reputation.  He and his team then brought the How? Box to life in two limited versions, one in light oak and other, seen here, in dark oak, with palisander and maple wood details.  

The How? Box by Peter Hajek and Jakub Dvorak

The box itself is very beautiful, expertly crafted with fine details, decorative splines and an impressive looking lock plate but no key.  Which is a bit odd, since there is clearly a very prominent keyhole.  Perhaps they forgot to send it?  Of course not, and you didn’t really think so either.  At least it gives you some direction for How? to begin with this puzzle, although you really shouldn’t trust Peter too much.  As far as hints go, it’s all you get, and there are a few tricks up his sleeve before you can safely say you have the “know How?” to open this delightful box.  Each time you think you have figured something out, you will be met with another layer.  And hiding beneath the genteel, charmingly warm wooden exterior lies an impenetrable lock you just have to see to believe.  Of course, you will have to open the box, first.  

How? in the world ... ?

Peter Hajek explains that he spent a long time looking for just the right lock for this box. He discovered it in Russia, as a door lock which could be adjusted to fit his purpose.  After many difficulties in trying to order it, he finally succeeded with the help of his friend Anatoli Kalinin. It was well worth the effort – the lock keeping this puzzle box securely shut is incredible.  It looks like it belongs on a billionaire’s bank vault.  You have no idea from the beautiful exterior that such a massive mechanical marvel is blocking your path to open the box.  There’s no way you are getting in here without figuring out “How?”!  This puzzle box is easily one of my favorites. It has a perfect combination of elegant design, beautiful craftsmanship, and clever secrets which make you smile without keeping you guessing for too long.   And look what was inside mine when I managed to open it – another lock! So many locks in this box!

A Hales Lock #1

This padlock is the creation of Shane Hales, another Englishman of many talents.  He spends most of his time running his construction company in London, but he is also a master carpenter and joiner, a locksmith, and an ingenious puzzle designer.   His extremely limited series of shape based puzzles (the block, the circle, the parallelogram and the pentagon) all reside with a few collectors as his personal gift to them.   He has recently begun giving life to another passion of his, the “puzzle lock”.  Puzzle locks have been around for centuries and can be found in many cultures, often with a distinct regional style.  With a nod to Marcel Gillen’s modified puzzle locks, Shane has created his own design by modifying an existing padlock.  The “Hale’s Lock #1” is an impressive little puzzle which presents the deceivingly straightforward challenge of unlocking the padlock.  Shane has even provided you with an obvious key, unlike Peter Hajek – no need to wonder How? In this case!  Unfortunately you can’t actually use the key since it’s shackled to the lock.  So that’s not very helpful.  There are some strange things going on with this little lock, and a few discoveries to be made, and besides all that you still need to figure out how to unlock it!  Should you be so clever as to tackle this shackle, you will marvel at the brain in Shane.  Whew, all this rhyming, and all the locks in this box make me need something on the rocks!

The Billionaire Cocktail from Employees Only

The massive bank vault-esque lock protecting the How? Box deserves a rather “rich” cocktail, wouldn’t you say?  The “Millionaire Cocktail” is a Prohibition era classic with multiple personalities.  There are quite a few different versions of this drink, all with the same name, and all extremely different.  But all clearly intended to make the sophisticated sipper of the day feel like a lot of money.  The Millionaire No. 1, from Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), combined sloe gin, apricot brandy, lime, rum and grenadine.  That, along with solving the Hale’s Lock #1, might make you, too, feel like number one.  The masters of mixology at New York’s landmark Employee’s Only bar have taken their choice of the Millionaire (this time, bourbon, Grand Marnier, Ricard pastis, grenadine and lemon juice, from 1938) and given it their modern update.  Their “Billionaire Cocktail” ups the ante with a richer, high proof bourbon and a special house made Absinthe bitters.  This aint no dime store whiskey sour, folks.  It’s a modern classic that will leave you wondering How? you never had one before, How? soon you might have another, and How? you got so lucky to enjoy such marvelous puzzles.  Special thanks to Shane Hales, I raise my glass to you.  Cheers!

The Billion dollar question - How?

The Billionaire Cocktail (adapted from “Speakeasy” by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric)
2 oz high proof bourbon (I used Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve)
1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
½ oz simple syrup
½ oz grenadine (craft or homemade preferable)
¼ oz Absinthe Bitters (homemade version from Employees Only is easy to make)
Lemon wheel garnish
Shake together over ice and strain into your favorite glass.  Top with lemon wheel and count your fortunes.

For more information about the How? Box and the New Pelikan Workshop:

For a prior Peter Hajek puzzle box please see:

For more information about Hale’s Puzzles:

For more information about Employees Only:

To see a (warning: slight spoiler) photo of the lock inside the How? Box visit the solutions page here:

1 comment:

  1. I raise several glasses to you also sir. Thank you !! :-)