Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Cordial First

At last we get to the first.  The First Box, by Dutch puzzle designer William Strijbos, that is.  Wil’s Streetwise puzzle company produces beautiful anodized aluminum mechanical puzzles. He travels the world looking for design ideas and inspiration. He has created many interlocking type puzzles and a few fantastic puzzle boxes.  Wil’s designs are known for the elegant touches he often includes, such as how he separates the understanding of how a puzzle must be solved from the actual ability to do so.  Another common hallmark is how he often allows you to see the objective long before you can reach it, in a teasing or infuriating way.  For example, perhaps you need to retrieve a coin from inside a puzzle – you will likely be shown that coin at some point during the puzzle solving, but won’t be able to retrieve it.  

The First Box by William Strijbos

I featured one of his more devious creations, the “Egg”, in the very first Boxes andBooze, as a symbol of beginnings.  The goal of that puzzle is to simply (!) separate the two halves of the egg.  Early on you can get the two halves apart slightly and look inside, but that may be as far as you get … ever!  Wil often provides a description of the journey he took as he developed a new design concept from idea to fruition.  His First Box is the evolution of the first puzzle box he ever created, 6 of which came to life back in 1984 and consisted of a black and silver contraption with bolts and a separate tool for opening.  The design evolved and improved and now appears as a smooth solid bright blue box with a little silver cap on top.  

So sad to be trapped in the box ...

Underneath the box you discover a small hole, with a sad smiley (frowny?) face peering out at you but trapped inside.  Once you open the box, you can free the metal rod with the frowny face, and literally turn it upside down to reveal the happy smiley face on the other side.  Along the journey you will discover things that can help you along the way.  Like most of Wil’s designs, the First Box utilizes a very simple concept which in practice becomes incredibly difficult because you cannot see what is going on inside the box.

Turn that frown upside down

Because Wil Strijbos enjoys puzzling his friends so much, I have created a little puzzle pairing for him as well.  Much like his devious creations, this cocktail takes a few simple ingredients and turns them into something incredible, classic and celebrated.  This is one of the more storied cocktails out there, which is saying something, as most cocktails have at least a short story.  We have to head back to the late 1800’s when British Royal Navy Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette was known for mixing his gin ration (“mother’s ruin”) with the lime juice cordial (“Rose’s”) required on all ships of the British merchant marines.  Navy men had already been doing this with their rum for decades.  Rose’s Lime Juice Cordial was invented by a Scottish merchant in 1867 as a palatable “antiscorbutic” - an enjoyable way to prevent scurvy.  It would have been just about the only mixer handy on a naval ship.  The first recipe for a “Gimlet” appeared in Harry MacElhone’s “ABC’s of Mixing Cocktails” from 1922.  But the most famous Gimlet recipe comes from Philipe Marlowe, private eye:

“We sat in a corner of the bar at Victor's and drank gimlets. ‘They don't know how to make them here,’ he said. ‘What they call a gimlet is just some lime or lemon juice and gin with a dash of sugar and bitters. A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.’ “
From “The Long Goodbye”, by Ramond Chandler, 1953

The Gimlet

Rose’s Lime Juice was more cordial, less artificial sticky syrup back then.  Purists will insist on sticking to the classic recipe, even now, but I would argue that a homemade lime cordial will evoke the original gimlet more closely than the modern day bottled version.  Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make.  If you are still uncertain about the simple perfection of this drink, let Papa convince you:

“It was now lunch time and they were all sitting under the double green fly of the dining tent pretending that nothing had happened. ‘Will you have lime juice or lemon squash?’ Macomber asked. ‘I’ll have a gimlet,’ Robert Wilson told him. ‘I’ll have a gimlet too. I need something,’ Macomber’s wife said. ‘I suppose it’s the thing to do,’ Macomber agreed.
From “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway, 1936

I can’t follow Hemingway, so that’s all I’ve got to say.  Oh, and why is the First Box paired with the Gimlet?  Sip on one while you ponder and let me know – I suppose it’s the thing to do.  Cheers!

What's the connection?


2 oz gin
1 oz* lime cordial

Shake together over ice and strain into a favorite glass.  *Proportions should be adjusted to taste, depending on how sweet you like it.  Marlowe’s version was 50:50, for example. Lime cordial can be made simply by adding the zest of about 12 limes to their juice and a cup of sugar for 24 hours, then straining out the zest.  You can get fancier if you like, but that works just fine.

Wil Strijbos puzzles are available via retailers the world over. Search for him online.

For more about his Egg puzzle, please see:
A Blog Awakens


  1. I really enjoyed this puzzle. It took me ages to solve it despite having such a simple mechanism. I keep meaning to X-ray it for the fun pictures but it's so heavy that I keep putting it back on my shelf after lifting my much too heavy work bag.


    1. You should xray it. Put some other toys down to lighten your bag for one day ... although do you think it will xray well - all metal?

    2. I'll see when I'm next in the angio suite! They have a VERY powerful machine! I'll let you know when it's done.

  2. Yes very nice puzzle indeed. The mechanism once you see it doesn't look that complicated. But very challenging to solve.

    1. And you have a fantastic schematic you created for it.