Saturday, July 9, 2016

Clutch Moves

I’ve been featuring Karakuri Creation Group boxes for a few weeks in a row so I thought I would take a (short) break from those and present something from a different part of the world.  Actually, this particular puzzle box is from two different places in the United States: Oklahoma and North Carolina.  And if you want to be completely picky about it, we should add California as well.  In Oklahoma, a humble wizard works his magic to produce highly acclaimed works of art in the form of complex mechanical wooden puzzle boxes.   Most of Robert Yarger’s creations for his “Stickman Puzzlebox Company” are entirely of his own design and creation.  He occasionally collaborates with like-minded fellow artisans as well, as in the case of his “Stickman No. 4 Puzzle Box”, also known as the “Clutch Tile Box”.  Eric Fuller, the co-creator of the Clutch Tile Box, is also a well regarded wooden puzzle maker who specializes in making precise and devious interlocking mechanical puzzles, but who is also known for his incredible box designs.  

Stickman No.4 aka Clutch Tile Box

The two together produced a beautiful hybrid puzzle box made from maple, bloodwood and cocobolo which incorporates a sliding tile puzzle design into the solution of the box.  In order to open either of the two main compartments, special tiles must be moved into the correct positions on the box, and a final tricky move is still required.  The truly special aspect to this puzzle box, though, is the mechanism with which the tiles are moved.  A completely wooden mechanical clutch is present in the center of the box, and can be moved in and out and round and round, in the most amazing and satisfying manner.  Due to the presence of a few extra long tiles, careful planning is required to get the pieces in proper position, and at least 85 moves are needed to open both compartments.  Once you do, there is an additional reward, “clutched” inside, in the form of a miniature interlocking puzzle made by yet another well regarded puzzle artist, Lee Krasnow.  As if you needed further incentive to try to open the box, but there you go.

The incredible focal point in motion

Although the Clutch Tile Box is made from maple wood, I have always had the sense that it appears to be slightly yellow.  It is not really yellow, yet I always think of it that way, perhaps because of how it appears in photographs.  So humor me this time as I create a few “Yellow Boxer” cocktails to enjoy with this fine puzzle box.  The Yellow Boxer is thought of as an odd “tiki” style cocktail, that typically rum soaked concoction associated with Polynesian themed décor and tiny paper umbrellas.  I love tiki drinks, which you may have deduced from the many which have been featured here.  The Yellow Boxer simply appears in many old cocktail books in the tiki section, and no one seems to know exactly where it came from originally.

The original Yellow Boxer and the Pale version - the difference is obvious

What makes it odd is that it uses tequila rather than rum.  So after adding lemon, lime, orange juice, and a hint of the anise flavored liqueur Galliano which adds a subtle layer as well, it strikes me as more like a special margarita.  Maybe it just got misplaced in the wrong section years ago.  Maybe there was a cirrhotic pugilist who loved them, who knows.  I decided to tinker with it slightly.  I swapped out the Galliano, which is bright yellow, for yellow Chartreuse, the French herbal liqueur which is a paler yellow (still not exactly maple wood in color, but closer…) and I used a freshly made lime cordial rather than the Rose’s lime juice called for in all the old recipes.  We’ll get back to Rose’s lime soon, I promise.  The resulting “Pale Boxer” aka “Yellow Boxer No. 4” is a refreshingly light summer sipper which compliments the Clutch Tile Box rather well.  Cheers to a finely crafted collaboration.

Clutch these tightly, they're incredible!

The Pale Boxer (aka Yellow Boxer No. 4)

1 ½ oz reposado tequila
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz fresh orange juice
¾ oz lime cordial (I used the simple recipe from Death and Co.)
¼ oz Yellow Chartreuse

Shake over ice and strain into a glass full of crushed ice.  There are plenty of complicated lime cordial recipes but a simple infusion of lime zest with lime juice and sugar works well.

For more information about Robert Yarger:

For more information about Eric Fuller:

For more information about Lee Krasnow:

For prior Rober Yarger puzzles please see:

For prior Eric Fuller puzzles please see:


  1. I think the Clutch Tile Box is probably my favourite Stickman design to solve. It's just great fun to play with!

  2. Save wood...hug the one with the universe...pop into Hamleys for the ultimate selection of puzzles and pirate gear. I am known to ride my clutch, so puzzles are gobbledegook Captain Hook!