Saturday, November 12, 2016

Wish You Were Here

Close your eyes and make a wish.  The world could use some good wishes right now, so this pairing seems timely.  The “Wish Cube” is the product of two friends, two continents and some time to let the wish grow.  Originally slated for the Stickman “Apothecary Chest” project, which I (and many others) have described previously, the Wish Cube was to be one of 12 puzzles inside that massive meta-puzzle box.  Johan Heyns, the main man with the wish, decided the original design wasn’t up to snuff for that project and let it lapse but never really let it go.  As fate would have it, Johan, who hails from South Africa, had a visit from his friend Jack Krijnen, a mathematically minded puzzle master from the Netherlands who is known for designing incredibly complicated, high level interlocking puzzles.  They revisited the Wish design together, and the puzzle box was finally born anew.

The Wish Cube by Johan Heyns and Jack Krijnen

The Wish Cube is many things.  It starts out as a puzzle box, with a secret drawer that unlocks via a very satisfying and symmetrical series of movements.  This first step, which requires 26 moves, was perfected by Jack Krijnen to be far more complex, rhythmic and elegant.  Once you discover the initial moves required it becomes easy to understand and predict the next steps.  It really is a satisfying set of movements, and the crowning touch is that you must go back to the beginning to get to the end.  It’s quite lovely.  The many colorful blocks of wood which compose the box (made of Mansonia, Pau Marfim and Rhodesian Teak) make the sequence discovery incredibly fun as you press and prod around the box.  Inside the drawer is a pentomino packing puzzle, with a 3x4x5 shape and 3940 possible configurations! Keeping the pieces in place is a stabilizing stick of Tambotie, which Johan describes as “an indigenous wood to South Africa which has a lovely spicy aroma.”  After removing the drawer, the 14 sliding (burr) pieces can be removed with another 29 moves, and finally the entire frame can be disassembled into 24 separate pieces.  Whew! What a wonderful puzzle – it’s a wish come true.

Stunning South African Exotic Wood

The Wish Cube will likely enter the puzzle box history books, due to its designer provenance, complexity, beauty and rarity.  So here’s an apropos toast with a cocktail originally created for the Smithsonian’s “Raise a Glass to History” gala, which celebrated the bicentennial of a famous American flag.  The “A Wish for Grace” is a modern classic from mixologist Steven Liles of San Francisco’s landmark rum paradise, Smuggler’s Cove.  It’s named after Grace Wisher, the 13 year-old indentured African American servant who helped Mary Pickersgill sew the Great Garrison Flag in 1813, which is better known as the “Star-Spangled Banner” – the flag which inspired the U.S. National Anthem and now hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.  The cocktail features a New England style pot still rum and Madeira which would have been prominent and popular at that time in history.  History never tasted so good.  It’s particularly poignant right now to recall this historic symbol of the freedom that America has stood and fought for throughout its history.  So close your eyes, raise your glass, and make a wish, wherever you may be in the world.  Here’s hoping all your wishes come true.  Cheers! 

A Wish for Grace by Steven Liles

A Wish for Grace by Steven Liles:

1 ½ oz New England style amber rum
¾ oz Blandy’s 5 Yr Verdelho Medeira
½ oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
½ oz rich simple syrup
2 dashes aromatic bitters

Shake ingredients together over ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Garnish with a lemon twist.

Puzzle box, puzzle bright, solving you will take all night
I wish I may, I wish I might, have this cocktail ease my plight.

Nota Bene: Johan Heyns made two early prototypes of the Wish Cube.  The original was sized to fit as an Apothecary Box drawer (its original intention), and a second prototype of similar design was made as a larger working copy to help develop the more complex final product.  There were only 15 final copies of the Wish Cube ever made.  Johan will be placing the original two prototypes up for auction in the near future,


  1. The stabilizing stick can be discarded after receipt. It was to ensure that the cover over the pentominoes stayed in place. The cover is held in place with a small magnet. Johan