Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Duke of Burl

The winter wonderland theme continues with an extra special toasty treat.  Just in time to combat the chilly weather is something to warm the spirit - the long awaited Stickman No. 30 Puzzle Box, the “Burl Tile Box”.  Crafted from leopardwood and walnut, it features exotic tamo burl along the sides.  It’s extremely solid and quite rugged, with heavily framed edges all around, and little crenellation accents on the sides, giving it an almost medieval appearance.  Hmmm.  The top and bottom are composed of 15 separate tiles and there appear to be two different shades of burl, one lighter and one darker.  You notice that the burl pattern on each side is jumbled, and the colors are mixed up, and realize you must correct that and restore the tiles to their proper positions on each side.  Finally there is a distinct and ingenious feature (naturally) which allows you to trade tiles from the top and bottom – the entire end on one side rotates like a wheel.  As if that wasn’t enough (it was, trust me, it was), you soon realize (or hopefully read the instructions) that some tiles are also rotated in orientation, and to complete the burl patterns properly must be rotated back to their proper orientation as well as position in the pattern.  There is a secret trick (naturally) which must be discovered that allows the tiles to be rotated in orientation, which is a separate mechanism from the side wheel which allows tiles to trade from top and bottom.  Whew!

The Burl Tile Box by Robert Yarger

As far as sliding tile puzzles are concerned, this one proves to be infuriatingly difficult for various reasons, many of which I have just elucidated.  To make matters worse, the mid-section of the rotating end is blocked so tiles can not be moved directly from the middle and you must plan a circular path all around this section.  But the hardest part of the puzzle for me is the simplest – to arrange the burl patterns properly on each side.  It is an enormous challenge to visualize exactly where each tile should properly fit, working only with a burl pattern.  So many swirls and eddies seem to look fine next to each other, or almost fine … until you realize they do not, in fact, match correctly.  At least it was not too difficult to figure out which tiles were probably disoriented, based on the burl pattern.  That didn’t necessarily make the proper orientation obvious, though.  Finding the trick to rotate them was another story, but “turns” out to be an exceptionally cool aspect to the box once found. 

Putting a new spin on the old sliding tile puzzle

Robert Yarger, the mastermind behind this madness, is not such a cruel guy after all.  He has thoughtfully placed subtle but extremely helpful clues which can be used to guide the tile placement, if you are mortal, like me.  In the end, even using the clues (after figuring them out), I had to resort to labeled pieces of sticky notes in order to keep track of all the tiles! And they kept falling off.  If you are successful in recreating the beautiful burl patterns on each side, locking “logic” bars can be removed which allow the secret chamber to be revealed.  Lastly, since this is a Stickman, the logic bars can be replaced in a different configuration (naturally), which causes certain tiles to be locked in place at times, to create an entirely new and more difficult solving process.  When configured in this alternate way, it is known as the “Burl Tile Torture Chamber”.  If you have solved one of these boxes, and have reconfigured it in this alternate way, “for fun”, I don’t like you anymore. Ahem. Sniff.

“Torture Chamber” is not as far fetched as it sounds – it wouldn’t be a true castle without a dungeon, would it?  The crenellations along the sides of the box (also known as battlements) are meant to conjur that very image – Robert envisioned this box to resemble a castle.  His original concept was in fact to make the sliding tile puzzle solution a bit more obvious by having silhouette images form when the tiles were in proper position – on one side there was to be a dragon, and on the other, a castle.  The whole form of the box appears in a new perspective knowing this design intent.  The dragon and castle reliefs were not to be – after many iterations and attempts with stains and gold leaf, the beauty of the burl wood alone won out.   But there are no losers in this beautiful battle of burls.

The Burl Ives by Tuxedo No. 2

Pairing this box with a wintery cocktail proved incredible easy, which was a huge relief after losing my mind trying to match up those bothersome burls.  Robert Yarger actually gave me the idea, and it was much too good to pass up.  The “Burl Ives” is a modern holiday classic with blended scotch created by the talented team behind Tuxedo No. 2, a cocktail collection.  Evoking the Bobby Burns (that bonnie sip previously paired with another Yarger creation), the Burl Ives adds crème de cacao, a rich and indulgent chocolate liqueur.  History traces chocolate liqueur in some form back to as early as the mid to late 16oo’s. Here I am using Tempis Fugit’s brilliant offering, which is crafted from 19th century French and English recipes. One unique feature of this luscious liqueur is how the cacao is sourced from Venezuela and the vanilla from Mexico, as in the old recipes.  It’s sweet and rich and nuanced in cocktails. In other words, crème de cacao brings the party. In the Burl Ives it creates a wonderful wintry nightcap to savor by the fire, while fiddling, flailing, or finessing this fine puzzle box.  Robert also mentioned that he prefers his Burl Ives with dry vermouth, instead of the original sweet version called for by the recipe.  Either way, have too many of these, and you may be dancing burl-esque.  Cheers!

The holidays came burly this year

The Burl Ives by Tuxedo No. 2

2 oz blended scotch
½ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz creme de cacao
4 dashes angostura bitters
orange peel for garnish

Stir ingredients together over ice and strain into a favorite glass.  Garnish with expressed orange peel and enjoy while humming “Silver Bells”.

For more information about Robert Yarger see:

For prior Stickman puzzle box reviews see:

1 comment:

  1. I have this in my presents for Xmas pile. It was bought by me from "her" and the stipulation is that I can open the package, take my photos but not touch it until Xmas day! As a non-box twisty puzzle and sliding tile puzzle this one particularly intrigues me. I'm impressed that you solved it so fast.