It’s that time of year again, everyone’s favorite foolish holiday. I’ve had some fun over the past few years with this one. I once proposed a name change for the blog to “Twisties and Tonics” and featured Oskar’s Treasure Chest, a Rubik’s Cube which is also a puzzle box along with an “apple martini” which is really nothing of the sort. A bit of Tom Foolery. Last year I really tried everyone’s patience with a sneaky “Rick Roll” I embedded in a video of Fumio Tsuburai’s “Roll Box”. After that I think everyone deserves a break. There are still some sneaky things afoot for this year’s April Fool’s post, but they aren’t at anyone else’s expense this time.
|Unlocked Drawer by Kathleen Malcolmson and Perry McDaniel|
I should say, if we are being honest with one another, that all great puzzle boxes are meant to be at someone else’s expense. This hobby is self-inflicted masochism masked by intellectual curiosity at its finest. For this April Fool’s Day I’m turning to one of my favorite groups of fine folks, the local Texas talents of Kathleen Malcolmson, Perry McDaniel, and Robert Sandfield. Together they produced a classic little conundrum which purports to be nothing of the sort. “Sandfield’s Unlocked Drawer” is a straightforward creation which doesn’t pull any punches – it is, as it claims to be, unlocked. Just open it, and retrieve the Texas state quarter nestled inside. Simple! Ah, but, April Fools! You should know better than to expect things to be that easy from this group of puzzle professionals.
|Just take the quarter, the drawer is unlocked ...|
Originally designed by Perry McDaniel, but with a simpler appearance, the Unlocked Drawer holds a place of pride in Kathleen Malcomson’s heart. She had been working on the basic mechanism for this puzzle for about ten years before it came to life, adjusting tolerances, playing with humidity changes and researching solutions. She had finally perfected the mechanism, but couldn’t get it to be consistent enough. She approached Perry with her dilemma. After confirming many considerations with her, he finally asked how many router tables she was using. Just one, she replied. You need two, that will take care of it, was Perry’s response. Kathleen set up another router table, and it worked perfectly. Knowing that she had solved the manufacturing issues, Perry offered the design for the Unlocked Drawer to Kathleen for Robert Sandfield’s 2007 IPP exchange in Australia. In turn knowing how puzzlers think, Kathleen modified the design further, turning it into a classic puzzle box, which she rates as her favorite among her creations. She recalls another triumph when later that year, after the exchange, a collector whispered to her that his copy was clearly “stuck”. There’s really no better compliment than that, is there? Meticulously crafted from her trademark Lacewood and Primavera, the Unlocked Drawer is a wonderful example of how simple yet challenging a well designed puzzle can be. The precision required to execute this is also a testament to Malcolmson’s extraordinary skill. If all doors were this tricky to open, we would never need locks.
|The Unlocked Negroni|
To toast this minny marvel of misdirection I’ve whipped up another misleading mixture. You may have noticed my penchant for the bitter classic Negroni cocktail, which I frequently feature in various forms and versions. Here’s a totally new twist on the genre, and perfect for April Fool’s Day, a “fauxgroni”. Serve this one to you friends and relatives for a sophisticated sipper with a secret. What the heck, serve it to your children too – it doesn’t have a drop of alcohol in it! “Cocktails” with no alcohol have undergone their own revolution of late, with prep and care spent in their creation equal to the degree and extent of their alcoholic counterparts in many fancy bars and restaurants. Often referred to as “mocktails”, these fancy non-alcoholic drinks are appearing on menus as “zero-proof” cocktails and other terms more fitting to their intense preparation. I’ve coined the term “Unlocked Cocktails” which I think has a nice ring to it.
|Fancy a faux-groni?|
The Negroni is often thought of as the ultimate zero-proof challenge, since its three ingredients (gin, vermouth and Campari) are all alcoholic and distinctive in flavor. There’s no juice or syrup for example. How in the world can such a drink be recreated with no alcohol? One of the best examples comes from Nick Duble, head bartender at New York’s Atera. He created a “gin” by making a tea from juniper leaves and branches, a “Campari” by infusing beet juice with quinine and other aromatics, and a “vermouth” by rehydrating raisins! There are simpler ways to achieve this level of flavor, and that’s fine with me (although I am in awe of his creativity). Instead of gin I used Seedlip Spice, an innovative new product from the UK which is a distilled, non-alcoholic spirit based on techniques and recipes from 1651. The Spice contains flavors of oak, cascarilla bark, green cardamom, all spice berries, lemon peel, and grapefruit peel. I borrowed Duble’s innovative vermouth idea of rehydrating raisins, which really does taste like vermouth, and I used Italian bitter soda instead of Campari. The Italians love their bitter liquids, and they have a number of such drinks available which are non-alcoholic. The resulting “Unlocked Negroni” is a fabulous cocktail truly reminiscent of the original, and perfect for “imbibing when you aren’t imbibing”. You’d be a fool not to try one. Cheers!
|This pair unlocks some surprises|
1 oz Seedlip Spice
1 oz faux vermouth (rehydrated raisin “liquor”)
1 oz Italian bitter soda
Stir ingredients together with ice and strain into a favorite glass. Garnish with an orange peel.
For more creations from Sandfield & Company:
For prior Negronis: