Saturday, May 12, 2018

Touched by an Angel

Inspiration can strike at any moment, and in the most unusual ways, if you let it.  The international man of mystery and metal mayhem, the diabolical Dutch designer of devious delights, yes the one and only Wil Strijbos, knows how to let life inspire him.  One of his most lauded puzzles, the much coveted Angel Box, was born in his mind from a simple little stroll he was taking while visiting Helsinki many years ago.  A friend had suggested he visit an old Nokia office building which was being used as an artist’s studio and exhibition space.   This harmless exploration started the puzzle wheels turning in his head.

Angel Box by Wil Strijbos

One of the first things he encountered was a digitally locked door, which he snuck through when someone else came by.  This is why the first thing one encounters on the Angel Box is a combination padlock.  Ironically this one must be opened, no one is coming to let you in here.  There is a combination provided, but in classic Strijbos fashion, it is not for the lock on the box.  Wil has quite a sense of humor. 

She's waiting for you to free her!

Wandering around that Nokia Building, he discovered many rooms, like a labyrinth, some accessible, some not. He had to be careful not to lock himself out, or in, to certain rooms or hallways.  In fact, he finally did just that, and was stuck on the inside … or outside? of a room.  Until his angel came and opened the door for him, a stranger, who became a friend, and who eventually gave him her heart.  Wil recounts the story, saying that it wasn’t at that moment that he thought of the Angel Box design, but that those memories (and photos he took) formed the basis later on, as other parts of the box materialized to him over time.  The story of his inspiration is provided with the box – it’s one of the tools for solving it, actually.  I didn’t realize that until after I had!  Like all of Wil Strijbos’ incredible puzzle boxes, the Angel Box is a “sequential discovery” puzzle, with items that are discovered along the way which are critical for solving and opening the box (and in this case, freeing the Angel, and finding her heart).  His puzzles are also famous for how they reward and tease you at the same time.  There are steps here, and you are stopped at each and made to figure out the next step, often while being rewarded with a bit of progress or a glimpse of what is waiting, just out of reach.  It’s a wonderfully tricky and satisfying creation with lots to discover and puzzle over, all housed in an impressively shiny anodized aluminum box.  The window where the tiny angel peers out at you, waiting patiently, is particularly brilliant.  Here’s hoping Wil keeps taking long walks and getting inspired!

Undercover Angel by Fred Yarm

I was inspired as well to create something unusual and interesting to toast this richly romantic box.  I settled on a recipe from the genius Boston bartender Fred Yarm which is featured in his under-the-radar cocktail book, Drunk and Told (his follow up to Drink and Tell).  The drink is a sophisticated modern take on the classic Chrysanthemum cocktail, which substitutes dry madeira for the dry vermouth and balances the Benedictine with a bit of cherry liqueur.  He named it after the 1977 hit single from Alan O’Day, but only because he didn’t know about the Angel Box at the time.  This drink is a beauty, and warms to you if you appreciate it and recognize it when you see it.  Here’s to life’s unexpected moments of inspiration.  Cheers!

A heavenly combination of flavors

Undercover Angel by Fred Yarm

2 oz Sercial Madeira (I used Bual, which is sweet and nothing like dry Sercial, and likely changes the drink completely,  but I still found it delicious here)
¾ oz Benedictine
¼ oz Luxardo Maraschino
1 dash St George Absinthe (I used Vieux Pontarlier)

An Angelic Pair

For more about Wil Strijbos:
Butterfly Feelings
A Cordial First
A Blog Awakens ...

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