Saturday, August 25, 2018

What It's All About


There isn’t a single perfect word to describe the community of folks who enjoy this obsession with mechanical puzzles, but one would certainly be “generous”.  If you’ve been following along you’ll be aware that I took a little trip to join some of these puzzling people at an annual gathering recently.  While there I was literally inundated with gifts of all shapes and sizes, including puzzles of every type and even a puzzle box or two.  The warm and jovial camaraderie was infectious and everyone was so welcoming.  One particular gift was quite memorable and as a way of saying thanks, I’ll share it with you now and offer a new installment in the "Locks and Libations" series.

The HoKey CoKey Lock by Ali Morris and Steve Nicholls

The Hokey Pokey, as it’s known in most parts of the world except the United Kingdom, where it’s known as the Hokey Cokey, is an age old dance and tune familiar to all.  Now, it’s also a puzzle lock.  The HoKey CoKey Lock was an exchange gift from Steve Nicholls at this year’s IPP.  He famously made everyone who received a copy do the actual dance with him first.  It was quite a sight. The puzzle lock itself is a distinctive brass padlock with a long looping shackle.  A few other features set this handsome lock apart: the name inscribed on the top (HoKey CoKey, in case you forget), the two little keys provided (which don't work, I checked), and last but not least, the shiny bottle opener attached to the shackle, with details of the puzzle printed on its side.  Reading it, you’ll see that the lock was designed by Ali Morris, who has dabbled in puzzle design before, most notably with his well-regarded nut and bolt puzzle.  Steve and Ali relate that the idea for this lock came to Ali about a year ago, at the very same gathering where I met Steve (although in a different global location, of course), while Ali was fiddling with another well-known puzzle lock.  The stories diverge a bit on which lock this was exactly, but I’m not naming names anyway lest it give away a clue.  Not that it helped me anyway!

This lock is definitely hokey

Ali confirmed a few things about his idea with his friendly locksmith, Shane Hales, produced a prototype with an engineering friend of his, and then proceeded to cycle through eight different models of locks until he was satisfied with the current iteration based on form and function.  Steve duly ordered a shipment of the brass "donor" locks, which when delivered nearly broke his wife’s back as she attempted to pick up the package (she thought they were tongue depressors, for some strange reason).  Back in Ali’s home kitchen, the locks were disassembled, modified, and put back together.  Not being professional locksmiths like Shane, they made up the disassembly process as they went, sacrificing panache and a few kitchen tools for efficiency.  Apparently it worked quite well, although the kitchen tools will never be quite the same.  The meat tenderizer in particular took quite a beating.


Not the intended solution for opening the locks ...

Sitting around in the evenings at puzzle gatherings, chatting with like minded friends and swapping stories like these while enjoying an adult beverage are some of Steve’s favorite moments.  He always finds himself hunting about for a bottle opener – at least, he used to.  Now he’s solved that puzzle too, and made sure that everyone who had to do the Hokey Cokey dance with him benefits as well, by including a shiny bottle opener along with the lock.  It's like he's saying, look, I know you're going to struggle to open this brilliantly sneaky lock, but no need to suffer while doing that.  If you can’t find the puzzle solution, find a different kind of solution and pop the top with your handy opener.  What a great guy!

The Hokey Pokey Cocktail

A puzzle with a bottle opener gets to join the short list of perfect ‘boxes and booze boxes” or in this case, “locks and libations locks”.  At first I thought I should pair this lock with a beer, or a beer cocktail.  It’s still a great idea, and one you can easily try yourself, especially if you have one of these locks.  You’ve got to do something with that opener, right?  But instead I went with a rather decadent choice, because why not.  In additional to the song, dance, and now lock, Hokey Pokey is also the name of the most popular flavor of ice cream in New Zealand.  It’s a rich and creamy vanilla ice cream mixed with crunchy crumbly bits of honeycomb candy, which is a light and fluffy toffee made from golden syrup, a lighter version of caramel.  Honeycomb candy is full of airy pockets and crevices which look like a honeycomb.  It’s also sometimes called, you guessed it, Hokey Pokey.  I made a cocktail version of the ice cream, despite the fact that neither Hokey Pokey or golden syrup are readily available in the United States.  But sugar and water are, so Bob’s your uncle.  I whipped up a batch of the syrup, turned it into honeycomb candy, and mixed a cocktail.  Or really more a dessert.  It was delicious, and made me feel better about this wonderfully tricky puzzle lock and that damn song playing over and over in my head.

Buttery bourbon and toffee will do quite nicely

We all have a passion, whether it's boxes, booze, or something far less exciting.  But it's the people behind the passions who really matter.  After all, that’s what it’s all about.  Cheers!

This pair is okey dokey

The Hokey Pokey

1 oz bourbon
1 oz heavy cream
1 oz golden syrup
2 dashes aromatic bitters
Honeycomb candy crumbles

Combine ingredients together with ice and … you guessed it … shake it all about. Strain into a favorite glass and crumble more honeycomb on top.  Cheers!

For prior locks and libations see:

Thanks to Steve Nicholls and and Ali Morris for the amusing stories about the lock, and the photo of the infamous meat tenderizer.  Steve, thanks again for the lock!

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