It’s that time of year again, for every good ghoul and boy’s favorite spooktacular count dracular blog, Boxes and Boos. Believe it or not, this year’s themed offering comes by way of our friend downunder, the dark prince of puzzles, maker of “fiendish” limited editions, yes that’s right Dr. Frankenstein – I mean, Mr. Puzzle himself, Brian Young.
|Houdini's Torture Cell by Brian Young|
It may not be so obvious at first glance, but Brian’s “Houdinis Torture Cell” is a perfect Halloween puzzle. One of his coveted limited edition puzzles, Houdini won a Jury First Prize in the 2012 Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition. According to Brian, “the puzzle celebrates Harry Houdini’s first public performance of The Torture Cell at the Circus Busch in Berlin on 12th September 1912.” The design is also based on a clever idea Brian incorporated originally in the Opening Bat puzzle, a much more complicated, multistep puzzle, where this particular mechanism is completely hidden and must be solved blindly. Did I mention, fiendish? This reminds me of one of the clever mechanisms found originally in the MSM Telephone Box, which is also completely hidden and must be solved blindly. We find it again in the Louvre puzzle, where it is more visible and easier to understand. Or perhaps I should say it is easier to put one’s finger on. Which should be a figure of speech in this case. Anyhow, the Houdini puzzle presents our hero, Harry Houdini, suspended upside down inside his famous Water Torture Cell. Your job, as puzzle savior, is to free him. While avoiding mention of his rather suggestive appearance. Perhaps Brian thought Houdini’s real name was Richard.
|Can you help Houdini, or are you Weisz averse?|
So why is this a perfect Halloween puzzle? You are thinking, perhaps, that the Houdini inside is hollow? Making him a hollow weenie? Wrong! Stop laughing. This is serious business. In fact, on October 22, 1926, while performing a series of shows at the Princess Theater in Montreal, Houdini invited a few students from McGill University back to his dressing room. He had met one at a lecture earlier that week, who was an artist. Ostensibly, this fellow was going to sketch Houdini, who was reclining on a couch. But one of the other “students” engaged Houdini in conversation about his boasts of strength and his ability to withstand punches to the stomach. Without allowing him to prepare, the student delivered numerous severe blows to Houdini’s abdomen, finally stopping when Houdini held up his hand, clearly in pain. Some accounts suggest that this assailant was actually an amateur boxer. Despite being unwell, Houdini went on with his show that night, and the next. He could not finish the following performance and underwent emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix on Oct 24. Few survived such an occurrence in those days. Houdini returned to the operating room a few days later, but gave up fighting and died on Oct 31, 1926. He was considered the greatest escape artist in history, and he inspires so many of us still. So do a little magic in his honor on Halloween, and keep his memory alive.
|The Dapper Dead|
What shall we drink on this chilly October evening? Ghouls, ghosts, and ghastly gentlemen alike all have one thing in common - they all love a stiff drink. "Stiff" as in, dead guy, get it? Ok, ok, groans are good on Halloween, right? One thing we can all agree on is that Halloween is the perfect time for some liquid adult treats, and luckily I've got just the trick up my sleeve. The classic Boulevardier cocktail, named after the very much alive bon vivants and stylish gentlemen who strolled the Parisian boulevards in the nineteen-twenties, was created by Erskin Gwynn, who wrote a magazine of that same name for American expats.
|Perfect for a stroll down the boulevard ... in the underworld|
It’s quite likely that Harry Houdini and his wife Bess enjoyed this drink. They loved Paris and had an apartment there. Houdini was known to stage publicity stunts to promote his magic shows. He once orchestrated such an advertisement along a street café in Paris, where he lined up seven bald men wearing berets. As people strolled by, they would sequentially remove their hats, revealing the letters H-O-U-D-I-N-I inked on their heads. I’ve created a delicious autumnal variation of the Boulevardier featuring applejack, one of the earliest spirits in America. George Washington's troops were given rations of the stuff - you might even say it's so old, it's revolutionary! Mixed with a sweet vermouth (such as the delightfully named “D’ Sange” from Momenpop) and some Campari, the resulting drink would look perfect in the hand of the most stylish of spooks, and tastes so good you'll need to fend off those fiends who want a sip. What the hell, just mix one up for them too. Happy Halloween!
|There's no escaping how good this pair is|
The Dapper Dead
1 oz Laird’s Applejack
1 oz sweet vermouth
1 oz Campari
2 dashes Bittermen’s Hellfire Bitters
Stir ingredients over ice and strain into an eyeball glass. I mean, a highball glass. Garnish with a set of citrus peel fangs frozen inside a clear ice cube. Cheers!
For more from Brian Young:
For prior Halloween hijinks see:Trick and Treat
Wolves at the Door