Saturday, December 15, 2018

Mayan Mysteries

We're taking an exotic journey to the tombs of the ancient Maya for this installment.  Benno Baatsen is a puzzle box designer from the Netherlands who has been creating devious and complex mechanisms since he first began making puzzle boxes out of Legos when he was nine years old.  His first wooden box came soon after, when he was ten, and managed to fool all of his friends.  His handmade designs have only gotten more complex since then.  He recently started a website and has made most of his building plans available for a nominal fee, with the intention of encouraging everyone to learn to build their own puzzle box.  He loves puzzle boxes so much he truly wants to share his ideas with the world.  He also recently teamed up with Zoyo Toys in China who have produced a few of his designs for resale.  Mr. Puzzle in Australia has stocked these (Companion Box, Dice Box and Answer Box), and found and fixed many problems with them.  If you aren’t inclined to make your own, these are delightful boxes to have.  Mr. Puzzle has field tested and improved them all, and you literally won’t find a better price anywhere.  They are too inexpensive to pass up.

The Mayan Box by Benno Baatsen

Benno has also started to make a few of his designs himself for resale.  These are created from Poplar wood using a laser cutter he has access to at his University.  This arrangement also limits the types of wood and material he can use in his puzzles.  Despite this he has created an incredible new artifact, the Mayan Box.  Benno is a fan of the Tomb Raider video games and took his inspiration for this box from those stylings and secrets, making it look as much as possible like a Mayan grave tomb one would find with Lara Croft.  The details of the box are incredibly intricate and finely etched all around, with Mayan influence mixed with his own creativity.  Because the Tomb Raider games are themselves so heavily filled with puzzles, he wanted the box to be similarly full, and quite difficult to solve.  It requires approximately forty-two distinct moves to open.  He has filled it with multiple overlapping mechanisms of different types and an incredible number of moving parts.  There’s even a hidden maze, and a final additional secret compartment.  This box has it all, and is incredibly fun to solve.  Go buy one from him and help him save up for his own laser cutter – I suspect there are a lot more ideas in his clever brain waiting to be revealed.
Finely etched hieroglyphs and details adorn the box
To toast this secret surprise and its talented maker I stuck to the Tomb Raider theme of plundering tombs and crypts with an apropos classic, the Corpse Reviver.  The Corpse Reviver is actually a collection of cocktails dating back to the turn of the twentieth century and made famous by Harry Craddock in his uber cool Savoy Cocktail book from 1930 where he features versions “1” and “2”.  The drinks were originally meant as restorative “hair of the dog” remedies, to be taken early after a tough night.  Asking a bartender for a “Corpse Reviver” was like asking for a generic hangover cure, like a strong cup of coffee, but with something a bit stronger than that.  It’s no surprise there are a few different variations that survived.  Craddock’s No. 2, the most famous version of all, came with his commentary that “Four of these taken in quick succession will unrevive the corpse again.” 

Corpse Reviver No. 1 in the wild ...

I’ve actually featured the Corpse Reviver No. 2 before, along with a delightfully horrifying box from a wonderful craftsman who is sadly no longer with us now.  Follow the link for more on that one and a look back at Phil Tomlinson’s Always Empty Box.  I think it’s time to revisit the original, No. 1.  This Corpse Reviver also came with a message from Harry Craddock, who explained it was “To be taken before 11 a.m., or whenever steam and energy are needed.”  I’ll add a disclaimer that drinking at all, let alone a drink this strong, is not really the best idea for getting you through the day.  But history calls, and we must answer!  The Corpse Reviver No. 1 is a bracing mix of cognac, apple brandy, and sweet vermouth.  To that I’ve added a bit of Becherovka, the delicious herbal liqueur from Carlsbad in the Czech Republic.  Some describe this mysterious mix made from twenty herbs and botanicals as “Christmas in a glass”, so it adds a seasonal spin to this classic.  Finally I added a dash of Bittermen’s Hellfire Bitters, for added kick.  I’m sure Lara Croft would approve.  Here’s to Mayan tombs, hidden treasures, reanimated corpses and resurrected recipes.  Cheers!

If this doesn't revive you nothing will

Corpse Reviver No. 1 c. 1930
(Tomb Raider edition)

1 oz cognac
½ oz apple brandy
½ oz sweet vermouth
½ oz Becherovka
2 dashes Bittermen’s Hellfire Bitters

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into an undead chalice. Imbibe if you are out of extra lives…

Thrilling adventure awaits with this pair

For more about Benno Baatsen:

For the Corpse Reviver No. 2:

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