Saturday, June 8, 2019

Curve Balls

“Don’t stop me know, I’m having such a good time, I’m having a ball” – Queen

Eric Fuller has got some balls. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a new puzzle box design from the curator of finely crafted puzzles and master of mischief. He’s been busy making incredible interlocking, maze and packing puzzle designs while he refines his business model. No matter, everything he makes is top notch, as many collector well know. He hasn’t produced an original secret opening box in almost three years, but that has now changed.

Multiball by Eric Fuller

Eric has never been content to create a typical puzzle box. Almost all of his original designs involve some novel mechanism which must be understood anew, or enacted in a clever way. He likes to, and is extremely talented at, create diversions and misdirection. His boxes keep you on your toes, keep you guessing, and keep you frustrated, at least for a while. Most of us see this as a good thing, and derive great satisfaction from solving something challenging yet possible, as opposed to something so difficult or random as to be practically impossible. It’s a tricky balance to get right.

Fuller gets the ball rolling 

Eric’s newest box is “Multiball”, a sturdy, sold feeling box expertly crafted from Ash, Wenge and Walnut woods. The distinguishing feature is a narrow acrylic window on one side which allows a view of four steel ball bearings, which roll back and forth. Move the box around and a few more interactions become apparent. There appear to be steel pins which drop in and out of place here and there as well. Multiball is classic Fuller. Take some time to observe, and it might seem obvious what is going on, and what needs doing. Most likely, this “knowledge” will change over time. The box reminds me of the old fake Mark Twain saying about how “it’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”. (Fake because this quote is usually attributed to Twain, who never said it. The true origins are an interesting but lengthy aside.) Multiball plays a really devious trick on you, and even after you understand, it remains difficult to separate truth from fiction at times. I spent many days trying to work out just exactly what is going on inside that box, and even after finally understanding, correctly, what needs to be done and why, found it very challenging to come up with a good plan to get it done. Multiball was worth the wait, and Eric has a lot more new puzzle box designs in the works as well.

Smoke and Mirrors by Melissa Yard

I’m toasting this new box from one of the puzzle world’s most unique characters with a fitting tribute. The name of this cocktail is irresistible, so naturally there are quite a few versions available out there. A good name is hard to hold onto in the drinks world, and is seldom trademarked or copyrighted. The best someone can hope is for their drink to become so famous that no one would think to use the name again, something that doesn’t happen very often. I’ve chosen to use the recipe offered by Melissa Yard, Georgia native and current bar manager at Josephine Wine Bar in Charleston, South Carolina. She’s a well known mixologist and sommelier in Atlanta and now Charleston, and her drink was featured in Imbibe magazine, one of the Industry’s most popular magazines and a common source of inspiration for me.

Mezcal is the belle of the ball

Yard’s cocktail features the smoky allure of mezcal, one of the most complex and interesting spirits with countless regional varieties to explore. She adds a delicious mix of pineapple, ginger and spice, which sets this drink apart from your every day margarita. In the original recipe she uses a spicy pineapple jalapeño syrup and separate ginger syrup. I often try to simplify my cocktails a bit, so for example here I made a single pineapple and ginger syrup, and added the spice with some habanero bitters. (Maybe you don’t think that is simplifying things and you may be right.) The egg white adds texture and fluff, and is an essential ingredient for some in a truly proper sour. The resulting cocktail is something special, full of mystery and perfect to accompany a tricky puzzle. Here’s to finding the proper balance, in everything we pursue. Cheers!

Keep an eye on these balls

Smoke and Mirrors by Melissa Yard

1½ oz mezcal
½ oz orange liqueur
1 oz fresh lime juice
½ oz ginger syrup
½ oz pineapple jalapeño syrup
1 fresh egg white (pasteurized, if you like)
Garnish: cayenne mix (1:1:1 sugar to salt to cayenne)

Dry shake all the ingredients together without ice to combine. Add ice, shake again to chill, then strain into a chilled glass. Garnish.

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