Saturday, July 6, 2019

All's Well That Ends Well

“My formula for success? Rise early, work late, strike oil.” -  John Paul Getty

Plugged Well by Brian Young

I’m not sure how long you have to live somewhere to be able to properly say you are “from” there, and perhaps it’s a state of mind as well. I think I can safely say that I’m “from” Texas now, at least in the sense that I’ve lived here a long time. With that in mind I’m particularly pleased to have had this little puzzle sitting on my shelf for some time now. It was one of the first items I ever bought from Brian and Sue Young’s Mr. Puzzle shop, back before they were all sold out and extremely hard to find. Little did I know at the time, the story of this puzzle was connected to my own hometown of Houston.

Hubba Bubba

The Plugged Well was the result of a request to Brian from Matthew Dawson, a fellow puzzle collector, enthusiast and Houstonian. Matt worked in the Texas oil industry with his family’s business, and had an idea for a puzzle. It centered around a story he created about the fictional “Uncle Bubba”, from whom the puzzler has inherited a non-functioning oil well. It seems that back in the 1960’s, oil prices had dropped so low that Uncle Bubba plugged the old well to stop the flow. But now that oil prices have skyrocketed, if you want to make your fortune, you better figure out how to unplug that old well!

Fool's Gold by Jen Ackrill

Brian designed the puzzle based on that idea, and fashioned a cute little oil rig from native Queensland Walnut and some brass and steel parts which are both visible and hidden. There’s a prominent derrick with a brass pipe where the oil might one day spurt, and a locked drawer on front with a fixed knob. The goal is to access the inner compartment, where a prized barrel of oil awaits. Brian is a master at creating ingenious and clever puzzles of all sorts, and his sequential discovery puzzles are some of the best. The Plugged Well does not disappoint, with many fun discoveries and a tricky sequence of precise mechanics to navigate before the compartment can be opened and the puzzle solved. The puzzle was generously presented by Matt at the Edward Hordern Puzzle Exchange in Washington DC, 2012.

Some mighty unusual ingredients 'round these parts

Much like how I’ve had this puzzle for a long time and have been meaning to write about it, I created this cocktail pairing a while back and have been letting it age appropriately. It seems it is time to unplug this well. I chose a drink called the “Fool’s Gold”, because oil is sometimes known as “black gold”, but the Plugged Well is so tricky it might just keep you from your treasure indefinitely. Fool’s Gold is a great name for a cocktail, so of course there are many versions, most a variation on the theme of a whiskey sour or a whiskey and coke. This one is far more interesting and complex, as befits this puzzle. It was created by Jen Ackrill, a mixologist from Honolulu, Hawaii. That should give you a hint of what you are in for already. She splits the base spirit between bourbon and a special rye style gin form St. George spirits, then adds a layer of bitterness with Amere Nouvelle, a modern take on a classic French bitter liqueur. Finally she sweetens things up with banana liqueur – she’s from Hawaii after all. I know what you are thinking. Indeed, the drink sound as bananas as that ingredient. But it works surprisingly well. It’s unexpected, and delicious. You’d be a fool not to try it. Cheers!

Strike it rich with this pair

Fool’s Gold by Jen Ackrill
1 oz St. George Dry Rye Gin
1 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
¾ oz Bittermens Amére Nouvelle
¼ oz Giffard Banane du Bresil
1 lime zest, as garnish

For more from Brian Young:
Boxes and Boos
Party Time
Louvre Is In The Air


  1. I don't know which is harder: solving these puzzle boxes or surviving these high-alcohol content cocktails! Actually, I do know, but both seem to get harder with age.

    1. Haha George the cocktail makes the puzzle easier. Right? ...