Saturday, November 2, 2019

A Puzzling Odyssey


“The journey is the thing.” ― Homer

Scriptum Cube by NKD Puzzle

We are taking a journey this week back in time and place, to ancient Greece and the realm of the great heroes and gods. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are two of the greatest epic poems of all time, full of iconic characters and incredible tales of wonder. Most will be familiar with the story of the Minotaur, for example, the half man, half raging bull monster born of the Muse Pasiphae, Queen of Minos. When the bull child became too big to care for easily, and had developed a taste for people, the King of Minos had a huge Labrynth built underground by the master craftsman Daedalus (and his son Icarus) where the Minotaur would be kept, and fed with human sacrifice. This was a puzzle with high stakes, and all who entered never returned, until Theseus solved the challenge and emerged victorious by way of Ariadne’s thread.

“Each man delights in the work that suits him best.” ― Homer, The Odyssey

We find ourselves immersed once again in this ancient tale within the next brilliant offering from NKD Puzzle, where Christophe Laronde and Julien Vigouroux produce innovative, beautiful and clever designs in the South of France. The Scriptum Cube is a large puzzle box covered in ancient Greek text from the Iliad and Odyssey, crafted from Poplar with Beech wood veneer and internal metal parts that has been laser engraved on the outside. Exploration quickly reveals a set of central plaques set into the sides, adorned with letters and symbols. There are many moving parts, and it soon becomes clear that a secret must be deduced if there is any hope of entering (or escaping) the labyrinth. A daunting quest awaits.

“Be strong, saith my heart; I am a soldier;
I have seen worse sights than this.” ― Homer, The Odyssey

Can you hear the Song of Achilles, or will you fall prey to the Sirens ...

The cube is another work of art from this French team who have also produced the Mecanigma and Silver City puzzles boxes. Christophe likes to embrace a theme and bring it to life in a brilliant and beautiful way that embodies the spirit of the story into the puzzle. The Mecanigma exudes Steampunk design sense perfectly, and the Silver City recalls the groundbreaking work of Luc Schuiten in an elegant homage. With the Scriptum Cube he has nicely captured the feeling of the Minotaur’s Labyrinth in the aesthetic of the object and puzzle solution too. Ariadne’s thread winds its way about the cube, leading any hero home safely, if only it can be discovered.

“How prone to doubt, how cautious are the wise!” ― Homer

I admired the cube for a long time and spent many hours in fervent code breaking, trying to solve the riddle and crack the cube. I thought all would be lost and I too would be a victim of the Minotaur, a puzzling cautionary tale for the ages. But I had my own Muse who helped me along the correct path, a gift from the gods perhaps, to set me thinking.

“Even a fool learns something once it hits him.” ― Homer, The Iliad

The secret is perfectly placed, obvious all along, and so elegantly simple. It seems all was not lost, and I ultimately entered the chamber to freedom, which reveals itself with a satisfying series of semi-automated movements, feeling vindicated though yet still battle weary. I now marvel at this marvelous cube, admire its wily cleverness and recommend it to all those on the road to Ithaca, as I set the Scriptum Cube alongside its legendary brothers.

“A man who has been through bitter experiences and traveled far enjoys even his sufferings after a time” ― Homer, The Odyssey

The Odyssey Cocktail, guarded well

In the Iliad, the gods on Mount Olympus drink nectar from their golden chalices as they toast one another, watching the mortals below wage war and endure all manner of suffering in the name of the god’s entertainment and folly. Here is a more modest toast to this Odyssey of a box, originally created in partnership with Rosewood Hotel London and the Botanist Gin for a special pop up bar they held in the courtyard called the Botanist Greenhouse.

“Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, Make the sage frolic, and the serious smile” ― Homer

Mythical flavors of hibiscus, cardamom and bergamot 

The Odyssey Cocktail features gin infused with fresh green cardamom and rooibos tea. In place of the rooibos I substituted a similar and worthy replacement, hibiscus tea, to retain the essential flavors and bright color. One additional ingredient also adds an interesting and delicious touch – Italicus, a sweet bergamot liqueur. The drink takes you on an Odyssey of flavors in the most delightful way. It will certainly sooth the savage beast, and might help you find your own Muse along the way. Cheers!

The Odyssey Cocktail at the Botanist Greenhouse, Rosewood London

100ml gin (originally the Botanist) infused with cardamom
50ml lime juice
50ml simple syrup
20ml Italicus
10g rooibos tea (or dried hibiscus)

Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a favorite coup. Garnish with mint leaves, a viola flower, grapefruit wedge and cardamom. Or a citrus peel Minotaur. This recipe makes two cocktails.

An Epic pair

For more from NKD Puzzle:

 “There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.” ― Homer, The Odyssey

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