Tuesday 19 July 2011

Sandfield’s Dovetail Jewel Box

A serious puzzler’s puzzle.
Sandfield’s Dovetail Jewel Box was clearly crafted by someone who understands puzzlers and how their minds work, and has turned that against them – totally. After reading Jeff’s and Brian’s write ups, I was quite keen to have a (figurative!) bash at one…
The Jewel Box was Robert Sandfield’s 2003 IPP exchange puzzle in Chicago. He designed the puzzle and it was manufactured by Perry McDaniel who produced some 200 Jewel Boxes that were supplied in a black drawstring bag.
The box is about four inches square and comes with a rather deliberately modified key. There is clearly some sort of mechanism rattling around inside the box and several interesting looking features on the box worth investigating, e.g. the top of the box has some movement in it, there’s an unusual rather small hole on one side, the plate around the keyhole on the front hasn’t been properly attached, there’s a dovetail joint on the front of the box (yelling “Perry McD and the Sandfield’s were here”, if nothing else!) – but there’s something odd about the dovetail, and then there’s that noise coming from inside…
OK, so you’re a puzzler – how do you set about trying to solve a new challenge?
Well, in my case, I explore what I have and what I can do with what I have … and literally my first line of investigation was the key – and whether there was any sort of tool secreted inside they key (Yip, I’m a pretty distrusting sort of guy!) – turned out it was just a key – albeit one with an odd shape … which made me think that perhaps it would be more useful as a tool rather than as a key, per se. So I spent a little while using it to prod and poke and lever various things around the outside of the box – not tremendously useful as it turned out. OK so maybe a key is just a key, and for the first time I try it in the keyhole (see previous comment about my levels of trust) and it turns out that the hole’s too small or the pointy bit on the key’s not quite long enough, so let’s try something else…
Noticing that the plate over the keyhole is a bit loose, fiddle around with the nails holding it on and find that one of them is really rather loose (almost certainly not a manufacturing error, he thinks to himself – I’m onto something now…) – yank the nail out and the plate swings down revealing another keyholeA-HA! Except that wasn’t it either … this game of cat and mouse goes on for quite a while, including all manner of combinations of things previously tried together, at the same time – until eventually I try something - and things change - and I know I’ve got it,
and it’s nothing like I thought it was going to be!
It is a delight to open this puzzle and see for the first time what was useful and what wasn’t … most of it wasn’t!
This puzzle was created to delight and amuse puzzlers – and it succeeds brilliantly. The number of in-jokes sprinkled liberally around such a small box is staggering – and I realised after I’d solved it when I was reading Robert’s walk-through that I’d missed a couple of them along the way. I reckon every serious puzzler needs to have a crack at this one for the sheer fun it provides.

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