Jack in the Box,

Jesse Born, 2019

A few months ago, I received the Jack in the Box puzzle from Jesse Born. Jack is a cool concept, blending puzzle boxes with one of my other favorite collectibles, playing cards! Very cool concept, as the box allows most decks of cards to sit snugly within, allowing only the slightest feel of movement when holding the unsolved puzzle.

It arrived unsolved (duh) and the quality was immediately apparent. the wood is smooth and feels solid and weighty in your hands. The Yosegi design on the. top is excellent; except for four seams that are part of the design, the breaks are not immediately noticeable by eye or hand – a difficult achievement, I am sure, and I think it is as good as any Karakuri I have.

With some inspection it becomes relatively clear where the opening will be, and I could figure out where the final step would likely take place, but that was it. Nothing moves, nothing slides… like some of my favorite puzzles, it is essentially a Wonka factory (“nobody ever goes in and nobody ever comes out”).

I find it very satisfying to get a solid puzzle with no clear first step. It can of course be fun to know how to start a new puzzle before hitting a wall, but there is something about a puzzle with no indication of how one should begin. I tried all the usual stuff (spinning it, holding it at different angles, sneaking up on it to catch it unawares, etc.), before putting it back on its shelf to glare derisively at me.

I may have done this a couple more times than I like to admit; with some exceptions, I do not typically manage to solve a good puzzle right away, although I suppose this is changing as my puzzling experience levels up. I am probably just trying to make myself feel better by implying that ’twas me the abecedarian and tyro and not the esteemed Solver I am today that struggled with it, but that is about as likely as my inability to solve a new puzzle actually being due to the always suspected, rarely existent design defect that we oftentimes suspect when nothing else seems to work (typically, this occurs a few minutes before being solved, for maximum shaming effect).

Eventually I hit upon that first move, which I find to be a very satisfying move to make even now, months later. After that, it is not a hard path to find the next 4 steps before it opens. Inside, Jesse included a classic red Bicycle deck (I think it was a bicycle deck… it was definitely red… probably. I know they were cards for sure. I think). I replaced the deck with my Red Labyrinth Cards from King’s Wild; thematic consistency is fun, and what is better to find tucked away inside a puzzle but another. puzzle?

Jack in the Box is an excellent addition to my collection, and one that looks great while serving as an ambassador between these two great nations (the world-weary puzzle boxes and the upstart playing cards, like an extra-nerdy West Side Story without the singing, dancing, or blatant Romeo and Juliet rip-off, and if it was made out of wood, metal, and paper and was sitting on my shelf…).

Jesse is currently working on the wonderfully elaborate Secretum Cista puzzle chest, which will be crazy cool, I am sure, and will be worth not much less than my entire current collection does, but he was kind enough to allow me to pay over time while he works. I will most assuredly share this with the 2 imaginary people reading this (thanks Bob Dobbs and Zaphod! I couldn’t do it without you).

I am telling myself that I will blog on here more frequently, but I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t be trusted, so we’ll see.

Grade: Four Sinatras

Published by fivesinatras

reviews of puzzle boxes, playing cards, and more, using the most accurate metric for the quantification of cool

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