Dark Fairy Door

Tracy Clemons

After cyberstalking Tracy Clemons for some time, in late 2019 I saw she had something available. As the cost was several times the cost of my next most expensive puzzle (until Secretum Cista comes, at least), l consulted my horrible, horrible wife, seeking convincing that not getting it was the right thing to do, and she, in all her horribleness, told me that I should get it because it would make me happy (such nerve!).

There are 8 copies of Dark Fairy Door (DFD), each with distinct aesthetics hiding the same mechanisms and additional puzzles within. From the pics one could see that there were two doors, on the top and bottom of the box, which, we were told, contained a pentominoes set, a second puzzle box, and a fairy treasure (different for each box). They were 10″ x 11″ x 5″, and would require a few dozen (!) moves involving about 60 pieces (22 of which constitute the pentomino set) to travel through to the end.

My DFD

As with any box from Tracy, these did not last long – I was fortunate that one of my 2 favorite designs was still available, although I would happily have taken any of the 8. So I sent the PayPal, and within a few days a large box was at my house.

I picked up said box and… dang! That thing is heavy, coming in at close to 7 lbs. Really I should say the puzzles, as we have the external doors, the pentomino set, and the final puzzle box (whose secrets shall yet remain a mystery, except to say that opening it is only one part of solving it).

More importantly, pictures are hard to really show the attractiveness of such a large, well-made wooden box. The contrast of its many woods and the whimsical, detailed designs featured on all 4 sides make for a very pretty piece of art. It was even permitted to remain downstairs, where non-puzzling people might see it (!), much to the chagrin of its tinier cousins upstairs.

I set about working on my new favorite thing and made some headway, discovering a couple tools (presumably), some moving thingies, some unmoving but potentially moving thingies, and the sounds of unseen moving thingies. However, I could not connect most of these thing(ie)s to one another, and certainly no door would open.

Fast forward several days and still not much progress. Clearly the puzzle was broken……. no? It’s not broken? Hm. Fine.

……after another couple weeks, I chatted with Tracy to get some direction. I had done a lot, but there was (at least) one thing I simply could not figure out. I knew what I needed to do, but not how to do it! Tracy benevolently (and with more than a little amusement at my bewildered state) led me to a place where I could get the first step, which turned out to be the first of a series of steps that would finally allow me do that thing I knew I needed to do.

There were certainly bumps and blocks between that moment and the final discovery of my treasure, but I had spent so much time exploring the box that it was mostly a matter of figuring out how everything worked together.

The pentomino set is beautiful: lovely, silky smooth pieces (probably 1/2″ – 3/4″), waiting somewhere inside; even more beautiful is the second puzzle box, which really isn’t a full description as it involves more than “merely” opening a puzzle box, although there is that too, of course. I left this displayed for a few days before setting about resetting the box.

A few days later, I was able to fully reset, re-solve, and re-reset everything in one sitting. It was then that I was really able to truly appreciate how beautifully the steps cascaded from start to finish, all the disparate pieces and movements coming together into a cohesive and flowing whole. All in all, there is a sum of parts that creates a puzzling experience that feels like more than “just” solving a puzzle – and I think that is the idea….. you are, after all, finding your way through a dark fairy door… and Lil’ Ms Fairy Pants will not be what’s waiting for you on the other side…

Deck of Cards for Scale

Grade: Four and a Half 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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