Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Gifts for the Cryptological Mind

Cryptological in this case meaning those who like thinking about the hidden.

The Cryptex
Hakone Box
Authorized Da Vinci Code Cryptex from The Noble Collection. It’s very nice, made of good, solid brass. It avoids many combination lock issues. I tried some obvious ways you can cheat a letter from such a device and it was well-made enough that they didn’t work. It’s a nice bit of work.
Also, Japanese Hakone puzzle boxes from Pandora’s Puzzle Boxes. These are beautiful inlaid wooden boxes that you have to open up by sliding pieces of the box around. They’re rated by both size of the box and the number of moves needed to open it.

The puzzle box is both harder and easier than the Cryptex. You can brute-force the Cryptex in 265 moves, but you know what the moves are. It’s still a bit of a trick to know just how to slide the letters in place (that’s a good thing) as well. I found that pleasing in the Cryptex. The sliders for each ring are analog with no wussy little ratchets.

If you have a 27-move Hakone box, it’s only 27 moves, but you have to know what the moves are, and that’s a challenge in and of itself. The boxes go all the way up to 78 moves. New boxes are a bit stiff, and so there’s also a manual dexterity aspect to solving it, even if you know how to.

I recommend getting one of each. If the recipient has been naughty, put the solution for the Hakone box in the Cryptex and the Cryptex solution in the Hakone box. If the recipient has been very naughty, there are many opportunities for crypto-sadism. You can put a crib in the Cryptex’s setting of the initials of some significant person or place. You can put a clue to the Cryptex solution rather than the solution itself in the Hakone box. Add more boxes for more fun.