The Puzzler and the Magician

Kristine Hjulstand from Norway was one of the magicians performing on Saturday night at Gathering for Gardner 11. It was not only her first performance at Gathering for Gardner, but also her first in the US. She opened with a delightful performance piece set to classical music, pulling scarves of color out of painter’s palette and turning it into a painting. Afterwards she took off her coat to reveal a sexy dress underneath and cheekily announced her need for a man — not just any man, but preferably a newly-married man, whose ring wedding ring was still loose. She called for any volunteers who might meet that criteria.

A hubbub burst out in the middle of the audience. “Pick him!” “I got married just 14 days ago!”

Perfect, the still-innocent Hjulstad thought, and called up Wei-Hwa Huang. Obediently he reached out his left hand to her, and she pulled off his wedding ring….only to have it fall apart into three pieces.

A small buzz circled around the attendees as Hjulstad laughed in shock at the jumbled ring. Bill Gosper leaned over and informed me and Neil that Wei-Hwa is the multiple-time world puzzle solving champion. So it’s not the least bit unexpected that he would have a puzzle wedding ring.

I know Hjulstad had at least one dear friend among the more experienced magicians, but he was naughty enough not to warn her. Just a word to any performer: Gathering for Gardner is the worst possible place to call for volunteers blindly. They look so innocent, but they egg each other on to see if they can trip you up. I love magicians, but in among that bunch, even I’m tempted to mis-shuffle your cards and palm a few just to see what you’ll do.

Hjulstad asked Wei-Hwa if he could put his ring back together again, and he said he could, but it would take a while. So rather than turn over her act to feature Wei-Hwa’s puzzle solving mastery, Hjulstad found a back-up husband and borrowed his ring. Wei-Hwa was still the man whose (borrowed non-trick) ring was stolen away by Hjulstad multiple times. And I think the back-up husband had a good time, too, though he didn’t even up with Wei-Hwa’s ring in the end.

Hjulstad rewarded them otherwise for their participation. The back-up husband received a pretty pink paper purse, and Wei-Hwa proudly sauntered off with a a lovely pink paper bonnet on his head.

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