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Antiques—Puzzle Jug

You don’t often see a jug with openwork around the neck. You could pour liquid in (carefully!), but getting it out would make a mess. If you look closely, you can see small holes in the textured rim.

This type of jug is a puzzle jug. They have openings that cause the liquid inside to spill if you try to pour or drink from it like a typical jug. They were popular in the British Isles in the 16th through 19th centuries. Some had verses challenging the drinker or setting a wager.

This pair, which sold for $107 at a Conestoga auction, has plain brown glaze, and applied flowers. The secret of a puzzle jug was usually that it had a hollow handle. Remember the holes around the rim? The drinker had to know which ones to cover and which to drink from in order to draw the liquid up through the handle. Get it wrong, and you don’t get a drink—or, worse, the drink spills on you!

Q: I bought a box of junk at a garage sale for $5. In it, I found a 1950s—or 1960s—era travel alarm clock. It is in a brown case that snaps shut. It is a Westclox clock with a white face and black numbers. The hands glow in the dark. The clock works and it is now on my desk. I love it! Is it rare?

A: A true blast-from-the-past. Before cell phone alarms, there were wind-up, travel alarm clocks you could shut until they were the size of a small wallet. Quite portable. They are not rare, but they are great discussion pieces. Yours is worth about $40, which is pretty good from a $5 bin of junk.

TIP: To cover a scratch in a piece of furniture made of dark wood, rub it with the meat of a walnut, Brazil nut, or butternut. Eyebrow pencil or shoe polish in a matching shade will also work.

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