Sunday 10 July 2022

They Are Insatiable!

Yet More Hex and Screwing Around With Steve and Ali!

More Toys arrive to upset Mrs S!
I sort of knew that "stuff" was going to be made available from the Big Steve and Ali (aka The Two Brass Monkeys) sometime after Allard had posted a review of one of their latest delights, the Six Hookers. I was rather surprised when not just that, but 2 others were also released last week. Needless to say, I cannot resist having Hex with Steve and Ali and immediately fired up my credit card. These puzzles are beautifully made like everything else they have made to date and you won't be disappointed.

Not sure where the new ones are going to go!
Little blue box!
Mrs S was ever so slightly horrified that another 3 had arrived (and to give away a secret, I also received another bunch from Pelikan to review). The desk is kinda stuffed at the moment and the stash in the dining room is getting larger - this is quite impressive when you consider that I am not supposed to be storing any puzzles in that room! 

I did show her one of the boxes and reiterated the well known fact that all girls are supposed to have at least one "little blue box" in their jewellery collection (Guys, if you don't know then you need to get with the program...all girls want something from Tiffany & Co at least once during their lives). Mrs S was not amused that I might think of her as a hooker and was even less amused that I might have 5 others on the go as well! That idea almost got me a second Whack! Ouch! and she actually said that she had enough Tiffany jewellery in her collection already. I wish I had recorded her saying that as I am sure she will deny it vigorously in the future.

It probably isn't going to be of interest to most girls!
When I opened up the box and showed her the interior, she admitted that it was very nicely presented but was definitely not something she wanted to play with or wear and she warned me that I had better not break the granite or a kitchen tile with it. Gulp! The puzzle is 65mm square and weighs 380g. It feels special.

This puzzle design is not a new one and not Steve and Ali's own invention. It is based on a previous puzzle entered into the IPP design competition back in 2001 by Lynn Yarbrough (way before I began my puzzling career) who applied for the patent for the design in 1999. I love how the puzzle insert has misspelled Lynn's name. The original puzzle entered into the competition was made with square based sticks which were oriented on their edges but did have a full description for a hexagonal design which had never been made. Now Steve and Ali are masters of Hex and seem to have it all the time, all over the world so they could not resist the chance to create something new. When they decided to offer me some solid heavy hex then I couldn't really turn them down could I? Not when someone had said it was a good idea over 20 years ago.

It is pretty stunning!
I was a little premature, which is not a good thing when you are having heavy hex! I couldn't resist playing with it straight away and if you are going to have hex with Steve and Ali, you really should be prepared and take your photos first (and maybe get some protection like a suit of armour)! On picking the thing up I had no idea how it was held together and actually wondered if it was some kind of burr. I quite quickly realised that this wasn't the case as pushing on my ends did not have any effect at all and I saw that it was pretty stable in most directions with only a tiny amount of wiggle of all the pieces. It was a bit "squishy" in certain orientations and whilst squishing it I sort of realised what sort of puzzle it was...just as it fell to bits on my lap (or rather on the cat who was on my lap). It was apparent that you really can't have hex with the Two Brass Monkeys on a comfy chair and definitely not with a cat on your lap! After patching up the mess from when he shot off scratching my legs, and stopping swearing I realised I had 6 identical pieces:

Ali and Steve make beautiful hex!
The other side is hidden behind a button - don't look if you don't like spoilers!

I had watched in a sort of slow motion horror as it dismantled itself when I squished it and had a pretty good idea how it needed to be put back together again's a fiddly little bugger and definitely not something easy to do if you are a bit cack-handed and certainly not on a nice comfortable chair with a pissed off cat trying to settle back down again. I couldn't do it. The next day, I sort of desperately attempted to reassemble it so that I could take my photos. Much to the amusement of Mrs S, I was sitting next to her at the breakfast table and effing and blinding as every single attempt to reassemble it failed. I knew what was necessary but really couldn't seem to manage it. A request for an extra pair of hands was met with a snort of derision (she's an unforgiving woman) and the statement that it was more of a puzzling challenge if I did it myself. Eventually, I managed the reassembly and took my pictures before realising that I am a dimwit and had not taken the photo of the pieces first! Aaargh, I had to do it all over again. I have done it several times and it has gotten a little easier each time but will always be a challenge. 

This puzzle is an interesting one - it is pretty easy to work out what is going on but really quite tough to do what is required. I think this would be perfect to give to a smart aleck friend who thinks that many of your puzzles are easy. He will take this one apart and then get very frustrated trying to put it back together. It is beautifully milled and polished.

The Tetrahedrane puzzle is a wonderful remaking of the original Screwballs design from the amazing Oskar van Deventer. Oskar had originally created it in 3D printed plastic and Steve and Ali decided (with permission) to remake it but they "had no balls" and had to change the name to that which described the shape (tetrahedron is the shape that theoretically would be created when the C4H4 molecule is eventually synthesised (if it ever is)).  This one is 6cm tall and weighs 120g. It is a pretty tactile object.

Tritalon and Tetrahedrane
I had played with and enjoyed a possible predecessor of this puzzle way back in 2012. I had bought the Tritalon from Wil and had a nice time working out how it comes apart and then after scrambling the pieces had to work out which orientation everything needed to be in to reassemble it. It was clear that Tetrahedrane was going to be a similar challenge but MORE! They had written the following description:
"The puzzle has six identical stainless steel rods with right and left-handed threads at the end, and four different vertices, each with three threaded holes. The object of the puzzle is to assemble a tetrahedron.
When the boys offer you a chance at screwing around, you definitely take it. I had a little fiddle with the assembled puzzle and worked out which dowels turned in which direction before working my way sequentially around the whole thing until the balls that are not balls fall off. I took my photos and scrambled the vertices so that I did not know which had been in which position.

Beautifully engineered!
Again, I was a fool and attempted the reassembly whilst sitting on an armchair with a cat who really was interested in my brass bits. I had to tuck everything under a thigh to stop him running off with them and gradually worked out what went where. On several occasions, I realised I had got it wrong when I could not orient a rod that would fit on bot end pieces. This was going to be more than just random trial and error. I had to think© - this doesn't come easily. At some point I even lost one of the rods and had to stop puzzling for a while until I had an opportunity to get up and rummage down the side of the armchair for it.

This requires a fair bit of thought and patience - it can't be assembled sequentially as the threads have only a certain length to them and thus the screwing needs to be done simultaneously and gently (as all good screwing should be done). It took me about an hour in all and left me breathless - screwing with Ali and Steve is a tough thing made tougher if you get your ends mixed up. Another fun addition to anybody's collection.

I have a pair of hexy balls - made from brass of course!
It was very nice of the boys to let me have a nice pair of balls! Mrs S is not sure that I should be allowed to keep them as a boy with balls only gets into trouble! On the left is the Gobstopper v1 which is based off the Joy of Hex Missionary puzzle and in the recent delivery is the Gobstopper v2 which is an identical shape but based on the original Gamex design from Bill Cutler. It has 2 assemblies and is sent out in the easier one. The challenge is to find the tougher one. I have not dared to disassemble either of these two beauties yet - they frighten me to death. They are beautiful on display, though. Steve's mum has one of his balls on display!

Mrs Butter (I have no idea why!)
As an extra little gift, Steve had put this in my box. It is called Mrs Butter for no obvious reason. I suspect that after too much hex and with sore hexy balls maybe you need some soothing by spreading some butter about? This lovely little 3D printed delight kept me busy for a good hour. Initially I couldn't work out where the pieces went and then struggled with controlling the pieces for the coordinate motion solution. I got there eventually, though:

Don't click the button if you don't want to see the assembled cube.

Thanks to Steve and Ali for some wonderful hexy time! These puzzles are available now for you from their store. You won't be disappointed!


  1. I already 3D printed both square and hex Hookers. But I'm still buying the Two Brass Monkey version because of the blue box!!

    1. George, there's nothing to say that boys can't have Tiffany stuff as well! Enjoy your blue box!