Sunday 13 June 2021

Gob Stopper

…or to give it it’s proper Sunday name: “Never Mind the Ball Locks, Here’s the Gob Stopper*” is the latest creation from the Two Brass Monkeys - a couple of slightly irreverent nutters who’ve been bringing their own brand of humour to the puzzle designs they’ve been producing over the last few years for an increasing band of loyal followers. Anyone thinking there’s the slightest hint of hyperbole in there should immediately refer to The Joy of Hex.

A few weeks ago one of my regular care packages from Big-Steve was somewhat heavier than I’d been expecting it to be and the cause of said heaviness turned out to be rather handsome brass ball, of sorts. I mean it’s clearly a ball, but it’s also clearly one of their hex thingies. (It’s a technical term, très scientifique!)

Fiddling around with it you’ll find a few bits that you can encourage out and if you’ve been doing your homework properly, you should have a strong sense of déjà vu at this point… proceed with the disassembly and head on over to piece identification and you’ll be able to convince yourself that at its heart, this is the Missionary Position from The Joy of Hex – albeit a Missionary of a somewhat different shape… this one positively rolls with goodness.

Assembly provides a slightly different challenge to the full Missionary given its curves – the full Missionary sits nicely in the stand that the lads thoughtfully provide, but the curves on this little beast make those stands utterly useless – so you are very much on your own with this one. As long as you’re at least a little handy (and some practice does help! As if you needed encouragement…) you should find that you can keep things in more or less the right places until they start to hold together themselves…

When the lads were describing the manufacturing process it sounded like there was a heck of a lot more work involved in making these little guys than their traditional hex puzzles – so much so that there was a time when they were seriously wondering whether it would be worthwhile making these suckers! All of the steps required for the traditional hex puzzles are there, but then they need to be assembled, turned into a ball on a lathe – without the pieces flying apart and killing anyone in the process (that part is important!) – then the pieces each need to be tumbled to knock off the sharp edges that result from the ball-turning-part-of-the-process before they’re finally ready for puzzlers to play with – without shredding their hands to bits.

All of the extra steps add significantly to the production time and effort so they do cost a bit more than their more traditional cousins, but they look excellent and play really nicely – and I’m a big fan of the antique-y pre-patinated finish that results from all of the extra work involved - I reckon it looks great!

Thank chaps!!


* If you’re wondering where the name comes from: the lads clearly had learnt absolutely nothing from the whole “Boaty McBoatface” debacle and decided to crowdsource a name for their latest creation using a Facebook group known to be frequented by absolute reprobates (and some puzzlers). The resulting poll, which even allowed for user-additions to the poll (what the heck are these lads thinking?!) duly settled on Ball Locks… one of said user-additions, with Ali's own “Never mind the ball hex” coming in at a respectable third place. The sheer genius was to combine those two and come up with the iconic punk reference that is “Never Mind the Ball Locks, Here’s the Gob Stopper”! There were a number of other excellent suggestions and personally I can’t wait to see what they come up with for “Jane Fondler”.

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