So a new update brought us the "Nine Pipe Problem" and the wiki tells me that if you equip the "Private Eye" and the "Nine Pipe Problem" you complete the "Eliminating The Impossible" item set which can reduce mystery solving by up to 88%"

What does this really do?

  • I assume it's a joke, but don't have proof
    – Zelda
    Commented Mar 9, 2012 at 21:59
  • 1
    Well, for what it's worth, it's a Sherlock Holmes reference: "[W]hen you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth[.]" He also at one point categorized the difficulty of a problem by how many pipes he'd have to smoke to solve it (which is probably where "Nine Pipe Problem" comes from)
    – agent86
    Commented Mar 9, 2012 at 22:10

2 Answers 2


This attribute used to be a joke up until the June 20, 2012 Patch. Now you can use it to "solve" the mistery of the six crafting ingredients.

Please note the actual item descriptions are only a random selection of letters from each description - each user having a different selection. The above is what you get by plugging the holes together.

What follows, instead, is what you get from all of the above.


When combined with the other items added in the June 20, 2012 Patch, the full quote reads:

Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.


  • 3
    I solved the mystery: when you combine that descriptions you get: Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser. It's another quote of Sherlock Holmes
    – user27907
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 22:01

Nothing... at the moment.

According to the item schema, mystery solving is an actual attribute, but it would appear to have no effect in game. Obviously, it's not clear at this point, but a future update might actually make the attribute do something.

"name": "mystery solving time decrease",
"defindex": 391,
"attribute_class": "mystery_solving_time_decrease",
"min_value": 0.000000,
"max_value": 1.000000,
"description_string": "Reduces mystery solving time by up to %s1%",
"description_format": "value_is_percentage",
"effect_type": "positive",
"hidden": false,
"stored_as_integer": false

No item sets since Australian Christmas have had effects that change the attributes of weaponry/damage resistance, so it would be odd for Valve to release a new item set with beneficial stats, suggesting that it may just be a joke attribute, and part of the theme of the item set.

As the TF2 wiki also notes:

The item is a reference to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Specifically, it alludes to the phrase "three pipe problem" introduced in the short story The Red-Headed League, and refers to the amount of tobacco needed to ponder over and deduce the solution to a particular puzzle.

which further suggests it could just be part of the item set theme.

  • 2
    It isn't a joke, it gives the new items a new description according to the wiki
    – user27901
    Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 20:32

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