Wednesday 21 March 2018

The Flatliner Deluxe

I quite often find myself raving about Mike Toulouzas’ creations in this blog – he comes up with some fantastic puzzle designs, and then executes them beautifully. Mike’s entries generally stand out in the annual Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition and when he’s at an IPP, I generally make a bee-line for his table at the puzzle party in the hopes that he’ll have some spare copies of his latest designs, or that he’ll add me to the ever-growing list of puzzlers who want to order one of his latest creations.

Recently I’ve been fortunate to be able to acquire a few of his older works, swelling the Toulouzas shelf in the puzzle cave a little… all super puzzles that still slide as smoothly as they did when he first made them… Mike’s got skillZ!

Recently Mike popped a couple of interesting looking pictures up on FaceBook – he’d been working on a new incarnation of an old design called Flatliner… then he posted a short video clip of the 3D packing puzzle with typical Mike T touches in the detailing of the box and in the magnet for keeping the lid safe on the side of the box while you’re playing… lovely touch!

Knowing that Mike occasionally sells a few copies of his latest works on Puzzle Paradise I began watching it regularly for updates… none came… but every now and then a new pic or two would be posted, and then a video of Mike signing his name inside the lid… still nada on Paradise…

…and then out of the blue, I get an email from Mike telling me that he’s just posted a copy to me - as a gift – cue dropping jaw, confused grateful email and several offers of payment, all of which get roundly rebuffed – he just wants to give it to me. Cue even more grateful emails, both then and a few days later when it arrives from Greece…

... it’s even better looking in real life. 

Flatliner was designed when Mike was inspired by Liu Suzuki’s Stuffing puzzle – a 3D packing puzzle in a box with cubies joined with occasional offsets… Mike’s puzzle extends that idea and presents puzzlists with five pieces to be packed inside a box… with just a little protrusion in one of the corners… and the cubies have all been squashed, a little… and none of them are joined without an offset. 

Actually, that’s not quite true, so before the mathematicians out there jump on me (you know who you are!) the five pieces are made up of three pieces of three cubies each, one with four and then a single lone cubie left (so, arguably no offset on that one, eh?!). Oh, and the box isn’t quite square… it’s almost as though Mike’s jigs were a bit off the day he made these, and he glued the bits together really badly, and by accident he’s ended up with a fabulous challenge for puzzlists… yeah, right! 

If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell ya’ll…

Those five pieces have many, many ways not to go into that box – I know that as I’ve probably explored most of them! Given the offsets between cubies, there’s also quite a lot of extra space in there gently mocking the puzzlists. Oh, and given those offsets, you can’t really build the puzzle outside box as the pieces won’t naturally lie flat the way you might want them to… 

Mike it seems has a special talent for evil when it comes to designing these puzzles… it’s brilliant!

Thank you, one last time, Mike!


  1. No mathematician should jump on you. Your description of the pieces is accurate, as shown by the supporting photo, yet you maintain the integrity of the puzzle by not broadcasting the relative dimensions of the pieces and the box. Mind you, a clever mathematician metagrobologist should be able to take your clues and be able to analyze the puzzle. Shame on any of my colleagues should any jump on you for any perceived inaccuracy!

    1. Phew - definitely dodged a bullet there! :-)

  2. As with all Mike's puzzles this looks fabulous! Several years ago Mike said he would make me one of his Illusion Puzzles and I reminded him at the London IPP a year later. There's still no sign of it but I'm ever hopeful!