Thursday, 1 November 2018

Mike Toulouzas’ ELZZUP Puzzle

I may have mentioned my Toulouzas Rule before: If Mike offers me anything, say yes immediately and find out how much it’s going to cost me afterwards. My rule has never left me disappointed. 

A few weeks ago, Mike let me know he had a couple of copies of his ELZZUP sliding block puzzle – he’d entered the design in the Megistian Aenigma Agon in September and had run up a couple of additional copies. He asked if I was interested, so I consulted my Toulouzas Rule and said “Yes, please…!”

About a week later a parcel arrived with a lot of Greek stamps on it and I knew I was going to enjoy this.

Mike has gone to town on this puzzle – it is thoroughly gorgeous and comes with a bolt-on cover to keep all the pieces safe and sound inside.

Removing the lid you’re greeted by an array of Greek and Roman letters – spelling “puzzle” backwards along the bottom row, and most of the letters for “grifos” – one of the Greek words for “puzzle” – around the top half… removing the Greek letters leaves you with a few passing places and it should be pretty clear that the aim is to slide the letters around to get them to spell “puzzle” properly. 

Should be simple… but there is one small wrinkle: the two “Z” s are joined together into a single (double!) tile – and as a result it can’t move up into any of those passing places.

OK – throw yourself into it and quite quickly you realise that one little wrinkle really gets in the way, A LOT! You can get a couple of letters moved in the right direction and then all of a sudden, you find your way rather thoroughly blocked… which is interesting.

For a five-piece sliding block puzzle it has a surprising number of required moves – Mike reckons somewhere around 30 – and I’m sure he’s right, although I don’t think I’ve got it anywhere near as low as that! I find myself thrashing around trying the same things over and over again, before pausing to Think(c).

It’s a lovely little sucker-punch of a puzzle that looks really simple, but isn’t… and the sheer beauty of the thing draws you in and makes you want to play with it. 

[I haven’t commented on any of the lovely detailing on the puzzle because it's pretty darn obvious from the pictures – Mike is seriously at the top of his game and crafts wonderfully beautiful objects that also happen to be superb puzzles!]

But wait, there’s more! This puzzle is bilingual! … remember those spare letters filling up the passing places when you first open the puzzle? It turns out that those letters, together with a couple of the Roman letters, used creatively, will actually spell out γρίφος, or “grifos”, one of the Greek words for puzzle – and the placing of the letters across the tiles gives you exactly the same puzzle, in Greek! How cool is that?!


  1. very nice Review for a fantastic Toulouzas puzzle as always

  2. many thanks Allard. Now turn the box 180 degrees and having the paths down and rearrange the letters so it goes..... for RH hand people:)

    1. Aw naaaw - I can't believe I was playing upside down the whole time! ;-)

  3. Burrtools needed 47 moves for the puzzle