The Flatliner Deluxe
A review of The Flatliner Deluxe, a stunning packing puzzle by Michael Toulouzas, from Greece. Find out why you should own this puzzle.
Design and Copyright: Michael Toulouzas.
Craftsman/Manufacturer: Michael Toulouzas, from Greece.
Material: Walnut pieces, Katalox, Bubinga, Beach (oiled and waxed)
Objective: Pack five pieces into the box.
Type: Assembly – 3D Packing.
It feels like ages since we last sat down to review a puzzle… sorry about that. We have been very busy with work, lesson planning, assessment and feedback to a diverse range of students. Combine this with the challenges of life in general … and sigh! However, as of today, we think that we can look at reviewing a spate of new puzzles!
As an avid puzzle collector, we am very lucky to meet up on a regular basis with fellow puzzle enthusiasts and even more fortunate to be able to hold and admire puzzles by fellow puzzle collectors who have the great luxury of being able to afford some of the more luxurious and elite mechanical puzzles that are often out of more often or not out of our league. One particular puzzle collector (Allard Walker) whom I greatly enjoy meeting up with, has a collection of puzzles in his own well-known Puzzle Cave by the Greek puzzle designer Mike Toulouzas. You can see Mike’s website Puzzzlevision here.
Mike Toulouzas creations are incredibly popular with puzzle collectors and over the last decade, he has produced some of the most collectable mechanical puzzles in the world. We count ourselves as one of the ever-growing lists of puzzlers who want to order or own one of his latest creations. Mike’s entries in the annual Nob Yoshigahara Puzzle Design Competition from 2002 until the present day are legendary. Puzzles of note include ‘The Vault Puzzle’, ”Grandmass Trunk’, The Judge’s Gavel Puzzle’, ‘Xenia Table Puzzlebox’, ‘Toolbox’ and ‘The Rocking Horse Puzzle’ to name but a few. Each and every puzzle he produces is well and truly gob-smacking.
Several years ago Mike produced a small, very difficult, packing puzzle known as the “Flatliner”. Inspired by the ‘Stuffing puzzle’ designed by the Japanese puzzle designer Liu Suzuki whose simple-looking 3D packing puzzle’s objective was to place all of the pieces inside the box so that the lid can be properly closed.
Mike’s puzzle upped the ante a little by adding six-pieces with the goal of assembling the pieces also into a nice little box. The puzzle was beautifully made from oak and wenge with maple and wenge pieces and we simply had to obtain a copy. Thus the wait began.
At IPP 37 in Paris, we had the honour and fun of sharing a lot, and we mean a lot of drinks in the bar and hotel lobby with Mike and his wife (alongside an intimate group of other puzzle designers including Simon Nightingale, Yavuz Demirhan and Stephen Chin – the laughs we had with his exploding bomb puzzle) and happened to mention the ‘Flatliner’. Now craftsmen very rarely revisit the same puzzle, a reason so many of a limited run are eagerly purchased when announced. Mike joked about this and that he could be persuaded to revisit it at some point. I left with no clear acknowledgement of a new batch. But a good friend nevertheless. Sigh! The wait would have to continue until a Flatliner would at some point appear on an auction site.
In late Aug 2017, we had a fall and damaged our back on a return from Paris. Around that time we received a nice message on Facebook explaining that he had started exploring a new Flatliner, but that it would have to be a special edition because he hated going back without some form of motivation. We had a little conversation and in February this year, Mike messaged us again with a couple of exciting pictures on FaceBook and news that a small batch of five special edition ‘Flatliner Deluxe is coming. Yikes!
Mike started to add some small taster images and videos of the 3D packing puzzle onto his Facebook Page, including a lovely video of him signing one of the five puzzles in Indian ink. One showing a close-up of the box, the lid and the lid safely attached by a magnet on the side of the box, was especially nice!
… and then. We get a message asking for our address. Mike offers to send us one as a gift! WHAT! We must admit to being very emotional being still drugged with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs after the fall from Paris. As always we are dumbfounded by the occasional, random generosity of designers and craftsmen. Mike is adamant and a few days later a puzzle arrives. Two days before our Birthday on the 9th March. Oh, what a birthday gift and mechanical puzzle. It is simply GORGEOUS!
The objective presented to the puzzler is to pack and assemble the five very unusual pieces (the pieces are glued unevenly with no flat surface) inside the ornate box. We won’t go into great detail on the relative dimensions of the pieces and the box, however, the tremendous quality, skill and craftsmanship have to be respected and admired. Not only the small, detailed five pieces (made up of three pieces constructed from three cubies, one with four cubies and a single piece made from one cubie), but also the level of detail and finish on the lid, the box (whose inside is not entirely straight), the bevelled legs and little magnet on the side of the box to magnetically hold the lid when attempting to assemble the puzzle. It is simply beautiful to hold, and admire.
We tipped out the pieces and then attempted to complete what is obviously a fabulous, frustrating challenge. After several hours of experimenting with different orientations and combinations of pieces (keeping us quiet for quite a while), we were unable to come up with a solution. Grr! Several days later, and countless hours of tipping, packing, sliding and assembling… we still haven’t got the pieces back in the box. Oh dear! We’ve not had a packing puzzle like this in some time.
Guess what! We Love it!… We know you will as well if you are lucky enough to obtain one. Let us know at TheMetagrobologist if you also own one.
Thank you, Mike! I feel compelled at the end of this to say again, how humbled and honoured I am to own this beautiful number (1) of (5) puzzle. I will treasure it forever.
Availability: Contact Mike on his website ‘Puzzling Makes A Better World’ above.
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