I joined my new co-workers at the bar after finally figuring out the menu and ordering myself some beer. I sat down and started chatting and getting to know my new peers.

Gustav told me about how on the weekends he loves to go mountain climbing with his friends and how he loves nature and spending time outside.

Vadim told me about how he loves old-school games, the older the better, and how he thinks video games have to potential to teach skills that can be applied in many fields.

Becky told me about how she loves music and how from a young age she was brought up on the classics and learned to play the piano and the violin. Now she is in the process of starting a punk band with some of her friends to explore the rebellious side of music.

We kept on chatting until we realized that our drinks were empty. Vadim said that as the new guy it was my job to go and get another round. I made my way to the bar and after a few minutes I got the drinks. As I returned to our table, the others were speaking in hushed tones and got quiet as they saw me approach. Gustav was the first to speak and said that they wanted to have some fun, so they had a little bar bet for me. He said that if I get it right they will pay for all my drinks. He then handed me a piece of paper. Becky spoke up and mentioned that I should be able to solve this puzzle if I listened carefully.

 Find the 5 hidden words:    

 S U T L W O  
 Z O I R L A   
 J P Z P E D  
 U O P S O M  
 L Y I G I Z  
 S A J O M E

After a quick look I couldn't find any words, except maybe "a". If I can't figure this out then I will lose the bet.

Can you find the 5 hidden words?

Hint 1:

This puzzle contains a lot of red herrings. There is no information in the story that is just for flavor. It is either valuable information or used to hide the important parts.

Hint 2:

It is not a simple word search puzzle. The person who posed this puzzle likes to obfuscate his intent. I wonder who created the puzzle for me?

Hint 3:

Doing research on each person and their interests might yield results.

Hint 4:

The five words you need to find will form a sentence. One of the words is not a proper word. Due to certain constraints it had to be abbreviated using text message speak.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @ArbitraryKangaroo: Explicit rules would effectively eliminate the "enigmatic puzzle" tag, which I think has been added on purpose. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Oct 7, 2016 at 10:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I am sure it's entirely irrelevant, but just treating the square as an actual wordsearch it contains the words ZIG, DOG, GOD, and OWL as well as the A already mentioned. If I found myself in this actual situation I would be sorely tempted to insist that I have therefore found the required 5 hidden words :-). $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Oct 7, 2016 at 11:11
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Oh, also ZOS. (A zo, also spelt dzo or zho, is an animal similar to a yak, found in the Himalayas and on Scrabble boards.) $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Oct 7, 2016 at 11:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hmm. I don't think this is a standard word search. I somehow suspect that there are actually six words of six letters each hidden here: five topical words and one solution. But how? I can see Mozart, which would fit the music theme, but it isn't in any way connected. (But at least there is one letter of Mozart in each column.) Another restriction is that there is no B, C, F, H K, N, Q, V or X and there is only one R and one T, which Mozart would use up. But there are enough vowels to make meaningful words. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Oct 7, 2016 at 11:36
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Aha. This seems to be pertinent to the puzzle. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Jul 20, 2017 at 8:55

2 Answers 2


M Oehm and Gareth McCaughan have already done the hard parts but the answer is

U wrapped up my game

Which you get by

Removing the letters which denote tetromino pieces, i.e. {IOTZSJL}

  • $\begingroup$ Congratulations, this seems to be the intended solution! I'm a bit disappointed though, I was in the middle of working out a way to cut the board into tetrominos, rearrange them and form the sentence A SILLY SUMMER JIGSAW PUZZLE. $\endgroup$
    – Christoph
    Jul 27, 2017 at 10:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Christoph I think that would be at least as good an answer as the real one so you should definitely still do it! $\endgroup$
    – user39583
    Jul 27, 2017 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ Haha, if it worked, for sure! But as far as I can tell it's not possible, unfortunately. $\endgroup$
    – Christoph
    Jul 27, 2017 at 10:48
  • $\begingroup$ Well done! Believe it or not, but I had tried to find a solution similar to Gareth's where I Caesar-shifted all letters according to each teromino. But that ddn't work,of course. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Jul 27, 2017 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ Nicely Done! You took it the final mile and thus get the spoils of victory. Congrats to M Oehm and Gareth McCaughan for setting the groundwork. $\endgroup$
    – R.R. Louw
    Jul 27, 2017 at 15:44

Certainly-wrong answer

My purpose in posting this is more to inspire others to do better than because it has any chance of being right. However, I do think this is arguably an acceptable solution to the puzzle originally posed -- but it doesn't match some of what's been said in the hints. And I do suspect that the intended solution is probably along similar lines.

So, based on MOehm's observation that

Vadim might be Vadim Gerasimov, one of the creators of Tetris,

let us consider the grid of letters to be overlayed on

a small Tetris game in progress, in which there is one of each kind of piece. (If we ignore differences in rotation and reflection, there are exactly five kinds of Tetris piece, so this is a somewhat plausible thing to do.)

Then they might e.g. be arranged like this:

+-------+ S | U T | L W O | +---------------+ Z | O | I R L A | | +---+-----------+ J | P | Z | P E D | +---+ +---+ +---+ U O P | S | O | M +-------+---+ +---+ | L Y | I G | I Z | | +---+ | S A | J | O M E +-------+---+

forming the words



contrary to the hints none of these has been abbreviated with txt spk, and it's hard to make a plausible sentence out of them. There are plenty of other Tetris-piece-shaped groups of four letters that make words -- and still more if we allow txt-msg abbreviation, which seems like it can make almost anything a "word" -- and surely other ways to put five of them together obeying the constraints I've applied above (though of course those constraints are nowhere implied in the puzzle). I haven't spotted any that look very sentence-like, though, and it seems like there are enough possibilities that exhaustive enumeration would be exhausting.

  • $\begingroup$ After reading about Vadim and Tetris, I was like, oh maybe the words are gonna be tetris shaped, and then i was like, well that's going to be really hard not doing that xD $\endgroup$
    – Brisingr
    Jul 26, 2017 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ You are on the right track. Is there any other way to link tetrominos to the letters on the grid? $\endgroup$
    – R.R. Louw
    Jul 27, 2017 at 8:25
  • $\begingroup$ I like your logic behind the reason for having 5 words. Unfortunately 5 was just randomly chosen. There is no specific logical reason for it to be 5 words. $\endgroup$
    – R.R. Louw
    Jul 27, 2017 at 8:33
  • $\begingroup$ There absolutely is another way to link them, and it's notable (and I would have noted earlier, had I had the brain) that the grid contains an awful lot of letters in {IOTZSJL}. There seem to be quite a lot of possible ways to proceed here... $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Jul 27, 2017 at 9:08
  • $\begingroup$ ... and, d'oh!, I see that the intended solution (see user39586's answer) is pretty much the opposite of everything I thought of. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Jul 27, 2017 at 10:26

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