Room 3

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…an entirely different kind of place.

The group complained of feeling “all turned around,” as well they might.

Because no one wanted to stay here very long they missed the real sign while looking through the obvious. People in their situation, confronted with a challenge, tend to accept the terms of the challenge as a given, without examining it from all sides. How many sides does that problem have? They don’t know.

We passed down a long flight of stairs, through some sort of pantry, and on into…

 - Images and text copyright 1985 by Christopher Manson
used with permission. [Purchase MAZE from Amazon]


Room Type:  LOOP     Doors:  9  15  18  33


● The “obvious sign” in the text refers to the “THIS WAY” sign which points to door 18 no matter how you invert the image. [Independent Credit: Hello Gregor | White Raven]

● Two question and answer pairs indicate the correct door. The riddle of the sphinx emphasized by a question mark (next to the wrong door) points to the answer “man” next to door 18. [Independent Credit: Hello Gregor | vewatkin | White Raven]["Man" is understood in the context of the Riddle of the Sphinx as not to be "male" but "humankind."] The question, “What is your sign?” points to the answer “man” next to door 18. [Independent Credit: David Gentile | White Raven] [This is emphasized by both the question mark in the sphinx picture and the "What is your sign?" banner having the same orientation.]

● The well known modern version of the riddle of sphinx is, “What goes on four legs in the morning, two legs during the day, and four legs in the evening?” In this version a day is equated to a life and thus the night which follows evening is death. The sun and moon symbol then symbolize life and death, reinforcing 18 as the correct choice. [Independent Credit: Aria | White Raven][There are several versions of the riddle in antiquity all which emphasize the sequence four, two, three and make no mention of morning, day and evening. Though the version by Athenaeus includes a second riddle, "There are two sisters: one gives birth to the other and she, in turn, gives birth to the first." The answer is day and night. It is possible that these two riddles were combined to create the modern version.]

● The STOP/POTS sign pairs with the pots indicating that they are incorrect. The tepid water in the pots points to the warm water in the radiator. “Warm” as an idiom in English denotes more correct. The sun and radiator on/next to door 18 are both warm. [Independent Credit: Hello Gregor | White Raven] Room 18 is described as a “much warmer room” this reinforces the warmer/cooler riddle. [Credit: Hello Gregor] The moon denotes darkness, the sun denotes light. Darkness/bad versus light/good is a running theme in MAZE. [Independent Credit: David Gentile | White Raven] [Warm and cold dovetail with life and death in the sphinx riddle so that "warmer," life, light, and "man" all point to door 18.]

● The typeface of the banner “WHAT IS YOUR SIGN” is written so that letters could be numbers. The word “IS” appears to be either a 15, 51, 12, or 21 depending upon how the room is flipped or reversed. If 21 and 12 are added the result is 33, if these numbers are subtracted the result is 9. 33 and 9 are the numbers of the incorrect doors. [Independent Credit: 515 | White Raven] [This solution is incomplete.] 51 – 12 & 21 = 18 the number of the correct door. [Independent Credit: Aria | White Raven] [This solution is incomplete.]

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188 thoughts on “Room 3

  1. Attempting to crack the final pieces of Room 3. Just going to start a new post because the original thread was getting unwieldy. This is going to be long; sorry.


    1. The banner on the floor is the lowest thing on the floor – “sub” everything else from a 2D point of view. Could it be considered a SUB-TRACT, with “tract” being loosely interpreted as a piece of writing? The banner is vaguely the shape of a minus sign, of course, being horizontal and linear. The THIS WAY sign could be the plus sign, since it sort of looks like a plus sign.

    So 21 is the original orientation on the minus sign, give 21 a minus sign. The curling of the banner invites you to flip it forward/reflect it left-right so you can read the words properly, giving you a 12, give that a minus sign too. Reflecting/vertically flipping the banner gives you 51, and this is the same operation that gets “THIS WAY” (the plus sign) to read correctly, so give 51 a plus sign. Doing both reflections gives you 15, but it doesn’t match up with anything in the room, so ignore the 15.
    51 – 12 – 21 = 18.

    2. This one is vewatkin’s idea, although I just want to make it clear that (unsurprisingly) he doesn’t actually buy it himself. “The pots represent the three numbers of the correct equation. The two smaller pots have handles, which make negative signs. The biggest pot has no handle, isn’t negative. The relative sizes of the pots suggest the three numbers they correlate to are 51, 21 and 12.” (This only works if you have already narrowed the significant numbers down to those three in some other way.)

    3. I thought this was cool so I’m just going to mention that the 12, 21, and 12 that appear in the banner and THIS WAY sign add together to get… 45!


    4. This seemed significant to me so I’m just going to mention that if you measure the pot rims at their widest, moon at its widest, Sun at its widest, and base of THIS WAY sign at its widest, those measurements are all EXACTLY the same and I mean EXACTLY (2 cm, although I don’t think the actual measurement is meaningful). This suggests to me that they are all connected somehow, but all I could come up with is that the pots make an upright triangle, while the moon, sun, and sign make an upside-down triangle. This (together with the reflection in the pot water) could suggest a reflection/flip through the horizontal plane, which is in fact what’s required to get that THIS WAY sign to read correctly and tell you the way to go.

    5. “People in their situation, confronted with a challenge, tend to accept the terms of the challenge as a given, without examining it from all sides.” The only human “person” in this room is Stick Man/Top Hat. He is facing door 18. Is that his “challenge?” How can he examine it from all sides? He can rotate that sun around the axis of its nail – 180 degrees per the door number plus the sun – is there a peephole hidden underneath? And then he can open the door and look from the other side. The way the door is oriented, this is analogous to turning the page, and as we already know, when you turn the book over and turn the page and look through, you see the THIS WAY sign reading correctly, confirming which way to go.

    I feel like I could come up with scores more of these. So far none of them has really leapt out and bit me on the nose. It SEEMS like the eyes should come into it, and in fact WR has said they do. It SEEMS like the flippable moon vs the rotatable Sun should mean something when put together. It SEEMS like maybe SUN appearing backwards in miNUS could be significant. It SEEMS like the nails in the THIS WAY sign matching the ones on the moon poster should be meaningful.

    It SEEMS like this way lies madness…

    • Hmmm… Messed up my explanation of point 1… Flipping the scroll gives you 15, not 12…

  2. The moon has a half-circle as its outer edge, indicating 180 degrees. It is looking up. So rotate the “this way” sign through 180 degrees and stick it to the ceiling. Now the letters are oriented correctly vertically, but they are backwards and the arrow is pointing the wrong way.

    BUT the Sphinx is facing left but looking right — telling you to flip left to right. (The tail does a similar trick as reinforcement… starts off going left then flips to point right.) So you flip/mirror-image the sign left-to-right and the arrow is once again pointing to 18, and the sign reads “THIS WAY,” clear as day.

    WHY DO THIS: The three things — moon, sphinx, and sign, are all connected by a triangular shape: the triangular eyes of the moon and Sphinx, and the triangle pointer on the sign. The orientation of the triangles of the eyes actually matches the orientation of the sign’s triangles after you perform each operation!

    Not sure how the sun fits in. I guess its triangular rays could be a hint that you have to do some rotation/flipping with a triangular object, and the 18 + 0 from the sun gives you “180.” Or maybe it’s just not really involved in this riddle.

    This explains WR’s hint on Ask Manson about the backwards “NINE”… if you perform these same operations on a backwards 9 (the digit), you get a forwards 6, so you could misinterpret the flipping instructions as meaning you should be going through door 9/6, and it wouldn’t be clear which number was meant anyway. Writing out “NINE” backwards instead removes the confusion.

    • Also, to build on 515′s number thing using the “IS” in the “WHAT IS YOUR SIGN” sign:

      You start with a backwards IS, which = 21
      Then you do the 180 degree rotation = 12
      Then you do the final flip and get = 51

      Take the SIGN of 51 as positive (+) because you’ve done both necessary operations clued for the THIS WAY sign.

      The signs of 21 and 12 would be negative because they represent incorrect orientations.

      51 – 12 – 21 = 18

      The correct door!


    • Also, as 515 pointed out, you can use 12 and 21, the two incorrect orientations en route to the correct orientation, to get the numbers of the incorrect doors.

      12 + 21 = 33
      21 – 12 = 9

    • 515 & Aria,

      Congratulations! You have discovered the solutions before the riddle so I have added the solutions to the summary as incomplete.

      White Raven

    • ARGH this is so frustrating. I hate it. I love it. :)

      Vince just found another fantastic number thing but I’ll let him post it.

      What about this. The moon is “bad.” So we should flip/reverse it. The moon has two nails on top and kind of looks like a flip chart, inviting this kind of action. It’s looking up. So flip the bad moon up and you are looking at the other side of the poster. Also the moon is now looking down.

      Do the same thing with the book. Turn it upside down and look at the other side of the page.

      The sun’s “eye” is looking down at itself like the reversed Moon’s eye now is, so they match. So you do what the “good” sun is telling you… look through the page at a light source. Maybe that’s also what the dotted line is all about.

      With the book turned upside down, looking through the page from the other side, the THIS WAY sign reads correctly. (Its nails match the nails of the moon sign, reinforcing the idea that they correspond.)

      Other stuff supporting this:
      “all turned around”
      “examining it from all sides”
      “… They don’t know.” (The guests can’t do this solution because they can’t turn a page.)

    • OK so this thing vewatkin found was so great and who knows if he will get around to posting it. Here it is, credit to Vince, yadda yadda, and also note that he probably does not agree about the rationale I’m giving.

      21 is the backwards “is”
      12 is 21 turned upside-down
      51 is 12 mirror-imaged

      (As already noted, these operations will cause the THIS WAY sign to be read correctly.)

      One final operation, mirror-imaging 21 (or turning 51 upside-down, or however you want to do it), gives you

      15 (as already noted)

      This operation is NOT used in getting the THIS WAY sign to read the right way. In a sense it is the “invisible” number.


      The number of the unlabelled door in the room!


    • I’ve made valiant efforts to understand what you’re talking about, but I am not equal to the task. Here’s what’s seeming interesting here:

      12/21 in the mirror-themed room
      21 + 12 = 33, 21 – 12 = 9
      “Sign” could refer to a mathematical operator, or a positive/negative sign
      “How many sides” stuff could relate to looking at the page from the other side (from behind), effectively flipping the image
      51 – 12 – 21 = 18

      Of course, these numbers only seem interesting because they match the theme of the room. Thail Krider’s claim to fame was finding solutions like this in every room, but absent any particular reason to manipulate (or pull out) the relevant numbers. The correspondence between the numbers and the manipulations and the room seem to be here, although I can’t quite follow any of the full solutions suggested here. I feel somewhat like we’re in Room 1 and someone has noticed that “story” is in the text and “nary” is an anagram for “yarn” and we’re still waiting for the last bits to bring the whole thing together.

    • Look, I’ve been pretty hung up on a two-step process for transforming the sign and “21″ (180 degree rotation followed by left/right flip) but those two operations ARE equivalent to a single up/down flip/reflection.

      If it’s that simple, then maybe we are just comparing the Moon’s eye looking up with the Sun’s eye looking down, signalling a flip.

      Flip the Moon, flip the sign, get the correct orientation, get 51. SI?

    • Yeah, I’m having trouble with this too… it seems like there is plenty of rationale for flipping and mirroring the page already, and once you see the 21 you can figure out the 12, 15, and 51. And, as said, there are mentions of problems and signs in the text, suggesting math. But why is 51-21-12=18 better than 21-12=9 or 21+12=33? What clues that?

      (Numerology warning!): And has anyone mentioned that if you add the digits of 12+21+51+15, you get 3+3+6+6, which also = 18?

      Unlike some manufactured solutions in other rooms, I think these numbers were chosen deliberately (and ridiculously ingeniously) by Manson. But how would you settle on the right equation without knowing the answer in advance?

    • And 21 + 12 – 15 = 18 as well. So, 51 positive // 21 and 12 negative gets us 18, 15 negative // 21 and 12 positive gets us 18.

      And 51 + 15 – 21 – 12 = 33.

      UH OH! Putting them all together gives us the wrong answer. I think we really do need some justification for the specific operations we’re going to undertake.

    • Yes, justification of the operators and the choice of numbers is the puzzle. Also there is another related reversing puzzle that doesn’t involve the “IS.”


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