Room 8

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…a vaulted chamber lit by a single bulb.

Someone knocked a bowl off the table. The crash echoed from the ceiling and whispered away down the corridors. I broke another on purpose.

“Make sure to take that with you,” I said. “You can never tell when you might need it.”

“Take what?” they wanted to know.

“Isn’t it obvious?”

Taking a vote among themselves they went on to…

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


Room Type:  PATH     Doors:  6  12  23  29  31


● The correct door is 12. [Credit: Unknown - during the 1985 contest.]

● One part of the Riddle of the Path in this room is the obvious “S.” [Credit: Unknown - prior to 1990.] The other part is the “E” formed by the table legs. [Independent Credit: David G | White Raven]

● The sign labeled “SiGN” is up against the bowling pin. The lower case ” i ” looks like the white part of the bowling pin (the black stripes separate the dot from the stem) making another ” i “. [Credit: Aria | Credit: White Raven] In outlines ” ii ” is the number 2. [Credit: Test / Saints This Way | Credit: White Raven] The remaining letter “SGN” is a reference to the sign function which is abbreviated “sgn” or on calculators as “SN” or “SGN”. So “SiGN” contains both the names “sign” and “sgn”. The sgn function in simple form is written as “sgn(x)” in a function, and the archetypical representation of the function is x=sgn(x).|x| As a person who betters understands math put it, “sgn is a mathematical representation of absolute value “x”.” The upper case “SGN” suggests that this part of the puzzle stays on the arrow sign while the lesser ” i ” is paired with the bowling pin so the solution reads ” xii ” instead of the alternate possible order ” ixi “. In lower case Roman numerals ” xii ” is the number 12, indicating door 12.

● The bowling pin indicates 12 – there is one stripe at the bottom (unusual) and two stripes at the top (normal). Also, the pin is more vertical than the other items in the room perhaps suggesting that the pin is read left to right after falling to the right. [Credit: Aria]

● The stethoscope indicates 12 – the sound starts in one tube and splits into two tubes. Further reinforced the emphasis on sound in this room. [Independent Credit: David G | White Raven]

● The bulb is referred to as a “single bulb” and is circled by two rings in the illustration. 1&2=12. [Independent Credit: David G | White Raven] The “single bulb” and is connected to a light switch. The light switch is in the off position but the light is on regardless – suggesting that the switch is on in both directions. 1 switch and 2 poles of the switch = 12. [Credit: vewatkin]

● The text mentions two bowls falling (one breaking, the other presumably so) and uses the word “echo” – the illustration has a unbroken bowl and no bowl pieces. 1 unbroken/illustration bowl + 2 broken/text bowls. 1&2=12. [Credit: David G]

● A bowling theme points to the correct door, 12. The bowling pin, the word “bowl,” the “crash,” and the knocked over room recall the act of bowling, while the “corridors” recall the lanes and the single bulb the bowling ball. A perfect game in bowling requires twelve strikes. The last two strikes are tacked on after the 10th frame – this is illustrated by the two “bowl” crashes in the text. [Independent Credit: SP / David G | White Raven]

● There is a up/down metaphor which points to door 12. Because the room is tilted door 12 is above the others. The candlestick and umbrella are on the floor but are meant to be picked up, this is reinforced by clown in the poster holding up an umbrella, and in the text the Guide encourages the visitors to take something with them but what this object is isn’t stated, suggesting the general idea of picking something up. Likewise, in the illustration, the table, bowl, sign, and poster are all down when normally such things should but up or upright. In the text, bowls fall and crash, likewise bowling pins are knocked down. Thus up is encouraged (up = door 12) while down is discouraged. (down = other doors) [Credit: SP]

● This solution has several related parts: The barber pole represents the Earth’s pole, the tilt of the room represents the tilt of the earth, the bowls in the text are the two hemispheres of the earth. [Independent Credit: SP | White Raven] The single light bulb represents the sun, the single bowl in the illustration represents one of the two hemispheres of the earth (it is propped up in the appropriate fashion). The light from the bulb/sun causes one side of the bowl/hemisphere to be lit up and the other dark. The light side faces the direction of door 12. It takes 24 hours for the earth to rotate on it’s axis, half of this is 12, the number of the correct door. [Independent Credit: Aria | White Raven] Reinforcing this solution, the barber pole is tilted in relation to the pillar next to it about 23 or 24 degrees. The tilt of the Earth is 23.5 degrees. [Credit: Aria]

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205 thoughts on “Room 8

  1. We only see one bowl, but the text indicates there are two of them. If this is true of the bowls, why not also of candlesticks, stethoscopes, Punchinellos and barber’s poles – all of which have 12 letters when in the plural form.

    • Because the text makes implicit reference to a second bowl we can’t see, why not pluralize other single objects in the room and then count the letters in the resulting plurals?

      1) Nothing suggests those single objects are plural, 2) there is nothing to distinguish the 11-letter objects you’re pluralizing from everything else in the room you’re ignoring (which includes the bowl, the object that inspired this line of thought in the first place), 3) nothing suggests we ought to count letters in anything, 4) you have a lot of options for how to describe objects when you’re not using the simplest and most common name for them.

  2. Also (finally my maths degree coming in handy), the signum or sign function works a bit differently when the argument is a complex number (like the complex number i). So if we assume the lower case i being inside SGN is telling us to find sign(i) then this would equal i. Not sure if that really helps to indicate 12. Maybe that’s ii from the wooden sign and i from the bowling pin giving 12?!

    Or maybe this just gives ii and the bowling pin and the bowl give 10 and then adding gives 12!

    An explanation about the sign function WARNING MATHS AHEAD!
    The sign of a complex number is the complex number divided by its absolute value. Complex numbers normally have the from a + ib and the absolute value is the square root of (a squared + b squared). In our case the complex number is i so a = 0 and b = 1. So the absolute value is the square root of 1 squared = 1. And sign(i) = i/1 = i.

    Anyway… do with that what you will… It would have been cooler with a different argument other than i :(

    • mazecast dot com slash signing dash off
      The SGN(x) argument doesn’t help us get 12 because it is based on a mathematical misunderstanding, x is just the generic placeholder here. Plugging in “i” doesn’t help either, though it’s more logical than extracting an “x”. Getting “i” from SiGN is redundant, it’s like getting 3 from 3 + 0. 12 is not indicated through either method as far as I can see.

    • Fair enough. I just really don’t like the solution of getting x out of SiGN. So I understand that getting i isn’t much more helpful but at least it’s more mathematically correct! :)

  3. I’m super new here so I might be totally on the wrong track but… could you interpret the stick of the umbrella as 1 and then its shadow and the drawing of the umbrella (both images of the original) as II so 2 which makes 12? Also the L shape of the umbrella handle being the 12th letter and the whole umbrella thing being a reference to the text talking about taking something with you. And the whole running umbrella theme/joke.

    • I dont know what that means, Im just going to believe it

    • Hello, Rose! Your post outlines a couple ways of thinking through this book. You’ve got object counting, object representation and text correlation.
      Beware when using objects as stand-ins for numerals in a way such as “umbrella + fake umbrella + shadow = 12.” Anything with a shadow and an elongated shape now represents 11? What I’m trying to say is that when object counting you have to think about what Manson was intending. Could someone really go from “12″ to “umbrella, fake umbrella, shadow?” Likely not.
      The “L” representing 12? I don’t know. I mean, it could be. Not all umbrellas are drawn the same way in this book, so maybe. It’s a good catch.
      Finally, the text-umbrella connection is certainly there.

    • Thanks! I totally see what you’re getting at there. I was thinking of the umbrella shadow and drawing as ‘images’ of the umbrella and that’s how I was grouping them. So one real umbrella stem and then two image umbrella stems. But I can see that even that is tenuous when you think about actually designing a puzzle. I’ve tried to have a really good look at this room because I’m not 100% satisfied by the existing solutions and I feel like there have to be more!

    • “Not 100% satisfied by the existing solutions” is a good default.

  4. I haven’t read all 189 comments, but could the poster be a reference to the joke about the doctor and a depressed clown?

    “A story is told that in 1806 a man goes to visit a doctor who is acclaimed for his ability to treat melancholia. “I can’t eat, I can’t sleep,” says the man. “I feel constantly miserable. Please help me, doctor.”

    “Laughter is the best medicine, my friend,” says the doctor. “Take yourself off to Covent Garden Theatre* where you will find The Great Grimaldi performing in Harlequin and Mother Goose; or the Golden Egg. It is exquisitely funny and will cure you of all your ills without any pills or potions from my cabinet.”

    The man looks at the doctor for a moment. “Ah,” he says. “That won’t help.”

    “Why not, sir?”

    The man shrugs. “I am Grimaldi.”

    • There are 45,600,000 results from “doctor and clown” on Google, and because the terms are vague enough, applying it to a single joke is a stretch. I just don’t see Manson signalling the story that way.

    • However, it is the type of story in Manson’s wheelhouse. Welcome to the Abyss, by the way.

    • Maybe that’s what the “sounds like” stethescope is there for. The position of the umbrella and other bowl mirror the position of the parasol.

    • And I continue to be convinced that the negative space between the candlestick and its shadow is meant to evoke a bowling pin on its side. One real bowling pin, two riddly bowling pins.

    • That’s not really worth mentioning, though, since it has no foundation in reality.

    • I thought maybe you had something, that “bowl-and-pin” was slang for this type of umbrella. But then I googled “‘bowl and pin’ umbrella” and this page was the first result.

  5. I do wonder whether SiGN is meant to make us think of SYMBOL = CYMBAL — the parasol the clown is carrying looks quite a bit like a cymbal, and he has a “high hat” (HI HAT) to reinforce the connection. The lowercase “i” in SiGN could be to help us make the connection since it kind of looks like the handle of the parasol/cymbal with its round end (upside-down). And the cymbal (if it is a cymbal) has a pointy thing on top that points at 12.

    Is this crazy? It’s crazy, isn’t it.

    And it doesn’t tell you why you shouldn’t just follow the damn SiGN in the first place.

  6. Here’s a silly one that just occurred to me. Probably far-fetched but kind of fun. If the clown is Punch, perhaps we should think of types of punches, such as “the old one-two” (12!) or “the one-two punch,” an idiom referring to two punches delivered in quick succession — some sources indicate specifically “a left-hand jab (the “one” in 12) followed by a right cross (the “two” in 12). Are the clown’s hands in fists? The right hand certainly is. Perhaps Toothless above the unnumbered door is a victim of said punch combination.

  7. Here’s one that I didn’t notice before because it’s a detail I haven’t paid much attention to in the past. It also might be a game changer in terms of consistancy with repeating objects. The umbrella’s tip is not visible, but its handle is a clear L. Not only is L the 12th letter of the alphabet, but the tip of the L is pointing to the picture, in which that umbrella is pointing tip first to 12. The stethoscope could be interpreted as “listen to this image” since the terminal is pointing towards the clown’s rump (let’s also remember that there is a hidden 12, possibly, in the picture of the clown). So why is this a game changer? In Room 10 the unbrella points to the correct door, and in 42, of the three doors against the far wall, the umbrella is the first item in the stand (corresponding to the first door on that wall). Wait..that’s all the umbrellas in Maze except for the one in the Prologue. So basically all the umbrellas are good, if interpreted correctly?

  8. Oh, I’m just going to put this down.

    Explanation for SiGN: on the rightmost door, which is unnumbered, we have an S, an eye, and a gap-toothed GRIN.

    eye = i
    GRIN with missing bits = GN
    = SiGN

    Yeah, I know, it doesn’t really explain the lowercase “i” although there is sort of a pronounced vertical line on the face that leads up to the pupil of the eye, which is just visible.

    Anyway, the arrow sign on the floor points to the left. If “SiGN” refers to the rightmost door, then you take the door on its left — the door to Room 12.

  9. And, for today’s overly complicated solution…

    This is a very violent room. There’s the “bang” (exclamation point) on the sign, there’s “Punch,” and there’s the “strike” of the bowling metaphor. Maybe someone was killed here. With the candlestick, perhaps? Maybe it was Mrs White — her game piece is hiding on top of the barber pole.

    Clue has 6 possible weapons and 6 possible suspects… 6 + 6 = 12.
    If you add the 9 possible murder rooms you get 21… reversed, like the shadow of the candlestick, to get 12.

    (Clue has already been mentioned I think but not all of these details.)


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