The Solution to Manson’s MAZE: Part II – The Riddle of Room 45

The Riddle of Room 45:

The trick to solving the riddle of Room 45 is symmetry and grouping. From easiest to hardest here are the hidden words revealed:

The two pictures on the wall give the words awl = “All” and nun = “None.” You have to pick one of the two…this is made evident in the clues provided by the publisher and the correct choice is reinforced by the Guide’s statement, ““Do you think it is written on the wall for all to see?”

The sign which looks like Elvis with the “S” cut off can be rearranged to spell “live” “evil” or “vile.” The correct word is “live” because without it we have no verb to work with.

The “W” and question mark are symmetrically across from the hat. “W” + “hat” + “?” = “What?”

The shoe and the horseshoe are grouped together. If the horseshoe wasn’t called a horseSHOE this would have been easy, but it is hard to ignore that aspect and see it as just a “U.” If you rearrange the letters of “shoe” + “U” it spells “house.”

Symmetrically across from one another are a sign with and eye on it (eye = “i”) and a long thin “Z”. The eye is looking directly at the long “Z.” If we tilt the “Z” it becomes an “N” and together they spell “in.” It isn’t too hard to get this once you have the other letters and realize you need a preposition, but until that point it in near impossible.

The tree trunks on the table affixed to a board are a row of wood… “Woodrow.” I tip my hat to whoever figured this out, wow.

Once “Woodrow” is figured out the last bit is pretty easy, but beforehand it is nearly impossible. Under the wood row is a paper with a sun at the top and “I AM” with a hand shaking a spear at the bottom. Even as clueless kid I knew this was “Shakespeare” and “son.” but what to do with those words was lost on me. I remember asking the librarian at school if she knew the names of Shakespeare’s children.

With “Woodrow” in hand we know to look for “Wilson” as in “Woodrow Wilson” the former president. On the left side of the paper we have “iam Shakespeare” The solution to this part of riddle is to add the missing part of his name “WILL” as in “WILL-iam Shakespeare”

Put all together this give us:

“What house will all live in?”



A wrong but interesting alternative phrasing of the riddle:

One of the clues given by the publisher says we need to choose between two pictures, this no doubt refers to the “all” and “none” and therefore the following phrasing is incorrect. Without the clues from the publisher the following phrasing would be preferable for including all the items in the room.

Instead of Nun = None, the image is of a “habit” the robe worn by nuns. This is reinforced by the fact that in the image the nun is faceless. The “in” is attached to “habit” to spell “inhabit.” Then instead of “live” the sign is rearranged to say “evil.” So the sentence reads as:

 ”All will inhabit what evil house?”


Solution to the riddle of Room 45:

The publisher confirmed that the solution to puzzle is “The World”, “The Earth” or “The Globe.”

A famous saying of Woodrow Wilson is:

”Without God, the world would be a maze without a clue.”


The name of Shakespeare’s theater was:

”The Globe.”


Are these part of the solution?


A Possible Deeper Solution to the riddle of Room 45:

Mr. Manson told me that he did not make MAZE with a contest in mind, that the contest was concocted by the publisher. This means that while “the world” was adequate to win the contest, the actual solution need not be so simple, and the quote by Woodrow Wilson suggests that it is not.

The choice “all” or “none” is key to understanding the inclusion of the quote. Whether we use “all” or “none” makes a profound difference in how we understand the quote.

What does it mean if “All live in a world which without God is a maze without a clue”? It means that without God life cannot be understood.

What does it man if “None live in a world which without God is a maze without a clue”? It means that life can be understood apart from knowledge of God.

Manson leaves this as an open question, the big question of life, “Is there a God? Do we need to know of God? What is “the world?” ” Manson isn’t preaching, he is agnostic on this point, and he leaves it to the reader. The solution is “the world,” but what is the world? You decide.


Next: Part III – The Riddle of the Path >


21 thoughts on “The Solution to Manson’s MAZE: Part II – The Riddle of Room 45

  1. Hey, here’s a question for everybody. So, it seems weird that we have to choose between “all” and “none” here, with seemingly little guidance. And, in fact, if we chose “none,” we actually get something that sounds like a riddle . What’s the best answer you can come up with for the riddle, “What house will none live in?”

    -Seems clever at first glance but isn’t, really. Not everything that goes in dies, and if you just mean that nobody resides there then the same us true of countless other industrial or commercial facilities with the suffix -house.

    -fine, I guess

    -Not great. Metaphorically describing something as a house, only to then distinguish it from literal houses along a different axis, is a pretty stupid way to make a riddle. It’s like saying, “What kind of car doesn’t have wheels? A horse!”

    I can’t think of a good answer. What can orher folks come up with?

    • It does remind me of the riddle.. a house where no one lives. I believe the answer could be something like a government building such as the house of commons or representatives.

      The word ‘house’ can mean other things. A house of worship? or house can be another term for theatre.

    • Oh, right.

      You know, I think we’re supposed to pick “all” just because the word occurs in the text. I know the problem is that in the rest of the book there’s no telling whether something like that indicates a good door or a bad door, but I think we need to separate the reliability of clues from the existence of clues.

      Meaning, when a word occurs in the text that indicates something in the room, that’s a clue, or part of a puzzle. The clue or puzzle might be a red herring, but that’s a separate issue from whether the clue or puzzle is there.

      In the Riddle of the Maze, “all” in the text means we choose “all” in the puzzle.

    • I’m not even convinced we have to choose. Yes, there’s all the official contest stuff, but remember that Maze was written without that in mind.

    • It’s not clear to me from WR’s recounting at what point in creation the various aspects of the contest were requested/demanded. Manson received an advance before the book was written/illustrated; the publisher seems to have been involved from an early stage.

      “[T]he publisher at Henry Holt was immediately sold on the idea and gave Manson an advance…and a deadline.

      “Over the next 9 months Manson lived off of the advance and churned out the work.”

    • Hmmm. I still think that using the contest to filter out solutions may not be wise. “All” may be the official answer, but as we’ve recently learned there’s another intended riddle solution separate from “world.”

    • Although, Manson’s own contest clue says you have to choose between two pictures. If what Manson actually did was deliberately craft a riddle that implied the same answer even when phrased as its opposite, he pretty thoroughly pretended that he didn’t do that. I think it’s more likely that the clues and the riddle just are what he has said they are.

    • And, to belabor the point: The publisher solutions took the care to specify three different words that would be accepted as solutions to the Riddle of the Maze. If Manson intended alternate phrasings of the Riddle, it would only make sense to similarly list the acceptable possibilities. The publisher administrated the contest, not Manson, so failing to mention that “none” worked as well as “all” would simply mean that people could solve the puzzle correctly and still lose the contest. In effect, Manson would be making it an absolute coin toss whether you win the contest, even if you solve the Riddle perfectly! It’s really hard to imagine that being anyone’s intent.

    • Good points. I generally agree with everything here, and that you’re supposed to insert “all” into the riddle’s INTENDED phrasing (‘all to see’ directly points to it, and your logic makes sense for taking that over a contrivance that might lead to none). However, I don’t think that the reading that uses “none” is necessarily less IMPORTANT.
      The fact that both make complete sense when “world” is plugged in actually seems reasonably intentional to me. It’s an antiautonymous puzzle. Manson had no reason to put that nun on the wall- he could have just stopped at the awl. I think the incorrect reading is still relevant to the riddle’s meaning at large.

    • Do you the occurrence of “all” in the text to be irrelevant in this reading? (I don’t intend that to sound skeptical, just curious.)

      (After all, “in” occurs in the text as well, and I don’t think that is meaningful. I think there’s good reason to take “written on the wall for all to see” differently, but that’s BESIDE THE POINT AT THE MOMENT.)

    • No, I think that the fact that “all” is directly used in the text in relation to something being on a wall points to using it over “none.” A choice between “all” and “none” is implied, which would lead the reader to scan the page for any nudges towards one over the other.
      What I do think, though, is that Manson intended the reader to consider the riddle that includes “none,” as we’re doing now. There is no other obvious choice like this in 45, except for maybe “live” and “evil,” and there must be a reason for this dichotomy.
      I don’t think we’re supposed to find alternative answers for a riddle that includes “none,” because if that was the correct answer, the riddle of the path would still read the same. I think we’re supposed to look at these two riddles:
      What house will all live in? (The world)
      What house will none live in? (The world)
      …and wonder what each means, and why one is considered correct over the other. In this way, Manson may not actually be preaching agnostic. Maybe he’s drawing attention to some nuanced difference between these interpretations that isn’t clear to me yet?

    • Oh! I see what you’re saying now. That’s quite plausible and interesting. Sorry, I wasn’t understanding what you meant.

    • Well, my opinion did shift slightly as I was explaining it, from ‘none shouldn’t be thrown out’ to ‘the fact that none is thrown out is relevant,’ so I don’t blame you.
      Maybe comparing the two riddles is relevant, or maybe the base choice itself is relevant. A choice between all or none does bring the phrase “all or nothing” to mind. Honestly, though, a plausible explanation for the nun being there is to make it clearer what the awl is meant to be. That’s a little boring, (ha! boring!), but one is much more recognizable than the other…

  2. As someone coming to this relatively fresh, let me say what seems to make most sense to me:

    The riddle hidden in the room is “All live in what house?” The answer (globe, world, earth) is hidden in the room (specifically, on the table) and on the path: William Shakespeare suggests “Globe,” Woodrow Wilson suggests “World” (sorry, the Wilson quote is really, really, obscure, but maybe it didn’t seem so obscure to Manson when he created the maze), and “like Atlas, you bear it upon your shoulders” suggests “World.”

    In other words, “Will” is already serving two very good functions as part of the answer. Shoehorning it into the question as well just ruins the question. And I like the idea of making the nun’s habit part of the question (“all inhabit…”), but I think the nun is really better considered a red herring as far as the riddle goes, its purpose just to pose the mysterious question, “all or none?”

    • But I see from the publisher’ set of six clues (which correspond to six words) that intended solution is indeed WHAT HOUSE WILL ALL [or NONE] LIVE IN? Oh well.

    • Thanks to this website, this journey of dissatisfaction with the Riddle of the Maze took only two days to resolve instead of countless years. That’s progress!

    • The Mansonian Superposition strikes again. Maybe reading the sign in 22 as both an “O” and a herring isn’t too unreasonable. (Kidding!)

    • Jokes aside, I actually have to disagree with you, Comenius! I think pulling “will” from IAM SHAKESPEARE and WOODROW is pretty straightforward, and any connection to the globe theatre or the Wilson quote serves more as dressing.
      Why suspend disbelief for the inclusion of Woodrow Wilson to clue the word “world,” but not to clue the world “will?” If you weigh the quotes more heavily than the Will connection, it’ll seem shoehorned, but in my eyes the Will clue is much more concrete and guessable. Shakespeare and Wilson said many things over their lives, and those quotes could have impacted why Manson chose them over other Wills. However, it’s the kind of connection you’d only make retroactively after solving the puzzle. (Unless you didn’t?)
      I might be missing something, though, so feel free to explain! We don’t critically discuss the actual content of the “confirmed” clues enough around here.


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