The following is the solution to the main puzzle of Christopher Manson’s “MAZE: Solve the World’s Most Challenging Puzzle.”
This is not a solution to the book on a whole. Only 12% of MAZE is presently solved. This forum is for fans of the Manson’s MAZE to discuss solutions to the 88% that has gone unsolved and to talk about how much the book creeped us out when we were ten.
On to the main solution…
The main puzzle of MAZE has three parts:
Or see below for all three together as one long list:
The Path to the center of the maze:
From Room 1, you take the door to Room 26, then go Room 30, then to Room 42, then to Room 4, then to Room 29.
In Room 29 the door to Room 17 is hidden (it should be easy to find now that you know this), from Room 17 you enter Room 45.
So it goes like: 1 > 26 > 30 > 42 > 4 > 29 (find hidden door) > 17 > 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 but which you choose doesn’t matter.
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”
We know to include Woodrow Wilson in the phrasing of the riddle and not William Shakespeare because of clue number 3 from the publisher, “You will find two names on the table, and they go together like doughnut and hole.”
“Woodrow”is the hole, “Wil” and “son” are the doughnut).
It appears to be an extraordinary coincidence that William Shakespeare’s theater was named “The Globe Theater” and that “globe” is one of the correct answers to the main puzzle.
The “will” phrasing of the riddle:
Some take the items on the table to mean to suggest the word “will” from WILL-iam Shakespeare and Woodrow WILL-son. If taken this way the resulting riddle is written as either:
“What house will all live in?”
“In what house will all live?”
There are four problems with reading it this way: 1. The word “will” doesn’t really add anything to the sentence. 2. Both the names are pretty big clues in and of themselves (see below). 3. The clues that make up the names are separated from the other clues in the room by being on the table, suggesting they are meant to be taken as names, not a word. Much like the way names are circled in hieroglyphs 4. The hardest clues to get in the room relate to these names, which makes little sense for a non-essential word.
The “Woodrow-Wilson-on-the-side phrasing of the riddle:
Those who take the clues in this manner phrase the riddle in one of two ways:
”What house all live in?”
“In what house all live?”
Then add on the side:
The fact that this isn’t a single phrase, suggests we are not quite there yet.
The White Raven phrasing of the riddle:
Taking a clue from the order that the clues appear in the room (and also good grammar) I am leaving behind ”What house all live in?” and “In what house all live?” in favor of “All live in what house?”
Then working the name into the phrase and taking the choice of pictures seriously we get either:
”All live in what Woodrow Wilson house?”
”None live in what Woodrow Wilson house?”
This phrasing is backed up the placement of clues in the room:
Top and top left of the room: ”All live in what”
On the table in the middle: “Woodrow Wilson”
Bottom right: “house”
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 greatly 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 inhabit what evil house?”
To this we add “Woodrow Willson” to make:
”All inhabit what evil Woodrow Wilson house?”
Solution to the riddle of Room 45:
A famous saying of Woodrow Wilson is:
”Without God, the world would be a maze without a clue.”
We are meant to find this quote, without it the phrase is too ambiguous to have meaning. With this quote, it is an easy step last step to reach the answer “The World.”
So either way you phrase it…
”All (or None) live in what Woodrow Wilson house?”
Answer> “The World”
”All inhabit what evil Woodrow Wilson house?”
Answer> “The World”
The 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.
. . .
The Path out of the maze:
From Room 28 go to Room 23, then to Room 8, then to Room 12, then to Room 39, then back to Room 4 (which you visited on the way in), then to Room 15, then to Room 37, then to Room 20, then to Room 1 from which you can exit the maze.
So it goes like: 23 > 8 > 12 > 39 > 4 (I’ve been here before!) > 15 > 37 > 20 > 1
. . .
The Riddle of the Path:
The rooms of the 16 room path to the center and back have hidden words and letters that make a sentence. The answer to this sentence is the solution to MAZE.
Room 1: “LIKE” – The word “LIKE” is on a scrap of paper hanging on the wall.
Room 26: “Atlas” – Salt is being poured on the letter “A.” SALT + A = ATLAS
To this Dave Gentile offers the following further explanation: “Saturn has a moon called Atlas, discovered in 1980, and both Saturn and a large moon can be found in this room. (The reason for the moon being large is discussed in the walkthrough). The moon is an “A-ring” shepherd. And the room contains both the letter “A” and a bell (which rings).The devils are emerging from the stage in 3 stages = 3 stage Atlas rocket. [ . . . ] The narrator also asks, “Which way now?” and to answer that, one might consult an atlas.”
There are several other indications of the word “Atlas” in this room that have yet to be discovered and posted online… and I’m not telling. :)
Room 30: “YOU” – In the room is an “O” and a “U.” One of the guests says, “Why ‘O’ and ‘U’?” As in “Y” “O” “U.”
Room 42: “bear” - There is a big stuffed bear in the room. There is no why to get this one until you have the other words and are searching for something in this room that will fit.
Room 4: “IT” – The candle and the hammer next to each other looks like “IT” There is also a hidden letter in this room to pick up on the way out.
Room 29: “UPON” – On a sign is written “UP & ON.” Take out the little “&” and it is “UPON.”
Room 17: “YOUR” – On a sign on the wall is written “Why, oh _” and “You are _” as in “Y” “O” “U” “R”
Room 45: This room has the center puzzle and nothing else.
Room 23: The text mentions the word “shoulder” to put the word in the reader’s mind. Entire route out is devoted to spelling out the word “shoulders.”
Room 8: “S” – Not hidden. “E” formed by the table legs (or see Room 37 below).
Room 12: “U” “D” – Not hidden.
Room 39: “R” – Not hidden. “O” – The white wall of the tire.
Room 4: “L” – In an image of the maze is hidden “ELL” which sounds like “L”
Room 15: “H” – Most of the objects in this room are “H” words: Heroes, Hat, another Hat, Heart, House, Hare, Helmet.
Room 37: Nothing here or “E” (see Room 8 above) – All of the objects end with “E” — Eye, Table, Sphere, Bottle, Vase, Cone, Dice (or die), rope. (The text gives the clue to look at things from all sides).Also the dice facing us has a five on it, “E” is the fifth letter of the alphabet, the rope ladder looks a bit like an “E.”
Room 20: “S” – There are two “S”s in this room but one of the “S”s is on a newspaper labeled “Extra!” (i.e. it is an extra “S”) so there is only one “S.”
The resulting phrase is:
“Like Atlas you bear it upon your SUDROLHES.”
So then you move the letters around to spell:
“Like Atlas you bear it upon your SHOULDERS.”
According to the publisher the acceptable answers were:
“World” “Globe” “Earth”
The Deeper Solution to the Riddle of the Path:
As I stated in “The Deeper Solution to the Riddle of Room 45″ above, Manson did not make MAZE with a contest in mind and so while “the world” is the solution that was to gain the prize, the actual solution need not be so simple. In the case of the Riddle of the Path the phrasing of the riddle is unusual:
“Like Atlas you bear it upon your shoulders.”
Why not just:
“Atlas bears it upon his shoulders.”
Because the answer is not just “the world” but “the weight of the world.” The saying “The weight of the world” is meant to convey a high degree of emotional or mental difficulty of handling multiple responsibilities, or a single overwhelming responsibility.
Again, like the deeper solution to room 45, the message is not about “the world” as in “earth” but “the world” as in “life.” By replacing “it” with the deeper solution “the weight of the world” we can phrase the message in full:
“Like Atlas, you (the reader) bear the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
Or to put it more simply:
“Life is hard.”
. . .
The Lesson of the Maze:
Knowing that the solution is “The World” gives us the last piece of the puzzle necessary to uncover the lesson of the maze. In the prologue the guide / narrator ominously says,
“Like all others they think the Maze was made for them; actually, it is the other way around. They think I am some poet who will lead them through the symbols and spaces of this Underworld. They think I will teach them lessons. They should call me Cerberus…I am the lesson.”
Knowing the solution to MAZE is “the world” and reflecting on the book as a whole is all that is necessary to uncover the lesson of MAZE.
See if you can discover the lesson of Manson’s MAZE.
Warning: The lesson is deeply pessimistic.
- White Raven