Ask Manson

Ask a question.   Affirm a question.   Or just read and pray.

Will he answer?   Won’t answer?   Who can say?

- – - – - – -

Possible topics: (+ Votes in favor. – Votes against.)
You may vote for or against each topic. Simply list you vote in the comments.

[5] Main Solution Summary: Is the solution summary by John Bailey correct? Is there a rationale for choosing “awl” over “nun”?
+ Vewatkin
+ Aria
+ 515
+ MIT10
+ SP

[3] Inspiration for The Minotaur: What was your inspiration for the characterization of the Minotaur? “House of Asterion”? “The King Must Die”? Classic mythology? Popular culture?

[2] Room 8: Does the laughing clown clue the anagram TEETH ROW = TWO THREE?
+ Aria

[1] Room 36: 11 bricks &12 midnight solution – Is this correct?
+ Aria

[0] Room 45: The Riddle of the Maze, the plethora of solutions, the contest.

[0] The Path: The Riddle of the Path, the word “shoulders”, extra letters, deeper meaning.

[0] Technique: Is there an over-arching technique or way of thinking or intuiting that would help one always make the right choice?

[0] The Sequel: How seriously is he considering it, what would it be like?

[0] Difficulty: The difficultly of the puzzles, how did he decide the various difficulties, does Room 45 stand apart in difficulty.

[0] Room 22: Are we there yet?


329 thoughts on “Ask Manson

  1. “The Heavens” is not the same as “The Celestial Sphere”…different concept and found in a different illusion. I am referring to the architectual illusion of a Celestial Sphere” fitting perfectly into the Roman Pantheon touching the top of the dome at the oculus and touching the floor directly beneath the oculus.

    • Well, in that case nobody bears it on their shoulders and all won’t live there, so that seems like an unfortunate semantic limitation to impose.

    • Marianne,

      I am afraid that your solution doesn’t match the puzzle, is too specific to a reasonable solution, and since we already have the confirmed answer from the publisher as “world, earth or globe” is known to be incorrect. There is a lot of material to cover if I ask about the Riddle of the Path and so I have elected to stick to what is possible or popular among the group.

      The question for Manson about The Path is did he choose “world” as the solution knowing that the myth of Atlas has him holding up the heavens/celestial sphere/sphere of the heavens and not the world?

  2. Ask manson if the answer to the Atlas question is “The Celestrial Sphere” which would fill the inside of the Roman Pantheon from the top of the Dome at the Oculus (eye) to the floor.

    • We suggested that during some MazeCast not too long ago, or, rather, “The Heavens,” but the idea is the same. I don’t know that we really bear them on our shoulders, but we certainly don’t bear the world on our shoulders so big deal. It carries a bit of a religious implication in asserting that all will live in the heavens, but going to heaven is sort of a generic metaphor for death even in pretty secular contexts. (Looney Tunes, etc.)

    • Oh, wait, actually, that’s good. The original riddle answer is mostly sensibly read to be about death as well. When do you bear the Earth on your shoulders? When you’re buried in it. Since the Maze is referred to as an Underworld, the “you” in the Riddle of the Path may refer to the guests in the story, not the reader, and those guests may already be dead and buried.

    • Marianne & Vewatkin,

      Since this question wasn’t really covered any of the ones listed so far, I added it to, “The Riddle of the Path, the word “shoulders”, extra letters.” And I added a vote for this question on behalf of Marianne.

    • throw “planet” on there too – since I’m thinking this room will be the focus of the next Q&A.

    • Dave G,

      Planet? Help me out here and give me a summary to refresh my memory.

    • WR – Manson said when I wrote him about room 45 that 3 of the 4 official answers were what we know – “World”, “Globe” and “Earth”. He said a 4th had been published at one point but seems to have been forgotten. I’m just guessing it’s probably “planet”. If we are asking about 45 seems like one of the things to throw in that pot.

    • DG: Got it! Adding “planet” and the mysterious fourth answer to the pot!

  3. We need to do some community outreach on these questions, because right now we’ve got mainly just me and Dave talking about questions to ask. Everyone, everyone, everyone, you need to weigh in here! We’re beyond the hypothetical–Manson already answered the first question. It is absolutely worth your time to put in a word here about what you’d like to hear about from Manson himself.

    • What’s the deal? Is WR going to email Manson with questions? How many do we get and will he really answer them?

    • Every six months, WR takes a question we decide on and asks Manson–on the phone, I believe. The question he answered last time was whether there is any escape from the trap. (No.) He answered some other questions from WR, which you can read about somewhere down below in the comments.

  4. Yeah – I’d like to try to build consensus around 45 and the original riddle of the path and all that. We’ve talked about it a lot. I asked about it a bit. WR is interested, and while “time” would probably be my personal first, I think the group would get more out of 45. Plus Manson is not inclined to give hints where no one has tread, and is not inclined to confirm big solutions. He’s more willing to say one is flat out wrong, or to discuss methods. In 45 we know the big answer. And most we could ask a yes/no – “Does the future tense of will and the all/none ambiguity figure in to some bigger mystery/message of maze?” There is WR’s – Shakespeare and Wilson things to ask about. We can ask about alphanumeric coding here and in general. There is the question of room 45 solutions elsewhere. “Do a number of objects in proximity add up to one word or concept that then becomes part of the next puzzle?” Is that done much in other rooms? How about the letters along the path? We found them – but which did you mean? And, just, clearing up the basics seems like a good place to start.

  5. Updates to my room 45 set of questions:

    Was “What house will none live in?” also an acceptable solution? “How about “Some?”

    In the first set of hints what was all that about two people sitting in one chair? How does that get us to “will”?
    Or does chair just rhyme well with “pair”?

    • Mmmm…nah scratch question about the guys in the chair. Also scratch “some”. Still interested in if “In what house will none live?” would have been acceptable as well.

    • Dave G,

      Once we have chosen a topic I will ask for specific discussion questions and I will include as many as I can. I personally am still hoping for asking about Room 45, you have listed some excellent questions!

    • WR: regarding room 45 – I thought you sort of backed off you Woodrow Wilson stuff at one point, but I see it still on your page. To me – you generally seem too conservative on your theories – maybe a slightly marginal one here and there accepted and some pretty darn good ones rejected – so your 45 stuff surprises me because it seems a bit out there. I don’t think anything there gives license to go searching for quotes or bibliographical details about the men – but that’s me. Was there something else you were looking to ask about 45?

    • I am not married to the Woodrow Wilson stuff but for Room 45 I took a different tack than in the other rooms to narrow the choices, nothing in Room 45 seems certain. My favorite solution by far is “All inhabit what evil house?” but alas the publisher clues seem to forbid this.

      If people voted for Room 45 I would ask about all the solutions and variations which seemed marginally reasonable and everything asked of me to ask. In these conversations I am acting not on my own behalf but as a representative for the group.

    • Why do you dispute the publisher-released solution, though? It seems like the wording of the Riddle isn’t really an issue.

    • vewatkin,

      What I was trying to get at here is not the phrasing of the riddle but the content of the answer. The question is, is the quote by Woodrow Wilson the focus of the riddle? If it is not, then is the quote just an added hint? If not then we can just rack it up to freakish coincidence.

      But given the publisher confirmation of the phrasing of the riddle I will revise the page so this issue is not reflected in the phrasing. As always, thank you for your frank critique.

    • Oh, you clarified that before, but I misread your previous comment. All I saw was your favorite phrasing, not the acknowledgment that the publisher indicated it wrong. I understand what you mean about the ongoing question of the relevance of Wilson’s quote.

    • Seems we should add to possible topics although this could be part of a room 45 theme. In room 45 we identified 3 possible alphanumeric codes for door 23. Can you tell us which if any were intended? And then was calling for alphanumeric coding relatively common in maze (list some examples not for confirmation but as potential memory aides).

      Side note – my vote was not to remove the IAM from the spear, I just didn’t think it was stronger than table+chair.

  6. And – other than what is covered, and very clearly guide related questions – here are some bigger questions for me:

    Are there other 45-style solutions that involve adding up grouped pieces first to get clues for the next layer of the puzzle? I have a number of examples but I imagine he would rather not confirm specific ones. ‘Helios” in 15 is the freshest one.

    Did he put the Tree of Life in as multi-room puzzle? And if so does it do anything or is it just there for fun/inspiration? (I don’t expect votes for this and am only mildly interested myself).

    Is Dave G.’s reading of wall 40 anywhere close?

  7. I’d vote against asking these unless they were “freebies”.
    Outside material for solving puzzles, how much, is there a pattern, how did he choose his source material.
    What were Manson’s sources of inspiration in creating the puzzles in MAZE? Are there other works he considers similar?
    Was there any play-testing involved to make the Maze’s sufficiently confusing, or is the layout as we know it basically the product of Manson’s sole efforts without input?

    And finally I’d vote against this one:
    In what order did Manson construct MAZE? Layout then numbers and puzzles? Puzzles then numbers and layout?
    My take on this one is that the answer is almost certainly “some of both”.

  8. Room 22, is the red herring solution correct?
    I don’t want to vote for or against this one, but just add that is we ask about this I would also like to ask if “rest stop” or something similar is intended. And really if he can go on – he’s said “Herod” was wrong here but I’ve inferred “Pharisee” was still a correct puzzle piece. Is it? Is it just related to – “Day of rest or something?”
    But again – not a burning question here.

  9. I would group the following together into one topic – Can we put to rest a few issues regarding the original main puzzle?
    The Riddle of the Path, the word “shoulders”, extra letters.
    Room 45, The Riddle of the Maze, the plethora of solutions, the contest.
    The difficultly of the puzzles, how did he decide the various difficulties, does Room 45 stand apart in difficulty
    Was this the exact, intended solution or was the room 45 Riddle only “just close”? And has anyone hit on it since then if it was not perfect?
    What house will all live in?
    Like Atlas, you bear it upon your shoulders.
    (The World-Earth-The Globe)
    And regarding the letters for “shoulders” – could you tell us how many, if any of these possibilities were NOT intended? Do you think we found all that were intended?
    Room 23 “nothing” gives us a hidden “O”.

    Room 08 = S (obvious), but also “E” hidden in table legs.

    Room 12 = U, D (obvious)

    Room 39 = R (obvious), “O” hidden as tire, “L” hidden in the two tubes.

    Room 04 = L. In the diagram of the maze posted to a wall, the word ELL is spelled out. (hidden).

    Room 15 = H. 7 major objects start with H: HEART, HARE, HATS (x2), HOUSE, HEROES, HELMET. (This is a hidden one).

    Also there is an “H” in the ceiling.(hidden)

    Room 37 = E. All of the objects end with “E” — Eye, Table, Sphere, Bottle, Vase, Cone, Dice (or die), rope, snare. (The text gives the clue to look at things from all sides). (This is a hidden one).

    Also in room 37 an “H” in the ladder as part of a larger solution and/or and part of the word “shoulders”.

    Also suggested in 37 – an “E” in the ladder, or an alphanumeric “E” given by the “5” on the die.

    Room 20 = S. You might think there are two S’s here, but no; one of the S’s is “extra!” (obvious “S”)

  10. The sequel, how seriously is he considering it, what would it be like?

    Regarding this topic – I would register a vote against it, unless it is a freebie. Not that I am not interested in a MAZE 2, but my reasoning is this – I’m sure he’ll tell us how seriously he is thinking about it, but as to what it would be like – either he’s told us, he does not yet know, or it would give away too much before it is made.

  11. Man, here’s a question that seems to cross a line, but it might be worth a try, and it would be really great to know:

    Do you, or did you at the time your wrote MAZE, consider bear teeth to be tusks?

  12. This question, if expanded a bit I think I would like:

    “The difficultly of the puzzles, how did he decide the various difficulties, does Room 45 stand apart in difficulty.”

    I’m curious if there are other rooms with 45-style solutions going on,where all the elements of the room add up to one thing. I think many rooms have solutions like that. One of the closest to 45, for me, may be room 41, where just like in 45 we add all the elements together to get one phrase.

  13. Don’t let me hog all the good questions now.

    -Why was the identity of the guide not included among the solutions needed to win the $10,000 prize?

    -The Maze seems simple enough to traverse when you map it out, and it in fact seems like it should be quickly obvious that it has the three sorts of sections it is everywhere divided into now (Path, Loop, Trap, by whatever names). But in reality, when people don’t map out the Maze or otherwise make a record of room connections, people do repeatedly get lost and turned around in the same places over and over, even in an obvious cul-de-sac like the 7-36-16 triangle. Was there any play-testing involved to make the Maze’s sufficiently confusing, or is the layout as we know it basically the product of Manson’s sole efforts without input? On the same note: People are unexpectedly likely to forget which numbers correspond to which rooms, even when they have just left those rooms; if you watch people go through Maze for the first few times, they commonly go back to rooms they just came from without realizing it, or fall into the same traps as in previous runs. Was this something you counted on, and if so, was it from play-testing or intuition?

    -A pretty narrow one, probably too narrow to interest many people BUT NEVERTHELESS: Is there a reason that the door from 44 to 18 was made a one-way connection? The only reason it is unusual is because that seals off 44, 21, 31, and 19 from the rest of the Loop, whereas the rest of those rooms connect pretty freely with each other. It seems like connecting 18 to 44 (in the other direction) would have increased the potential for getting lost, which seems to be a argument in favor of it. (The room puzzle presumably wouldn’t work, as is, if you simply shoehorned in another marked door, but that brings us to the next question.)

    -To what extent were puzzles designed around door numbers, and to what extent were door numbers assigned according to puzzles? For instance, you might have drawn the map out completely before making any puzzles, and then created puzzles around the connections and numbers involved–at least in cases like Room 15, where every door number including a 3 seems to be part of the room’s theme, it seems like this had to be true. There are a number of other rooms where alphanumeric coding is suspected to relate to the correct door’s number, but in such a way that’s it’s hard to imagine the clue was created in order to fit a pre-existing number. (For instance, if we accepted that in Room 45 the IAM is meant to code into 1+9+13=23, it’s hard to imagine that the Manson already new the correct door was going to be 23 and devised the Shakespeare/Wilson clue around that fact.)

    • “BUT NEVERTHELESS: Is there a reason that the door from 44 to 18 was made a one-way connection? ”

      If the answer to the question about elaborate time-keeping in the MAZE is “yes”, then I have a very good idea why this is true, if I’m wrong about the time-thing, then ??

      The rule for time in the MAZE seems to be that a correct step can move you one step forward in time, or keep you at the same time zone. Wrong steps sometimes dump you way back in time, and this is done via a one-way door, so that you have to take the long one-step-at-a-time path to recover. The only places in MAZE that you can leap forward in time are if you are on the inbound path and crossover to the outbound path before reaching 45.

      44 and the rooms connected to it are late-afternoon rooms, just like the path rooms that they seem to be located near to. But going from 44 to 18 dumps you 16 hours back in time (2 maze-clock cycles) to the wee-hours of the morning rooms. And I think there is some clock-winding stuff going on in room 44.

      Or, on Raven’s 3-level house model one could suppose that you get dumped from level 3 to level 2 here and then need to claw your way back to level 3.

      As a side note: The loop rooms are all safe rooms at least until you get to room 10. You can’t hit the trap from them. But the 44-19 set of rooms are not safe. So in that way too they are like the near-by path rooms. They are all “third level”, day lit, late-afternoon and trappy, at least for me.


      Actually, scratch that question, it seems pretty easily answered. If every room but the Path allowed free travel it would be a lot easier to figure out what was going on and when you had fallen off the correct route. Having some intermediate rooms (2, 5, 28, 32; 19, 21, 31, 44) helps blur the distinction between the two sorts of rooms.

    • Vewatkin wrote: “If every room but the Path allowed free travel it would be a lot easier to figure out what was going on and when you had fallen off the correct route. Having some intermediate rooms (2, 5, 28, 32; 19, 21, 31, 44) helps blur the distinction between the two sorts of rooms.”

      You said it.

      Also, by making the Loop one way only but also allowing visitors to reach almost all of the Loop from the impassible direction Manson made the most of having only 45 rooms.

      When I was studying the layout of the rooms, the only way I thought I had found that the structure of MAZE could be improved is by making the passage between 18 and 44 two way (like you were suggesting), then I realized that this would cause a reader to enter the Trap from Room 21 or 19 because of the natural resistance to doubling back. By stopping a reader from entering Room 44 from Room 19 Manson ensured that the reader would eventually need to double back.

      Since a reader only stays on the Path for a room or two before being dumped on to the Loop (67% of the time) or the Trap (33% of the time) extending the length of the trip to Room 24 is primarily achieved in the Loop. By restricting access to the Trap Manson got maximum mileage out of the Loop.

      I stand in awe of the structure of MAZE, it is singularly brilliant.

    • If I were to ask a question, relating to 19/44 and one-way doors, and I’m not asking – I would be more curious as to why the door from say 23 to 19 is one way, as well as other doors from the path to this little set of outdoor rooms. In for example 2 and 5 and the room with the bird over the door you can leave the path and get back on to the path. That is I see 19 as similiar to 2 , 5 , and bird room – extra path-level rooms. Why do you need a one-way door? It is obviously deliberate – all the doors from the path to this section are one-way. It may be nothing more than artistic fancy, or it may have an undiscovered purpose.

    • If you could go from 19 to 23, you could reach the center of the Maze without finding the hidden door, and more quickly than through the 16-step path. It does seem like allowing access to 45 somehow without finding the hidden door would have kept the hidden door secret longer–instead of it being impossible to reach 45, there would just be no quick means, and it wouldn’t be clear whether you have extra steps on the way there or the way back. But Manson’s clear intent was to seal off some rooms on the back end until you find the hidden door, and that means the outside rooms have to go one way.

    • vewatkin,

      Sorry forgot to respond to this last night…

      vewatkin wrote, “Why was the identity of the guide not included among the solutions needed to win the $10,000 prize?”

      Three reasons that I know of…

      First, the publisher tacked on the prize after Manson was done or almost done making the book so the book wasn’t made for the contest. Had the project started as a contest I am guessing he would not have added the identity of the Guide sub-plot.

      Second, for legal reasons the prize was officiated by a law firm, in order for there to be a clear winner, the winning password needed to be simple, (‘world’, ‘earth’, ‘globe’ with adequate explanation) adding the Riddle of the Guide into the mix would mean adding a second contest or complicating the ability of the law firm to choose a winner.

      Third, Manson said the identity of the Guide was a side thing, just a bit of fun to give more depth to MAZE. Manson may not have even mentioned to the publisher that the riddle was there.

    • V W: I don’t see how going from 19 to 23 would let you complete MAZE quicker. You might have to spell that one out for me. I think what I described would make at best a path one step longer than the shortest path.

      To spell out what I’m thinking: 19 => 23 would be allowed as would 31 to 8 and 21 to 12.

      I have a hypothesis, but it is a boring one: I think for the puzzles in 19 it probably worked well to just have the 2 exits to 31 and to 11. They are “yes/no” sort of puzzles. And since there was no reason he HAD to have a door back to 23, he didn’t. The light/dark/balenced thing in 21 would get messed up with an extra exit too.

    • David Gentile wrote, “I would be more curious as to why the door from say 23 to 19 is one way, as well as other doors from the path to this little set of outdoor rooms.”

      vewatkin wrote, “It does seem like allowing access to 45 somehow without finding the hidden door would have kept the hidden door secret longer–instead of it being impossible to reach 45, there would just be no quick means, and it wouldn’t be clear whether you have extra steps on the way there or the way back.”

      The way the rooms are laid out now the Room most distant from Room 1 that is not on the Path or in the Trap is Room 27 (the statue) and a link to Room 45 from Room 27 would be the same length as the correct path, sixteen steps. Creating a room one more step distant in the Loop and linking it to 45 would definitely have helped disguise the hidden door but would have reduced wander-time in the Loop. Also keeping Door 17 hidden from his readers for long was never his intention. Manson obviously tried hard to make the riddles in Room 29 considerably easier than those in the rest of the book. The hidden door in Room 27 acts like a Peter’s gate, the dividing line which (pre-internet chat rooms) kept out the rabble.

    • V W: Thanks for spelling it out. I was forgetting the link from 1 to 21. Without that what I was saying works, I think. It is missing on one of my diagrams, but not the other. So, yes, opening up 19 to 23 would mess things up quite a bit. Without that link the outdoor rooms are off-path path rooms, because all the other ways to get outside are from path rooms on the west side of the figure 8, but with that link, it is more ambiguous as to whether these are path rooms. For me this really makes them a 4th class of room then – path,loop,trap,and outside.

    • WR: I don’t see why you say the statue room is farthest from #1. This may need spelling out too. For ma and for V W it looks like. I would have said 7 and 16 are as far as you can get from 1.

    • OK – I can know (to my own satisfaction) explain the outdoor room structure. Suppose we require the following:

      1) Loop rooms can not go to the trap because of W R’s “maximum use of loop” principle.

      2) Suppose we want the worst of 4 choices (A) in 1 to dump you deep in the MAZE. B is only a step back, C a step forward, and D right to Omega room. And suppose we want a straight to the Abyss 2-path to exist. 1-21-24 (and for other TRAP options to exist if you mess up outside somewhere).

      Those rules would conflict, unless you designed something like this little set of outdoor rooms with 2 separate “flow valves” – “flow valve 1″ blocks flow from outdoor rooms back to western path rooms. And “flow valve 2″ blocks flow from the loop to the outdoor rooms.

      That link from 1 to 21 is very unique, so I think the point of this structure is to allow that 1-21-24 path if you make the worst possible choice twice in a row.

    • Saying it a little differently: If door “A” in room 1 dumped you in say 35, that would be bad-ish, since you have a long road back to 1. But also OK-ish in that you can’t fall in a trap anywhere back there. On the other hand sending you to 21 is the “worst of both worlds” – you have a long path back to 1, like the loop rooms, AND you have the potential to hit traps like in the Western path rooms. (And as a bonus a big gaping straight to 24 door right in front of you)

    • Vewatkin wrote, “But, 1-20-27, right?”

      Yes, I was making the assumption (but not saying it…my bad) that the links from the Path to the Loop were rearranged so as to make this thought experiment work.

      Dave G wrote, “WR: I don’t see why you say the statue room is farthest from #1. This may need spelling out too. For ma and for V W it looks like. I would have said 7 and 16 are as far as you can get from 1.”

      Again, I am not being clear, sorry. You are right that 16 and 7 are the most distant from Room 1 if you are trying to return to it. But Room 27 is the most number of steps FROM Room 1 which is what matters here.

      The goal was to demonstrate why Manson didn’t follow vewatkin’s idea of giving the reader access Room 45 without finding Door 17. For this to be possible the new misleading route must be longer than sixteen steps, which means the new misleading route must have at least eight steps between Room 1 and Room 45.

      Thus to get to Room 45 from a new link we create from Room 16 is only five steps:
      1 > 41 > 36 > 7 > 16 —> 45

      While to get to Room 45 from a new link from Room 27 is seven steps:
      1 > 41 > 10 > 34 > 25 > 13 > 27 —> 45

      Both of the above assume of course, that the links from the Path to the Loop have been changed so as to not mess this up.

      If we moved a room of the Loop and tacked it on to 27 so that it was one step more then vewatkin’s plan to totally mess with the reader’s mind would work.

      1 > 41 > 10 > 34 > 25 > 13 > 27 > # > 45 > 23 > 8 > 12 > 39 > 4 > 15 > 37 > 20 > 1 = 17 steps

      But the combination of changing the links from the Path to the Loop and removing a room of the Loop for this purpose would reduce the wander time in the Loop which was clearly more important to Manson than hiding the door to 17.

      It’s a great idea though, I hope Manson makes a sequel with more than 45 rooms to more easily accommodate this trick, it would be wonderfully infuriating. :)

    • Dave G,

      That is a good way of putting it, the outdoor rooms in several ways do act as flow valves. Without those rooms where they are MAZE becomes a fair amount less confusing to traverse. I still see them as part of the Loop, even though they serve a special purpose, but this is just a matter of semantics – I think we generally see eye to eye on this.

    • “1 > 41 > 36 > 7 > 16 —> 45″

      I don’t follow why 41 connects to 36 in this hypothetical.

    • For those who could use a more visual picture:

      www dot davegentile dot com slash stuff slash maze-2 dot mht

      This is the diagram that is missing the 1 to 21 connection and shows the outdoor rooms as path rooms. All “dumps” to the trap or from path to loop are not shown.

      Yes, WR, I agree we agree.

    • So now I’m off checking up on every one way door. Most I can explain to my satisfaction.

      path => outside
      path => loop
      path => trap
      outside => loop
      outside => trap
      “connector rooms” (41,14) => trap

      loop flow direction control
      25 => 35
      27 => 9 (forces 9,18, 13) around the “outer circle” for me. Or we could just say that otherwise there would be two paths around the loop.

      path flow control
      26 => 30
      42 => 4
      4 =>15
      29=>17 (has to be for secret)
      23=>8 (make this 2-way and you do get a fake non secret door route to 45)
      39=>4 (I think this is to make 4=>29 the ONLY way into the back of the loop)

      That leaves me only 2 questions:

      31=>44 why not 44=>31 ??
      9 => 18 why not 18 => 9 ??
      For now I will suppose that these are just to suit room specific puzzles, unless somebody else sees some better reason?

    • vewatkin wrote, ” “1 > 41 > 36 > 7 > 16 —> 45″ I don’t follow why 41 connects to 36 in this hypothetical.”

      It was a typo…actually it is 1> 41 > 35 > 33 > 7 > 16 —> 45, so six steps. Somehow I turned “35 > 33″ into “36.” Hmm…

    • Dave G wrote,
      “31=>44 why not 44=>31 ??
      9 => 18 why not 18 => 9 ??”

      If 9 => 18 were reversed then 9 would be a one way like 35. For Room 35 this makes sense but if Room 9 were one way then this part of the House would be easier to traverse and wander-time reduced.

      Regarding 31=>44, perhaps it is because it makes it a little more likely that the reader will enter the Loop instead of the Trap. MAZE is organized around pushing the reader into the Loop then, after wandering a bit winding up in the Trap. Or perhaps, like you said, it fit the puzzles Manson had constructed.

    • WR: I’m being unclear I think. With the 9/18 and 31/44 doors I meant that it seems they could easily be two way. But maybe Manson just wanted to use binary choice puzzles in 44 and 18.

    • Ah, I see. It makes it a little more confusing for some of the passages to be one way, or maybe, as you suggested, artistic licence? Hmm…

    • Regarding 18 and 44. Odd this conversation started with these two rooms and returns here. First question was about the on way from 44 to 18. Now we ask why one way from 9 and from 31. I note that the 4 doors in both rooms have the same arrangement of valid and invalid doors. In both cases we take the open door. The text in both room is,short. Same number of sentences. I’m thinking whoever left the door open in 44 lost his hat in 18. But I’ve got no more than that right now.

  14. Regarding the list: some of the questions on there I think Manson would probably consider “freebies” that is they don’t ask about solutions, so while they might be interesting, they may not be good candidate questions.

    • Ask Manson whether there’s a restaurant he likes where we could take him out to eat. If he prefers we won’t even speak to him or identify ourselves; we’ll sit at another table and just stare in quiet awe over the tops of our menus.

      The first part of that is potentially a serious question.

    • Dave G,

      Feel free to vote specific questions down by listing the ones you don’t like in a comment. I’ll make the votes thumbs up and thumbs down to reflect likes AND dislikes. Sound good?

    • vewatkin,

      I would like to meet him as well but, alas, he has already answered this question.

  15. New question:

    Is there an elaborate time keeping systems in Maze (or a simple one for that matter, I suppose)?

  16. Abyssians,

    I spoke with Mr. Manson today and asked our first question, “Is there an escape from The Trap.”

    The short answer is no. The long answer is interesting. Manson said that if he allowed MAZE to be traversed via any method other than visible door numbers, the result would be an arbitrariness which would erode the integrity of MAZE. For MAZE to function the structure of the House needs to be stable. The only hidden door number, he said, is the door to Room 17.


    I asked about the door labeled “NINE” and the theory that the number could be reversed so that the “I” and “E” spell “31” (a theory which we know doesn’t work because of having mapped the rooms). Manson said, “The purpose of having spelled out “NINE” is to avoid this very thing.” I said, “Yes if “NINE” wasn’t spelled out the puzzle wouldn’t work.” He said, “Exactly.”

    I said, “Would you be willing to speak about the riddles for a moment in this regard, what you did to avoid arbitrariness?” He said that he worked hard to make puzzles which were challenging yet solvable. Avoiding all possible errant connections is impossible, as there is no accounting for chance and the subconscious, but the riddles are built In such a way that make the correct solutions stand out. As an example we talked about Room 29 (this is a safe room for us to discuss since it is rather thoroughly solved) the flipping spatula, the flipping salt shaker, the staves without finals. (I geeked out for a moment told him I appreciated that he took the time to make the shadows part of the puzzle.) The point he was making was that while the rooms contain smaller hints, the most helpful riddles are insulated from arbitrariness by multiple riddles pointing to one conclusion in a somewhat similar manner.

    I asked about the number 45… he declined to answer except to say that there are of course publishing limitations but it was choice as well.


    The conversation ended with me asking if I could ask him another couple questions in six months or so. He said, he said he liked this system and would be happy to oblige.

    So what do we ask next?

    White Raven

    • Nice!!!! Thank you for sharing this, I’m so glad he likes the system. Of course we’ll refrain from asking specific questions. I would even ask something non clue related, does Mr. Manson think there is enough interest to publish a second book?

    • I find it hard to phrase a simple question that doesn’t demand too revealing an answer. On the other hand, the questions I think he might answer are too long and vague to phrase plainly.

      One thing I wonder is to what degree every line of text can be taken to refer to some clue or false lead, and how much of it is there simply for “flavor” (for lack of a better term) without any relevance to door selection or riddle construction. I would use as potential contrasts Manson’s other puzzle books: The text in The Practical Alchemist is more often misleading than helpful, but I think it’s undeniable that nearly every line refers to something in the illustrations; the text in The Rails I Tote, on the other hand, is mainly concerned with telling a short story, albeit a story that involves a spoonerized riddle solution. MAZE certainly has some elements that seem to exist mainly for effect, but it also (perhaps just because of how open-ended the puzzles are) lends itself to extremely tight textual analysis for puzzle purposes.

      (Of course, any line that doesn’t relate to anything can still serve the purposes of a red herring, but I don’t mean that as the text referring to a false lead. I mean something more like, say, Room 23 saying they found the door they had been seeking for so long, implying Room 45, when Room 45 is not the correct answer.)

      Another thing I wonder is how much outside reference material is necessary to solve the rooms and riddles. Obviously, how much research you need to do depends somewhat on what you consider common knowledge. I would consider knowledge of Atlas as a mythological guy of some sort who is often depicted holding up the world to be common knowledge; I would consider knowledge of the sacrificial tripod of the oracle at Delphi to not be common knowledge. I would consider the existence of a game called Chutes and Ladders involving ladders and slides to be common knowledge; I would not consider the appearance of Orson in a centuries-old woodcut by Pieter Bruegel the Elder to be common knowledge. I would consider the plot of The Cask of Amontillado to be common knowledge; a LOT of MAZE readers have commented that it is not. Nevertheless, I think a fair response can be given to this question, and it would be helpful and interesting, even without giving us any idea what we should be looking at if research is required.

      I’d be interested to know whether Manson thinks the puzzle points here (maybe call them something more dignified) in a very accurate way reflect how well we’ve come to understand a room; and/or, without specifying them, how many rooms does he think have really been well understood based on the information listed here?

    • I’m with Alex and every sensible person in that if there’s anything to be learned about a sequel I’d be in for that.

      Others: The door count in Room 5. Is it inaccurate (so as to in some way clue or obscure the hidden door), or is it accurate (for example, by treating the 37/10 connection as 1 door)?

      What were Manson’s sources of inspiration in creating the puzzles in MAZE? Are there other works he considers similar?

      It seems probable that the contest-winning solutions (Riddles of the Maze and Path essentially) are too difficult for anyone to solve independently. Does Manson see those solutions as substantially more difficult than all the other puzzles in the Maze, or are there similarly difficult puzzles in other rooms?

    • I don’t have a question to ask. I just think it is fantastic that Christopher Manson is willing to answer questions. How cool! I’m not sure why escape from the trap got so many votes, did anyone really think it was possible? I would love to hear his answer from the other two runner-ups about room 45 and the path.

    • Now that we know CM will answer, my biggest question is for WR, Do you know what kind of questions he will answer and the kinds he won’t? Did CM say he wouldn’t answer specific questions?

    • Not to disagree too strongly with Mr. Manson – but there clearly IS a way out of the TRAP – close the book. :) Interesting…

    • That’s cheating, Dave. Whenever I land in 24, I leave the book open to that page and then order a new copy.

    • As with most answers from Mr. Manson, they really are more hints than answers. Regarding exit from the trap: There was some discussion about for example if the “eye” sign deep underground might be taken as an “I” and a “1″. From the above we can take away a short answer of “no”. That would be breaking the rules. But whether or not there is a mythologically connected way to say “close the book to get out of the trap” that was intentional on Mr. Manson’s part – well, I don’t think I have an answer to that. But that may have to wait until we know the identity of the guide.

      Also – regarding the NINE sign, I have a theory on my page about 3 rooms connecting to each other giving us Beethoven’s ninth symphony and a clue to the “World” as answer to the whole maze. From the above it sounds like that was not intentional on his part, although not definitively.

      I agree of course that for us to be relatively certain a puzzle is intended it needs multiple reinforcement. Without repetition it is just a game of random association. With repetion it is possible (with a lot of effort) to come to evidence based conclutions about what he intended.

      One of the best clues there might be that he declined to give a simple answer to “why 45?” – that seems to say there is something there to discover. Why 45 rooms and not another number?

      No new question suggestions at this time….

      But thanks for the answer and the 6 month system.

    • I can’t think of any clearer statement Manson could have made regarding whether there is an escape from the Trap, unless he specifically denied every hypothesizable route of escape, which isn’t really possible.

      1. NO
      2. Letting people traverse the Maze by other means than numerically marked doors would ruin the book.
      3. There are no hidden numerically marked doors besides the one in 29.


    • “if he allowed MAZE to be traversed via any method other than visible door numbers, the result would be an arbitrariness which would erode the integrity of MAZE”… so if MAZE has an integrity-destroying arbitrariness, then there is another way out of the trap!

    • V W: Actually “No” by itself is more definitive then the longer explanation in this case. “No” is a categorical statement, whereas the explanation addressed specific possible cases. And if he did intend something like the “look Raven in the eye” idea, then when answering questions one would expect “No, but…” rather than “No” so focusing on the short answer, I concur.

      That does not mean I don’t have many related questions of course,…

      But let’s move forward based on the short “no” answer. That would mean the final room of Maze once you enter the TRAP is 24 if you don’t follow the last chance clues, or 22 if you do. Then you are suppose to go to 22 and stay put.

      White Raven has mentioned other sorts of chains of rooms, that are not paths for movement, but chain rooms together for example for the riddle of the guide. And he has mentioned false trails. There are a number of clues in room 22 that point to room 1.At the moment I don’t have this connection as part of any riddle trail, but if it is not about some sort of Trap escape then the next alternative would be to assume it probably has some sort of riddle-path connection. But not for the true path of the riddle of the guide, I imagine. Since White Raven claimed to have found that when he claimed to be completely clueless about room 22. Some sort of false partial trail then? Actually, than leads me to a good question (other than ones that relate directly to the identity of the guide). But I’ll make a separate post about that.

    • White Raven says one particular paragraph contains a hint:

      I asked about the door labeled “NINE” and the theory that the number could be reversed so that the “I” and “E” spell “31” (a theory which we know doesn’t work because of having mapped the rooms). Manson said, “The purpose of having spelled out “NINE” is to avoid this very thing.” I said, “Yes if “NINE” wasn’t spelled out the puzzle wouldn’t work.” He said, “Exactly.”

      Now, to me the obvious reading of this is just that he spelled out NINE because if he didn’t then “9″ could be taken as “6″. Not that you’d really want to go to 6, but still in messes up the way the book is supposed to work if you do that.

      But then where is the hint of which WR speaks?

      I assume that WR means that NINE functions as part of another puzzle – for WR this would be a room 3 puzzle indicating the correct door is 18, most likely. Much smaller chance it has anything to do with the guild.

    • I’d cross reference with a link but then it would take forever to appear on the site. I’ll just quote here a comment from Room 3′s page that WR agreed with. (Or, rather, he agreed with Dave’s agreement with it.)

      “SO WHY write out ‘NINE’ instead of using the numeral 9? 9 is just as identifiable backwards as 18 or 33–

      “But if you turn it upside-down, then we have problems, because ’9′ becomes ’6′. This is important, because ’8 1′ becomes ’1 8′ and ‘E E’ becomes ’3 3′ in both cases–that is, whether you reverse them in a mirror or simply turn the book upside-down.

      “And THAT’s important because…well, I may be overstating things by using the word ‘important,’ but it does seem that the reason ‘NINE’ is written out is to avoid confusion with 9/6, since the ‘this way’ sign does entreat us to turn look at the room upside-down.”

    • Responses to various comments:

      Vewatkin’s last statement about the “hint” is entirely correct.

      SP, Justin J – Yeah, I’m really pleased that Manson has agreed to this. He really appreciated that we were putting thought into the questions. I was afraid he may be put off by the fact that I made the Ask Manson page without asking him first…which I just realized is rather ironic.

      HupeHupe – We don’t need to avoid questions which are specific. The kind of question which Manson has stated he has no interest in answering is any question which overtly or covertly is fishing for hints to unsolved riddles. The best thing we could ask Manson about is something topical. For instance, if I asked him about Room 45, it wouldn’t be one question, I would have a series of questions related to various solutions to Room 45 prepared, some he would answer, some he would not. The broader the topic, the more useful, and interesting, info we would get.

      Facticious – Whoa. Deep.

      SP – A sequel to MAZE is mentioned by me or him every time we talk. When I first contacted him and asked if he would be willing to give this project his blessing I told him outright that the primary reason I was doing it was to demonstrate to him that a fan base exists for a sequel. The problem, of course, is the massive amount of work necessary to make a sequel and the dwindling interest everything that isn’t Candy Crush. This site now has about 200 monthly readers. I’d say we are well on our way to making a good case for a sequel.

      Everyone – I am listing the new possible question/topics at the top of the page and starting the “voting” from scratch. Just say you agree with one or more topic and I will count it as a vote.

    • I will support you and Manson in promoting the sequel as much as I can, when I can. Sometimes you just have to cross your fingers and take a risk. Wouldn’t it be the publisher that requires the actual convincing to publish rather than Manson seeing as it’s on their dime?

    • SP,

      A thoughtful question! The reason Manson needs to be convinced is because of the sheer effort involved and the climate in the book publishing world right now. Presently over 80% of the income produced by new book sales are produced by less than 1% of new books. Every publisher is looking for the sure fire hit and the gaming book market is presently next to nothing thanks to cell phone games.

      Fortunately for us, modern digital and print publishing technology, crowdfunding, and online marketing has made publishers far less important for all but the most famous authors. If a sequel were produced it would probably be a self-published app and/or book with the idea that a publisher may offer to pick it up. This is a pretty normal trajectory now days for books that aren’t about virtual reality teenage vampires.

      If making a sequel wasn’t much work it would obviously be worth the risk, but for Manson to produce his vision of a MAZE sequel it would take over a year of him working nearly full time.

      I believe the reward for his efforts would be considerable, there is a whole generation of adult-children with a collective memory of MAZE, but it is a risk, and not an easy choice to make.

  17. Here’s one Mr. Manson could probably answer without concern: What is the reason that all of your puzzle books revolve around 45 two-page spreads? (More simply: What’s up with 45?)

    • vewatkin,

      That is a good question. 45 is the sum of 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9 thus can be arranged into a pyramid. like so:

      X X
      X X X
      X X X X
      X X X X X
      X X X X X X
      X X X X X X X
      X X X X X X X X
      X X X X X X X X X

      I would be very curious if 45 is symbolic or just the jersey number of his favorite baseball player.

      I will ask Manson about escape from the Trap, if the conversation has an opening for it I will ask about 45 as well.

      White Raven

  18. Abyssians,

    Let’s try this again…

    Turns out my heavily modified CSS doesn’t play well with online polls but I got one to work…I think. Let me know if it blows up.

    White Raven

    • Abyssians,

      I finally got a poll to work that doesn’t break the site or limit me to three questions (sorry about that sp).

      The poll isn’t how we will decide, it’s just to help focus the discussion. Throw out more questions if you’ve got them.

      White Raven

    • For those who are curious the previous tally was:

      Room 45 Riddle of the Maze Vote: 1
      The Riddle of the Path Vote: 3
      Room 22 “Red Herring” Vote: 0

    • I doubt Manson will be answering any questions at all, so I’m not sure where this is going.

    • How about as a Christmas present, Mr. Manson? It would be a nice testament to this year’s resurgence in Maze culture!

  19. I should note that the actual winner right now is “When is the sequel coming out?” Rest assured I will be bringing this up regardless!

    • Is this not the kind of question he detests? Should we not try to be more general in our line of questioning, or only requiring a yes/no answer?

    • Manson really doesn’t want to answer any questions but I suspect that if we ask the questions very rarely, one at a time, he will respect our restraint and give us a straight answer (but I could be wrong about this).

      The question could be yes/no, essay, or maybe even multiple very closely related questions – the last would give us more info. At this point I say just throw stuff out there, I’ll refine it for general approval once we have a choice.

  20. It seems well-established that on the return trip from 45, the word “shoulders” can be assembled by letters clued in the rooms along the way. However, there is not a consensus about how/where exactly those letters can be found. If this is fair to ask as one question: Does the route contain deliberate clues to extra letters, or does it feature rooms that aren’t meant to indicate any letter?

    Wait, wait, I can rephrase that as a single yes/no question: Is it true that the from Room 23 to Room 1, along the shortest path, the word “shoulders” is intentionally clued in such a way that each room (saving PERHAPS Room 1) contains a clue to at least 1 letter and superfluous letters are not intentionally clued?

  21. My big questions are about Room 45:

    Is the Woodrow Wilson quote a coincidence?

    Is the globe theater connection a coincidence?

    If so, then does everything on the table just indicate the word “will”?

    Also is it a coincidence that the items in the room can read as “All inhabit what evil house?”

    Did you write the publisher hints? If not, do you approve of them?

    Did you have to modify the riddle when it became a contest? If so, how?

    • That is a lotta questions. Good ones. Maybe we should wrap it all into one big question like, “In room 45 do all the items on the table simply point to the word “will” or did you intend the Wilson quote and Globe theater reference?”


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