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. I’m new but is it possible the N dropped is a character that can be made from 1 7 when the 7 is turned . Sorry if this is old info

  2. I apologize for not being able to articulate my explanation as to how I came about with my findings as I have a short term memory, A.D.H.D. and I rarely jot down any notes. What I can tell you is that I appreciate the opportunity that has been presented to me in the form of this temporary afterglow of self-discovery. I’m guessing that one such as yourself can be quite perturbed in the rhetorical monotony, from simplistic theories and questions that most people have presented to you. I would like to have another chance at gaining a new insight from this mastercraft of neurogenetics.

  3. I have gone over a few perspectives, pertaining to your enigmatic conundrum. I think that this could be a retelling of a story by Anne Frank, her diary, and the secret annex. She told fantastic stories to her family and associates, throughout her endurement, to optimistically keep moral in higher standards and the anxiety ridden ennui at bay. I believe the MAZE is based upon the 17th-century canal house in both the fictional and non-fictional sense. At one moment Anne Frank could be telling a fantastic tale to entertain those who needed cheering the most and the next she and others could be hearing the verbal and nonverbal ongoings of the Secret Police or along with other nazi affiliates. What do you think Valravn?

    • Is that a question for Manson or WR? Please don’t waste our question to Manson on asking whether he’s going to do an Ask Manson soon.

    • Oh yes. Good point, thank you. That question is not for Manson. that question is for WR.

    • Considering this was asked on my Sweet 16th Birthday, I dare now to intrepidly hope for a gift in the response.

  4. WR, are you still planning to do another Ask Manson? If so, can you give us some idea as to when that might happen?

  5. SP wrote on another page:

    “[4] Main Solution Summary: Is the solution summary by John Bailey correct? Is there a rationale for choosing “awl” over “nun”?

    I don’t know how I missed this, but I will vote for it however many times I am allowed to. 3? 5,000,000?”


    Your vote has been added and you’re enthusiasm has been noted. I would vote for this one as well.

  6. There is a new question up on the board:

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

    Vewatkin, Aria and MIT10 your votes have been added. Let me know if you want any more changes to the question.

    I haven’t read “The King Must Die” but I will before the next Ask Manson. It is a short story by Borges, correct?

    • Works for me! (“House of Asterion” is the Borges short story. “The King Must Die” is a Mary Renault historical novel.)

    • The King Must Die is attempt to create a plausible version of the life of Theseus that could have morphed into the popular myths over time. The section that deals with Crete, Minos, the Minotaur, etc., can be read quickly and enjoyably in isolation from the rest of the book.

      The House of Asterion is short and wonderful and freely available from a number of online sources that will pop up near the top of a google search.

    • In case anyone reading this site still hasn’t read The House of Asterion, it’s seriously worth your time. And it’ll take just a few minutes.

    • Vewatkin, Aria,

      Yes, I’ve read the House of Asterion and most of Borge’s other surrealist-like material.

      I ordered The King Must Die, looking forward to it, thanks!

    • Factitious,

      I agree. Even if Manson wasn’t inspired by Borges, I think it should be at the top of any MAZE fan’s reading list.

    • I’m not that interested in asking about title page riddles, but feel free to suggest a question about that. I would like to know if Manson will answer the yes or no question I’m proposing here.

    • Factitious,

      I’m sorry I didn’t respond earlier because I thought you were making a joke. Manson said that the solution I presented to him was essentially correct. Clearly if the bull face had not been intended the solution would be essentially wrong.

    • Which part did he explicitly confirm? The Minotaur identity, the hidden face, the trefoil path, some combination?

      The reason I wanted to ask him about this is that I had believed we didn’t know for sure what aspects of your Guide solution have been officially confirmed. That’s why this one’s worded as a yes or no question about a specific part.

    • Factitious,

      Okay. That makes sense. Here’s what I know:

      I sent him three images.

      First, a picture of the trap arranged like a key.

      Second, a picture of the solution on the title page with the masonic imagery, key stone, with the words IN SLY highlighted.

      Third, a picture of the bull’s face in the sly face next to a picture of the unfinished face in the adjoining room.

      He said that the puzzle was essentially correct. He said he did not expect anyone to solve the riddle but he thought it would be fun to have the Guide’s face as a solution since it would clinch his identity.

      He also said that he thought it was pretty obvious from the text that the Guide was the Minotaur but nonetheless he placed many more clues and puzzles than this one around MAZE regarding him.

      The way he said it leaves it open that not only are there more riddles to be found but there may be more riddles regarding the Minotaur which may be of equal complexity.

    • WRs gone for awhile. But I can answer a bit of this. They don’t email, they talk on the phone, and Manson said no to being recorded. I don’t think Manson wants to be quoted. Can’t blame him, if we had an exact quote we would probably use it to tear him to shreds. Sometimes love isnt kind.

    • Well that’s not what you initially said. I think clarity and conciseness is all vewatkin and Factitious are getting at here. Omitting pieces of the process make it hard to guage what the questions and answers were. Unless of course there is deliberate obfuscation.

    • I dont know! I’m just saying what makes sense to me! I mean yeah they talk on the phone we know that and we know Manson said no to being recorded but I just FIGURED that the pics were sent by email cause it seemed obvious. I suppose he could have snailmailed them, or sent them by carrier pidgion.

      Not that it matters how the pics were sent, the content of the first two images are obvious and the third image WR put up on the guide page already.

      Last time i try to help out with a question!

    • MIT10 said: “Can’t blame him, if we had an exact quote we would probably use it to tear him to shreds.”

      Yeah but the opposite is also true. If he squirms out of a direct answer he will be torn to shreds for that instead. He can’t win!

  7. Here is one I have been dying to ask. Now I can! Christopher Manson, was the short story “The House of Asterion” by Borges an inspiration for MAZE? If so…
    a) Is the star shape inside the house shape in the legs and crosspieces of the sacrificial tripod in Room 15, together with the “know thyself” reference in the text, meant to be a tip of the hat (sorry) to that story?
    b) Is the helpful blind man in Room 29 meant to be Borges?

    Pretty please, upvote this one. I really need to know.

    • I love it when we pretend like we haven’t discussed everything extensively in private!

      Part of the difficulty with phrasing succinct questions here is that Manson doesn’t want to let slip a lot of information we haven’t worked out, but also doesn’t keep up with anything we’ve talked about on this or any other forum. Before simply noting that your questions were weird, I wrote several paragraphs of an alternate phrasing of the essential question, and wasn’t close to being done with it, and realized I wasn’t helping and deleted it all.

      My question around the same topic would probably be something more like, “WR recently informed us that you acknowledged that the Guide is the Minotaur. He had long been the favored candidate for a number of obvious reasons, but there are a number of aspects of the Guide that don’t accord with the traditional representations of the character. Some of these discrepancies are explicable by viewing the Guide as a pastiche of various depictions of the Minotaur. Specifically, The House of Asterion features an eloquent and proud Minotaur who places special significance on the sun and hypothesizes that he created the world; and The King Must Die gives an account of the Minotaur that attempts to create realistic events that could have been distorted into the Theseus myth over time (making the Minotaur a normal human, for instance). Was your characterization of the Guide influenced by these or other non-traditional sources?”

      In terms of specific follow-ups, the thing about the star stuff is that Borges did not invent the name of the Minotaur. If Manson included star things as a reference to the name Asterion, he’s referencing the original myth, not Borges’ version in particular. As to whether Room 29 Man is meant to be Borges, it just doesn’t seem like one of the more likely connections, but it’s not implausible.

    • How about this for a succinct phrasing of the issue:

      What was your inspiration for the characterization of the Minotaur? Was it a specific source?

      (If the answer is no:) What do you feel most informed your mental image of the Minotaur?

      Based on his responses I would of course follow up with related questions.


    • Well — I don’t know. I would specifically like to ask about that one source. It would be great if he would tell us about other sources, of course, but “House of Asterion” is the one I really want to know about.

    • I think naming specific works is important. Whether that happens up front or in a follow up, it seems fine either way. But even if his initial answers seem to point away from that (“Well, I just relied on a general sense of the classic version of the story, without adhering too faithfully to any single author.”), I think it’s important to name names afterward. It may be that the Guide is not modeled on any particular depiction of the Minotaur (seems likely), but that at the mention of those works Manson will be like, “Oh, yeah, that is where I got that one line from.”

    • Okay, good points. How about:

      “What was your inspiration for the characterization of the Minotaur? House of Asterion? Classic mythology? Popular culture?”


  8. Here’s something you wouldn’t expect from me: a long question!

    Ever since the John Bailey days (take a drink), we’ve been largely working off a list of confirmed parts of the contest riddles of the Maze. For reference, this is the oft-quoted summary from John Bailey:

    [begin quote] The sequence is 01-26-30-42-04-29-17-45-23-08-12-39-04-15-37-20-01
    The riddle of room 45:
    “What house will all live in?”
    WHAT = the W + HAT (the picture of the hat).
    HOUSE = the SHOE and the horseshoe U around the table leg next to it (SHOEU
    is an anagram of HOUSE).
    WILL = “IAM,” “SHAKE SPEAR,” “WOOD ROW,” “SUN” — all of the objects on the
    table. The missing syllable WILL makes “William Shakespeare” and “Woodrow
    ALL = the picture of the AWL.
    LIVE = the sign reading “ELVI” — an anagram of LIVE.
    IN = EYE (I) + “N” spells “IN”
    ? = the picture of the ?
    The answer:
    “Like Atlas, you bear it upon your shoulders”
    Room 01 = LIKE = The word LIKE is painted on a scrap of paper on the left.
    Room 26 = ATLAS = SALT A is ATLAS spelled backwards.
    Room 30 = YOU = There is an O and a U, but the text says “why ‘O’ and ‘U’?”
    Y, O and U spells YOU.
    Room 42 = BEAR = A BEAR (stuffed).
    Room 04 = IT = The chair = “sit,” the hammer and nail = “hit,” the pieces
    in the picture = “fit,” the candle = “lit,” the wood = “split.” That’s
    five verbs ending in “IT.”
    Room 29 = UPON = It’s written on the blind man’s sign.
    Room 17 = YOUR = “Why, oh _ You are _” is printed on a sign. This is
    The word SHOULDERS is spelled out of order on the way out.
    Room 23 = O. Check out the note on the floor. “Everything Right” is
    OKAY. “Nothing” is O. “The Time Is” O’CLOCK.
    Room 08 = S.
    Room 12 = U, D
    Room 39 = R.
    Room 04 = L. In the diagram of the maze posted to a wall, the word ELL is
    spelled out.
    Room 15 = H. The objects all start with H: HEARTH, HEART, HARE, HATS,
    Room 37 = E. All of the objects end with “E” — Eye, Table, Sphere,
    Bottle, Vase, Cone, Dice.
    Room 20 = S. You might think there are two S’s here, but no; one of the
    S’s is “extra!”
    Keep in mind, this is not an “official” explanation. I sent my explanation
    to Mr. Manson, and he sent it back with a few corrections, and the sentence
    “the rest seems right,” as well as the claim that I solved the Maze “more
    or less.”[end quote]

    Some time ago, Manson confirmed the confirmation of O’s derivation in Room 23, which was largely taken as confirmation of this entire list of solutions. My question is–is this entire list actually correct?

    If the answer is “yes,” maybe that seems like a wasted question since we already treat all this as basically established. But perhaps if it is, you can sneak in this question: There has been no good explanation advanced for why we choose AWL over NUN in Room 45. Manson’s clue suggests we simply have to choose between the two pictures; but is there something stronger to hang our hat on that we simply haven’t found yet? (Note that we have noted the “written on the wall for all to see” language in the text.)

    I think I’ve argued against belaboring the contest puzzles any more on account of them have been touched on so often by Manson, and Bailey’s email making it seem that Manson had already signed off on these solutions. However, the caginess of this confirmation (“seems right,” “more or less”), the fact that this is not a direct quote of Manson’s letter (for some reason; it’s unclear why the original text is not reproduced), and the fact that some aspects of the solutions are so discordantly unfair (looking at you, Room 37) lead me to believe that it’s worth getting this all laid down straight after all.

    • OK, this seems useful, I’ll upvote. Maybe Manson could be sent that list ahead of time to let him read it carefully before the call?

    • I’d vote this one up as well.

      I don’t see how 37 is that out of line with the others though. You’ve just come from 15 where H started all the words, now the text says to look at all sides….

    • I’d vote for that!

      I’ve added your votes. I apologize for my summary of the question, there is just no way to do it justice in two sentences or less.

  9. In Room 8: is the laughing clown intended to clue the anagram TEETH ROW = TWO THREE since that unmarked door is from room 23?

    (Follow-up question if he answers yes to that one: is this to complete an odd-one-in solution in which every door is indicated but 12, orrrrrrr…?)

    • Alright, I’ll back this one, though…

      Still torn between asking big questions and little ones. I feel like “F HOUR TREE” already demonstrates the degree to which we’re misreading most of Maze. I’m not sure “TEETH ROW” expands our understanding much, but it would he interesting if accurate. I’d be pretty darn surprised if Manson went on to give up the goods on the room in general, to any degree.

    • Better vote for the 11 & 12 in rm 39 question, if that’s what you’re after…

    • You’re like one of those married people who wants to start up a fight in public.

  10. In the MazeChat we spend a lot of time arguing about whether certain solutions were intended by Manson. Part of the difficulty, and part of why we never seem to be able to resolve our arguments, is that we don’t have that much in the way of solution confirmation directly from Manson.

    What do we have? We have the components of the solution to the contest puzzle, and we have confirmation of the solution to the Riddle of the Guide (although that doesn’t help us much b/c we don’t actually know what the solution is). We have some solutions that are obviously correct, such as SEA BAG OK and SEE APE NOSE. But a lot of the solutions we have are up for debate. That’s part of the fun, of course, but it would be great to have a few more definitively confirmed solutions for reference.

    I’m hoping that for the next Ask Manson we can ask some direct questions about known solutions that will help us broaden our understanding of what he did and didn’t intend. Further to what Vince was saying earlier, I hope we can succeed in wording these questions in such a way as to get a direct and useful answer, and that he will be willing to answer.

    Here’s my suggestion, followed by a request for WR.

    1. “ASK MANSON” QUESTION: (This is kind of a selfish one because it’s a solution that I really like but that others in the MazeChat do not like one bit — for more information on that, see Vince’s blog post on Mazecast.)
    In Room 39, did you intend the visitor to take the 11 tiers of bricks being completed at 12 midnight in Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado” as an indication not to take doors 11 and 12? As a related follow-up to that, if he’ll answer it, does the trowel indicate that Montresor escaped via door 4 and we should follow him?

    2. “ASK WR” QUESTION: Before you leave us, would you be able (and willing) to tell us which of your solutions have been directly confirmed through your conversations with Manson?

    • Aria,

      I am certain I have answered this question already on this site somewhere but I gave up trying to find it. Hopefully I remember it all…

      The ideal route is 16 steps no passage through unnumbered doors.
      Identity of the Guide – That there is a trail, the title page puzzle, Room 43.
      Room 31 – A bit not solved yet.
      Room 34 – “Needles and Eyes”
      Room 37 – The net casts a zero shadow which is meant to be put on the blank side of the dice.
      Room 38 – “No Escape”
      Room 39 – “Cask of Amontillado” connection including that the trowel is escape and that the wine is captivity/foolishness.
      Room 44 – “Vicious Circle”

      I think that is it from the MAZE construction interview.

      From the March 5th Ask Manson:

      Room 3 – The not yet solved reversing puzzle.
      Room 29 – Flipping images over doors, hidden doorknob, shadows.

      Revealed by Manson to DG:

      Room 23: Sign = “O”

      Would you like me to put the bricks question up for voting or were you suggesting it as a hypothetical?

    • Thank you so much for the summary, WR! It is very helpful to have it all in one place. I felt like I had seen it too but couldn’t find it.

      I do want to ask that Room 39 question! Whether anyone will upvote it is a different matter… :-/

    • But wait, is the 11/12 stuff included in this statement above: “Room 39 – “Cask of Amontillado” connection including that the trowel is escape and that the wine is captivity/foolishness.”?

    • Cool list! Some of those items make me curious. Can we get links to the sources of these being “Manson-confirmed”? I’d like to look at what exactly Manson’s said about them.

    • Factitious,

      Alas, I am the source for all but the last one. The first group comes from the first interview I conducted with Manson 3-4 years ago. Confirming solutions was not the goal, but it was necessary to talk about a few solutions in order to talk about MAZE at all. I considered keeping this info to myself since some people would question it’s validity – but I hoped that gratitude for the info would outweigh doubts. The interview as not recorded I took no notes during the interview, I only have my imperfect memory to go on. The list seems straight forward but if you have a specific question I would be happy to answer it if I can.

      The second group is from an Ask Manson interview, you can read the full text below somewhere (on a previous page of comments probably).

      If I remember correctly (I am unsure of this) the last one was something Dave G all of told us (it was DG, right?).

    • Aria,

      The 11/12 solution was not mentioned.

      On account of Manson using the Cask of Amontillado as a solution we wound up talking about how much we both enjoyed reading Poe when we were young. I mentioned that I appreciated that the reader had to actually understand the story to solve the puzzle – I am pretty sure this is how the symbolism of the trowel and the wine came up.

      It is up to all of you, but I think asking about the 11/12 solution would be a good question. It may help clarify just how deep of an understanding of sources exterior to MAZE are required to solve certain puzzles.

    • Seriously? You are going to make me ask Manson about wool? Well, at least it will be brief. :)

    • Don’t worry, we’ll do our best to force a tie with a bunch of other stuff.

    • Ask a question much broader and you run a significant risk of ending up with a “well, this is not correct, but that’s not to say there aren’t elements…” On the other hand, Manson has shown reluctance to answer straightforward questions of this sort (though he did relent in the case of Room 2, and I can’t think of another case where the question was so narrow). In any case, if Manson refused to answer this question I assume he would allow the next one, so that’s probably not a serious concern.

      If there’s a problem with choosing this particular bit to ask about, it’s that it’s so facially plausible that it doesn’t seem to benefit us through confirmation. It’s hard to hit that sweet spot between the handful of reasonable solutions and the ocean of unreasonable ones, and pick a solution that tells us something meaningful about the book whether it is confirmed or denied, but that’s the aim here.

    • I vote against wool… see why on the Room 7 page, I think I know its purpose.

    • “Wool” still seems more likely to me than “rug,” but both seem completely plausible. I don’t think this is the correct simple question to ask anymore. The problem was picking something that seemed to tell us something meaningful whether the answer was “yes” or “no,” but now that we have a second guess as to what this means…

      Well, if the answer is “yes,” that’s just as good, but if the answer is “no,” our conclusion isn’t, “Oh, we really need to go back to the drawing board on this,” it’s, “Oh, I wonder whether it was that other similar idea we had.”

      Please remove my vote from this one.

    • No problem. Since Vewatkin posted the question I’m removing it. But if someone wants it returned I will restore it with the votes.

    • No argument here. The question was intended to result in a clear answer but in light of recent discoveries the answer is now more likely to be — well — woolly.

  11. Abyssians,

    Manson and I spoke today about all four of the Ask Manson questions which were tied for first place though he declined to respond to the question “Room Reveal: What do we have right and wrong in any single room of your choice (except 45 which is covered by another ask Manson question).”

    “Door Count: The door count in Room Five. 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 one door)?”

    Manson said that the door count is inaccurate because it is said by the Narrator (the Guide). He was careful to make sure that the Narrator misrepresents the truth to at least a small degree at every turn. Even in the rare cases when the Narrator is somewhat helpful, the Narrator still twists the truth.

    “Errors: Are there any unintentional errors, typographical or otherwise, in MAZE? Is ‘millennium’ unintentionally misspelled in Room 13.”

    There are no errors, everything is intentional including the missing “N” in “MILLENIUM.” I led up to the question by noting that it would be an easy word to have misspelled because of all the vertical lines and how compact the word is drawn (cf. “NEOLITHIC” as written by Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Arc). Manson was calmly emphatic – he said he was very careful and deliberate when crafting MAZE. The “N” is missing for a reason, just like the blank space at the bottom of the sign is there for a reason.

    “Blind Spot: Is there a significant riddle type or multi-room riddle that has not been discovered by this group?”

    Manson asked what we had discovered, confessing that he had not been to the site in a while. I said nothing new, I mentioned the multi-location Riddle Of The Path, Room 45, the multi-location Riddle Of The Guide, and that almost all the individual rooms have clues that indicate the correct door. He said, “And you all know about pointing to the wrong doors, and that the right one is the one not pointed to?” I said, yes, we call that the odd-on-in principle. At which point he remembered us discussing the topic before. (The speed at which he jumped to mentioning this makes me wonder if the odd-one-in principle is a more pervasive solving method than we realize.) Then he said, “Well to answer your question, yes.” There was a pause. Then I said, “So there is at least one significant multi-room riddle apart from what I just listed?” Manson replied, “Yes.” o_O

    I’ve removed the votes from the remaining questions. My apologies for the long wait between Ask Manson sessions, life has been rough as of late. Hopefully there will be less of a delay before the next Ask Manson.

    White Raven

  12. Abyssians,

    I have arranged to speak with Manson Friday. I am giving him a choice of the top four questions in the hopes that he may answer more than one. If all goes as planned I will have the results up by Friday night.

    • So exciting! Please keep him talking as long as you can by whatever means necessary!!!

  13. To my knowledge, there are at least four computer adaptations of the Maze. One of them, the Interplay version for Macintosh, known as The Riddle of the Maze, is in color and has voice acting. One of them is online for free using hyperlinks and uses very poor quality images of the rooms. One of them is this site. One of them was never finished.

    I was wondering whether Manson would be open to allowing a downloadable or online play version of the Interplay adaptation of the game, so that people who want to play it don’t have to track down a Macintosh CD from 1994? I wouldn’t know how to program it, but I bet someone would, since it has basically already been done and just needs to have a new format. (GOG is one site that has downloadable versions of a lot of old games.)

    My guess is that this would work out well for Manson, since:

    1. If he allowed it to be done by fans, it is possible that some fan(s) would be willing to do it for free.
    2. If he had it done professionally, he might be able to make money – ad revenue at the very least; possibly paid downloads.

    I could see people paying a dollar or two to get a phone version, too.

    This could also increase (or decrease) sales of the book, due to an increase in interest, awareness, and accessibility.

    I assume Interplay would also have to sign off, which could be trickier than getting Manson to allow it to exist.

    • As an aside, has anyone here actually played the Interplay version? Does it have a “rotate” button? Some of the puzzles ask you to look at the room upside-down, which is a lot easier with a book than a computer monitor.

    • Novice,

      The interplay version did not have a rotate button…but that would have really been useful.

      Manson and I have talked about the idea of a digital version ad nausium. Twice I have been contacted by people with the skills to turn the book into an app, something I could easily do as well.

      Here are the problems with the idea:

      1. If an app version with high resolution images existed it would most likely negatively affect book sales, taking income away from Christopher Manson and Henry Holt Publishers. Which means any digital version would have to create income to replace (and hopefully supersede) the lost income. There have been several online versions which Manson has not approved and they have been taken down for copyright infringement (we have a contract for this site, and the site with tiny images has a contract as well).

      2. Henry Holt most likely extended the rights to create and sell the game to Interplay as a one-shot. I say “most likely” because Manson didn’t get a straight answer from them. Henry Holt is fine with things just the way they are and if Manson created a digital version which competed with the book, he would be in violation of his Henry Holt contract. The only reason this site is okay is because of the reduced quality of the images. We went back and forth about the images until he was satisfied that sales of the actual physical book would not be negatively effected… indeed book sales have increased.

      So a pirate version would be unethical and the person who created it would get sued for damages if it got out…and the publisher has no interest in a digital version. Sigh…

      At some point here we should try again with Henry Holt, because a digital version would be fantastic!

    • It’s hard to imagine Henry Holt saying no if they don’t have to do any work but get a cut of the profits, the details of which would have to be negotiated, obviously. Especially considering that in many cases, sales would represent squeezing extra dollars out of people who already own one or more copies of the book. (In other words, extra income, not taking away from sales of the book.) You’d also reach a lot of people who are much more likely to pay a few dollars for an app or whatever than order a physical book.

      Hmmm… unless they sold exclusive digital rights to Interplay? In which case I guess Interplay would be the people to talk to.

    • Aria,

      Even if Interplay owns exclusive rights, which is very unlikely, Manson should still get permission from Henry Holt to prevent any legal difficulties down the road.

      You are right, it makes all the sense in the world for Henry Holt to say yes. They have nothing to lose. If you work at Henry Holt and you are reading this…REALLY IT MAKES ALL THE SENSE IN THE WORLD… MONEY FOR NOTHING! I think they may just have been too swamped to deal with it at the time. It’s been a couple years, we really should try again.

  14. Alright, so this looks way overdue (he hasn’t been asked anything). Is this actually happening? Or is this just a pipe dream like “if I won the lottery I would…”?

    • That’s a good question to add to the list: What would Manson do if he won the lottery?

      Actually, I think that’s addressed on his wikipedia page, but that’s several years old at this point, and it would be useful to have an updated answer.

    • Now is not a good time for me. I need to stay focused on the project I am dealing with. I should be done with it in a few weeks, I’ll do an Ask Manson then.

      Sorry for the delay.

    • Soon? Pretty please? Are you waiting for someone to break the carefully engineered tie? ;-)

    • Aria,

      I like the tie, it gives Manson options. It continues to be a difficult time but I will get to it soon. Thank you for the reminder!

    • I’ll add a vote for errors, but request we add “accidentally” or “erroneously” to the question about “millennium”…otherwise it’s too easy for him to say “yes, it’s misspelled”

    • 515,

      Your votes have been counted and sentence about “millennium” changed. Thanks!

      White Raven

    • One more vote for Errors and we will find out once and for all the truth about “millen(n)ium”! Please please please someone upvote it BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

    • Factitious’ EXTREMELY IMPORTANT vote has been counted! Congratulations Aria, “Errors” is now tied for first. :)

  15. If we don’t get some Ask Manson answers out of the man pretty soon, I’m going to demand recompense in the form of the seven hours of wood grain discussion he still owes me.

  16. From what I’ve observed, Manson doesn’t participate on this site, nor does he tender questions from the public (SP/Alex’s letter). Has he agreed to answer questions on “Ask Manson”, or is this an exercise in futility? And if Manson did agree, how do we know they would be his genuine answers? △

    • Tetra,

      You are correct, Manson does not participate with the site, though he occasionally visits it and has seen MAZECAST, as well as having read Brent’s mapping attempt. Manson has decided to no longer respond to individual fans. Out of respect for his decision I do not ask questions about MAZE unless they are chosen by the group.

      The only reason, from your point of view, that I can see to accept the answers given as being genuine, is that if they were not Manson would rescind his approval of the site – and the use of the MAZE’s images and text on this site would be a clear violation of copyright without Manson’s approval.

      Is this absolute proof? No. But it is what I can offer.

      White Raven

    • You might just maybe be underselling this a little bit. Imagine you are an author and one of your books is a fan following. And there is a fan site about your one book with a fan following. Do you A. Look at the site or B. Never look at the site? Of course Manson has seen the site. Type Christopher Manson into google, its like the second result.

    • How can we even be sure that Christopher Manson wrote this book? He could have simply slapped his name on anybody’s work. You should really be doing “Ask Smith” or “Ask Jones” or whatever the real name is of the person whose hard work Christopher Manson presumably stole.

    • Vewatkin,

      Perhaps this is an Ask Manson question!

      “Did you actually write the book?!”

  17. This is more of a meta-Ask Manson question, but is there any way Manson would be willing to be recorded answering these questions? Even a static image of an umbrella with his voice saying, “This is Chris Manson, and no, there is no way out of the Trap,” would probably get three times as many hits as the combined views on all MazeCast videos in about two days, and that would just be from me.

    • Vewatkin,

      When I interviewed Manson for the History of MAZE page I asked if I could record the conversation… he said no… and that was just about the backstory of writing and publishing MAZE. So I doubt he would go for the idea of recording confirmations.

      I read your blog post. Your attempt at puzzle theory wandered a bit but as always your criticisms are well reasoned. My main impression was the same feeling I have had on numerous occasions while reading your posts…you don’t seem to enjoy MAZE, you seem to be irritated by it.

      MAZE is more art than science and clearly Manson’s free-form approach does not mesh with your exacting approach to puzzles. MAZE is one of the few puzzles which is not concrete – there are MILLIONS of puzzles out there for people who want concrete answers. No matter how many questions I ask Manson, and no matter how many obscure answers from him I pass along, MAZE will never be solved, certain, quantified, proved….

      Your criticisms are always respectful, entertaining to read, and I appreciate your involvement – it just seems as if you are not enjoying yourself. My 2 cents: Life is too short to waste on something which you just brings you grief. You have a great mind, perhaps you may find it more entertaining to make puzzles of your own? I think you would be good at it.

      Just a thought.

      White Raven

    • People are complicated. It’s still possible to enjoy something while being tortured by it and questioning its validity. I also love Maze but have the same frustrations as vewatkins. As great a work as it is, recognizing its flaws is just as important as appreciating its aesthetic. If you don’t see the pot holes, you will fall into them.

    • The Morse code for 4 is [....-]. In Room 21, we have the repeating pattern with the bushes shaped like four circles, and then the straight tree trunks extending off the page. Four dots and a dash, four dots and a dash.

    • sp,

      A love/hate relationship is certainly not as preferable as a love/love relationship, but you make a good point – sometimes we don’t choose our obsessions.

      I personally don’t find the book frustrating, it’s a thing of wonder… the first of its kind… luminous. MAZE doesn’t obey the normal rules of puzzles and solutions. MAZE is only flawed if you take the book as a standard puzzle which is only disguised as a work of art.

      Having said that, if I were to make a puzzle book I would not use young Manson’s approach, I would make puzzles which are simpler, far more concrete and make more use of redundancy to make misinterpretation of the puzzles far more unlikely. Would this be better than MAZE? No, I think not. My book would not be a mysterious masterpiece of surrealism, it would just be a nice looking puzzle book.

      Uncertainty and mystery go hand in hand, the mystery is well worth the uncertainty.

      White Raven

    • WR: One reason I’d like to hear something actually on the record from Manson is to get confirmation (or disconfirmation) about all this stuff about Maze having interpretive puzzles in it.

      All the confirmed puzzles we know about are quantifiable, not freeform/luminous/non-concrete. Vincent’s blog post did a good job of presenting how they all work in a straightforward logical manner from the creator’s point of view, while being impractical from the solver’s. I found it to be pretty positive, actually, in that it’s clear that Manson had reasonable puzzle stuff in mind.

      The idea you’re alluding to here is that in addition to all the known puzzles, the book also has what you’ve called “interpretive puzzles,” which would be of a very different character. I’d love to hear from Manson whether he did in fact make use of this never-before-seen category of interpretive puzzles.

    • Factitious,

      Apparently I have done a poor job describing what I call “interpretive puzzles.” Almost all (95%+) the solutions offered by this group are interpretive, including all the solutions you personally have offered (“herring” “two guides” “pointing stick figure” “90T2″ “CAIMAN” “ME NOT OUR”).

      I made up the term “interpretive puzzles” as a way of describing what is going in MAZE. Vewatkin has called them “flawed in a similar way” puzzles but we are describing the same thing.

      To say it overly simplistically, an interpretive puzzle has a solution which is based on an impression caused by multiple parts. This is similar to what Vewatkin was saying about the puzzles being rational from Manson’s point of view.

      For example in Room 1 the odd-one-in puzzle regarding the words over the doors is interpretive. Nothing tells us that a non-matching door must be correct. A non-matching door could be a warning against this door. But the “silences” quote gives an impression void being good, and on the directions page the non-matching hand points to the next page, which gives the impression of a principle. From this we can guess that the non-matched door is the correct one.

      In Room 26 the Atlas moon of Saturn solution is interpretive. None of the various elements of this solution are convincing on their own but when taken together they reinforce one another to create a solid solution. The large moon next to Saturn doesn’t need to be Atlas, it could be any moon of Saturn, or just a generic moon, but once we put together “Atlas” then the moon makes sense and confirms that “Atlas” is the correct reading of the A+Salt puzzle. Alternately, a person could see the moon next to Saturn, read a list of the names of Saturn’s moons and then realize that A+Salt spells “Atlas.” Either way, it is a reasonable guess that a big moon next to a little Saturn signals one of the moons of Saturn.

      A quantitative puzzle like “See Bag OK” has a relatively confirm-able answer (“GO BACK”) and requires no vague impressions to be solvable apart from the knowledge that it is in fact a puzzle. The two examples above, however, require multiple parts working in concert to give an impression which we interpret to be the solution.

      Call it “interpretive” “impression based” “similarly flawed” I am merely trying to describe what MAZE is.

      I’m am sorry for my lack of clarity on this point. I hope this helps.

      White Raven

    • I don’t think I’m getting any clearer on what is meant by an interpretive puzzle. You say elsewhere on this site that you’re not aware of any examples of this type of puzzle occurring before MAZE (with one possible exception), but here you seem to be applying it to fairly conventional puzzles that involve some element of interpretation or ambiguity. There’s a qualitative difference between, say, Room 1′s puzzle and the con artist puzzle in your puzzle theory section. We’ve been using the term “interpretive puzzle” to describe the latter sort of puzzle, but if the term is meant to be broader than that, we just need to use a different term to distinguish the same concept. As I (poorly) described it before: “It’s not just a puzzle that requires non-literal reasoning to solve, but one that never produces a clear statement of [the answer] but instead requires, even in the final step, rather freeform interpretation of the elements.”

      I’ll note, though, that “TL;DR” is not about interpretive puzzles under any usage of the term. “TL;DR” is about solutions that are readily concocted from the solver’s point of view but require a sort of arbitrariness or irrationality on the part of the creator that Manson has not been demonstrated to have exercised. Essentially, it’s encouraging people to look at puzzles from Manson’s point of view as a creator and ask whether it would have been reasonable for him to create the solution they’re suggesting, or whether it only makes sense as a solver trying to find a connection between observations about a room and a door number we know to be correct.

      Your con artists puzzle provides a good example of an interpretive puzzle that proceeds from rational construction by the puzzlemaker. At least, if you consider the Three-Card Monte part of that puzzle, you can readily address the questions I suggest asking:

      1) What did [the puzzle maker] intend to communicate with this puzzle?
      Three-Card Monte

      2) How did [the puzzle maker] encode this information? “Card” and “Monte” were encoded simply by being written on a piece of paper (a receipt in this case, to provide a non-arbitrary contextual basis for them both appearing on the paper), and “three” was encoded by having three receipts in the stack.

      Or, maybe I should just say the words “three” and “card” and “monte” are written in the same sentence, relating to the same object (the stack of receipts).

      In any case, it’s not hard to see from your point of view how this happened. Monte–> Monte Carlo Hotel; sure. Card–>card denied; sure, fits the context. Three–>three receipts; got it.

      I’m equivocating in my usage of “interpretive” now, because this part of the puzzle in isolation is not interpretive in the sense I quote myself describing above; you reach a concretely indicated final solution. (I do think the puzzle reaches my meaning in the final step in which we are to conclude the man is a con artist.) Nevertheless, this is clearly part of what you mean by an interpretive puzzle/solution, and it is not what I’m arguing against in “TL;DR.”

      Q: That’s all well and good, but you said that “‘TL;DR’ is not about interpretive puzzles under any usage of the term.” What about YOUR usage of the term, Vince old buddy? Wouldn’t you always say that a puzzle “that never produces a clear statement of [the answer] but instead requires, even in the final step, rather freeform interpretation of the elements” isn’t a sensible encoding of what Manson meant to communicate?

      A: I would probably almost always conclude that, but I don’t think it’s necessarily so. Imagine that in the prologue you discovered some code in the text and it turned out that Manson had hidden the statement, “AVOID THE SCARY DOORS, I MEAN IT, CHRIS MANSON SPEAKING HERE, NOT THE GUIDE, THERE IS NO AMBIGUITY IN WHAT I’M SAYING HERE, DO NOT GO IN THE SCARY DOORS OR YOU WILL LOSE.” So that much of the puzzle is concrete, but the final step of this is to determine which doors are scary and avoid them, and that’s not so clear. I’d say that puzzle is interpretive, and yet seems rationally constructed from the puzzlemaker’s point of view.

      Q: I don’t think you would, I think you would say the puzzle was solved when you found the encoded message, because looking at doors and trying to figure out whether Manson thought they were scary is not a puzzle.

      A: That’s not a question! Shut up!

    • Vewatkin,

      That you think that the puzzles in Room 1 and 26 are “fairly conventional puzzles” makes no sense to me, I think we are having a communication problem. There are some treasure hunt books which may possibly use this kind of reasoning. Is there a wealth of puzzles of this type of which I am unaware?

      Regardless, I think we can agree that the the vast majority 99%+ of puzzles in the world are quantitative, that is, created to have solutions which are a word, a number, singular, undeniable, no room for debate, no messy interpretation necessary – the author intended there to be a single solution set which can be stated/enacted in one way or a chosen, limited set of ways. This would include puzzles such as crosswords, soduku, jigsaw puzzles, where is waldo, spot the difference, myst, portal, limbo, tomb raider, pencil mazes, wheel of fortune, name the tune, word find, anagrams, cryptograms, burr puzzles, puzzle boxes, etc. Sometimes these riddles are poorly constructed and therefore there IS room for debate but the intention is a straightforward, undeniable solution which can only be properly stated/enacted in a specific manner.

      In qualitative puzzles the only thing that matters is the result not the method, such as in the rubix cube, fifteen number slide, or “how would you survive being stranded on an island?” No particular solution is intended only a final result. Video games such as minesweeper, tetris, and angry birds have given life to this type of puzzle but it still probably represents less than 1% of all puzzles.

      MAZE is neither of these. The solutions are neither “whatever it takes to get to the goal” nor “this is the correct answer.” In MAZE most of the solutions are not clear cut and dry (such as filling out a crossword puzzle or when cracking a cryptogram) but there are real solutions nonetheless. I call this type of puzzle “interpretive” though clearly I should change the name.

      More clear?

      White Raven

    • I think we’d still disagree on where exactly some puzzles fit in that spectrum from “whatever it takes” to “interpretive” to “this is the answer,” but I do see what you mean. I think I was taking the term to be narrower than you meant it.

      As a side note (though actually in response to your lead point), you and Alex have both interpreted what I wrote as an expression of frustration with MAZE, but I don’t think I feel frustrated with MAZE, and what I wrote was certainly not an expression of frustration with or antipathy towards the book. I was pretty flippant about describing the book as containing bad puzzles, but I say that in reference to the contest puzzles, and I don’t think I’m rocking any boats by saying that those puzzles were not fairly solvable. (“Not fairly solvable” might not translate directly into “bad,” but I still don’t think that this was a controversial leap to make.)

      MAZE is great! It’s certainly among the best books I’ve ever read. I thought so when I was a kid, and in the John Bailey days, and when I had lots of faith in lots of solutions, and now that I have lots of faith in very few solutions.

    • Vewatkin,

      Well it SOUNDED like frustration, but yeah I went through a similar transition. I am glad you are still enjoying the book.

      Yes, I am certain we would not agree on the details. In regard to the big picture I think we are talking about the same thing but feeling different things about it and using very different language.

      At some point I need to rewrite the Puzzles section so it is more clear. I was trying to say something very general but it looks like I am making statement of fact…poorly written. I tossed this site together in hurry and in various ways it shows.


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