Room 45

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…the room at the center of the Maze.

My guests thought that whoever lived here was a careless person, to leave so many things around. They were wrong.

There was really only one thing for them to find: the Riddle of the Maze. They demanded that I show it to them.

“Do you think it is written on the wall for all to see? It is hidden here, somewhere, perhaps throughout the room. As far as you are concerned, what the Maze teaches can be learned in every room.”

They looked and looked…every group is the same.

“Now,” I said, after a last look around, “we must find our way back out.”

Leaving the center of the Maze we found ourselves in…

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


Level: PATH     Doors: 17 19  23  28  36


● The correct door is 23. [Credit: Unknown - during the 1985 contest]

● The spear next to I AM points to door 23. [Credit: SP]

● The various components of room 45, put together properly produce the following question: “What house will all live in?” [This phrasing has been confirmed by the publisher.]

“W” + hat = What
shoe + U (horseshoe shaped like a U) (letters rearranged) = House
Will (“I AM” + shake spear)
awl = All
elvi (letters rearranged) = Live
eye = “I” + N (sideways Z) = In

Correct answer is the Earth, world or globe. Also, Shakespeare’s theater was the Globe. [Credit: Sco4tt "Fool" Purdy with some assistance from Andrew C. Plotkin, Carl Muckenhoupt and Narciso Jaramillo - See the Riddle of the Path on the Main Solution page for the rest of Sco4tt's solution - At this point the wood row was unsolved.]

● The row of wood on the table is a “wood row.” Combined with the “will” from the I AM Shakespeare riddle and the sun = “Woodrow Wilson.” Which leads to the Woodrow Wilson quote ”Without God the world would be a maze without a clue,” reinforcing the answer “The World” [Credit: John Bailey]

● The “all in/habit what evil house” phrasing alternative is put to rest by the observation that the Guide says in the text, “Do you think it is written on the wall for ALL to see.” On the wall is an “all” and “none” from which we choose. This question by the Guide frames this choice.  [Independent Credit: David G | vewatkin]

● Ongoing debate: Is the purpose of the “Woodrow WILLson” and “WILLiam Shakespeare” meant to only produce the word “Will.” Or is the purpose of the I AM Shakespeare riddle to complete the name “Woodrow Wilson” (“Woodrow (“Will” produced by Shakespeare riddle) son.”) and point only to the Wilson quote.  Or is the purpose of the riddle on the table to produce both “William Shakespeare” and “Woodrow Wilson” and point to both the Wilson quote and the globe theater. If the purpose is just to create the word “will” then why is this unnecessary word included at all?


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171 thoughts on “Room 45

  1. Does anyone have an idea — even a bad one — what a priori justification might exist for taking “ELVI” to be “LIVE” instead any of the other possible anagrams?

    • “Live” does appear in the text, as part of “lived, but boy…

      That does mirror “all” also being in the text, given that both are clued in not just opaque but ambiguous ways.

    • wrong = evil
      careless = vile
      hidden = veil
      lived = live
      Sure, “live” is the only string that actually appears in the text, but if Manson wanted to use that to resolve the anagram, why didn’t he phrase it in present tense? “A careless person must live here.”
      The habit of a nun somewhat resembles a veil, too. Why DO we pick live? The solution summary claims that the awl/nun thing puts the confusion to rest, but does it, beyond the difficulty of crafting a cogent riddle around evil?

    • Yeah, the mere presence of “live” within “lived” seems implausible, for sure. The fact that “what” and “in” also appear in the text, but “house” and “will” don’t, makes the incidental appearance of words in the text too scattershot to be meaningful. I still suspect that “all” was intended as a clue, based on the specific context in which the word is used.

    • I guess it simply must be process of elimination. Other symbols in this room can be anagrammed into multiple ways (shoe + n + u + i = heinous) but it’s hard to work them into logical sentences (“what will heinous evil all.”)

    • It may well be that there is nothing to do but play around with different possible words and eventually find the solution, as impossible as that is. ELVI is *so* clearly an anagram of multiple common words, though, that it seems cruel even by Manson’s standards to leave no more indication of the correct word.

      Maybe that’s precisely why “live” was clued in this way though, that it could form so many other anagrams. Maybe that was the “puzzle.”

    • No word here is boiled down to a single rebused object. Maybe that’s even why there’s a nun presented with the awl. Manson thought that “awl” was the easiest way to clue the word, but wanted to sprinkle in more difficulty.

  2. Some random observations and thoughts on room 45 that I don’t think have been mentioned before.

    1.The shadow cast by the table and its objects appears to resemble a house, complete with a roof and chimney. Additionally, the horseshoe in this context could be interpreted as either a door or a front gate, as seen in the prologue/room 1. It’s unclear if this holds any significant meaning or if it’s related to another puzzle. Notably, the shadow overlaps with the horseshoe and points at the shoe, possibly serving as a reinforcing clue for the word ‘HOUSE’.

    2. As mentioned by others, many of the clues in this room are not very clear and satisfying. Especially, The elongated Z, meant to represent an N for “IN,” is frustrating. However, there might be a deeper meaning here. The room’s text hints at this with the phrase, “Do you think it is written on the wall for all to see?” The Z sign is not actually on the wall but hanging slightly off. The top of the Z points to the Nun’s feet, and the bottom points to room 23, indicating the correct door (walking to the exit). The room’s text also says, “Now,” I said, after a last look around, “we must find our way back out.” I interpreted this as the eye looking at the Z sign, but considering it a “last LOOK AROUND,” I turned the book sideways in a circle. Doing this causes the Z sign to “fall back” against the wall, thus alerting our attention. At least that’s how it appeared to me. Ok, maybe it’s a stretch, but it would be interesting if a solution involved some objects moving within the room and fitting into place.

    3. Shakespeare’s theater was famously called the Globe Theatre, previously mentioned here. Another common name for it was the ‘Wooden O.’ The theater had its own distinctive flag featuring Hercules holding up the world, accompanied by the Latin motto “Totus mundus agit histrionem.” This Latin phrase can be translated to mean “All the World’s a Stage” or “All the World’s a Playhouse.”

    Here is some weird alphanumeric substitution fun. If we convert all letters to numbers and add them…

    “All the World’s a Playhouse.”=272
    so does

  3. I beleive I may have solved the full riddle in R.45. Currently the question is part solved as just “What house will all live in?” which seems too short for a conventional riddle. Most riddles take the form of a paradox – what is, does or has THIS but not THAT? Also, the brief question seemed somehow too simplistic for the elegant, sophisicated, utterly genius of the rest of the book. I felt there should be a BUT …. and I eventually found it in the 4 trees in the centre which are abutting, or BUTTing on to each other. The next word would logically be NONE (nun) as the paradox to “all”. In the text it says “They looked and looked” and then “after one last look” which I took to mean that some clues are used twice or even three time. Having got this far it was then pretty easy to re-use some of the clues and arrive at 2 possibilities: 1. What house will all live in but none inhabit (nun-in-habit) for (four – trees) all (awl, a second look) TIME (“What the maze teaches can be learned in every room” …time is a constant theme). 2. A longer version could be “what house will all live but none would (wood, the trees) choose to (shoes, two) inhabit (I +N + habit) for all time.

    • There are more appealing ways to interpret Room 45, but I think we’re stuck with the answer that has long been confirmed to be the answer.

  4. I thought Woodrow Wilson was the solution to which door to take, since he was the 28th president. Therefore, door 28. You can still take door 23 from room 28 (although not the quickest path).

    • I guess this has already been pointed out but I’m just noticing it in the context of “ring” things throughout.

    • My ringing solution made a few jumps (and had some weird time travel shenanigans), but huh, that is interesting… an issue would be the puzzles crossing over, as in the puzzle of Room 45 would have to have been made primarily, though using a horseshoe as a U is one of the many ways Manson could have done it.
      He could have thought, for my U I’ll use a RINGer to maintain my ringing theme!
      An issue is that it isn’t to hard to find “bell” and “ring” in objects, I probably could find those phrases in every room if I am being honest…

    • Well, I’m actually referring to my own ideas/list of ring-related stuff that I talked about at some point, but I’ll go look at yours again too, Ritz! Mainly my idea is just that there are “rings” and “ringing” placed intentionally throughout the Maze.

    • I do agree that it’s a tough sell since rings would be easy to include unintentionally.

    • No reason the think the term “ringer” is relevant as a pun of some kind, but this was probably done to evoke the game of horseshoes, as a U sitting on the floor would probably not otherwise be regarded as a horseshoe (without visible nail holes or whatever).

      Manson’s clue to this part of the riddle suggests that making the U a horseshoe was meant to help us to pair it with the shoe, though, who knows, maybe that’s just something he came up with afterwards for the clue. Or maybe this was actually supposed to obscure its role as a letter.

    • Things can serve more than one purpose. In fact WR had a conversation with Manson in which he confirmed that this was the case.

    • Sorry, that didn’t come off as I intended. I meant that my assessment of “ringer’s” significance is not based on a resistance to dual meaning. I’m saying this “ringer” thing seems meaningless on its own merits.

    • I think the bell/ring references could have relevance. They seem to be placed at focal points of the book.

      The beginning of the Maze (1)
      The beginning of the correct path (26)
      The ending of the correct path (20)

      The ringing is heard, starts (in order to distract guests), and stops at the end through this circuit.

      The beginning of the Maze (1)
      The ending of the incorrect path (11)
      Potential pun in the ending of the Maze (24) (unsure about this one)

      A bell for ASSISTANCE shows up at the end of the incorrect path, which the guide warns against. And at the end his laughter is bell-owing.

      So having a bell/ring reference in the center of the Maze on the correct path could be relevant, I guess. It could imply distraction in the most critical area. Eh-

    • They could, it’s a relevant observation regarding a reasonable line of inquiry. I was just noting that the ringer positioning serves one function even if we don’t have reason to think it serves another. I have no objection to people noting patterns and themes without knowing why or whether they were intended–it is infinitely preferable to attaching an arbitrary metaphorical interpretation that confirms something we already know or assume. In fact, it might be the only hope we have.

  5. Woodrow Willson is also quoted as saying “The world has a habit of going on” and there is a picture of a nun’s habit on the wall, therefore I think this is another clue that the answer to the riddle is “the world”.

  6. I don’t know if anybody’s noticed it before, but the branches on the logs point more or less at the four incorrect doors, with none pointing anywhere near in the direction of door 23.

  7. I don’t know if I’m repeating someone else’s words, but I may have found a possible indicator of the guide’s intentions. You can see written on the paper on the table, the words, “I AM.” Also, on the upside-down sign reading ELVI: the anagram can be the word “EVIL.” Finally, you can put this information together to say, “I am evil.” I guess this could be an Easter egg, but maybe was unintentional after all.

  8. I came up with Door 23 because of ELVI. E=5 L=12 and VI could be roman numerals for 6. 5+12+6 = 23.

    Also I thought there were lots of pairs of objects and many 3 letter objects. 2 eye/I’s, 2 shoes (horseshoe), 2 “hats”, 3 letter objects: eye, sun, IAM, nun, hat, W+eye+?= Why. Though I’m sure that’s all a coincidence, that I just waned to find 2′s and 3′s.

    • If you pronounce the word, it sounds like “L V.” Alphanumerically translated, that’s 17, another door in the room. Because the sign is upside-down, the V actually comes before the L. If you read it as VL, that’s a roman numeral 45–an indication of the room we’re in.

      ELVI_ suggests the letter S as the next letter on the sign. S is the 19th letter. 19 is a door in the room.

      For homework, try to work out the remaining numbers in like fashion.

  9. Everything in the room has been used besides the chair–why is it in this room? (a pretty tiny chair too; it looks like the same size as the shoe.)

    • Is it tiny? Or is that just a Really Big Shoe? Anyway, the chair is there for Willy and Woody to sit in, according to Mr Manson.

  10. Isn’t the spear pointing at the bottom right edge of the door to room 19? From a distance it looks like it’s pointing at 23 but if you use a ruler you might see what im seeing.

    • Well, I’m sure the folks here would be happy to provide lots of alternate explanations, it’s just that they would be grossly implausible.

    • Actually, this may have some merit. Now that you have found room 45, you’re on to step 2. Or, alternatively, now that you’re here the next question is “Where 2?”.

    • What do you mean by that? The expulsion of Shakespeare, or the number 31415?


    • I consider myself a psychopomp. Worship our black-clad avian orifices- I mean oracles. Could that be a reference to Pythagoras?

    • Pythagoras–or “pie then gore us”–a prescient warning about the 2000 US presidential election?

    • Possibly, considering that the blackbirds present throughout the book elevate the mind to a higher airplane of councisniss. Unfortunately they can’t teach me how to spell long words.


  11. While the answer to the Riddle is most likely the Earth, when I first discovered it I thought it may be the human brain. Since we carry our heads upon our shoulders, I figured it could be referring to the mind. This could be a little congratulatory statement, since you’d have to be pretty smart to figure out the Maze, or a reference to how the human thought process and psyche may as well be a maze with its confusion. I don’t know, just a thought.

    • “Earth, Globe, World” is in fact the answer confirmed by the publisher. Manson has said he had another answer in mind as well. The idea that the answer to the riddle could also be the human brain is clever and appealing for sure. In fact it’s been suggested before, by Vewatkin and maybe others. Manson when asked about it said he thought it was interesting but that it was not what he had in mind. (I’m paraphrasing; can never find the place where it was discussed on this site and Manson’s exact quote given.)

    • It still hits me every once in a while that you don’t bear the world upon your shoulders, which means that even if you solved the puzzles it’s impossible to solve and had the correctly worded riddle and the correctly worded clue, you’d still have to guess a nonsensical answer in order to win the contest. Atlas also didn’t, but that’s a smaller issue.

    • I think the main clue that made me think of the human brain is that the Directions mention that if you “use your head, you should be able to make the journey in only sixteen steps.” Probably a coincidence, but an interesting theory nonetheless.

  12. April 23 is also the date of both Shakespeare’s birthday and the day he died. (Strictly, noone knows his exact birthday but it is usually taken to be April 23).

  13. @vewatkin I would like to thank you for clearing that up. If the following doesn’t behoove me ahead of my mooted standings, I do apologize. I have translated “Do you think it is written on the wall for all to see?” as – I on “Z” wall (ZION) for owl too see? This has led me to the Mexican spotted owl that lives within the compounds of the Zion National Park. I remember you pointing out that it has no religious bearings in mind, so I guess I can scratch off the idea of ZION being synonymous with Jerusalem. Thank you again for your constructive criticism. W. Brandon M.

    • The “IAM” here actually doesn’t have any religious significance. It’s part of the name “William Shakespeare,” which is itself part of a larger riddle meant to suggest the word “will,” which is part of the Riddle of the Maze. Like a lot of imagery and phrases in Maze, the cryptic context drives one to look for more arcanely symbolic inferences, but it’s just a word puzzle after all!

  14. “Consciousness isn’t a journey upward, but a journey inward. Not a pyramid, but a maze. Every choice could bring you closer to the center or send you spiraling to the edges, to madness.” – Westworld

  15. A thing that jumps out at me is that if you look at the question mark, then look up, you see the awl. Question up awl. Questionable.

    Don’t know if there’s anything to it. Maybe just that the adjacent doors are questionable.


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