A maze is a path or collection of paths, typically from an entrance to a goal. A popular synonym for maze is labyrinth. While the first known use of the word labyrinth dates back to the 16th century Greece/middle east; the word maze goes back even further to 13th century/14th century England. Mazes have multiple paths with dead ends and one true path that usually leads to an exit. A Labyrinth is a type of maze and is considerably more difficult than a regular maze. Maze can come in all shapes, sizes and mediums (on a computer screen/piece of paper, in a field of corn, etc). Generally, Labyrinths are 3D (house of mirrors, hedges, etc) even when they're on a computer screen! Unlike regular mazes, many labyrinths only have one long path that leads to the center. Many religious and mental health institutions will set up a "prayer/relaxation labyrinth" where one follows a path while clearing their minds, breathing and praying until they get to the center, and then reflecting as they make their way back to the beginning.
The first record of a maze was recorded in 5th century Egypt. Herodotus, a Greek traveler/writer, visited the Egyptian Labyrinth, which was a temple called Arsinoë. This temple was a memorial built by the twelve kings of Egypt at the time which contained palaces and temples to all the gods of Egypt.
The most famous of all Labyrinths is the Minotaur's in Greek Mythology. The story goes that King Aegeus was forced to pay tribute of 7 young men and 7 young women to King Minos of the Minoans. These 14 young people were set loose in an underground labyrinth below King Minos' palace. Inside the labyrinth lived the Minotaur, a creature that is half man, half bull. The people would wander until they got lost and eventually would be eaten by the monster. King Aegeus' son, Thesesus, volunteered to be one of the 14 so that he could attempt to kill the Minotaur. He slew the Minotaur, then used a trail of twine he'd started laying down at the entrance of the labyrinth to find his way back to the beginning. There has been no physical evidence of this labyrinth, but it remains a legend nonetheless.
I know what you're thinking; mazes are easy! Why are we learning about them? Well, some mazes are easy, but did you know there are different types of mazes? In this first lesson we will take things slow and look at three of the most common mazes and how to solve them:
- Escape Mazes
- Goal Mazes
- Word Search Mazes
Escape mazes are some of the most common mazes. The object is to get from one side of the puzzle to the other, or from the outside to the center (and vice versa). These generally only have one path and you cannot double back. Some often have multiple entrances or exits, but only one is the correct one and has an actual path from start to finish. These are the kinds of mazes you usually find in real life, like hedge or corn mazes and the circus' ever popular House of Mirrors.
How to solve: The best way to solve an escape maze is trial and error. If you start at the "start" go as far as you can until you're stuck. Then start at the end and try to get to where you left off until your two ends meet. It is tricky because while some mazes take a direct path from start to finish, others like to fill up the whole page with the path before you reach the end.
Where to practice: Escape Mazes
How to make: This one takes a little bit of time; first you have to find a shape or word you like. If you're lucky, you can find a simple outline already. If not, try to find one that is a silhouette so you can easily erase the inside. Pick a spot to start (if you're not sure where, the top is usually good) and start drawing lines until you have a path to where you want the end to be. Then, fill in the rest of the shape with lines and you're ready to go! Once it's finished, send it to a friend to try out.
Important note on sending puzzles to friends: A fresh set of eyes will help ensure there is only one path and make sure there is nothing that can't be done because of various issues. It's even better to listen to that person if they suggest changes because of computer system difficulties and/or difficulty of puzzle meaning that only some will get it (say a person is involved in the 'game' and they have colour-blindness and the puzzle is in pastels -- it would be very friendly to make the puzzle black and white to put the game on a level playing field.)* Some other issues might be: computer settings might make certain colors appear different than what you intended or even make some colors like dark orange and light brown look the same and disabilities such as color-blindness or dyslexia, broad language terms, or foreign language barriers make things harder for some to understand.
Logic and Goal Mazes are similar to regular mazes in appearance, but they have different rules. For example, the maze on the left allows you to go over your lines, but you can only turn left or right at intersections, you cannot go straight. Some mazes require you to go through certain areas to "collect" an item before you can go to the end. These mazes often have multiple solutions, depending on which item you collect first.
How to solve: Oftentimes, the best way to solves these mazes is start at the end. Make sure you know what all of the rules are and do your best to make your way back to the beginning. It sometimes helps to figure out what the path would be if you treated it like a regular maze first, and then branch out from there.
Where to practice: Logic Mazes
How to make: To start, make an escape maze. Then decide what kind of rules you want to have. Do they have objects you have to "collect"? Do they have to go in one direction until they hit a wall? Once you've decided on the rules, adjust the walls in your maze to make sure that the path follows the rules. When you're finished, send it to a friend to test!
Word Search Mazes
Word Search mazes combine the trickiness of a maze with the difficulties of a word search! You aren't given the word list so you also have to figure out the words as you go along the path through the maze.
How to solve: The easiest way to solve this kind of maze is to treat it like two puzzles. You can get through by either first finding the path through the maze and figuring out which words make up that path, or by finding full words to create the path. Usually the maze has a theme, so sometimes, especially for larger mazes, this might be easier.
How to make: First, have your word list. You need to know how long your path is going to be! Write out your words, one letter at a time, in a long line, making sure the letters change direction every once in a while. Next, draw walls around your path, leaving spaces for the path to branch out in dead ends. Then draw the boundaries of your maze. Fill the rest of the maze with the walls. Finally, fill in the letters through all the dead ends. For an easier maze, keep the letters in the same order as the actual path. For a trickier maze, change it up! Finally, send it to someone for testing!