Ancient & Modern
By Lee Daniel Quinn
(Author of many maze books)
THE MAZE OF MINOS
The most famous maze of antiquity is the legendary maze of King Minos of
Crete. According to Greek Mythology, Thesus, son of the Athenian King
Ageus, was condemned to death and his fate was to fight the Minotaur a
beast so dangerous that it was kept captive in a labyrinth cave below the
island of Crete.
Thesus carried a ball of twine into the labyrinth and was able, after he
had slain the monster, to find his way to the surface and freedom.
THIS DESIGN IS ANCIENT
The maze described in the legend is not a new idea. This design element
predates the Greek civilization by thousands of years, with its earliest
use found on the walls of prehistoric people.
In Britain, there are, in museums, artifacts traced to the Mesolithic
period. In the Spanish Pyrenees, an ancient people called the Aurignacians
drew maze patterns on the walls of their caves some 14,000 years ago.
Similar designs appear in such diverse places as Scandinavia, the Middle
East, Africa, the FarEast, and even in the state of Arizona here in the
THE DESIGN AS PART OF RELIGION
As with almost all prehistoric art, it is believed that this design had
religious significance. For example, the Pima Indians of Arizona believed
that the maze was a map of the spiral path that led the tribe from the
underworld to the surface where they prospered.
The Roman historian, after visiting Egypt and the famous pyramids,
reported a sight which he claimed to surpass the wonder of these tombs.
This was a 3-dimensional maze, built by Pharaoh Amenemhet III on the site
called Crocodilopolis, and consisted of nearly 1,500 rooms housed in twelve
roofed courts and all enclosed in one wall. Underneath this maze was
another set of rooms or caves where the embalmed bodies of the sacred
crocodiles were interred.
The earliest Scandinavian representation of a maze symbolized the Spring
Equinox as the liberation of the sun from the maze of winter's darkness.
These people celebrated this with a dance, and the site on which these
rites were performed was always inscribed with a classical labyrinth
THE EARLY CHRISTIAN SYMBOLISM
The Christians may very well have adopted such sacred Scandinavian places
to build their new churches. Whatever the derivation, the maze pattern was
a very highly regarded symbol in Christian folklore. Maze designs were a
part of the official raiment of medieval Christian emperors. Today, these
designs can be seen in mosaics on the floors of many old cathedrals.
The general belief is that this pattern represented the complex folds of
sin that surrounded men, and the impossibility of man, alone, extracting
himself from that sin without the help of Divine Providence.
As the Crusades drew to their unsuccessful close, Christian pilgrims
found it impossible to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was then that
the idea of a symbolic pilgrimage became popular in the Christian world,
and certain hallowed places such as Cantebury became destinations for such
After the real journey (in those days) to the Cantebury Cathedral, the
pilgrims followed, on their knees, a labyrinth on the church floor,
repeating special prayers at fixed stations on the path. After many years of veneration, the maze lost its original religious
significance and the task became a game -- a simple amusement and stylized
"Turf mazes," were simple paths in maze form cut into the turf. These
playgrounds were popular in England and other countries.
MAZES IN MORE MODERN TIMES
Currently, the most widely known labyrinth is the hedge maze at Hampton
Palace just outside London. We have, today, in many amusement parks, a
"hall of mirrors" that have, as their basis, the usual maze pattern.
THERE ARE ONLY TWO BASIC MAZES
When you consider this geometric form, you can see that there are only two
types of maze. The first (some lexicographers call the labrynth) has no
divided passages and have the solver simply follow a winding path from
start to finish. The second (identified as a maze) has one or more points
where the paths "branch" to allow other possible routes, only one of which
leading to the emergence at the end.
For the past hundred years, this divided-path format has been the basis
for simple, classical mazes that provide children with a few moments of
amusement with pencil and paper.
THE RISE OF THE COMPLEX MAZE
About 20 years ago I was approached by a friend who owned a book store. He
asked me, as a graphic artist, if I knew of any maze books he could stock
as there was quite a growing demand for these puzzles and he had but a few
in his store.
The thought intrigued me, and I produced and published a 32-page booklet
of my own designs. I must confess that I had never bought any maze books
and I came up with several maze forms which I believe were unique at the
This publication brought me to the attention of several game-book
publishers, and that started a part-time career that I have followed to
THE THREE PATTERNS
After many years I have found that all possible mazes fall under three
patterns: one, two, and three dimensional.
The 1-dimensional maze, I call a "string maze," has a single line that
interrupted by "knots" where the path branches.
The 2-dimensional maze is the most common maze and, I call it a "flat"
maze. This form is the most common and can be a simple design for children
up to complex adult mazes.
The 3-dimensional maze is the one where the paths, like plumbing pipes,
run over and under one another. These are, of course, a complex challenge.
TWELVE MAZE CATEGORIES
You must understand that, to make a maze difficult, you must fool the
solver's eye. Complicated pathways are only one way to do this. I have
added the "one-way arrow," which only permits a person to move along a path
in a specified direction.
There are, of course, several other ways to fool the eye. One of the
best ways is in the under-over maze, where the paths are not easy for the
eye to follow. Then, because some solvers have discovered that many mazes
are more easily solved by starting from the end, there is the need to
introduce false backward paths, starting at the solution.
After going over all the mazes I produced in 20 years, I find that I can
break these mazes down into 12 general categories. Sometimes these are
Simple - these are the mazes you see in many game books. They require the solver to enter at one point, and emerge at another.
Counting - where points must be gathered to meet a specific value
before exiting to win.
Gathering - which is the same as counting, except that "things" (such as dots or stars) are gathered to meet winning requirements. A variation is to require that "less than" a specified number must be tallied.
Challenge - mazes require the solver to choose one criteria (for example, a "smiling face" graphic vs. a sad face) and then is only allowed to pass through gateways with this same symbol.
Jump - mazes where solvers reach a gateway [the end of a path] they "jump" to a designated spot somewhere else in the maze with the
sane letter or symbol.
Pair/Join - requires the solver to connect a specific starting point to a designated end. For example, there may be four gateways called north, south, east, and west. You are required to join
two, but not told which two.
Counting Out - mazes have their paths divided into "boxes." Each entry gateway has a number, indicating the number of steps that must be taken. Each point along the path must contain a number. The winner is able to count out exactly to the finish point.
Chess Move - mazes have the path broken up into boxes, as in counting out. The difference is that you move as a chess knight does: 3 in one direction and then 1 in another.
Sequential - mazes require the solver to go through a set of gateways in sequential order, The order need not be in strict sequence (1-2-3-4-5...) but in a rising sequence (2-4-8-9-12...).
Spinner - is a circular gateway with an arrow indicating the direction of travel. The rule is that the solver must travel in the direction of the arrow and must leave the circle at the very next opening.
Combinations - are puzzles that combine more than one element, such as both flat and under and over mazes. There may be mazes with 2 or more elements combined.
Carrom - Set in a grid, solver moves in a straight line until hitting an angled "Mirror" and is deflected either right or left. There are also "splitters" which allow changing one's path in one of two directions.
The most important element of successful maze creation is patience. When I
started out, all my puzzles were hand drawn, and this added a certain
of artistic creativity.
Today, I work with a computer and draw under a software program called
Freelance, produced by the Lotus Development Corporation. While this
reduces my artistic freedom, the restrictions provide me with specific
boundaries that are fun to try to surmount.
My earlier books did not have a theme and were simply the product of
whatever idea took my fancy. I soon developed theme books, where all the
puzzles were based on a common idea.
For example, you will see in this list of my books the change in my
Book 1 - Mazes For Masters was published by myself and contained 32 mazes
but no solutions. My idea was to publish the solutions for book 1
in book 2. This was never done.
Book 2 - Grab a Pencil #6 was produced by Hart Publishing as one of a
series of pencil-puzzle books.
Book 3 - Bewildering Mazes was the first book
published by Dover Publications. From this time on, all books contained 48 mazes
Book 4 - Challenging Mazes was the second book for Dover.
Book 5 - Perplexing Mazes was the third Dover book and the last without a
Book 6 - Numbing Numbers is the 4th book for Dover and the first with a
Book 7 - Reflections is the 5th book for Dover and is still in production.
Book 8 - Patterns is the 6th book.
Book 9 - Juvenile Mazes is the 7th book, and the first one in a different (smaller but thicker) format. As the name indicates, this is a series of puzzles for younger folk.
PUTTING A MAZE TOGETHER
Obviously, I can only talk about the way I create a maze. There may be
other ways, but I find this system is the most practical.
My first step is to decide what type of maze I will create. Usually, I
start with the openings at the top, draw in the sides, and then allow for
I then precede to construct the maze. While I do not have a solution
worked out completely, many times I will draw the lines in such a way that,
at one point, there is only one path that can be the solution. I also add
false leads from the maze exit.
This is not always the case. When a maze has been created, the next
is to run it out on my laser printer and make several photocopies. These
in a folder marked "Ready for Pencil Solution." When the mood hits me, I
out one copy and determine, by soft pencil line, the solution path (SP).
Using a blue pencil, I fill in all the paths that branch off the
a red pen, I insert blocks at any paths that return to the SP. Next, I
different color for each of the other false paths that have been
either block off or open paths using the red pen.
When the maze has been "pencil solved," it goes in the next folder
"Ready for Edit." This is where lots of patience is required. I must
up the maze on the screen and edit the graphic wherever there is a red
After finishing the editing I make a second computer file containing
edited puzzle and I add a "solution line" running from start to
each puzzle has two files: the original and the solution copies.
When this is done, copies of the two files are run, and they go into
"Ready for Testing" folder. When I get a number together, I call on my
friends and give them the "privilege" of trying out the mazes. I ask them
find their own solution and then check that against mine.
Three outcomes are possible: (1) their solution and mine are the same;
(2) they find that their solution starts and ends correctly, but they have
found another solution path; and (3) once in a while they find that they
cannot complete the maze because my original and the solution are not
When the mazes are returned, I re-edit the last two problems and put
mazes in the "Ready to Go" folder.
This may sound cut and dried, but I assure you that I have hundreds
mazes that never see the light of day for many reasons that are too
complicated to discuss in this article.