Top 10 Mazes You Can’t Solve By Following the Right Wall
Let me introduce you to the ancient Right-Hand Rule for solving mazes.
Entering a maze, put your hand on the right wall and follow that wall until you arrive at the exit.
Who came up with this rule? I’m not sure. It’s probably simple enough that we can’t know for sure.
If you prefer to follow the left wall instead, that works too. Just pick a wall, left or right, and consistently follow it until you reach the exit.
People say that all mazes can be solved with the Right-Hand Rule. Not true! I’ll give you ten examples of mazes where this approach will fail. And I’m sure I could provide at least a thousand more examples of equal quality.
#10 — Maze with No Exit
What kind of jerk would make a maze that doesn’t have a reachable exit? It happens more often than you might think. Sometimes sadists will create mazes this way on purpose. Other times, they just aren’t very good at making mazes.
Whatever the reason, if the maze has no exit or the path to the exit is blocked, then the Right-Hand Rule is useless. Useless, I tell you!
#9 — Maze with a Deadly Pit
If there is some horrible penalty for going the wrong way, then the Right-Hand Rule may not suffice to solve the maze. You could fall into a pit of deadly spikes, get eaten by a Wumpus, or be seduced by David Bowie’s dance magic.
Purists argue that a true maze wouldn’t have such obstacles. But out in the real world, you have no idea what you’ll find in a maze. So I have no patience for these Ivory Tower Labyrinthians.
#8 — Maze with No Walls
Ha! The maze has no walls, so how will you follow the right-hand wall? Maybe there are just wide trenches full of deadly hot lava. Hmm… I guess you could adapt the Right-Hand Rule to work with hot lava too.
#7 — Maze with Changing Walls
Ah, you just assumed the walls would stay put. Yeah, sure, maybe in your back-of-cereal-box mazes for little kids. But eventually, you’re gonna hear that stone rumbling somewhere behind you, and know the passages are twisting about.
#6 — Maze of Infinite Construction
Infinite Maze doesn’t care if you wander lost inside it forever. Infinite Maze only cares about being infinite.
Are you discounting the possibility of an infinite maze? Go to Google Images right now and search “infinite maze.”
Also, we are all currently inside of an infinite maze. I know this because Neil deGrasse Tyson said something like that on Cosmos.
#5 — Maze with Exit in the Middle
If you begin at the outside of a maze, and the exit is in the middle, it’s quite possible to scrupulously follow the right wall and return to the entrance without arriving at the exit.
This is probably the most legitimate and straightforward of my Right-Hand Rule breakers. Try out the maze above, following either the left or right wall, and you’ll see yourself return to the start, making no progress whatsoever!
There’s an interesting variation of this problem that doesn’t require the exit to be in the middle. A maze can have “islands” like in the example above, where some of the walls are not connected with the rest of the maze walls. Suppose you start this island-containing maze without following the Right-Hand Rule. But then you lose your confidence and decide to use the Right-Hand Rule while in the middle of the maze. If you attach yourself to a wall that belongs to an “island”, you will end up going in circles.
So the lesson here is to be all-or-nothing with the Right-Hand Rule. If you’re going to use it, then start using it at the entrance, and don’t stop until you reach the exit.
#4 — Maze with Identity Distortion Effect
If it becomes unclear who you are after entering the maze, then solving the maze is impossible. Have you arrived at the exit? Or was it just a facsimile of you? This identity fracturing often happens with mirror mazes. Be careful!
#3 — Maze with Teleports
You might think including teleportation is far-fetched. But that’s just shorthand to describe travel beyond the dimensions presented by the maze, traditionally limited to two.
Actually, the Right-Hand Rule can be expanded upon to include instructions for traveling up and down (third dimension) or any number of dimensions. But the rule loses its elegance when you do that.
#2 — Maze That Is Too Demoralizing to Continue
It’s all fine and well to stoically trudge through the maze with your hand never lifting from the right wall. But it can get monotonous, especially if no attention has been paid to décor in the architecture. You might just give up.
Thinking of it another way… the Right-Hand Rule is boring if you are solving a maze for fun. Whether you are looking at a maze on a piece of paper or are physically inside of one, using your complete faculties to solve a maze is more rewarding than following an inflexible rule.
And it’s usually more efficient as well. When you reach a decision point in a maze, with paths branching in multiple directions, your first guess on the best path is statistically more likely to be correct. The caveat is that you must know some information about where the exit is located, and your guesses should favor that direction, all other things being equal.
But algorithms are cool too. There are some good ones for solving mazes you might look at.
#1 — Maze Is Actually a Dead Pigeon
The only solution to a dead pigeon is not to get involved with it in the first place. Pigeon innards make terrible mazes even if you do find some way to traverse them.
Okay, I know this last one is extra ridiculous. My real point is that you need to define what a maze is before you can say what can or can’t be done with it. When somebody claims to be thinking “outside the box,” they are usually just taking advantage of a sloppily defined problem. And that person should be put inside of a literal box to prove their claim.
I hope you enjoyed these mazes. The artwork for them was generated from a puzzle game I worked on called Deadly Rooms of Death — website link.
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