Announcing Birdfinder

I don’t usually plug my software projects here, but this one may be of interest to MazeCast followers.

As you know, Maze contains many birds. Keeping track of them all is a daunting task for the best of us. So I got to thinking: Why not let technology keep track for us?

I am proud to announce that this has been accomplished. I present to you:

Maze Birdfinder

Give it a try, and I think you won’t ever want to go back to birdfinding the old-fashioned way. And please leave a comment if you have feature requests, or if you encounter any bird errors. (I’ve tested pretty thoroughly, but you never know!)


“Hands down the best MAZE bird finder I have ever seen!” -White Raven

“I can’t stop using it!” -Aria

“If you think of the Maze as a machine, confusion is its product. Maze Birdfinder is the first service to remove that confusion.” -The Guide

Round table chat 2

After the warm reception our inaugural roundtable chat had, we decided to follow up with a discussion of Room 21, and SP’s unusual theory about the bird in it.

<sp> its really no stretch to say the bird is a stork
<sp> or at least could be
<vewatkin> Well, he seems to have gone out of his way to add features that make it not look like a stork
<aria> I think it’s actually sort of impressive that he managed to draw birds that don’t match any actual birds very well
<sp> i knew you were going to say that
<sp> it was a trap
<sp> because now im going to say there are a billion other things that are “slightly” off
<sp> how can you not let his drawing a stork/not stork slide but still believe there is any acceptable “shoulders” finale?
<vewatkin> I’m not aware of instance like the stork where he drew something to not look like the thing he wanted you to discern it was
<vewatkin> Unless you count an eleven-tiered brick wall in 39
<aria> WHICH I DO
<vewatkin> Right, so if you’re crazy then it could be a stork
<aria> the minotaur drawing in 43 is terrible, also
<sp> but the notstork is definitely turning around?
<aria> am I missing the part why it’s important that it be a stork?
<aria> or not?
<sp> the only importance there is to it being a stork is how crazy you think it is in comparison to some of the proposed theories
<vewatkin> Crazy theories are a different issue. I’m just talking about visual interpretation of Manson’s drawings on a literal level.
<factitious> I think I missed something. Who thinks it’s a stork?
<sp> no one
<factitious> Let me rephrase.
<factitious> Why are you talking about the possibility of this being a stork?
<sp> scroll up, you’ll find out
<sp> mostly that im not saying that
<factitious> Is that just a random bird you picked? Could you have said “pigeon” just as well?
<vewatkin> He clearly couldn’t tell what puzzles were solvable, but I think he has the artistic competence to draw a stork that looks roughly like a stork
<sp> wow. ok look, it doesnt matter if its a stork
<sp> let me start again
<factitious> Vincent, can you tell me why Alex brought up storks here?
<vewatkin> I think Alex is trying to segue into questions about parenting
<sp> im saying if we take two theories, one that the bird could be a stork, one that the three objects are turning around
<sp> which is more far fetched?
<vewatkin> Stork
<factitious> The one that throws in a bird that’s not in the room, for no apparent reason.
<factitious> That seems obvious.
<factitious> Is there some trick question here I’m missing?
<sp> but why? because WR said so?
<sp> because no one thought of turning around before he said it
<vewatkin> He never said it wasn’t a stork
<sp> and now it seems like you’re seriously considering it
<factitious> Well, we were seriously considering the turning thing before WR confirmed that it’s what he had in mind, just based on his hint.
<factitious> The hint was pretty much “You know how there are basically just three objects dropped into this room? They have something in common.”
<vewatkin> Maybe he was getting at all three of them not being storks
<vewatkin> That makes storks the “odd one in”
<sp> haha fuck i should have never brought up the storks
<factitious> Maybe Manson was trying to draw storks, but his hand slipped and he drew a wrench by mistake.
<vewatkin> Ssss…..TORQUE
<aria> hahahah
<sp> haha
<factitious> That’s good! It’s a stork, minus the sound a snake makes!
<sp> solved
<factitious> Classic rebus.
<aria> HAH!
<aria> there’s even a minus sign
<vewatkin> In the style of all great solutions, the stork is depicted as not a stork because depicting it as a stork would make the solution “too easy”
<sp> hahja fuck the stork
<factitious> Alex, sorry you’re getting so much grief about this.
<factitious> Personally, I don’t think it looks like a stork, but you can keep investigating that idea if you really want.
<vewatkin> Everyone gets hung up on storks at some point in their lives
<sp> look, different storks for different folks
<sp> forks

Mazecast Round table chats

Here at MazeCast, we’ve decided to hold some text-based discussions in addition to our usual video content. The intent is to cover topics that benefit from having a clear, searchable record. Our first such discussion was prompted by a post boardwalk made on Into the Abyss, about the idea that the Guide could be Theseus. We also discuss White Raven’s theory about Guide puzzles.

<vewatkin> So what do we think of the possibility that Theseus is the Guide? I’d have to put him on the shortest of short lists as a possibility. Does anything rule him out at the moment?
<aria> I think the biggest argument against Theseus is the parentage thing.
<aria> I don’t think you could argue that either of his parents was lowborn.
<vewatkin> Well, Theseus had three parents, none of which are lowborn.
<aria> Did he have three, or is it just that people can’t agree who his father was?
<vewatkin> He has two fathers.
<vewatkin> That’s really the way Greeks looked at those things.
<aria> Those wacky Greeks.
<vewatkin> Well, it was part of the myth.
<aria> I guess if a woman can shag a bull and give birth to a bullman having two fathers is perfectly fine too.
<vewatkin> He was somehow the son of both Aegeus and Poseidon.
<aria> Is there any pun on “lowborn” that would work with any of these people?
<vewatkin> well, the ocean is low
<aria> but he wasn’t born there
<vewatkin> right
<vewatkin> Poseidon is associated with the deepest depths (short of Hades), but he wasn’t sea-born.
<sp> maybe the two beardless men flanking the beardo is a reverse reference to theseus and his 2 dads, since the words on the sheets are reversed
<vewatkin> Well, TO BE CLEAR, we are not discussing the nutso Theseus Room 43 shit up there
<vewatkin> That’s just what raised the issue of Theseus
<aria> Right, back to Theseus.
<aria> The “part animal” thing in 32 doesn’t seem to work for him either
<vewatkin> What deceptions were practiced against his father? Some, certainly.
<vewatkin> But I can’t think of any offhand.
<aria> Was any deception involved in Poseiden also fathering him?
<vewatkin> Well, I’m thinking of Aegeus.
<vewatkin> I don’t think there was any deception in Poseidon’s fathering
<sp> why do you guys continue to try and fit the guide to the room-spackled clues?
<sp> when WR said it might not have anything to do with them?
<sp> (and what we know now, it’s very possible they dont)
<aria> Well, we’re not trying to solve that puzzle, we’re just talking about the straight-up clues
<aria> Because if the Guide doesn’t match the straight-up clues that IS NOT FAIR and I’M NOT HAVING IT
<vewatkin> I guess even in the Minotaur story, Poseidon is sort of deceived, in that he thought he was giving Minos a white bull to kill, not for his wife to fuck.
<aria> The really tempting thing about Theseus is that it would be a somewhat surprising twist
<aria> you expect “the” on the note to be “the” not “The(seus)”
<aria> It would be a role reversal for the hero to be the evil Guide
<vewatkin> Right, well, that’s the best thing he has going for him, I think.
<vewatkin> “the” on the sign.
<aria> yeah… I mean there’s the ship in 34, but any reference to Theseus’s story can also be seen as a reference to the Minotaur
<vewatkin> The Guide says we’re all part animal, but he’s not saying that literally, though we interpret it as a clue that it’s literally true for him.
<vewatkin> So that’s not really contradicted by Theseus.
<aria> OK, true
<sp> the part animal thing could be ref to the part animal dude above room 6
<sp> since 32 doesnt actually use that clue in ref to the guide
<vewatkin> By the way, I hope it’s clear by now that this is not going to be a reproducible conversation because it’s already a convoluted mess.
<aria> That’s why Ben has volunteered his editorial skills!
<sp> it would be easier to cut and paste as an IRC conversation
<sp> as is, it requires a lot of editing (adding peoples names)
<aria> Any other Theseus thoughts?
<vewatkin> No
<factitious> Look, I can handle formatting. Do we want to do an official text chat for later publication now?
<aria> we’re partway through one!
<factitious> Doesn’t count!
<aria> with a brief technical digression happening now
<aria> Why doesn’t it count?
<factitious> I don’t know, maybe it does.
<factitious> What’s our topic? IRC?
<aria> No no, we were talking about Theseus
<aria> Possible Guide or no?
<factitious> Sure, he’s possible. I don’t think it’s as good a fit for the clues as the Minotaur, though.
<aria> I think you have summed up the conversation in a single sentence.
<aria> Editing should be a breeze!
<sp> thats no fun
<factitious> Well, I’d want to go over the clues we know about the Guide.
<aria> scroll down
<factitious> So, these seem to refer to the guide having two parents, one father.
<factitious> Theseus having two fathers is interesting, but not really a great fit.
<aria> Yeah, we sort of covered the parentage thing… agreed, that part doesn’t fit.
<aria> Was Theseus in the Inferno at all?
<sp> “The heavenly messenger pointedly reminds the demons at the entrance to Dis that Dante will not be the first living man to breach their walls. Theseus and Hercules, two classical heroes each with a divine parent, previously entered the underworld and returned alive. Hercules, in fact, descended into Hades to rescue Theseus, who had been imprisoned following his unsuccessful attempt to abduct Persephone, Queen of Hades. While the Furies express regret at not having killed Theseus when they had the chance (Inf. 9.54), the heavenly messenger recalls that Cerberus bore the brunt of Hercules’ fury as he was dragged by his chain along the hard floor of the underworld (Inf. 9.97-9). In the Aeneid Charon tries to dissuade Aeneas from boarding his boat by voicing his displeasure at having previously transported Hercules and Theseus to the underworld (6.392-7).”
<aria> Okay, though, he was connected to the Underworld, so that’s something.
<factitious> The room 16 thing works as well for Theseus as it does for the Minotaur.
<aria> Yeah, that one is okay. The wild childhood thing?
<factitious> Not sure about “I’ve always hated confinement.” That seems a lot more Minotaur-apt, but it’s not like Theseus enjoyed being stuck in the labyrinth.
<sp> i know this is somewhat unrelated, but wasn’t there a scene in The Bull from the Sea when theseus walks in on his parents who are about to fuck, and his dad chases him out of the room with erect penis etc?
<sp> is peeping tommery a type of deception?
<vewatkin> How did Theseus walk in on his parents having sex?
<vewatkin> King Aegeus was long gone, right? Or did he stick around for a while in some accounts?
<aria> Parents can have sex with each other after having children, you know. It’s rare, but it happens.
<vewatkin> yeah yeah, haha, but the POINT is that Aegeus didn’t stick around.
<vewatkin> That’s why there was the boulder with the sandals and shit.
<aria> The more we talk about this, the less I like Theseus as a Guide.
<aria> what?
<aria> boulder? sandals? shit?
<factitious> Aegeus hides his sword and sandals under a big rock. If Theseus can grow up and move the rock, it proves that he’s a hero who can learn about his father, or something.
<sp> im just wondering if manson would invoke anything from borges and company
<vewatkin> I think any reasonably accessible account of the characters is fair game.
<factitious> Yeah, House of Asterion and The King Must Die both seem reasonable as things Manson could have thought to reference.
<factitious> I think that because Theseus and the Minotaur are from the same story, we get a lot of general references to it that could kind of support either one.
<factitious> Oracle of Delphi, that ship with the eye on it, that kind of thing.
<sp> you know, i know i joked about “boardwalk” mentioning PARTs as a nonsense pivot, but in context of plays and shakespeare (who is explicitly real in maze in room 45) it could be something
<sp> “we all have our parts to play” etc
<aria> There are sooooo many references to theatre and play throughout — there’s got to be some reason for that
<aria> What a stupid story. The guy is desperate to have a son, and then he gets somebody pregnant with a son, and takes off! wtf
<sp> it was probably assumed that a woman, or a god, would look after any given child
<sp> or wolves, of course.
<aria> or a bear
<factitious> Which brings us to the Guide’s claim that “we are all animals, at least in part.”
<factitious> Fits the Minotaur, doesn’t fit Theseus.
<aria> right, exactly
<factitious> Although really, does it fit all the inhabitants of the Maze? A lot of them look like regular people.
<sp> what if “in part” is an allusion to “in 43”
<sp> i.e. “in [the room with] part [in it]”
<aria> hmmmm
<sp> considering the beardo guy does have horns…
<sp> he is also an animal in part
<vewatkin> Before anyone decides whether they think that’s plausible or not, imagine what you might think if you were someone who thought “in sly” was a good way to refer someone to Room 43
<sp> haha i know
<sp> i was just about to say that
<sp> “if broken english is ok, go wild”
<aria> welllllll yes
<aria> I’m still clinging to WR saying that “in” is important
<aria> so there may be more going on with that phrase
<vewatkin> It’s a clue that you don’t have to look outside the borders of the picture
<vewatkin> the white space is irrelevant
<factitious> I think “in part” is more plausible than that, as a bad idea Manson might have had for indicating Room 43.
<factitious> I still don’t think it’s likely.
<sp> for the record i think they are both bad, im just stooping to manson’s standards/level
<factitious> What are the advantages to the Theseus theory, over the Minotaur theory?
<aria> There are none, in my opinion
<vewatkin> 1) Less satisfactory, fits the clues worse, i.e. fits Manson’s MO better
<aria> ugh, yeah, I guess we can’t discount that
<vewatkin> 2) More literally plausible that he is not recognized by the guests.
<aria> although the things they are supposed not to have noticed don’t fit
<factitious> Well, even though the Minotaur solution looks extremely clear, there’s still debate about it to this day, so maybe it’s not actually so obvious to be out of character for Manson.
<aria> I think there’s really only debate because of this supposed puzzle
<aria> If there were no puzzle nobody could argue convincingly that the Guide is anyone but the Minotaur.
<vewatkin> No, even apart from the puzzle there’s just never a clear statement
<aria> But the weight of all the references and hints taken together…!
<vewatkin> And things like the Guide’s intellect and his being an architect and some other things suggest other solutions
<aria> not enough
<factitious> As I see it, the puzzle of the Guide is to comb through the book looking for hints at his identity. When you do, you get a lot of little clues that together describe the Minotaur.
<aria> you can explain the architect references with House of Asterion
<vewatkin> It’s a potential explanation, but it certainly doesn’t settle all doubt
<aria> I think there are individual bits that could make you think of Minos or Daedalus, but they don’t come close to matching the weight of the clues that are obviously Minotaur things.
<vewatkin> And even in House of Asterion, the Minotaur was granted greater intellectual functioning than is typically depicted, but he was still suggested to be of more limited intellectual capability than the Guide is…presumed…to…be…actually, do we have any indication that the Guide can read or write or count?
<aria> He does talk about numbers in 15…
<factitious> I think some people have trouble with the idea of a puzzle where you read plainly written allusions to the Guide’s identity and work out what mythical figure best fits.
<aria> I don’t think anyone has trouble with that!
<factitious> People want to, I don’t know, find a crossword hidden in the white space between paragraphs, with a clear “This is the Guide’s name” solution.
<aria> no no no
<aria> This is one of the few puzzles Manson has confirmed!
<factitious> I’d need to check what exactly Manson said.
<factitious> I can believe him confirming that there’s a puzzle to the Guide’s identity.
<aria> You can check that same page on Mazecast; scroll to the bottom section
<factitious> That doesn’t have a quote from Manson.
<aria> “1) Manson confirmed my solution as to the identity of the Guide and clues that lead to this conclusion.”
<aria> Oh I see
<aria> not a direct quote, no
<aria> no no no
<aria> we don’t have any of those, nosir
<factitious> Well, I do think White Raven’s idea about the identity of the Guide could be correct.
<factitious> It would be nice if we could hear from Manson, and find out.
<vewatkin> We’ve just crossed a threshold of wackiness beyond which it’s easier to believe there was a miscommunication than that the puzzle WR has identified was really confirmed by Manson.
<aria> Right?! Why won’t this man join the 21st century.
<aria> How can anything be more important than the needs of his fans, each of whom may be responsible for approximately $2 of income for him.
<aria> INGRATE
<factitious> We’ve got a pretty clear Guide puzzle in the book, and also a long chain of nonsense that White Raven describes as “a VERY difficult and elaborate puzzle.”
<factitious> I guess it’s possible that Manson included both, but that seems very unlikely.
<aria> I maintain that we cannot judge this puzzle until we see its completion
<aria> Why unlikely though?
<aria> This is a man that spent many months of his life creating this weird book with all kinds of unsolvable puzzles — why not put one in for arguably the most compelling mystery in the book?
<factitious> What sort of conclusion to the three-ish sly puzzle could there be that would make you think it was a real thing?
<factitious> No, I mean, what could it even be like? If there’s a step to the puzzle at the end that does match how Manson seems to work, and does look like something you can imagine an author putting into the book on purpose, why would that make the rest of it look plausible?
<vewatkin> The only way I can think of a conclusion being satisfying at this point is if it were independent of the nonsense that led to it. Anything that builds on (and requires us to accept) what we’ve seen so far seems doomed to failure.
<aria> The problem is, I don’t find the rest of it so implausible anyway
<aria> I can buy the trefoil stuff, SLY is clearly there in the map
<aria> I’m not saying it’s GOOOOOOD I’m saying I buy that he meant it
<vewatkin> Well, to put the best face possible on it, I think you need to say that it’s not a trail; Manson associates the Guide with “triple” for a reason still unknown to us, and entrances to the Trap are often associated with triplicate objects or marking.
<aria> For sure. Describing this thing as a trail was a mistake.
<aria> I’m sure Manson did not describe it that way himself.
<vewatkin> There’s still a big problem that triple things are everywhere, but Manson has demonstrated that he fucks that kind of stuff up all the time anyway
<aria> Right
<factitious> My take on it is just “The number three sure does kind of show up in a lot of places!”
<aria> The thing I cling to is this:
<aria> “4. The solution to this puzzle leaves no doubt as to its correctness.”
<aria> Later he describes “irrefutable proof.”
<aria> Surely WR knows what these things mean?
<vewatkin> no
<aria> sigh
<aria> well, I’m choosing to believe that he does, until evidence proves otherwise
<aria> He hasn’t described anything else that way.
<aria> He’s also said it’s not an interpretive puzzle, or whatever his terminology is
<sp> what evidence?
<aria> The evidence would be a solution to this puzzle that provides irrefutable proof of the Guide’s identity.
<aria> I can’t imagine what that’s going to be, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
<factitious> White Raven had a reasonable puzzle solution in mind for Room 21. It’s not like he’s unable to come up with good stuff.
<aria> Would it be helpful at some point to try to brainstorm what “irrefutable proof” might look like?
<aria> And work backwards?
<factitious> A notarized letter from Manson?
<aria> (I’ve been trying to do this on my own, but obviously without any results)
<aria> haha, right
<vewatkin> I think irrefutable proof has to mean the puzzle ends with the actual name
<vewatkin> I mean, hypothetically it could be other words describing the character
<aria> or some kind of word that leads to the name without ambiguity
<aria> right
<aria> “bull-man” or something
<vewatkin> like if the room coded to “the spawn of the crime against nature committed by Pasiphae with the White Bull of Poseidon in the gardens of the palace of King Minos”
<vewatkin> But I think it has to be words on the end
<aria> yes, that would be pretty solid, yes
<factitious> I don’t know, that could refer to any spawn of the crime against nature committed by Pasiphae with the White Bull of Poseidon in the gardens of the palace of King Minos.
<vewatkin> Not an image suggestive of something or a bunch of things metaphorically related or whatever
<aria> right — I agree — “irrefutable proof,” “not interpretive”
<aria> despite the solutions I have been putting forth I agree
<vewatkin> Yeah, we’ve been through this before
<aria> you never know when something will trigger an insight…
<aria> however I think our only hope of solving it now is a new solver who can think like WR
<aria> or (yet another) hint
<aria> I feel like he may be saving a Guide hint for the end of his hint series

Room 36 song

Here’s a new solution from the MazeCast team!  It started when Aria noticed that the room text for Room 36 contains all of these strings: do re mi fa so la ti. This spurred some discussion about how likely this was to be a coincidence, how well it matched with which parts of the room text looked kind of forced, and so on. But let’s ignore all that. The important thing is a suggestion Vincent had for her: “Put the notes in the order they appear, including multiples, and see what it sounds like.”  Aria compiled the requested data. I have now, using the most state-of-the-art audio software I could get without spending much effort or any money, generated the song thus revealed.  I present to you, the larger Maze community, the hidden music of Room 36.

SiGNing off

This post is going to discuss a solution proposed by White Raven for Room 8. You can find his description of it here.

I would like to say first that although I don’t consider this solution to be correct, I approve of it being proposed and posted. I think that solving MAZE is going to rely on people sharing lots of possible solutions with the community, an activity which will, for the most part, involve ideas that don’t end up working out. This doesn’t mean the people coming up with them are bad solvers; it means they’re trying to solve something difficult. White Raven’s willingness to suggest theories, even ones I often disagree with, is a genuine boon to the MAZE community. I say all this because I’m about to criticize this theory, and don’t want this to be mistaken for criticizing the theorizer.

The idea here is to find an encoding of “xii,” in a room where the correct door to take is 12. The way he suggests it’s encoded, letter by letter, is as follows:

  • x: “SGN” from the SiGN sign
  • i: “i” from the SiGN sign
  • i: The bowling pin

The i on the sign does obviously match a Roman numeral i. The bowling pin kind of looks like an i, I guess. But why does “SGN” produce x? The explanation given is that sgn is the sign function, often written sgn(x). White Raven says he doesn’t know much about the math involved here himself, but ran this by a mathematician friend. I think that he may have misunderstood what that friend told him, or perhaps conveyed the puzzle idea to him poorly. This solution looks like it involved a breakdown of communication somewhere, anyway.

First of all, the idea of writing “(x)” after a function isn’t as significant as it’s being made out to be. It’s true that if you want to talk about the sign of x, you write “sgn(x).” Smilarly, the logarithm of x is log(x), the cosine of x is cos(x), and so on. This is a feature of notation for functions in general, not the sign function in particular. There’s no reason to think that, in looking for a way to hide the letter x, Manson would decide on “SGN” as being related.

One of the more confusing passages of the post: “The sgn function in simple form is written as ‘sgn(x)’ in a function, and the architypical representation of the function is x=sgn(x).|x| As the math prof put it, ‘sgn is a mathematical representation of absolute value “x”.'” I’m not sure what White Raven is trying to establish here. It may be an attempt to relate the sign function to having some kind of relevance to x itself, but if so, it’s misguided.

I’m going to take a moment to explain the functions discussed here, for those who aren’t familiar.

Diane’s Math Corner

The sign function, sgn, is about whether something is positive or negative. You put a number in, and the function gives you a new number telling you something about the sign of that number. If your number is positive, it gives you 1. If your number is negative, you get -1. If it’s 0, 0. So, for example, sgn(8)=1, sgn(-17)=-1, sgn(45)=1, sgn(0)=0. You get the idea.

The absolute value of a number is basically what the number would be if it were positive. We write |x| for the absolute value of x. For a positive number, taking the absolute value doesn’t change it. |5|=5. Negative numbers are switched to positive: |-5|=5. Zero is again just zero. |0|=0.

You’ll notice that these are two different functions, giving (usually) different results. sgn(12)=1, but |12|=12. The sign function is not a representation of the absolute value of a number. They are, however, related.

One way to think about numbers is as points on a line. Everything off to the left of 0 is negative, everything off to the right is positive. The sign of a number tells you which direction from 0 it is. The absolute value tells you how far from 0 it is. If you know both those things, then you can work out exactly what the number is. I’m thinking of a number, which I’ll call n. sgn(n)=-1, and |n|=13. That’s enough information for you to determine what number I’m thinking of. Neither of those pieces of information alone would do it.

All right, now that we’ve had a fun math digression, let’s reiterate that this isn’t a way to clue “x.” Maybe the notation for absolute value led to confusion at some point, with |x| looking like a way of writing x with some emphasis?

Is it possible that Manson also didn’t understand the math involved, and also mistakenly thought that “SGN” would work as a clue for x? This seems very unlikely to me, because it would require an incredibly specific mistake. He would have to not only think, like White Raven, that using the name of a function would mean x, but would also have to think that this mildly obscure function was the one to use for that. It’s a solution idea that would only occur to someone working from the solver’s end, not one that the puzzle constructor would come up with working forwards.

Topic for a later post: Communication misunderstandings and Mansonian verification.