The word mazes on this site combine the characteristics of a logic maze with those of a word puzzle. Each maze consists of a grid of letters, the aim being to get from the top-left square to the bottom-right one. You move through the grid by forming chains of English language words, so that the final letter of the previous word forms the first letter of the next. There are two distinct, but complimentary, aspects to the challenge: the first is hunting out the words that link different parts of the grid; the second is exploring all these connections to find your way to the goal.
The introductory mazes have simple rules and fit inside small grids, but the later mazes get progressively harder and more labyrinthine as the grids get larger and the rules more complex. The first few mazes are what I term simple word mazes. By simple, I mean that they don't have any extra rules: you can form words of any length in any direction. However, even the so-called simple mazes on this site are designed to provide a genuine challenge. My aim is design puzzles that are extremely satisfying to solve, or at least are sufficiently irritating that you feel compelled to keep coming back until you've beaten them. This is the sort of puzzle I like, although I know it's not everybody's idea of fun!
To get started, have a go at the following training maze. Simply try to get from the G at the top-left to the G at the bottom-right, along words that can be of any length. You only need to click on the final letter of a word to make a move, not any of the intervening letters. More detailed maze rules can be found below. There are no unusual words on the shortest path to the goal. Normally, you don't get to see whether a word is valid until you click on it; however, since this an introductory maze, I've allowed you to see what is and what isn't a word before you click. If you hover the mouse or slide your finger along the touchscreen, then you'll see bad words highlighted in red, whereas valid words are highlighted in yellow.
Here's a , if you'd like one.
You can also view the if you're having trouble figuring it out. If you click that link, then I will gently insult you a bit to try to talk you out of it. This is purely tongue-in-cheek and just reflects my sense of humour. No offence is intended and I'm actually really glad that you've taken the time to visit this website and have a go at the puzzles.
If you manage to solve the maze, then here are a few useful tricks that crop up again and again in this type of word maze. Firstly, don't overlook two letter words; they can often be very useful in getting you into new parts of the maze. Secondly, look out for words that are hidden within other words; sometimes these even run backwards through a word that you've already traversed. Thirdly, it pays to know your three letter words – these have a tendency to appear repeatedly throughout the mazes. There are lots of three letter words in the dictionary that aren't often encountered in everyday conversation. You'll find that navigating the mazes becomes a lot easier as you get faster at spotting these words.
All the word mazes are interactive and most have the following general rules:
- Moves are made by clicking on the final letter of the word you wish traverse. There is no need to click any of the intervening letters.
- Making random, speculative moves goes against the spirit of the maze. If you try to form an invalid word, then it will momentarily flash red and be recorded as a blunder.
- If you are unsure whether a word in the maze is valid, then it can be checked (without penalty) using the check word tool beneath the puzzle.
- A stopwatch will start once the first move has been made, so time is of the essence!
Words will be accepted if they abide by the following criteria:
- They are not proper nouns, acronyms, abbreviations, prefixes or suffixes standing alone, or words requiring a hyphen or apostrophe. Shortened forms of words, such as bike or rev, are permitted, if they have been commonly accepted as standalone words in their own right (as opposed to abbreviations).
- Words of foreign origin – even those usually written with accented letters – are permitted, provided they have been assimilated into the English language.
- In practice, the English language is somewhat nebulous and fluid, so the list of valid words in the maze has been fixed, once and for all, with the aid of a computer and an online dictionary, at the time that the puzzle was compiled. Whilst a different dictionary would doubtless yield a different set of valid words, the list appearing here is final, even if you disagree with the inclusion or exclusion of a particular word.
- However, only the following two letter words are permitted: am, an, as, at, be, by, do, go, ha, he, hi, ho, if, in, is, it, me, mu, my, no, nu, of, oh, ok, on, or, ox, pi, so, to, up, us, we, xi, ye. Including the full set of two letter words permitted in Scrabble would make the puzzle far too easy!
- Despite limiting the number of two letter words, all three letter words in the dictionary are permitted, even if they are the plurals of words that are not on the above list of permitted two letter words.
Designing a word maze so that the true path to the goal is sufficiently complex, whilst at the same time has enough false trails to make it interesting, is quite a frustrating process. It is very easy to accidentally connect two disparate sections of the maze and completely ruin the puzzle. I've tried to be as consistent as I can when deciding whether a particular word is valid, and I always resist the temptation to cheat by deliberately excluding or including a word that doesn't fit my criteria. To achieve this, I've coded up an automated dictionary that checks the words in each grid before I upload the puzzle. However, even despite this, mistakes do happen. Shortly after this site went live, I discovered that I'd somehow contrived to exclude the word soya from my dictionary. This broke not just one maze, but two, one of which I'd been particularly happy with. Thankfully, I eventually managed to patch these – after a lot of effort – but I might not be so lucky next time. To avoid me getting repeatedly stressed out when this happens, I've adopted the following policy: whilst I will make a reasonable attempt to remedy such blunders as they are discovered, if it proves too difficult to do so without completely ruining the maze, then I'm going to let the original error stand. These puzzles are hard enough to design as it is, without worrying about them becoming defunct at a later date!