As I write this, I'm helping to host the first Microsoft Non-Intern Puzzleday, a re-run of the puzzles from this year's regular Intern Puzzleday, just to give the actual Microsoft employees a whack at them. I'm sitting outside a room in which I've set up six "solving stations" for the multi-stage mechanical puzzle I contributed this year, Anansi's Maze. (The Intern Puzzleday actually has a budget, so I could afford to give each team a copy of the puzzle; for the non-interns, they have to timeshare.)
This year, I wanted to play with transparency, as you could probably guess from the picture. I started out with a much more complex puzzle idea, but whittled it down, stage by stage, to get something that was a more appropriate level of difficulty and that hung together more completely. The result, I think, is my best multi-stage puzzle yet, so I decided to also use it for my 2009 Exchange puzzle at the International Puzzle Party in San Francisco.
Anansi the Spider is the trickster spirit of Caribbean and Western African myth and legend, known for his creative mischief making. This puzzle will tease you with its ambiguities and lead you on a merry chase to find its hidden meaning.
Here is a maze, Anansi tells us, but there are no walls, no paths to follow, let alone any dead ends or cycles. Our treasured ‘right-hand rule’ is useless in these uncharted territories.
Anansi’s Maze is a multi-stage solving experience: finding the solution to one stage leads to a new puzzle, and that one to another! Where does this pathless path lead? Can you see through all of Anansi’s tricks and find the answer he’s left for you at the end of your journey?