Mad Mazes
Mad Mazes : Intriguing Mind Twisters for Puzzle Buffs, Game Nuts and Other Smart People

by Robert Abbott
Illustrated by Lloyd Birmingham

Foreword by Martin Gardner

Hard Cover (September 1990) $14.95
Adams Pub; ISBN: 1558508651
Paperback (April 1992) $7.95
Adams Pub; ISBN: 1558501428

This book is now out-of-print, but you might check Amazon to see if they have a copy.

Mad Mazes is my first book of “mazes-with-rules.” There are 20 of these mazes in the book. Two of the harder mazes, “Theseus and the Minotaur” and the “Changing-Rule Number Maze,” have been turned into computer programs and can be found on this site. The maze shown below is a better example of what’s in Mad Mazes because (1) it’s only moderately difficult and (2) no one has turned it into a computer program yet.

Travel along the roads from Start to Goal. At each intersection follow one of the arrows. That is, you can turn in a certain direction only when there is a curved line in that direction, and you can go straight only when there is a straight line. You can leave an intersection only at the head of an arrow. U-turns are not allowed.

So: At the first intersection, you can only go straight. At the second intersection you can again only go straight. At the third intersection you could go straight or turn north. Suppose you go north. At the next intersection you can only turn east. It’s true there’s a line that curves to the west, but there is no arrowhead pointing west.

Click here if you need a hint.


This is the book’s Foreword, written by Martin Gardner.

Inventing a new kind of puzzle, not too hard, not too easy, and fun to crack, is a much harder task than solving such puzzles. Robert Abbott is one of those rare individuals who has the knack of creating such puzzles. How he does it is a mystery.

I first met Bob when I was writing the Mathematical Games column in Scientific American. He had invented a card game called Eleusis that had the remarkable property of simulating induction, the process by which scientific laws are discovered and theories formulated. My two columns on Eleusis were among the most popular. They led to other induction games, and even to some interesting research on induction. In 1963 Bob wrote Abbott’s New Card Games (alas, now out of print) that included Eleusis among other unusual games.

No one has been as creative as Bob in devising bizarre mazes that are unlike any you have seen before. These mazes, let me add, also have an affinity with scientific method. What is science if not the trying of every possible path that can lead to the solution of a puzzle posed by Nature? When researchers reach a blind alley, they sigh and turn back to try other paths.

Bob’s mazes will not advance science or mathematics, but in working on them you will experience a pleasure that in its small way is similar to the pleasure experienced by scientists when they solve a problem. Think of the maze as a model of a tiny portion of a perhaps infinite universe—out there, independent of you and me—with uncountable labyrinths waiting to be explored.


Newsweek December 10, 1990.

When all the presents are opened and you’re stuffed with plum pudding, settle down with Mad Mazes by Robert Abbott (Bob Adams, Inc. $14.95), a book of 20 mind-bending puzzles. Don’t let the corny pictures and titles (“Jumping Jim,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider”) fool you: this is not kids’ stuff. The mazes, arranged in order of difficulty, each have a complex set of rules that makes it incredibly tough to find the right way out. Maddening mazes is more like it.

World Game Review  Issue 11, June 1992. This is a small journal that’s very influential among those of us who are serious about games.

Mad Mazes by Robert Abbott, published by Bob Adams, Inc., 1990, $14.95, hardback, (also paperback, $7.95, published 1992)
Reviewed by Michael Keller.

Bob Abbott, inventor of such games as Eleusis, Epaminondas, Ultima, and Construction, has created a fascinating collection of 20 mazes—but not the conventional kind which fill most maze books. These are what might be called ‘sequential movement’ puzzles—the solver travels through each maze, constrained by rules which limit possible moves. In many cases rules change DURING a maze—sometimes you will find yourself back in a spot you have been before, but a change in the rules may have altered the situation to allow you to break out of an apparent loop. The final maze of the book, Theseus and the Minotaur, may be the most difficult maze ever created. Abbott says that only one other person has ever solved it, and only with a great deal of help. All of the mazes are beautifully illustrated in full color by Lloyd Birmingham. One of the nicest features of the book (highly recommended for any puzzle book) is a Hints section, intended to help a solver who cannot solve a puzzle completely unaided. There is also a set of fully explained solutions.

Caerdroia 1991 Edition. This is a scholarly British journal devoted to mazes both ancient and modern.

Mad Mazes - Intriguing Mind Twisters for Puzzle Buffs, Game Nuts and Other Smart People, by Robert Abbott.

The typically American title says it all, really! This is a large, glossy colour book crammed with fiendish puzzle mazes. The book can be opened out to reveal the compendium of maddening games to tax your brain. Arrows, numbers, shape sequences and codes lead you through each variously themed maze. Mind-boggling stuff!

The best reviews I got were from an unusual source, the “Customer Comment” on’s catalog entry for Mad Mazes. Both these reviews were submitted after the book was out-of-print.

Customer Comments

5 out of 5 stars Go a mazing with this amazing book!

Reviewer: from South Brunswick, New Jersey      December 2, 1999

Looking for the perfect gift for that puzzle buff friend of yours? Look no further. Mad Mazes is a delightful book of 20 different mazes, each with its own rules for traveling through the maze. Each maze is challenging and fun and, if you solve it, you will shout Eureka! In this book, you see the genius of Robert Abbott at work and at play! We call him the O. Henry of puzzles as his solutions often have a surprise or twist to them. Each maze is preceded by a fun story which gives the rules for traveling through the maze. So, whether you are 7 or 107, if you enjoy challenging puzzles, this treasure of a book is for you. The good news is that Robert Abbott has written a wonderful sequel to Mad Mazes. It is called SuperMazes.

5 out of 5 stars
Wonderfully intricate puzzles for the stubborn or brilliant

Reviewer: from Ilsan, South Korea     January 31, 1999

By saying the word “maze” I’m probably conjuring the image of those flat angles of black lines. This is NOT what you’ll get if you buy this book. Mad Mazes is precisely that—each maze has a complex set of dynamic rules. One allows you only to turn right—unless you pass a certain point, after which you can only turn left. Another is three-dimensional, and you climb and descend levels in an effort to reach bottom. You actually have to (gasp) think. I first got this book 6-7 years ago and still haven’t solved all the puzzles! (And there are only twenty, to my everlasting regret.) Each is accompanied with illustrations and a delightfully humorous story.

To reviews of SuperMazes.

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