A Colorful Journey through Endless Patterns of Quick Wits
Home  /  Masters  /  Robert Abbott

Robert Abbott*

by Serhiy Grabarchuk
Robert Abbott

Robert Abbott
Robert Abbott is the World's leading creator and expert in mazes of all kinds. An incredible variety of his ideas can easily entangle your imagination and amuse your mind: Theseus and the Minotaur, Alice Mazes, Sliding Door Maze, Mazes with Things That Roll, The Bureaucratic Maze, and Dungeon Mazes, just to name a few.

His website, www.logicmazes.com, contains some interactive versions of these and many other mazes. One of them, the Starry Night Maze, is on the GAMES® website.
Babel Game Card

Abbott's Babel card game.
The illustration by Alexandr Badmayev to the game card (1977) from Serhiy Grabarchuk's private game collection.

Abbott's Games

Before becoming involved with mazes, Abbott invented many card and board games which now are true classics of that genre. Among those there were Eleusis, Babel, Leopard, Auction, Variety, Metamorphosis, Switch, Construction, Ultima, Epaminondas, Confusion, and others.

In 1963, his card & board games were published in the book, Abbott’s New Card Games.1 Eleusis, invented in 1956, was the most successful of these games. In 1959, Eleusis appeared in Martin Gardner's legendary Mathematical Games column of Scientific American.

You can read the details about Abbott's games here.
Robert Abbott plays his game.

Robert Abbott playing his unpublished game Confusion.
Traffic Flow In Floyd's Knob by Robert Abbott

Robert Abbott's maze, Traffic Flow In Floyd's Knob, appeared in Martin Gardner's Mathematical Games column.

The Farmer Goes to Market

In 1962, in Martin Gardner's Scientific American column, the first ever multi-state maze (or maze-with-rules) appeared under the name, Traffic Flow In Floyd's Knob; see its diagram on the left. It was created by Robert Abbott, and in 1997 appeared in his book, SuperMazes.2

The challenge is to get from Start (at the left edge of the town's plan) to Finish (at the right edge), passing through the town along the roads, and only choosing directions allowed by arrows on the town's plan. No U-turns or backing-up are allowed.

In 1990 a harder version of this maze under the name, The Farmer Goes to Market, was published in Robert Abbott's book, Mad Mazes.3 Its diagram is shown just below. Give both versions a try to see whether you are a clever driver.
The Farmer Goes to Market by Robert Abbott

Robert Abbott's maze, Farmer Goes to Market, as it appeared in his Mad Mazes book.
Copyright © Robert Abbott
Theseus and the Minotaur by Robert Abbott

Theseus and the Minotaur interactive maze by Robert Abbott.

Theseus and the Minotaur

It is quite a unique puzzle maze created by Robert Abbott, and published in his book Mad Mazes in 1990; its diagram is shown just below.

The object is to get Theseus out of the maze, at the same time keeping away from the Minotaur. The ingenious idea behind the puzzle is that while Theseus makes one step, the Minotaur can perform two steps. But the Minotaur is not as clever as Theseus, and he just simply tries to get closer to Theseus, always preferring horizontal moves to vertical moves.

You can try ten challenges of the interactive version of Theseus and the Minotaur here, and certainly you will like this unusual puzzle. At that page you can also learn more about the history of the Theseus and the Minotaur puzzle which for almost twenty years evolved into a fantastic set of 87 quite challenging puzzles, and now is also available in the beautifully made version for the
iPhone and iPod Touch.
Theseus and the Minotaur Maze 14 by Robert Abbott

Robert Abbott's maze, Theseus and the Minotaur, as it appeared in his Mad Mazes book.
Copyright © Robert Abbott
Robert Abbott's 3D Maze

Robert Abbott's 3D Maze.
Robert Abbott's 3D Maze -- Floor Plans

Floor plans of 3D Maze.
3D Maze sample

3D Maze sample in a transparent box.
Parts of 3D Maze sample

Parts of 3D Maze sample.

Abbott's 3D Maze

This maze is especially interesting and memorable for me as it was the first time I have ever solved Abbott's mazes. That "tiny," 4 x 4 x 4 maze gave me a lot of emotions and is one of my brightest memories from my puzzle beginnings.

It was almost four decades ago when I as a young boy read about it in Martin Gardner's Sixth Book of Mathematical Games from Scientific American,4 and was so fascinated with the maze that I made it out of a transparent box and plastic pieces glued according to the drawings in the book.

I still remember the moment when I found the tricky way for a ball to jump over from one level to another; this was a small miracle which led me to the solution! This maze was one of my first puzzles, and it is a rare sample in my collection and one of my favorite puzzles. Generally, now I could add that it is one of the best puzzles ever created.

I crafted my sample of Abbott's 3D Maze after the description in Martin Gardner's book, but with one tiny change—I added a unit wall in the level D to eliminate one of two equally-possible shortest paths of the route through the maze and leave just the other, not-so-obvious one. With this I got just a single shortest path from the entrance to the exit. That additional unit wall is indicated on the back left face of the transparent box in the pictures on the left.

Also, my sample has its whole structure turned for 90 degrees so that its entrance is at the top face of the box (on its "roof"), and its exit is at its bottom left corner in the ground floor.

A more complex, 4 x 4 x 5 version of this cubic maze Robert Abbott published in his book, Mad Mazes, under the name, The Itsy Bitsy Spider. It involves a spider.

Here, I would like to point out that moving a real ball through this maze is quite tricky, since you need to manipulate the whole maze so that the ball moves along a specific trajectory and enters a unit cell exactly between two walls. That cell is indicated with an asterisk on the front right face of the transparent box. So Abbott's 3D Maze may be also considered as a highly sophisticated dexterity puzzle.

Last but not least, if you craft your own sample of Abbott's 3D Maze, you definitely will be rewarded with a lot of fun—first by solving the maze yourself, and then by challenging your relatives and friends with it.
Notes & References
      *) Where stated, copyright © is by Robert Abbott. Copyrighted materials are used here with permission. All the remaining parts are copyright © by Serhiy Grabarchuk.
     1) Robert Abbott, Abbott's New Card Games: Babel, Leopard, Auction, Variety, Metamorphosis, Switch, Eleusis, Construction, Ultima, Funk & Wagnalls Company, Inc., 1963.
     2) Robert Abbott,
SuperMazes: Mind Twisters for Puzzle Buffs, Game Nuts, and Other Smart People, Prima Publishing, 1997.
     3) Robert Abbott,
Mad Mazes: Intriguing Mind Twisters for Puzzle Buffs, Game Nuts and Other Smart People, Bob Adams, Inc., Publishers, 1990.
     4) Martin Gardner's Sixth Book of Mathematical Games from Scientific American, W. H. Freeman and Company, San Francisco, 1971. (See Problem #3, Three-dimensional Maze in Chapter 6, "The Rigid Square and Eight Other Problems").
To be continued.
Last Updated: July 8, 2009
Posted: July 8, 2009
< Home  |  Privacy Policy  |  About Age of Puzzles  |  Contact Us  |  Link to Us
Copyright © 2005-2009 Serhiy Grabarchuk. All Rights Reserved
Design by Art of Puzzle
Serhiy Grabarchuk Puzzles