In the Margin: September 2015 – a-maze-ing stories

These days, when someone mentions the word ‘labyrinth’, the first thing that pops into the minds of many people is the 1986 cult movie featuring Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie as the magic pants-wearing Goblin King. However, labyrinths have actually been around for many thousands of years.

Originally, the intricate maze structures known as labyrinths were built for two main reasons: to keep prisoners in and to keep unwanted visitors out. Perhaps the most famous of all labyrinths throughout history, the Cretan Labyrinth, was, according to legend, built to hold the Minotaur, a hideous, half-man, half-bull creature that was ultimately killed by Theseus. However, Egyptian pharaohs also incorporated labyrinths into the design of their pyramids in order to protect the treasures contained within.

By the 16th Century, labyrinths had ceased to be used for security reasons and had become a type of entertainment, in the form of hedge mazes.  In France, King Louis XIV had a hedge maze constructed in the Gardens of Versailles, while in England, hedge mazes arrived during the reign of King William III, with the most famous hedge maze, the maze at Hampton Court Palace, still surviving to this day.

Over 4000 years after the first labyrinth was believed to have been built, labyrinths continue to remain popular. They have become a standard component of video games and feature in countless artworks, books and movies, including the lithographs of M.C. Escher, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, The Shining (1980) and Inception (2010). Last year, the labyrinth-centred dystopian adventure, The Maze Runner, hit cinemas and with the sequel just out, it seems that the long tradition of labyrinths in our culture will continue for many years to come.

Speaking Trivially

Awaking after a night of hard partying, you have found yourself in the middle of a maze with the following instructions on how to escape: Each room in the maze has four doors and a riddle painted on the floor. The answer to each riddle is a number. If you take the remainder of that number, modulo 4, this will tell you which door to choose – 0 indicates the north door, 1 indicates the east, 2 the south and 3 the west. Choose the wrong door and it will lead you to certain death.

You are currently in the room marked on the map below with a star.  A list of all of the riddles found on the room floors is also given below:




For your chance to win a $50 book voucher, determine a safe path through the maze and email your solution (with working) to:

What’s Your Type? (Actuaries 200 Solution)

The four translations of the quotes given in Actuaries 200 (all lyrics from Weird Al Yankovic songs) and the transformations used to encode those quotes are as follows:

  1. Quote: “Try to avoid any Virgos or Leos with the ebola virus.”
    Transformation: Shift hands one key to the right with rightmost letter in each row wrapped around to map to the leftmost letter in that same row (i.e. Q = W, W = E, E = R, etc.).
  2. Quote: “Well maple syrup and snow’s what they export. They treat curling just like it’s a real sport.”
    Transformation: Letter keys on the keyboard mapped to the letters of the alphabet in alphabetical order (i.e. Q = A, W = B, E = C, etc.).
  3. Quote: “Your eyes are even bluer than the water in my toilet.”
    Transformation: Shift hands two keys to the left with leftmost letters in each row wrapped around to map to the rightmost letters in the same row (i.e. Q = O, W = P, E = Q, etc.).
  4. Quote: “Yes, Virginia, now Santa’s doing time in a Federal prison for his infamous crime.”
    Transformation: Shift hands up one row on the keyboard (i.e. Q = 1, A = Q, Z = A, etc.).

Nine correct answers were submitted. The winner of this month’s prize, selected randomly from among the correct entries, was Maiyuran Arumugam, who will receive a $50 book voucher.

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