This puzzle is part of the Monthly Topic Challenge #14: Think inside the (very small) box!.
The smallest maze possible in a grid of squares would occupy a 2x2 grid (a 1x1 cell isn't a maze - it's a room...). Below is a contender for such a maze...
The maze consists of 4 interconnected cells, or 'rooms'. Within each room is a set of 9 emojis. To navigate the maze successfully, you must move from 'IN' into the top-left room, then make a series of orthogonal moves, each time into an immediately adjacent room. On each move (including your entrance into the maze) you must 'collect' an emoji, and you may only exit the maze (via 'OUT') once you have collected all 36 emojis.
The 'collecting' process works as a word ladder, from IN to OUT. Each emoji represents a short word or a 2-character country code (in the case of the flags - these are the placeholder letters you usually see when a flag emoji is used in an unsupported environment). Each subsequent rung of the ladder is generated from the previous one in one of three possible ways:
- By adding or inserting a single letter somewhere in the previous word;
- By removing a single letter from somewhere in the previous word;
- By changing a single letter somewhere in the previous word.
TASK: Navigate your way through the word-ladder emoji maze, starting with the word 'IN' and ending with the word 'OUT'. On each turn you must move to one of the two adjacent rooms (you cannot stay in the same room before collecting the next emoji) and then 'collect' one of the emojis from in that new room. A complete solution should at least identify all 36 emojis and list all 38 words in the word-ladder in order.
Accessibility note: The maze is only presented visually, as part of the challenge is to identify the required words from the emojis. It has been presented as a single image in order to preserve the emojis as intended, due to cross-browser compatibility issues when merely inserted into the body of a post in their raw form. There are no 'tricks' in my choices of emojis, and the common words they represent can be found in the emoji name or description on emojipedia (I recommend using Mozilla's Firefox browser for best results), with one exception where the intended synonym should still be obvious.