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Creating Puzzle Caches

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One of these days I am going to create a cipher and the message on the cache page is going to simply decode into "Drink more Ovaltine"


Havent figured out how to pin that down to a specific location to hide a cache though. Maybe the cache shoul be in a ovaltine container and hidden at the actual listed coordinates - but then it would really be a traditional cache. Oh well.


Anyway to answer the OP, there are so many ways to create a puzzle its hard to say there is a specific thought process to come up with them. Sone use questions that need to be answered, the answers are number, and these number are put in coordinates like:





and once questions A through J are answered you have your coordinates.


Others use a cypher similar to the one used to decode/encode the hints on cache pages and then have a block of text in the encoded mode. All that takes is creating some system for a cypher and then encoding a straightforward block of text to make it look like gibberish. Very easy to make - not so easy to solve unless you have some insight into how the cypher is constructed.


Others use math tactics and manipulate coordinates that way. Some require googling the text on the cache page to clue in where the coordinates are. Some use mapping skills and triangulation that you plot out on a map to find the intersection for the cache location. Some give you a starting location and clues to lead you to the actual hiding spot (more like letterboxing than geocaching, but at least a GPS is needed to get to the start point)


And that list only scratches the surface.

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Well, first I'll tell you why and where.


I like to find a place where someone's bound to hide a micro where the area is dense with muggles and there are really no sights to be seen. I find a location that will take a regular sized container and hide it well. So that gives me coordinates. The reason I put a puzzle here is because 1) it's usually winter accessible and since the puzzle can be done at home and found quickly, it gives it some value 2) not many people will find it, attracting less curiosity and leaving fewer cacher trails 3) it prevents a short term hide from going in with a longer lasting cache.


Then I try to think of a way to make the puzzle fun. If there are things nearby, I try to use them in the puzzle so you have the chance to learn something about the area. If it's a flood plain, I try to make something that will open the mind to something new. I've been big on Hex, Binary, and ASCII conversion. I'll probably change to something a little more unique now that several cachers near me are using the same methods in differant, more complicated ways. Usually, I try to build on the puzzles I've placed before to give finders some stepping stones.


For instance:


The Hex


Osage Maze Althoug this is a little history and a lot of puzzle.


For the purely historical, I placed Ex-Govs. I really like this one. It's not hard as long as you read the cache page. It's amazing how many paperless cachers forget to prep for puzzles and multis.

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Puzzles are so wide and varied that it's tough to answer your question. Basically, I look for a puzzle or encoding scheme, and then try to get a method of gettting numbers out of it. Examples:

1. Counting the number of letters on a crossword puzzle. Certain letters when counted become a part of the coordinates.

2. Using something like "Beales Cipher" you can create a list of numbers that spell out the coordinates one letter at a time.


So, as long as you can figure out a way to get numbers out of the puzzle, you can use the type of puzzle.

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My puzzles come from various places, but there is one unexpected way that have found to come up with puzzle ideas that make coordinates:


Ideas that I tried for solving other peoples' puzzle caches that didn't work out.


Seriously. When I am working on somebody else's puzzle cache, I often think "wouldn't it be evil if he had done this." Usually, it turns out he hadn't, and I have an original new idea for a future puzzle cache.

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Well, my first puzzle cache, Alien Artifact, was born due to getting an odd little puzzle disk as a freebee at a trade show. It was an odd little thing, so I re-painted it, put some funky symbols on it, and turned it into a travel bug. The trick is that when you grab the bug and decode the symbols, its the coords for the cache. The bug itself is a small disk that has a bunch of smaller disks on the surface that all rotate, so not only do you have to decode the symbols, but they have to be unscrambled first.


The next puzzle cache I did was inspired by finding this really cool 'font' online called Betamaze, so I decided to use it for a cache.


The next one, Chain Letter, was an out of the blue decidsion. I had hidden the cache first, using a length of small chain to secure the cache to a tree trunk. It occured to me it might be neat to somehow have a chain theme, and then the idea struck me to make a fictitious chain letter to hide the coords in.


I can't say that any of these were completely my own ideas, as they were all influenced by puzzle caches I've seen before, but all do have my own unique spin on them.

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At this point I'm not a big fan of puzzle caches, but I am curious about how the creators of those caches come up with their puzzles, especially those where the answer results in coordinates.  How do you go about it?

Personally, I like codes, and I've hidden a puzzle cache that uses a cipher that finders must decode. Coordinates can come in various forms - traditional numbers, spelled out numbers, roman numerals, morse code, math equations, foreign language numbers, and hex/ascii/binary just to name a few.


One of my multi caches uses an anagram that cachers must unscramble before they can continue.


I AM LOST HR is the anagram, and the hint is "weather condition". Figure it out! :mad:


I used a word puzzle program to develop that one. Needed a word 8 or 9 letters long with no letters the same, yet with all the letters appearing on a sign. The word puzzle program made it pretty easy. The "I AM LOST HeRe" reference was just a bonus. :lol:


One stage of a multi I did used a mind-game type riddle that really was simple, but some people got it wrong anyway:


"Say these words out loud: POST, MOST, ROAST, COAST, BOAST

Now what do you put in a toaster?"


Yes, that did throw some folks off. But not for too long. :lol:


The great thing about puzzles is you get the chance to be creative, and make people think a bit. I'm not real big on cryptic math problems, but ciphers I do like to mess with.

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I like puzzles, so I'm planning one soon. I still haven't entirely come up with an idea, but I'm thinking about making it a hacking challenge of sorts - I set up a little website with the coordinates and potential finders have to circumvent the security to get the cache.


The only problem is whether or not local finders will be up to it!

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What is the thing you are going after when you log a find on the web site SMILE? I was tinking about these smileys one day and where they came from and who started all the fun and how things have changed over the years. I took it from there. I want you work for your smile both in thinking and getting to it. I placed my cache in a very unfriendly and hard to get to location so you will smile even bigger when you get to earn your smile through the web site. It took me 2 months to plan and place the cache then I had to wait for that special day to list the cache. I took into consideration machines that can be used to decript codes and I made my own just follow the hint and look for the changes in the smiles - no amount of internet searching will give you the anwer, yes the numbers are in code just spelled out the way you would read them such as eighty ect. I was going to change the listing to make getting your smile easier but it will stand as it is.

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I have created several puzzle caches - one based on maps - the latest described below makes you find 5 caches and 5 trail markers that have markers on them.


The making of a puzzle is what I would have to say is a creative process. I generally start with some idea of where I am going and it sort of falls together as I develop the puzzle.


this link takes you to my latest puzzle -




I have had both positive and negative comments on my puzzles. I guess they are an acquired taste. There are some close to me that I just can't do.



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I have had both positive and negative comments on my puzzles. I guess they are an acquired taste. There are some close to me that I just can't do.


I guess even negative comments are better than no comments - at least they acknowledge your cache's presense - even if they wished it never existed :P


Well, I haven't been skunked completely - just very low interest in puzzle caches in my area - I own both puzzle caches within nearly 100 miles of my house and they are two of my least attempted caches - much less found.

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I have more puzzle ideas than there are places to put them. I worry about using areas that others have already chosen for caches. I like people to feel they have some ownership of the area they've hidden their geocache.


Basically, the bottom line for many of my puzzles is...how do you turn something that may not appear to be a number INTO a number? We have other puzzle twists that may not seem so obvious at first glance(GCM07T Grizzly Grave).


Ones that people have visited most are those that use symbols that can be looked up (and we added a twist to those, too, but they still managed to decypher them accurately). The trick is:


Do you want people to be able to figure out some of the numbers by picking out the obvious? For example, if it has to be placed within 2 miles of the posted false coords, do you want them to use the first several digits that may be repeated again in the later digits to confirm that they are on the right track?


Or do you want it to be more vague and not use the first digits for confirmation?


We've done a little of both to attract both beginners and advanced puzzle solvers.


And that's as much as I can tell anyone without having to lock you up in a closet because you have my secret information, lol.


Some of our puzzles seemed to have really obvious to solve as I made them, but still folks have difficulty with them. It's almost hard to judge how difficult it will be to someone else until people start doing them. I do agree that many people do seem to have puzzle phobia. It doesn't stop the ideas from flowing, though. We have to obey the compulsion and get them out there (grin).


Some of our puzzles:

Tally Sticks

Walks Like an Egyptian

The Prophet

Maestro's Mystery Measures

Lost in Translation (on the Rooster's Shift)

In the Tentacles of the Alien

Clarence, can you see the light?


And more to come.

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Here is a cache that I have been working on now for a few months. I'm not a witty as some of you are but I come up with an idea here and there. Tell me what you think here.


Wow...that is awesome! I had no idea what I was doing, but that is an awesome premise for a puzzle! Impressive!

Edited by Birdsong-n-Bud
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puzzle caches I think that the final location should be worth the effort. That being said, you almost always have to work the coordinates backwards in a multi-stage puzzle.


For example, if your locations are

1) N 41 47.160 W 87 45.173

2) N 41 59.201 W 87 54.485

3) N 41 31.085 W 88 10.550 with this being the final box...


You'd need the final coordinates, and then use something either found in a container at point 2 or a landmark at point 2 to come up with the coordinates for 3.


THEN you need to look at the coordinates for point 2 and either place or find something at point 1 that will give the coordinates for point 2.


Just keep in mind that you have to come up with the cache BACKWARD.

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Thanks to all of you for your help (and don't let this thread die just because I said that... this has been great!)


Well, I've got my first puzzle cache published. Here's a link to the cache page:

Time Capsule


Since I probably wouldn't even do this rather simple puzzle, I figured that if I feel that way, then others must, as well. So I actually set this up so that it can be found as either a puzzle, or as a multi-cache (or, as the FTF'er did, both!).

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