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Asking for help with puzzle caches...


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Hi All


Just a little background before I get to my question...


In my local area there is a fellow cacher who sets plenty of (excellent) puzzle caches. I enjoy solving them, especially if I have tried many times in the past. I get a great feeling of satisfaction in finally coming up with the final coords, and the caches themselves are normally in interesting places / interesting containers or both. But here is my dilemma...


Often in the past after many attempts to get the jist of how to solve the cache, I need a little pointer to point me in the right direction. Before today I haven't felt any guilt in dropping the CO a message politely asking for a little nudge. He always responds and we have since found ourselves (in my opinion) on quite friendly terms - discussing personal matters, not just caching. Sometimes the hints he gives me aren't immediately helpful but I don't mind as I know part of the fun of setting a puzzle cache must be to challenge other people to come up with the solution on they're own. The trouble is the more caches he sets, the more I am asking for help in my messages.


So I guess my question is this:


How acceptable is it to ask for help from the CO? And how often is too often?


I worry that I am doing it too frequently and spoiling the spirit of the game. Any and all opinions would be much appreciated.



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Always best to ask the CO first.


The day you get sent a hint that's harder than the puzzle, may be the day to stop asking! :laughing:


I think that if you're telling the CO what you've done, giving details of what you've got so far, rather than just asking "Where is it?" Most CO's are usually willing to help out fellow cachers.

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It's very common, and up to the CO to decide how much to give out. Some will give you the answer straight away, others just a little extra hint, and (more rarely) some will maintain the integrity of the puzzle totally. IMO that's all valid, because if it's your cache you can decide how "serious" you want the puzzle to be.

There seems to be a convention that nothing is given away before the FTF, but apart from that there are no fixed rules.


How many times you might ask also depends. Sometimes the first request will elicit a little cryptic hint. If that still doesn't help there may be a bigger hint to follow. After that, the CO might decide that you're just too thick to bother with; or might feel sorry for you and give you the solution. If you ask more than three times it's probably getting to the stage where you really ought to look at an easier cache.


Personally I loathe asking for a hint, but if I feel that there's an error in the puzzle (perhaps there are several solutions) or I THINK I've solved it but need reassurance, I might contact the CO. If I've looked at it for weeks and seem to have got nowhere, it's tempting to ask for a small pointer. I've done that but usually regret it as it turns out that I had almost solved it and was just getting impatient. It's far more satisfying to look back on "all your own work".


But don't be scared to give up and ignore the puzzle if it's too hard; there are plenty of others to look at.

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I'll usually give help on my puzzles. I say usually because on one I didn't give help for a while. FTF on that one was within a couple of days of publishing Second to find was 5 months later.


What I do ask seekers of help for is to provide a work flow of what they have tried and the result they achieved. Even that simple request gets varying results though. :laughing:


Such detail allows me to tailor the guidance though and allow them to still do some work and feel the euphoria.


Many of my replies have cryptic messages in them but often those go over peoples heads. :rolleyes:

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I would say ask away as much as you need. I find that most owners are very responsive and adept at giving little extra hints bit by bit. I usually send my current thoughts ideas no matter how daft (and I have been very on the wrong track sometimes). I do resort major begging if I have an unsolved one in a series where I am planning a visit to find them all.

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How acceptable is it to ask for help from the CO? And how often is too often?

It's between you and the CO. The important thing is to never assume the CO is willing to help, so always ask nicely and in a way consistent with expecting no response.


Personally, unless I think the puzzle is actually unfair, I tend to avoid asking for help. My main concern is perhaps the opposite of what you'd expect: sometimes I ask for a little help, and the CO just sends me the answer. They're trying to be nice, but they take all the fun out of it! So I need to be pretty hopelessly stuck before I'll ask. (Easy for me: around here there are so many puzzles, it's no big deal to put one on the shelf and move on to the next one.)

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Thanks for all your responses.


I'm relieved to hear I'm not the only one who asks for help. For the record, I always ask politely for a hint to get me started rather than asking for the solution as part of the fun is solving the puzzle in the first place. Occasionally I might ask the CO to check my workings to make sure I am on the right track. I also never expect the CO to offer a hint and would never get offended if they don't reply.


i guess I am just pleased that there are other people with the same opinions on the matter as me. I know I could ignore the puzzles completely but more often then not the ones local to me tend to be the better quality caches and the ones I enjoy the most.


Thanks again!



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You can always ask for help and make it clear you're looking for a clue rather than the answer.

You'd think, but I always for just a hint, yet still some CO's still send the final coordinates.


Most, of course, are quite happy to draw out my agony with more hints, so I just keep in mind which ones not to ask.


(Of course, it's their cache, so this is not a complaint, just an observation.)

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How acceptable is it to ask for help from the CO? And how often is too often?


I worry that I am doing it too frequently and spoiling the spirit of the game. Any and all opinions would be much appreciated.



I think it's perfectly acceptable to ask for help - especially if it's a puzzle you've spent ages on and tried lost of things without success. I like to help others both with my own puzzle and those I've solved - but I generally like to guide someone to their own solution (much more satisfying for all concerned) so won't just give out straight co-ords from someone I've never heard from before. Equally I will ask a CO for help - especially if its someone I've mailled before or even run in to at an event. It's often a good idea to let them know you have tried hard with it, outlining your dead ends and thoughts at the time, though.


I think that spirit of co-operation is something which makes geocaching very special. After all, how often have you read a log for a tricky 'special equipment' cache, saying, "so and so lent me their boat" or "came along with their climbing equipment to help and we did it together". The co-operative and social aspect is what gives the game a whole new and satisfying dimension. Asking for help on a puzzle is no different, and spreading the help and joy at solving a puzzle and finding another cache can never be a bad thing. It's like friends doing each other a favour and everyone ends up feeling good.


At the other extreme, how joyless would it be, it we all were FORCED to go out walking alone and not have any help from anyone with anything? - even another member of your usual caching account team helping search at the same time. (BTW, I understand and appreciate that there are those cachers who consider it a point of principle to search alone and I'm not saying they shouldn't be allowed, hat's off to them for their independence - just that it's their choice to do it that way, just as it's my choice to sometimes take a friend with me which makes it more fun sometimes).


I did however, sense something form your initial post that I'm wondering if your worrying that this is getting a bit one sided. You may feel like you're doing all the asking of this one person and he/she is doing all the answering. I suppose that would bother me a bit (and does in fact, as there is certainly ONE particular cacher who has helped me so much, but is much cleverer than me and I don't think I would ever solve a puzzle before him in order to hep him out in return). I suppose if it ever comes up that you can help this person out, do leap at the opportunity! And it doesn't just have to be about solving puzzles. I know that when my caching chum had a cache he had to disable for a time as it needed maintenance - but he was too busy to get to it straight away, I popped past it when out caching one day and replaced the sodden and unusable log for him. It was only a mile or two detour for me and I felt that in some way I was showing my appreciation for all his help in the past. I wonder if there's anything caching-related you can help your caching friend with, just so you don't end up feeling guilty that it's too one-sided?

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I think a CO will always let you know how much they are willing to divulge. And different CO will be different for different caches. The CO that I know want their caches to be found and are more than helpful. CO help to me have included:


:smile: Technical assistance when out of area and have guessed how the puzzle would be solved but didn’t have the right tools with me. It still needed more work to find the key components afterwards and therefore still rewarding.

:smile: Helping for a first to find. Not just me I should add. I’m pretty sure they loved the fact that their cryptic (cough - blatant if you are on their wave length - cough) hints are having to be used and seeing a race struggling to unfold in front of their eyes.

:smile: Teaching me stuff outside my knowledge.

:smile: After a gentle prod in the right direction and me saying I wouldn’t ask for more help, they’ve come back with a twinkle in their eye saying they love giving further hints just as setting the puzzle.

:smile: Logistical assistance.

:smile: Confirmation that I’m on the right track.


I looked at these points and realise that some CO have done almost all of these and much much more.


For me it’s just like asking anyone for help of any kind and certainly similar in some respects to asking for help with locating the physical element of the cache.


I’d like to think that if I’m asking anyone for help that I’d be prepared to ask the CO too. I might prefer to ask a friend.


Even the most evilly set cache can be by the warmest CO...

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I agree with the consensus on this thread. It is OK to ask the CO for a hint. As a puzzle cache owner I'm always happy to give hints, and I think most COs are. As a finder/solver - while I prefer to solve it without a hint - if I get stuck I will ask. I've made friends with a couple COs due to these help interactions.


There are some COs who I have asked for help multiple times; but I've not had the situation where there is one owner who I am asking regularly. I think you will be able to tell by the type and tone of the replies you get from the CO if they are getting fed up with you!

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