Exploring Puzzle Caches – Part 1

You can’t get much wider a variety of caches than you’ll find under the “Mystery Cache” heading.  Having already provided readers with a list of the ten most common types, with everything else falling under the Other category, it’s time to start looking at some of them in more detail.  To do that, we will look at some caches and how they were set up.

The two caches we will look at today are numbers three and ten, or Newspaper and On-site respectively.  Yeah, I know, we aren’t going in order, but I already screwed that one up by doing an article about Night Caches before making the list.  Deal with it.  It will all be the same information anyway.

Let’s try to define a Newspaper cache a bit more than I provided before.  When I say Newspaper, I’m referring to puzzles that you might see in a newspaper.  Sudoku’s are a great example of this.  Quite common in newspapers today, they employ numbers, making it easier to work it into providing coordinates.  They usually aren’t hard to solve once you’ve had a little practice.  I say usually because sometimes you get an evil cacher like me who puts one out that’s a bit harder.  Let’s look at just such a cache.

Last March, I set up a cache in Lincoln, NE called Caesar’s Sudoku – The Hides of March.  It was part of a series of caches set up by various Nebraska cachers, all published in March. It was set up for a higher difficulty in both puzzle and hide. The puzzle was a variant of Sudoku. It looked like this:

Caesar's Sudoku

So how do you solve this varient?  First, notice that within the traditional grid there are no starting numbers?  That’s being evil part one.  Next, notice the dotted lines forming numerous shapes within the grid?  That’s being evil part two.  Finally, notice all the small numbers written in the corners of those shapes?  That’s being evil part three.

The idea is to follow the traditional rules of Sudoku, but with an added rule thrown in.  Each of the numbers within the dotted line shapes has to add up to the small number in that shapes corner.  Without starting numbers, this takes a bit of time.

Now, how often are you going to see odd varients of a Sudoku puzzle?  Probably not often.  Most of the time, the puzzles will be traditional versions of the puzzle.  But how to turn it into getting coordinates?  Well, you’ve likely already figured that out.  In every Sudoku cache that I’ve seen, the cache owner will highlight certain squares.  I chose colors for mine.  Solve the puzzle, then match up the colors with the coordinates above the puzzle to fill in the blanks.

This is one example of a newspaper cache.  Crossword puzzles are a bit harder to use, but I have seen it done once before.  The cacher highlighted squares much like I did, then you had to convert the letters into their numerical value (1-26).  Then some math was used to find the coordinates.  I’ve actually seen logic problems used more often than crosswords.  In that case, you solve the puzzle, then you often have a short list of possible solutions and coordinates.  Figure out which of the solutions is the correct one and you get the coordinates.

Now, while I did use the term newspaper to describe this method of puzzle caches, go to any magazine rack or bookstore and you’ll find an endless supply of puzzle sources to use.  Heck, I almost purchased one a few weeks ago just for the purpose of finding puzzle ideas.  In most cases, practice is the best method for learning how to solve these.  The more you do puzzles on your own, the better prepared you are to solve these types.

Let’s move on and look at on-site puzzles.  I have another example for this one.  We’ll use a cache I set up last February in Southwest Nebraska.  Called The L&PP Express Park, the cache is designed to be solved at the cache site.  An on site cache often requires the finder to complete some sort of task to determine the coordinates.  It could be going to a marker and gathering some information.  It could be an offset cache, where you have to do a series of waypoint projections to find the cache.  Or, like in the case of my cache, you have to count objects at the site.

In my cache, I found a hiding spot first.  Then, I went through and took counts of a variety of objects: shelters, benches, swings, garbage cans, etc.  Once back at home, I then figured out a way to arrange the math so that when you plug in the numbers of some of the various objects you have to count, you’ll get the final coordinates.  Then, you just go find the cache.

This method also displays one of the downsides designing a Mystery cache.  Counting up the objects may take about five minutes on average to do.  Then, you can begin the search.  For many people, the time to find caches varies from cache to cache, but five minutes added to your search time isn’t much unless you are trying to speed cache.  Yet, because many people automatically any cache with that ? symbol, they miss out on caches like this under the assumption that they don’t want to take the time required to solve the puzzle. My cache is located in a rural area.  People driving by to complete challenges are likely to skip it and go after one of the other two I set up in that county, including a multi that can take much longer than the puzzle to solve.  Since placing it 11 months ago, only four people have found it.  That’s including the night I took TC and 8601 to it.

On-site puzzles are one of the less difficult types of puzzle caches to complete.  They don’t require as much extra work to solve, making this one a more popular method for people who don’t like puzzles as much.  It is a perfect example of why you should quickly look over a puzzle cache before passing it up.

Well, that’s all for now.  We’ll look at two more puzzles in Part 2.


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4 Responses to Exploring Puzzle Caches – Part 1

  1. golfgunny says:

    The “on site” are certainly my favorite type of mystery cache. One that is near me in particular requires the cacher to fully explore a castle ruin, taking note of various features of the castle. Pretty fun stuff.

    Great post; very informative.

  2. P.J. says:

    I’m a fan of on-site mystery/puzzle caches. I feel like it’s more of a challenge and more “geocaching” if you are actually out there. I don’t mind the “computer” ones if planning a trip etc., but I’d prefer to be in the field.

    This winter, I’ve done some puzzles with the hopes of actually finding the cache in the spring. Seems like a good way to do things when it’s cold and still stay active with caching.

    There are also two 5-star difficulty puzzles I’ve been working on for a while and I’m completely going bonkers with them!

  3. tripcyclone says:

    Send me the GC #’s PJ. I’m always up for a challenge. 🙂

    On-site’s can be fun if done right. There are a some great computer ones too, and you’re mention of doing them before a trip seems a pretty common way to do it with some people I know. I’ll look at puzzles, solve them, save the coords in GSAK so that when I’m out, I have them ready to go.

  4. golfgunny says:

    Here’s one you might get a kick out of. It stumped me and my wife for a little while, and then it just clicked. It’s so simple that we were both kicking ourselves after we figured it out. GC1MBTB

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