Exploring Puzzle Caches – Part 2

For the next puzzle cache to explore, I thought I’d talk about # 4 on my list of Mystery Cache types…the Visual Puzzle.  It’s a different type that can often boggle the mind, until suddenly solved with a big fat DUH! moment.  But, there are varied ways to use the visual puzzle, so we’ll take a look at them.First, let’s review what makes a puzzle a visual puzzle.  The name helps simply that…visual.  Now, you might think that this could also include going out and looking at something to find the coordinates.  I mean, that is visual work.  But that would fall under the category of On-Site.  Visual is something done at home.  It would be any puzzle that uses visual clues to encode the puzzle.

So, let’s look at basic examples.  Magic Eyes.  We all have see them.  Many of us have banged our heads at them for their initially frustrating and continually muscle tiring method of viewing them.  Now, try to imagine doing that and having to make out numbers.  Yeah, I thought that would be reaction.  Just sit back down, I’m not going to make you do one.  We’ll move on.

Other ways to look at visuals might bring about pictures of symbols.  Symbols much like you might see if you read any of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books.  Since those usually represent letters, and thus are part of an alphabet, that would probably fall under the idea of a cipher.  The Dancing Man Cipher is a famous example pulled from the stories of Sherlock Holmes.  Very much reliant on visual effects, it’s still a cipher.

Okay, so we can’t count on site visuals, or visuals that represent are part of an alphabet.  How about symbols in the form of numbers?  This one depends.  If it is part of the above mentioned visual alphabet, then no.  But, if they are just random symbols that are attached to numbers, then they are fair game as a visual puzzle.  Why?  The numbers are often randomly assigned, usually by the cacher, and are not part of a larger language system.

So now we have Magic Eyes and randomly assigned alpha-numeric, non-alphabetic symbols.  Say that three times fast.  It seems like I’m slowly eliminating my options, but I’m not.  Visuals are a different form.  Letters and numbers rarely make the visual.  So let’s deviate from that idea and look at what makes a Magic Eye a visual puzzle.  It’s the visual ITSELF that makes it the visual puzzle.  You have to see the answer and extract the answer, and then use the coordinates provided, or perform a task using the clues that you’ve now found.  Let’s look at an example…my new cache GC1M9J3 – Can You Read a Topo Map?.

This puzzle is a visual puzzle.  Here’s what the puzzle says and what you see:

The above coordinates are bogus. Complete the puzzle to find
the true location

Have you ever learned how to read a topographic map? Well, it’s time to find out. The final coordinates are hidden somewhere within the following map. Finding the coordinates will be easy for some and hard for others. In the end, the cache is a relatively easy find.

Visual Puzzle Example 1

Feel free to take a look at the puzzle and you’ll see that’s what it says.  Somewhere within the map you’ll find the coordinates.  This is a visual puzzle in that you have to figure out how and where the coordinates are located and all you have to work with is the image itself.  Now, I’m not going to reveal the answer on here…you can stop the complaining now it’s not going to change my mind.  Yet, this is not the only way to do a visual puzzle.

For those of you that have read some of my past stories have heard this name before…Vorticity.  For those that haven’t, here’s a brief intro.  Vorticity is a geocacher out in Colorado.  I met him once at an event South of Omaha, NE.  He was in the area on business and had taken some time to go after some caches.  However, he did something different.  He solved a huge number of puzzle caches in the area and focused on finding them, making many local area cachers stare in amazement as he went after one after another after another, wiping out caches that many of us had not solved yet.  Well, he and I began working together on The Case of Operuse Obfuscation, a very high level puzzle that we bother were struggling on.  With some effort, we solved it, and joined the small ranks of those who had ever found that cache.

Well, Vorticity likes his puzzles, and like me, he has a few of his own.  What does this have to do with visual puzzles?  Well, he has one that I’d like to share.  I’m not going to post the picture, but will provide the link.  The cache is called ¡Three Amigos!.  It’s a visual puzzle out near Colorado Springs that uses images from the very funny movie “The Three Amigos” as a method of encoding the coordinates.  Take a look and you’ll see why this counts as a visual puzzle.

I have also seen another type of visual puzzle, which requires you to get clues from either a single or a series of different photos.  Then, those clues are applied to a series of questions, equations, etc., to solve what the final coordinates are.  A variation uses the photos and clues as a sort of matching game, with numbers and/or letters associated with the photos.  Answer the questions and follow the directions to get the coordinates.

One last idea to present.  I have seen it only once, and don’t even remember where I saw it.  The idea is to take a photo of a carefully set up arrangement that displays the answer in the photo.  Sometimes, it takes looking at it the right way just like a Magic Eye.  For example, hiding a sign that blends into the background just enough to be unnoticeable, but yet still readable if the image is carefully examined.  Or, altering a photo to just barely display coordinates somewhere within the image.  It fits within the idea of a visual puzzle, and they can be devious.

Visual puzzles can come in various forms but generally require you to use your eyes to solve the puzzle.  It is this single difference that sets them in a category of there own.  Depending on the person creating the puzzle, they can range from simple to evil.  It’s another reason to check puzzles before you pass them up.  You might find a visual that just clicks with you.


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