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Mystery Cache

Puzzle Solving 101 - Lesson 4: Wordplay

A cache by ePeterso2 Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 8/8/2007
In Florida, United States
2.5 out of 5
1.5 out of 5

Size: Size: micro (micro)

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Geocache Description:

South Florida Geocachers

About This Series

The first nine caches in this series will help you build your puzzle-solving skills. Each one contains a lesson focusing on a specific skill, examples of how to use that skill, an exercise to test that skill, and a cache to find as a reward. Study the lesson, complete the exercise, and you'll find the location of a geocache.

Each of those caches contains a piece of information you'll need to take the final exam (the tenth cache in the series). Bring some way of recording those clues for later ... paper and pen/pencil would come in handy, or perhaps a camera. (A hammer, chisel, and very large rock would work but probably wouldn't be very handy.)

Lesson 4: Wordplay


Hey, did you hear about the funeral for the crossword puzzle editor? He was buried six down and three across.

Word puzzles are one of the most popular types of puzzles in the world today. New ones are published every day in every major newspaper around the world. They appear regularly on television (such as the game shows Lingo and Chain Reaction), on the radio (on NPR programs Weekend Edition Sunday), and all over the internet (just search Google for the phrase "word puzzle").

Some Types of Wordplay

There are a great many different types of wordplay in the world. Here's a few common types that pop up in puzzles regularly:


A rhyme is a set of words or phrases that end in the same sound. Such as CACHE and DASH.

Homophones and Homographs

A homophone is a set of words that sound the same when spoken aloud but which have different spellings. Such as RIGHT and RITE, and also TO, TOO, and TWO.

A homograph is a set of words that have the same spelling but different sound or meaning. Such as LEAD - it can mean the metallic element or information about a new job.


An acronym is the set of first letters of each word in a name or phrase. For example, "IBM" means "International Business Machines", "NATO" means "North Atlantic Treaty Organization", "SWAT" stands for "Special Weapons And Tactics", and "INTERCAL" means "Computer Language With No Pronounceable Acronym" (seriously).

Watch for acronyms all over the place ... in cache titles, at the beginnings of sentences, and more.


An anagram is a set of words all spelled from the same set of letters. Such as TEA and ATE, or PISTON and POINTS, or CREAMY SCYTHE and MYSTERY CACHE.


A palindrome is a word or phrase that spells the same word when its letters are reversed, such as DAD, RACECAR, SENILE FELINES, SATAN OSCILLATE MY METALLIC SONATAS, and AIBOHPHOBIA (fear of palindromes ... okay, I made that up).


A pun is a deliberate confusion of similar words within a phrase or phrases. Such as "I bearly managed to run away from that grizzly." Or a sign outside a golf course: "Don't drink and drive. Don't even putt."

Types of Word Puzzles

Here's a few common types of word puzzles you're likely to encounter. Each type has a link to its Wikipedia entry, where you can learn more about that type of puzzle and how to solve it.

Word Search

With a word search, you are given a list of words or phrases and an arragement of letters. The letters are tyipcally in a grid, although they may be in a shape that fits the theme of the puzzle. Words are arranged in the grid horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. Some word search puzzles have an added bonus - when you have found and circled all of the words, the remaining letters in the grid will spell a mystery word or phrase.


With a word fill-in, you are given an empty grid and a list of words. Your job is to fit all of the words into the grid, one letter per square, using each word exactly once. These are really more logic puzzles than word puzzles.


A cryptogram is a simple substitution cipher - one letter is replaced by exactly one other letter. A ciphertext message is given that includes the spaces and punctuation of the original text. Your job is to figure out what the original message is. Cryptograms and other ciphers will be covered in more detail in another lesson.


An acrostic puzzle consists of a grid and a set of clues. Next to each clue is a list of blanks for writing the answer to that clue, one letter per blank. The blanks are all individually numbered and correspond to spaces in the grid. When you have solved all of the clues and copy all of the letters into their corresponding spaces in the grid, the grid will spell a quotation. If you read the first letter of the answer to each clue in order, it will typically spell the name of the person who gave the quote and possibly the source from which it was taken (usually a book or movie).


A crossword is a word puzzle that normally takes the form of a square grid of black and white squares. The goal is to fill the white squares with letters, forming words or phrases, by solving clues which lead to the answers. The black squares are used to separate the words or phrases. Squares in which answers begin are usually numbered. The clues are then referred to by these numbers and a direction, for example, "4-Across" or "29-Down"

Cryptic Crossword

A cryptic crossword is one of the most challenging types of word puzzles. It has the basic structure of a regular crossword puzzle, but each clue is a word puzzle in itself. For instance, a clue in a cryptic might read: 15D Very sad unfinished story about rising smoke (8). The solution is obviously TRAGICAL ... here's how you know:

  • 15D means that it's the clue for 15-Down,
  • (8) means that there are 8 letters in the answer,
  • Very sad is the definition of the word,
  • unfinished story is tale without the e, or tal,
  • smoke is a cigar, and since this is a down clue, rising means to read it upwards, or backwards, giving ragic,
  • about means that the letters tal from the first part of the clue are outside the letters in ragic, giving t-ragic-al, or tragical.

(I know you figured it out right away, but I had to look that answer up.)


Even the most avid puzzle-headed weenies get stuck sometimes. Here's some resources that such folks use to break through those roadblocks. This is far from an exhaustive list, but it should be a good basis to get you unstuck and on your way to the solution.

  • Merriam-Webster's Dictionary - A great resource for words, offering an online word lookup (including pattern matching) and thesaurus.
  • One Across - A great tool for solving crossword puzzles. It can search for answers based upon either words, word patterns, or the clues themselves. Can also help with anagrams, cryptograms, and general word lookup.
  • The National Puzzlers League - The web site of the nation's biggest and oldest collection of puzzle heads. Contains word lists, solving tools, and all sorts of other goodies.
  • I, Rearrangement Servant (Internet Anagram Server) - Give it a word or phrase, and it'll spit out more anagrams than you can possibly imagine.


Exercise 4: It's Alive!

Also available in these formats: PUZ or PDF

NOTE: The PUZ format requires Across Lite to view it.

Across Down
1 Did lunch
4 Poker prize
7 Sunburn soother
11 Man Ray's genre
15 "The Joy Luck Club" author
16 ___ out a living
17 Toll road
18 Israeli airline
19 Stashed a cache
20 Sermon subject
21 Fringe benefit
22 Cooped (up)
23 Narcotic
25 Tableland
26 "__ be square" (Huey Lewis)
27 Kind of room
28 Call to Bo-peep
29 German cathedral city
30 Last three digits of latitude
35 Of the ear
36 Auth. unknown
37 Wanted-poster letters
40 Former sorority member
43 Slalom curve
44 Vacationers' stops
45 Where to find the container
50 Put
51 It's made in Japan
52 Argon, krypton, and neon
53 Summer time in Fort Lauderdale
54 Record
56 "There is no rose of such ___"
58 Last three digits of longitude
63 Harsh
66 Rapture
67 Nettle
68 Kind of flu
69 Not nerdy
71 Oust
73 One way to stand
74 Henry VIII's sixth
75 Detergent brand
76 Dorothy Parker quality
77 Eric of Monty Python
78 "Heavens to Betsy!"
79 Grazing pasture
80 Wind dir.
81 Close by
82 Hair goops
83 Bell and Barker
84 Hobart Muddy or Acqua del Piatto Merlot, e.g.
1 Way to make yourself
2 Chiang Kai-shek's capital
3 Cliff hanger, e.g.
4 Pain in the neck
5 Dust Bowl refugee
6 Sawbuck
7 Materialize
8 Commits perjury
9 Gumbo vegetable
10 Comics shriek
11 Portray
12 First Hebrew letter
13 "The Divine Comedy" poet
14 Good Eats host
24 Red-faced
25 Handle roughly
26 Chemistry Nobelist Otto
28 Vamp's accessory
29 Back then
31 Chicken of the sea
32 Where boys will be boys
33 Point in the right direction?
34 M.I.T. part: Abbr.
37 Sugar bowl marchers
38 Joint with a cap
39 Egyptian snakes
40 Ready and willing's partner
41 Pb
42 The U of "Law & Order: SVU"
43 Many moons
44 Publishers
46 Hoopla
47 Existed
48 Shrek or Fiona
49 Gym equipment
54 Beach bird
55 ___ Maria
56 Six-stringed instrument
57 Wrigley Field flora
58 Undercoat
59 Scandinavian inlets
60 Observer
61 "Seinfeld" gal
62 Caught
63 Lustrous fabric
64 Give the slip
65 Fancy home
69 Hamster's home
70 Kind of exam
71 Waste product
72 Those opposed
74 Dowel
75 Freddy Krueger's street

There's an acrostic puzzle in South Florida ... check out Mt Mitchell Bound.

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

[Puzzle] Vs lbh trg fghpx, purpx jvgu Tbbtyr, Jvxvcrqvn, naq Bar Npebff
[Cache] Frr 30-Npebff, 45-Npebff, naq 58-Npebff

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)



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Last Updated: on 5/16/2015 11:55:38 PM Pacific Daylight Time (6:55 AM GMT)
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Coordinates are in the WGS84 datum