This is the first in a series of caches that we hope will help cachers learn some of the tricks to solving puzzle caches. Although experienced puzzle solvers can jump in at any point in the series, each successive lesson is meant to build on concepts that were demonstrated in the previous caches. The first cache in the series contains some background information on puzzle caches as well as a link to the tools we use when solving puzzle caches.
This series is not meant to be an "end all" on how to solve every puzzle cache that exists. It is only a starting point on what to look for when you see a puzzle cache. If you go through this series, you should be able to solve most puzzle caches that have a difficult of 3 stars or less. If we gave away all our secrets, then we wouldn't have anything to do but put out lamp post caches.
This series of caches contains the following caches
Alert: There are downloadable files in our toolbox and printable copies (PDF) of the puzzles for the caches in this series. These files are not required to solve the puzzles, although they may be useful to you for both this cache series and other puzzle caches you solve. As the cache owner, I represent that these files are safe to download although they have not been checked by Groundspeak or by the reviewer for possible malicious content. Download these files at your own risk.
Did you know that within 30 miles of the center of Las Vegas (technically the intersection of Charleston and Main) there are nearly 300 puzzle caches?
Brenda and I have solved more than half of them and when we go out to retrieve them we usually see the same signatures in the logs, but are missing many of the signatures we see in the traditional caches. Is it because many Vegas cachers don’t like puzzles or did they try one and thought it was too hard to solve, so now they just ignore all of them?
About a year ago, Allyn56 and MillerDude hosted the Geocaching 101/102 event that had an hour’s worth of instruction on solving puzzle caches. It looked like it was a lot of fun, but unfortunately we weren’t able to attend due to other commitments. Even though the event has been archived, it’s still available for viewing and you can download their slide deck in .pdf format.
Quite a few cities have a series of caches to help both new and experienced cachers learn the ins and outs of solving puzzle caches. We thought it would be fun to try the same thing here in Las Vegas and borrowed ideas from these various cache series.
We’ll start with some easy puzzles and work our way up the difficulty ladder. Experienced puzzle solvers may find some of these puzzles easier than what we have them rated as, but a puzzle’s rating is somewhat subjective. We’ve completed both difficulty 4.5 and 5 puzzle caches that we both thought should have been rated as a 2. We’ve also completed a few 1.5 puzzles that we thought could have been rated higher. We guess it just depends on how your brain works jumping from one point to another.
Some things to help you with puzzles:
Put together a collection of tools that will help you solve puzzle caches. Here are some of the tools we use: Bob & Brenda's Toolbox
Don't be afraid to ask the hider for some additional hints or help with the puzzle. We want you to find our caches and don't mind providing additional assistance. However, if a cache has not been found yet, we might not provide as much help or information as we would if the FTF has already been claimed.
Probably the easiest type of puzzle cache is one where you visit two or more traditional caches to obtain coordinates for the final location. For many of these, the actual “puzzle” difficulty is a 1 or 1.5. The cache difficulty may be higher because of the hide itself. These can be straight forward coordinates or you may need to apply sequencing or other logic to the numbers obtained to arrive at the final coordinates. Every year, Clay4 and whtwolfden host the Annual Las Vegas Geo-Poker Run. If you haven’t attended one of these events you’re missing a great day of caching and entertainment. Since their event usually contains at least one of this type of puzzle cache, we’ll forego demonstrating this type of hide and let you experience some of their hides from the 2013 event:
Log It + A Reflection of the Past = Desert Poker!
Hanging Around at the Corral + Power Caching? = Rocky Gap
North Minutes = 13
When beginning to solve a puzzle cache, always start with what you know. Two things here in the Las Vegas valley are pretty set in stone:
1. Most caches will be either 35 or 36 degrees north and 114 or 115 degrees west and should contain 15 characters. If your hypothesis gives results outside of this range, then the hider used a different waypoint conversion such as
Decimal Degrees (36.23307 -115.25948)
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds (N 36° 13' 59.04" W 115° 15' 34.14")
UTM (11S E 656413 N 4011204)
or you’re probably on the wrong track.
2. Newer puzzle caches are supposed to have their posted coordinates within 2 miles of the final location. There are some grandfathered caches here in town that are 20 miles away, but those are few and far between. Use Google Earth or some other mapping program that will draw a 2 mile circle around the posted coordinates and see if your guesses fall within that area.
One final note: We’ve tested these techniques using the following browsers: Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox. If you use a different browser, it may use different keystrokes or menu options. If only one command is listed, it is the same for all three browsers.
So, enough of the preamble….let’s get on with this cache!
We’re sure that each puzzle cacher has their own strategies for how to start solving a puzzle cache. For us, the first thing we do if there isn't an obvious puzzle on the page is to look for hidden coordinates or other information on the web page. There are many places to hide information on the cache listing. Some are in plain sight (sort of), while others may require a bit of digging.
A. Hiding in Plain Sight
Read the cache description carefully. Look for words that may indicate a part of a coordinate such as North and West. Once you see those, look for numbers that may follow. For this cache, we’ll use the following example:
To get to the lowest elevation cache in the United States, drive west from Las Vegas to Death Valley. However, beware because this is the hottest location in the United States. Each August the temperature reaches an average of 115 degrees. If you want to run the ET Highway cache series, you should head north to Rachel, Nevada. This series can be done year round because the average temperature falls within a 36 degree range with the low point being the freezing point of water.
Are there any hyperlinks in the cache listing that take you to another location? As IT professionals, Brenda and I don’t recommend just clicking on any link on a web page, but links on cache pages are normally safe. Remember that links can be normal links such as this or a picture can be a link as well.
Links such as these are rather easy..Others can be a bit more difficult to find. Unless you’ve solved a few puzzle caches before, you probably didn’t realize that there have been four hyperlinks so far in this paragraph. You could spend a lot of time moving your mouse over the entire paragraph, but it’s a lot easier to find links (both the obvious and the obscured) by viewing the pages source code. We’ll cover the two missing links in section D.
C. White Text
There are many caches in town that hide coordinates, parts of coordinates, or additional hints in white text on the page. The easiest way to find this information is to press Ctrl-A which will select all the information on the screen. The hidden text is a bit easier to pick out using Internet Explorer as you can see by the two examples shown below. The view using Internet Explorer is on top and the Chrome and Firefox view is on the bottom.
Try it with this web page to find one of the hidden parts to the final coordinates of this puzzle.
D. Cache Listing Source Code
Another good place to hide coordinate information is in the source code of the cache listing. To display the caches source code, right click on the cache page and select view source. Press Ctrl-F (Find) to search for text on the screen. Search for “usersupplied”. This will be the beginning of the information that the puzzle cacher entered when creating the listing on geocaching.com. Look for comments. These are lines that begin with <!-- and end with -->. When viewing the source using any of the three browsers, comments are displayed in green.
Try it with this web page to find more coordinates to this puzzle.
As we mentioned in section B, hyperlinks can be obscured so they’re not obviously seen when viewing a web page. While viewing the source code, look for the text href=. This is the HTML attribute that designates the destination of a hyperlink. When viewing the source code with Chrome, clicking the link will take you to the web page. Firefox and IE users will need to copy and paste the link into their browsers address bar. Hyperlinks can also be hidden inside of comments in the source code. Be sure to check out all the comments that the hider included in their listing. You never know which one may provide that vital clue that will help you solve the riddle.
Use this method to try finding the two missing hyperlinks from section B if you haven’t found them yet.
There are lots of other ways of hiding information in the listing’s source code. While you’re looking at a cache’s source code, keep an eye out for anything that looks like it may be a part of a coordinate.
E. Text Fonts, Colors and Paragraphs
Some caches will use varying font sizes, colors or typefaces to provide information about the cache. Does the cache listing use any of these? Do the first or last letters of each line, sentence or paragraph spell any words?
Here are two paragraphs that will provide more information to find this cache. It uses a combination of these techniques.
Pink Floyd were an English rock band that achieved international acclaim with their progressive and psychedelic music. Distinguished by their use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, and elaborate live shows, they are one of the most commercially successful and musically influential groups in the history of popular music.
Founded in 1965, the band originally consisted of students Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright. They first gained popularity performing in London's underground music scene during the late 1960s, and under Barrett's creative leadership they released two charting singles and a successful debut album. David Gilmour joined as the fifth member in December 1967, and Barrett left the band in April 1968 due to his deteriorating mental health. After Barrett's departure, Waters became their primary songwriter and lyricist. Pink Floyd achieved critical and commercial success with the concept albums The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), The Wall (1979) and The Final Cut (1983) which wasn’t nearly as good as some critics claimed.
Although we’ll cover more advanced picture topics in later cache lessons, a quick thing to check for are the names of the files for pictures and any alternate or title text. The name of the file can be found by looking at the source code. Search through the UserSuppliedContent section of the listing for this HTML tag: <img src=. This is the file name of the picture and where your browser retrieved it from. If the source is img.geocaching.com, then file name probably isn’t relevant because it was randomly generated by geocaching.com when the picture was uploaded to their server.
Title text appears when you hover your mouse over a picture on the screen. Internet Explorer prior to version 9 would incorrectly display the alternate text when this was done.
Use the information supplied in this section to get some more coordinates for this cache.
G. Less Common Places
Other places that coordinates can be hidden on a cache listing could be:
• The background image – search the source code for background= and see if there is anything there that looks like a coordinate or part of one.
• Other images in the gallery
• The cache title – any strange capitalizations there?
• Cache attributes – we haven’t seen any that hide information in the attributes, but anywhere the hider can select information, he can put clues or info.
• Cache logs
• Travel Bugs/Geocoins – are any listed for the cache? Use all the information you’ve learned above to check the trackable’s page as well. We have found at least one cache here in Las Vegas where some of the coordinates were hidden on a travel bug page.
• The hider’s profile – Lots of places to hide information here. As a matter of fact, that’s where the final missing numbers for this cache are located. Look through our public profile and you’ll find the final missing numbers