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Puzzle Solving 101 - The Final Exam Mystery Cache

Hidden : 10/26/2007
5 out of 5
2 out of 5

Size: Size:   regular (regular)

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Geocache Description:

About This Cache

The puzzles in this mystery cache will help you build your puzzle-solving skills. It consists of a series of nine lessons followed by a final exam. Each focuses on a specific skill, provides examples of how to use that skill, and ends with an exercise to test that skill. Study the lesson and complete the exercise to find one of nine clues you'll need to complete the Final Exam.

The difficulty in this puzzle lies in the amount of effort needed to complete the exam, not in the complexity of the puzzles along the way. If you've pay attention to the lessons in this series, you should have no trouble passing the test. Don't be afraid to try anything you've learned.

If you can find this cache, then you truly have the skills to go find any other puzzle cache out there!

Historical Note

This cache used to be the final cache in the Puzzle Solving 101 Series of geocaches. The first nine caches were spread out across Broward County, Florida, and the solution of each puzzle directly related to the location where it was hidden.

Unfortunately as time passed, some of those locations changed considerably - in one case, the original hiding spot completely disappeared.

To preserve the lessons and puzzles as well as simplify this cache, I've archived the first nine caches and moved all of their exercises into a single standalone puzzle collection here. You no longer need to visit the nine caches to collect the clues - you can find virtual copies of those exact same clues within the collection.

Even though the old caches are archived, you can still read and study them via the links in the table below. If you've already solved them, the solutions to those exercises are exactly the same as the new versions of those exercises here.

There are only two differences between the puzzles in the nine cache pages and the ones on the new site. Exercise 2 has been rewritten completely to work as a paper-and-pencil puzzle. Exercise 5 now requires you to be more precise with your answer than you had to be before (details are on its puzzle page).

Note for Remote Solvers

To give remote solvers a chance to record a long-distance find here, I have placed the Puzzle Solving 101 Remote Solver TB into this cache. This is a virtual travel bug - it does not physically reside in the cache. On the last puzzle of the Final Exam, you will be asked to verify your solution to the final puzzle. If your verification is correct, you will be given the tracking number to log a find on the TB.

The Exercises

In each row of the table below is a link to the lesson on the Original Cache Page as well as to an exercise on the New Puzzle Page. When you've finished studying the lesson, click on the puzzle link to complete the exercise.

At the bottom of each exercise is a link to the clue for the Final Exam. To unlock the clue, use the solution to the exercise as the password. Details on how to do this are on the bottom of each puzzle page.

Original Cache Page New Puzzle Page
Lesson 1: Strategy Exercise 1: No Whining
Lesson 2: Tactics Exercise 2: Basic Training
Lesson 3: Trivia Exercise 3: Knowledge Is Power
Lesson 4: Wordplay Exercise 4: It's Alive!
Lesson 5: Mathematics Exercise 5: A Rhind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Lesson 6: Logic Problems Exercise 6: Smorgasbord Game
Lesson 7: Cryptography Exercise 7: Embassy Sweets
Lesson 8: Steganography Exercise 8: Dr. Spock's Backup Band
Lesson 9: Lateral Thinking Exercise 9: His Birds Tore Us Apart


The Final Exam

Click here to begin the Final Exam.

Your diploma is in the cache, along with your graduation present.

The Dean's List

The first rule of Dean's List is: You do not talk about Dean's List.

The second rule of Dean's List is: YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT DEAN'S LIST!

Lamp Skirt Micros 101 - The Final Exam

On April Fool's Day 2009, the Puzzle Solving 101 Final Exam was mysteriously decommissioned and replaced with the Lamp Skirt Micros 101 Final Exam. Thanks to everyone who joined in the fun! If you want to see how the LSM101 Final Exam page looked that day, click here.

Honorable Mention: Congratulations to WINSLMA for being the first to find the hidden Easter Egg in the LSM101 Final Exam!

The PS101 Caching Network

Several individuals appreciated this puzzle cache series so much that they decided to bring it to their hometowns. If you aren't going to be in South Florida any time soon but might be in the vicinity of some of these caches, stop by and log a find! And please let me know if you hide a similar cache so that I can add yours to this list.

The PS101 Caching Network Bookmark List

Thanks a ton to Urubu, Cow Spots, Lj&Co, and Col Mustard for doing the beta-testing of the puzzles in this cache.

When you've finished this series, check out the sequel! It's called Geodyssey, and it's a puzzlehunt with a geocaching twist.

If you like this cache, you'll love my blog for puzzle lovers. Check it out at

The design of this cache was inspired by Riff's Second Annual Puzzle Contest, in which I tried to compete and failed miserably. (I solved the maze in #3 but got stuck along with everyone else on #4.) A summary of the solutions to the puzzles in that contest is here.

The design of this series was also inspired by the cache A Criminal Education (GC10GW1).

If this cache was too easy for you, perhaps you're ready for something more challenging.

In June 2008, I began working for an employer whose office is located reasonably close to the Final Exam. If you plan to visit the final around lunchtime on a work day and would like to meet up for lunch after your visit, send me a message. There's lots of good places to eat nearby.

If you've solved all of the puzzles in the PS101 series and you're in the vicinity of Charlotte NC, you've got all the information you need to find this cache. If you set up a similar cache in your own hometown, let me know so I can list it here.

On May 17, 2009, the PS101 series got a mention on the PodCacher podcast. Whoo-hoo!

This series was named the Geocaching Puzzle of the Day for Friday, May 20, 2011.

Click here to watch a short video I made that tells the story of the Puzzle Solving 101 series. I also posted the slides from that video.

The PS101 Series was featured on the YouTube Channel on Monday, November 19, 2012. The interview with me was filmed in my backyard.

Additional Hints (Decrypt)

[Puzzle] N uvag sbe gur svany chmmyr vf ninvynoyr ng gur cbfgrq pbbeqvangrf. [Container] Qba'g sbetrg gb oevat nybat lbhe bja oenvagrnfre gb nqq gb gur ybtobbx.

Decryption Key


(letter above equals below, and vice versa)