Puzzleheads of the World (and Everyone Else Watching This Cache):
Until now, I have remained silent about the nature of the solution to this cache. Many, many of you have been asking for hints and have been looking for clues and hidden meaning in my responses. Trust me – you have often made it challenging to craft a response that didn’t give something away!
Zero people have solved the Treasure Hunt so far, but that fact makes this puzzle no different than many other well-known unsolved puzzles. Perhaps this one will be counted among them some day.
Exactly eighteen months ago today, this cache was published. The genesis of this cache was my desire to follow my Puzzle Solving 101 series with another series (I’d already chosen a name: “PS201 - Grad School”). But as I experimented with various puzzle designs, I concluded that one really tough puzzle would be a more fitting test of your mad puzzle-solving skillz than another series.
Now that this puzzle has been published, it’s interesting to see all of the solutions that you’ve proposed. A healthy number of you are on the right path, more so than I expected. In fact, some of the ideas you’ve submitted as potential solutions would make excellent designs for future puzzles.
Cachers interested in this puzzle may remember my “Safari Utopia, Yokel Reality” cache. When I first published that puzzle, I thought it would be weeks before it was solved … but it was found the very next morning by a two-person team of geocachers, one local and one not.
Reasoning that I clearly had underestimated the puzzle-solving skills of the geocaching community, I specifically designed this one to be very unlikely (but certainly not impossible) for one person operating alone to crack. If you’re trying to solve this one solo, I strongly suggest you expand your chances for success by connecting with other people, especially those with complementary skill sets to your own. I would recommend starting with the people who have posted log entries here.
You have collectively discovered all of the pieces that are necessary to unlock stage one of this puzzle. Seriously. I know this from the emails you’ve sent me showing me your homework and asking for validation. There is no stone unturned, and there is no critical piece of information you’ve missed. You have discovered (and even generated) an awful lot of noise, though ... and separating the signal from the noise is what the toughest puzzles are all about.
Please believe me – this puzzle really can be solved (I re-confirmed that fact last night and this morning by solving it from scratch). In fact, some of you have come so tantalizingly close to the stage one solution that when you finally solve it, you’ll be amazed you didn’t discover it sooner. Dig around inside your puzzle-solving toolbox, pull out Occam’s Razor, and don’t forget to use it regularly.
The biggest challenge in constructing a puzzle – especially a difficult one – is testing it. Everyone you ask to test it is someone who is no longer available to solve it. The more difficult the puzzle, the fewer people there are who are likely to be able to crack it … and those are the people you’re trying to reward by creating the puzzle in the first place. So by throwing a toughie out there untested, I knew I was running the risk of making it too difficult.
I, like all other puzzle constructors, really do want my puzzles to be solved, which is why I’ve decided to give you a hint. Hopefully it will be a gentle nudge in the right direction to those who are already close to the solution ... my goal is to reward the diligent and not open up a flood of easy finds.
One last comment: although I’m really intrigued by one of your lines of reasoning, the solution to this puzzle has absolutely nothing to do with my mother. I’m sure she would be amused to learn that you thought it did.
Now go find it! -eP