I haven’t met many puzzle constructors who don’t want their puzzles to be solved.Â Yes, there may be a few sadistic souls out there who revel in creating impossibly obscure puzzles.Â But most of us are like authors or directors – we’ve poured our creative energies into something, and once it’s finished we want people to enjoy it.
I have a number of geocaches published in New York City, some of them traditional (coordinates posted on the geocaching.com site) and some of them puzzles (to be solved before the location is revealed).Â It’s not hard to notice how much less attention the geo-puzzles receive.Â In 2007 I published two caches in Central Park, less than half a mile apart.Â One is a puzzle that has been found 4 times in the last six months.Â The other is a traditional that has been found 316 times in the same time frame.
I talked about it with another local constructor in the area, childofatom.Â How can we change this?Â What could we as puzzle creators do to interest more people in solving puzzles?
We talked about borrowing the Puzzle Solving 101 concept.Â We talked about hosting an educational seminar for new solvers.Â Finally we took a cue from the growing popularity of Pathtags and batted around the idea of creating a special solver tag, available only to cachers who solve a number of the areaâ€™s geo-puzzles.Â Pathtags are custom metal coins that can be collected and traded, and tracked online.Â Theyâ€™re similar to geocoins, but smaller (about the size of a quarter) and (importantly) much cheaper to produce.
We collected some of the best geo-puzzles in New York into a bookmark list of â€œDastardly Puzzle Cachesâ€.Â We hashed out a â€œDastardlyâ€ design and minted it in two finishes.Â There were just over 30 puzzles, so we decided that one tag would be earned for solving 15, and another tag for hitting 30.Â We picked out a pub and a date two weeks in the future.Â We generated a list of people who had solved at least a handful of them and sent out an email telling folks when and where weâ€™d be, and that weâ€™d be handing out tags to any qualified solvers.
Then we sat back.
And watched the â€œGreat Puzzle Solving Flood of 2010â€ start to roll in.
In the two weeks before we sent out our email, the Dastardly puzzles on our list collected a grand total of 16 finds between them.Â In the two weeks afterward? Â Over 100! Â When we showed up to the pub it was crowded with eager geo-puzzle solvers happily introducing themselves to each other and swapping hints.Â We quickly handed out tags and joined in the conversation.Â One geocacher had published a puzzle that morning in honor of the gathering, using the pubâ€™s coordinates as a starting point; another resolved to start writing his first NYC puzzle cache as soon as he got home.Â We all promised to have another gathering soon where we could hand out more tags to people who had leveled up in that time.
The tags have created a spark in our community, and weâ€™re building on it.Â Interested in seeing if it might build interest in puzzles in your area?Â Feel free to contact me through my geocaching.com profile and let us know if youâ€™d like to adapt the tag design â€“ there could easily be a whole series of â€œDastardlyâ€ pathtags representing different puzzle communities all around the country (or around the world).