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Tip of the Day 11/5:Puzzle caches —ciphers

Find It Friday is taking a turn for the puzzling the next few weeks. We’ve heard from a lot of cachers that they don’t even try puzzle caches because they just don’t know where to start. We’re here to help,as always! We found a great resource on the Geocaching NSW site and Darren Osborne has agreed to let us share it with you.

Not all puzzles will solve as numbers. Some spell out the coordinates as words,such as ‘south three three …’or ‘south thirty-three’,or provide other clues – ‘next to the trig point’.

Ciphers have been used to hide text for thousands of years. In fact the hints that are typically shown on geocache listing pages use the ROT 13 or Caesar shift-13 cipher. Other substitution ciphers include:substitution,pigpen or Masonic,and Vignette.

ROT 13 cipher

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
NOPQRSTUVWXYZABCDEFGHIJKLM

Caesar shift-5

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
FGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZABCDE

Pigpen cipher

pigpen

The first step to solving these ciphers is to use a technique known as frequency analysis. This involves looking at which letters,or combinations of letters,appear most frequently. For example,the letter E is the most commonly used letter in the English alphabet. If the letter J appears most often in the ciphered text,then you maybe able to assume that J represents E and the cipher could be a Caesar shift-5.

Also look for common combinations that look like THE,THREE,and AND. Other patterns include

  • The two Es in the word THREE
  • SEVEN and SEVENTY repeats E in the 2nd and 4th positions
  • COORDINATES is a relatively long 11 letter word that shows up surprisingly often in geocache ciphers and it has O repeated in the 2nd and 3rd positions so it can be easy to spot.

Look at the end for a list of useful websites to assist in deciphering techniques.

Examples:

UQWVJ VJKTVA VJTGG HQTVA UGXGP RQKPV VYQ PKPG QPG GCUV QPG JWPFTGF HKHVA QPG VYQ RQKPV PKPG UGXGP UGXGP

8-1 4-2 3-2 2-3 2-1 2-3 4-2 3-2 4-3 7-4 8-2 6-2 3-1 3-2 7-3 8-1 4-2 3-2 7-3 6-3 2-3 5-2

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Thanks so much to Darren Osborne of Geocaching NSW for these helpful hints about puzzle caches!

If you’ve got a tip on how you start to solve puzzle caches,please share it by commenting on this post.


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