A sample workflow - (work in progress)
This is an example of a workflow you could follow to solve puzzle caches. I am not claiming it is exhaustive / perfect, but it has worked over 600 times for me (when I remember to use it)!!! You can obviously change the order, I have just laid this out in a logical order starting at the top of the cache page.
- Look at the name of the cache - often a clue to solving the cache.
- Look at the name of the person who set it - is it their normal name or are they using a pseudonym, which may be a clue? If it is a pseudonym click on the link to see to whom it leads. You will begin to recognise who sets easy puzzles and who sets fiendish ones and this will help dictate the range of techniques you will need.
- Look at the difficulty - so you have an idea how tricky it is going to be. Anything less than 3 is unlikely to involve anything difficult.
- Look at the location of the dummy coords - do they give you a hint? E.g. if they point at Centre Court, Wimbledon it is probably a puzzle to do with tennis!
- Look at the date published - might be significant, especially if it is a date in the past.
- Look at the GC number - the CO can't choose this, but he can set a puzzle based on it.
- Click on the Related Web Page link.
- Look at the hint.
- Is there a geocheck / geochecker? If yes (and the difficulty is low) try the dummy coordinates.
- Look at the attributes - anything strange?
- Select all the text on the page to see if there is any hidden text.
- Look at the source of the cache page to see if there is any hidden html.
- Look at the source of the cache page to see if there is a background photo. If there is, use the techniques described on this site in Image Puzzles to look at it.
- If the cache looks straight forward, then start using Google / cipher tools or whatever to try and solve it. If the cache is not throwing up anything obvious for you to attack, then start the next series of peeling back the layers.
- If there is a geocheck/gechecker look at the source of the cache page to see if the link is normal or whether it is pointing at some other place.
- Look at past trackables / TBs - any that haven't travelled or belong to the CO? If so look at them closely and check for hidden text, hidden html.
- Look at the bookmark lists - any belonging to the CO? If so, look at them carefully and check for hidden text / hidden html.
- Look at the photo gallery - any belonging to the CO?
- Download the GPX file and open it in Notepad - you can hide stuff in logs that doesn't appear on the cache page, but is in the GPX file. Look at this GPX file in GSAK as well - it shows more.
- Go into Google Maps or Google Earth and look at the location of the dummy coords. Have a look around using Streetview. Are there any photos taken nearby? If so, were any taken by the CO?
Sometimes, you've done all that and you can't get the last one or two numbers. Here is a handy tool, which plots out all the possible answers for you based on the numbers you have so far. Unfortunately it doesn't work properly for W000, so I have written to the owner. The site contains many other useful tools for coord conversion, projection, intersection, ciphers etc.