Puzzle Box Opens!

Posted on February 21st, 2010 at 11:11 pm by


Hurrah! I’m very pleased to announce the first ever successful opening of a Reverse Geocache™ Puzzle Box. (If you don’t know what a Reverse Geocache is, you should read this first.) The event occurred Saturday night, January 30th, in Austin, Texas, USA.

Alas, it wasn’t the famous box that opened – that one is still sitting sadly on a Parisian bookshelf, waiting patiently for its newlywed owners to transport it to their romantic island. No, the box that was solved is the black floral-patterned one from a brand new collection of prototypes I’ve recently constructed. These new models have features that improve on the original without damaging its charm or mystique.

The "Black Floral" prototype box

The "Black Floral" prototype box

The new designs sport a discreet USB connector that provides the emergency “back door” access – for those that know the secret password. As the owner, you can open and close the box to your heart’s content and program your own destinations. When your recipient finishes his/her puzzle box adventure, you lock up a new “treasure” and begin another!

I was privileged to be in attendance at the big event, and when that little internal motor whirred to announce the opening, the car erupted with cheers. The experience taught me something interesting. I learned that besides hobbyists, geocachers, romantics, puzzle collectors, and artsy geeks, another population thinks puzzle boxing is pretty fun – kids!

The claimants to the title are in fact children — our two and one of their school friends. Here’s what happened.

I sealed a $20 bill in the “Black Floral” and programmed it to open at P. Terry’s, a slightly chic burger joint not too far from our house – 1.71 miles, in fact, according to the blue display. I modified the greeting to read “Your/dinner/is in/the box!” – customizing messages is another thing the owner can do – and handed it without a word of explanation to my 11-year-old son.

P. Terry's

P. Terry's

Well, my kids know what to do with a puzzle box, and soon a van full of youngsters was motoring about town hunting for their supper, yours truly acting as silent chauffeur. As we drove, I discovered that young folks take a vastly different approach to solving this kind of puzzle. Most of my adult readers like drawing circles on maps and performing calculations vaguely suggestive of what we call trilateration, but kids seem to have little patience for pencils and compasses. They prefer to just drive, drive, drive – repeatedly pressing the button and changing course when the distances start increasing. This semi-random-walk technique can quickly get you stuck on a dead-end street in the “wrong” part of town, but I have to say it’s no less exciting than the scientific approach.

After a few faulty turns and considerable head scratching, they finally found their dinner. At one point in the adventure we actually stopped at a light immediately opposite P. Terry’s. I thought the gig was surely up, but even though the display read “Distance 163 feet” – just barely outside the 150 foot radius I had set – the kids still managed to fritter away 20 more hungry minutes navigating a parking lot half a mile further down William Cannon Drive.

Now that I’ve experienced the dual joys of building and delivering Reverse Geocache Puzzles, it’s very nice to actually get to play with them. Today my little nephew Nate was looking a bit forlorn, so I put a tiny toy in one of the small maple boxes and sent him on his own private mission. To boost his spirits I personalized his name into the greeting – “Hi Nate!/ Can you/open the/box..?”. He’s not yet eight, so I just sent him to a neighbor’s house about 600 feet away. When after a few minutes he came trotting back, Piglet style, “his” box open and treasure in hand, the smile on his face belied his happiness.

The Reverse Geocache continues to prove an interesting little puzzle with broad appeal. Whether it’s a romantic engagement-ring trek to the summit of the Matterhorn or a little kid’s 20-minute “adventure” down the street, solving one is a rich and joyful experience.