Skip to Content
Register · Login
About Theme

A Letterboxing Community

Search Edit

Read Thread: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!

Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Dec 23, 2016 11:49am
Board
I'm putting this here because for many of you this will be a stupid question. But still being somewhat new I still struggle with how to make my clues "good". There was a recent thread (somewhere here which I can't seem to re-find now) about Blue Diamond boxes. Several people mentioned that among the requirements for getting their 4-5 rating was a good clue.

I've also read other discussions on these boards about what constitutes a good clue. Sometimes even "spirited" opinions about them. The one takeaway I did glean is that they are called "clues" not "directions". That said, I live in an area that doesn't get a lot of traffic. I'm torn between giving enough info to easily find a box and making it still challenging.

In asking, I realize that I'll probably get as many different opinions as responses. Still I appreciate all input. If you are so inclined maybe include links to box clues that are good or bad examples?

Thanks
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 12:29pm
Board
The one takeaway I did glean is that they are called "clues" not "directions".

One thing: Clues tend to be less easy to follow than directions. So that beginners won't be frustrated by not being able to find any boxes at all, there should be some boxes that are directions. And so that people don't lose interest, we need stamps and boxes that are more interesting to find, whether that is above average stamps, locations or clues.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 1:00pm
Board
I'm torn between giving enough info to easily find a box and making it still challenging.

I give both directions and clues for the same letterbox. The directions are for when people are driving. I don't want people who are in control of a 2000 pound machine distracted anymore than necessary so the directions for when people are driving are clear, straightforward and require no interpretation.
Once I get people out of the car, then I can play with their brains with clues.
http://www.atlasquest.com/boxes/clue/?boxId=243254
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 1:40pm
Board
If I am going out with a friend, I like things I don't have to think about too hard while walking. I like landmarks and things I can research ahead so I don't have to think while socializing and enjoying my walk.

In general though, I think a good clue is one that teaches me or takes me someplace awesome that I wouldn't have found otherwise. I don't care if it's directions or vague clues. I just want it to be interesting to read and figure out.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 3:00pm
Board
I like a challenging clue. One that really gives you a sense of accomplishment when you find it.

An example is this one I found recently. I did some advance research on it, but it was still hard. I found 11 boxes that day, but this is the one that really stands out. The carve was amazing too, but if it had been a drive-by amazing carve I would never have rated it a five.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 3:13pm
Board
Take a look at anything by dingus dufus for examples of good clues. Some, like this one and this one (two of my favorites!!), are video clues. And they're hilarious, too!
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 3:33pm
Board
You can make mystery clues. The searcher has to figure out where to start and most of the time that requires research at home ahead of time. Once the starting place has been determined, specific directions lead to the box. See here.

Or use a puzzle or cipher.

Or follow up the letterbox with a bonus box (clue in the container). Bonus boxes are specially nice when there is extra effort involved in either solving (mystery or puzzler) or reaching (i.e. significant hike) the parent box.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 4:31pm
Board
All I can say is for the love of all that is good...

No run-on sentence clues. Some people's writing is so bad, the clues are difficult to follow. But, I don't think that's you, by the way you write!

I think it is fun if the clue is quirky and follows the theme of either the box or the location. Or both. Like a little adventure. A Choose Your Own Adventure story is a fun way to do a clue.

I like puzzles, but not if they take me days to figure out. I just don't have the patience.

I find that the mystery boxes don't get many hits. So best to at least give the city.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 4:48pm
Board
Well, I love puzzle clues, clever clues, and clues in which I can actually find the letterbox and feel that sense of accomplishment. But when thinking about your question, I decided to look at my own box ratings to see what I thought made others rank some boxes higher than others, based on the clues. So looking at my own box ratings, this is what I think others like about clue writing:

I believe my first purple diamond was received because the clues were put to the tune of a familiar song , as well as this clue in song.

I think this blue diamond was received because the clues were written like the children's picture book that the carves were based on.

A very infrequently found letterbox which received a blue diamond is because the location is hidden within the clue.

This one, I think, is more because of the amazing location, but there is a bit of a story included based on the carves. Another set of purple diamond boxes written in story form were carved by Cookie Cutter and given to me to plant at what turned out to be a perfect location for these carves.

I have several blue diamond letterboxes carved by others, planted in the same location, in which the clues are written in haiku poetry.

This former blue diamond is one of my favorite clues I've written, based on a true story.

So there you have it, based on my analysis of my own boxes. Personally, I give a high ranking based on the combination of a fantastic location, great clues, and a very good carve. Hope that offers some insight.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 5:19pm
Board
Wow, thanks for all of the helpful insights so far. It has given me a lot to think about and even more to strive for. Thanks especially to those of you that made the effort to include a link. I'm a visual learner so seeing the examples helped.

I can see the value in providing both clues and directions - kind of an equal opportunity hider. : )
Maybe I'll come up with a system to rate my own clues regarding difficulty for out of towners since they will be the lions share of searchers anyway.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939471 by Angel Winks
Dec 23, 2016 5:23pm
Board
I have several blue diamond letterboxes carved by others, planted in the same location, in which the clues are written in haiku.

I love simplicity and beauty of the haiku clue. Haiklue?
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 5:36pm
Board
My least favorite clues are ones in which the clue writer doesn't know their directions. Like it says turn left and you really should turn right or go North and you obviously can't go North.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939474 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 5:55pm
Board
Love it...haiklue! You could create an entire clue based on 2 words combined into one :). Seriously.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939469 by FloridaFour
Dec 23, 2016 6:05pm
Board
No run-on sentence clues.

To be fair, I've had these nutty devices create run-on sentences without my permission. I'll create a clue in which there are two or three words on one line, then a blank line, coupla more words, another blank line, coupla more words, etc. Then the clue ends up with all those words run together in a string, no carriage returns at all.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 6:11pm
Board
they are called "clues" not "directions".

If all we did was follow a set of clear directions to look in a bush for a letterbox, many of us would get bored with this hobby pretty soon. After you've been at it for a decade, it's difficult to remember that sense of awe when you first figured out what somebody had merely hinted at, and when you went to the spot you thought he was talking about, you found a container with a stamp and a log book inside!

I disagree with those that say some of these boxes should be easy for newbies. Ideally, they should all be challenging IMHO. I just can't always seem to rustle up enough enthusiasm to actually make them challenging; it's hard work, and I'm often too anxious to go ahead and get the box listed.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939475 by DS
Dec 23, 2016 6:16pm
Board
Unless it's supposed to be backwards.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939461 by LROSEM
Dec 23, 2016 6:17pm
Board
I try to avoid making finders count steps if at all possible. When you're counting, you can't just enjoy the walk -- although presumably you can enjoy the walk back.

I also try to avoid requiring the use of a compass. I consider having a compass -- and knowing how to use it -- de riguer for any letterboxer, but I was shocked to learn a while back that the vast majority of letterboxers don't have a compass and have no intention of getting one! We even went so far as to establish an icon here on AQ for boxes requiring a compass -- so people could avoid them! C'mon, people, a compass costs $2 at Walmart, and you can probably get one for free by downloading an app for your smartphone.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 6:39pm
Board
I like variety and creativity. Some easy, some hard. Some straight-forward and others really cryptic.

I love it when the clues reference a landmark in a weird way so at home you're going 'Huh? What could that possibly be?', but when you get there you know it when you see it. Like "the skunk on the bald man's head" (black/white striped rock on top of the round white rock).

If it's a big park, I love clues that allow me to do the box in reverse or from some other direction in case I'm juggling clues for multiple boxes. So, if you say 'turn right', it helps to add the direction (north, south...) so I can try and place it on the map before I get there. Or reference easily identifiable points on the park map, like the junction of the blue and red trail, if that is shown on a park map.

I love how graphics have been used creatively, like here: http://letterboxer2002.tripod.com/CalvinHobbes.htm .

And this may be my favorite clue ever: http://www.letterboxing.info/im/box_massasoit.jpg . It's an elegant mystery that is simple, beautiful, creative, and clever.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939482 by Kirbert
Dec 23, 2016 7:52pm
Board
I also try to avoid requiring the use of a compass. I consider having a compass -- and knowing how to use it -- de riguer for any letterboxer, but...
<snip>
C'mon, people, a compass costs $2 at Walmart, and you can probably get one for free by downloading an app for your smartphone.

These two ideas seem to be at odds with each other. Wouldn't using degree bearings in your clues encourage people to learn? Especially if your box got positive feedback or good ratings. Heck, my smartphone came with a built in compass.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 23, 2016 8:48pm
Board
I find a few issues on clues.

  1. 1, if your using natural objects like;trees, stumps, and logs, over time can be obliterated by nature, maintenance and storms adding one more log crossing the path before the one originally mentioned in the clue.
  2. 2, That snag or Woodpeckers feast, was the only one at the time but now is part of a group.
  3. 3, codes that use special winding down loads, please don't. I still can't find a Godzilla Gem in Seattle, because the his code and mine don't seam to match.
  4. 3 clues that should make sense when your on the trail, but still don't.
Even I have written bad clues.
I get hate mail, because the bench that I thought should stay in one place. Nope the park ranger moves it from time to time up and down the trail. Sorry my bad.
Follow green trail to red trail, sure you just need to keep someone at the info kiosk with a cell since no other map exists. Yep I'm sorry.
My grammar is atrocious, but then its me and some people have been getting good laughs.

I Do Love a Good Pun.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 24, 2016 3:40am
Board
and for me, a good clue doesn't tell you, in the title or the clue, what the stamp image will look like. That's part of the surprise, your reward for finding the box. Example.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939484 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 24, 2016 5:50am
Board
Your box gets no finders. That's not encouraging anyone but me to learn.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939485 by StasiaBoo
Dec 24, 2016 5:56am
Board
if your using natural objects like;trees, stumps, and logs, over time can be obliterated by nature,

Hey, I hid a box under a corner of a 10-ton boulder -- and the boulder disappeared!

I also hid a box near an old steam locomotive that had been on static display forever, there were no RR tracks within miles any more, and the steam locomotive disappeared!

SWMBO says I'm changing the world. I plant a box, and the vicinity gets all dug up and rearranged -- no matter what it is.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939485 by StasiaBoo
Dec 24, 2016 7:11am
Board
You never know what the park people will do.

I went after a series of boxes just 3 months after it was planted. The clues said to follow a trail to where it changed from paved to gravel and look for the downed tree and then some other things for the first box. The paved trail kept going on until I realized that I had gotten to a landmark for the 3rd box. Retraced my steps for quite a bit to where I could see that the sides of the paving transitioned from a little gravel and no gravel; and there was no downed tree but there was several newly cut logs down the hill to the side that I saw only because I had found the place where the transition had been. 3 months and the terrain had significantly changed.

Also I went to a park where there were several boxes down different colored trails. When i got there the trail names had changed names (except for one) and two simply were gone (that is, they were not on the new park maps at the entrance nor were the old trail heads marked). Since one was still the same I was able to guess what the other names might had been and was able to find a few of the boxes. However, since the clues started with "Find the trail head..." I couldn't even begin to find a couple of the trails nor the boxes they had down along them.

The funniest one was I went to a park, found the correct trail, got to the first box, started after the second and as I was going down the trail suddenly there was major construction. The trail simply didn't exist anymore. Trees had been removed in large areas, picnic area where being made, a road was being put in, the whole park was being redesigned at that point.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 24, 2016 7:19am
Board
That said, I live in an area that doesn't get a lot of traffic. I'm torn between giving enough info to easily find a box and making it still challenging.

I looked at some of your clues, DarkZen. They look like a nice mix of information about the area, a little guesswork, stories, and directions. :^)

If you live in an area that doesn't get a lot of traffic, there's only so much you can do to get finders. One of those things might be to host a small, informal event where you hide a few boxes, all of which involve using a compass. You could then show people how to use a compass (including the one on their phone) to find a box. It's worth a shot.

One thing I realized a while ago is that the boxes that get the most finders are the ones that involve the least amount of effort for the finder. So a drive-by box located behind a mall, with clues that basically tell someone to get out of their car and walk a few steps to the box, is going to get a lot more finders than a box that involves any thinking, walking, or driving out of the way. I prefer to plant (and find) boxes that involve hiking, so I've learned to accept that many of my favorite plants aren't going to be found very often. And that's okay, because I enjoyed planting them, and I know that the folks who look for those boxes will enjoy the hikes, too. :^)
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939453 by DarkZen and Evil Cow Pie
Dec 24, 2016 7:29am
Board
I think by now, you can tell that everyone has their own personal preferences as to how to write satisfying clues. I can tell you that I won't do mystery boxes that take me longer than an hour to figure out HOW to solve them. I use letterboxing as an incentive to get outside and walk, not sit inside for days figuring out how to solve a puzzle. That doesn't mean that I don't like any puzzles and the solutions don't have to take a couple of minutes to resolve, just that I don't want to spin my wheels trying to determine the thought process behind them. A lot of my boxes are puzzle types and I willingly give the method to solve them to those who let me know that they have at least made an attempt to do so. I am the only letterboxer in my county and I don't want to discourage anyone who might show any interest in finding my boxes but I don't want them all to be simple instructions either. My favorite of my own "mystery" boxes is Bareback, the link takes you to the clue for the location of the box. Since I am pretty sure it is missing but, of course, can't verify it, I feel comfortable telling you that it was located at our local Godiva chocolate plant. I love this clue!

Try to develop your own style, it doesn't matter to most people, really. Most of us are just happy to have boxes to find.

Jan
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939497 by Janila
Dec 24, 2016 7:33am
Board
I think by now, you can tell that everyone has their own personal preferences as to how to write satisfying clues. I can tell you that I won't do mystery boxes that take me longer than an hour to figure out HOW to solve them. I use letterboxing as an incentive to get outside and walk, not sit inside for days figuring out how to solve a puzzle.

This is pretty much how I feel, too, whereas my boxing buddy is willing to spend a lot more time working on mysteries. Letterboxing offers something for everyone!
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939497 by Janila
Dec 24, 2016 8:09am
Board
Try to develop your own style, it doesn't matter to most people, really. Most of us are just happy to have boxes to find.

Ditto!! If a 5th Grader can figure it out that's all that really matters.
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939491 by Kirbert
Dec 24, 2016 8:26am
Board
Your box gets no finders. That's not encouraging anyone but me to learn.

Hey, that's why I started this thread... I'm trying to learn!
: )
Re: Let's talk about what makes a good clue - opinions please!
Board: Stupider Questions About Letterboxing
Reply to: #939496 by Rocklun
Dec 24, 2016 8:45am
Board
Thanks for the positive feedback, Rocklun, and for taking the time to evaluate some of my clues. I know there are many variables involved such as local customs, the least of which is individual preferences. As such this thread has been very helpful in putting my finger on the pulse of the community at large regarding clue writing.

And not to dwell on the subject, but in the matter of compass use... I'm an old backpacker [well, in my younger days ;) ] and using one is second nature to me. Also, the first few boxes I found required it. So I just thought it was part of it. It hey, I'm adaptable!