Making Your Failed Solve a Winner…

by FMC


You’ve spent hours upon hours thinking about the poem, scouring Google Earth, and doing your research. You’ve likely spent hundreds (or thousands) of dollars and time away from work and/or family to put BOTG in your search area. And now you’re back from your 1st or 2nd (or 15th) trip and you’ve decided that your solve is a bust. Now what?

Complete solves (those where each clue has a reasonable interpretation and where the clues work together to take you to a relatively small search area) are inherently personal given the time, money, and effort that go into them. And admitting to the world that yours was wrong can be hard for anyone. No one likes to admit failure. But I challenge you to change your way of thinking about these failed solves. Don’t think of it in terms of having to admit failure. Think of it as an opportunity to share the brilliance, creativity, and hard work that led you to put BOTG in the first place. Focus on the journey, not the destination. And this guide will (hopefully) help you get the most out of that journey and make your big reveal the best it can be.

Excitement about your solve prior to putting BOTG is a wonderful thing.  Specific details are almost always closely guarded, but a searcher’s confidence tends to make itself known.  Which leads me to my favorite Chinese proverb:

You were confident in your solve and for whatever reason, your solve didn’t pan out. Own that pre-BOTG confidence and commit to sharing your solve.  It may take some time to find the right pictures and write it up, but your solve deserves to be shared.

Sample Structure

The outline of your solve is up to you, but if you’re struggling with where to start or what to include, the following are a couple things to consider.

Your backstory with the Chase – How did you first hear about the Chase? Is this your first BOTG?  How many times have you read the books?  Do you consider yourself a hardcore searcher or is the Chase something you do while you’re also travelling to fish or hike?

Your initial thought process – What led you to your solve?  Was there a Eureka moment where something clicked reading the poem?  Was there something that immediately jumped in your head when you first heard about the Chase in terms of a specific clue?  Did something in the books resonate with you?

Solve walk through – This is the crux of your solve write-up.  I suggest going through each clue line by line with your reasoning/interpretation below each, along with any visual aids/extras that make your solve easier to understand, whether that’s maps, quotes from your internet research, etc.

Your BOTG trip – Where did you go and what did you do?  Did your solve plan play out as you expected it to or did you encounter any unexpected challenges?  Were you able to get to your search area and what is your takeaway from your BOTG trip (i.e. solve is eliminated because you searched everywhere and didn’t find it, solve is eliminated because it’s too impossible to get to your search area, the terrain made you question whether FF could have made two trips to the search area, etc.)

Making it Interesting

Have a good title – Why should a newcomer to the site click on your solve instead of any of the others posted here?  Reference where you went or your methodology (but in an unusual way) or make a joke… anything to stand out from the pack. Some examples of (IMO) good titles from the Others Adventures page:

Not Another Rio Grande Solve!

A (partial) knowledge of Geometry…

The Trouble with Confidence

Pictures – Everyone knows the old saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words… so use pictures.  Even the best of us at describing the dirt trail above the river, surrounded by pine tree covered rolling hills won’t have the same impact as this will:

Maps and Google Earth images (with or without MSPaint illustrations) are also good ways to complement your written descriptions your solve/clue interpretations.

Add in some non-Chase content – While most people are going to primarily be interested in your solve, the overall entertainment value of your write-up can be enhanced by adding in other interesting things from your BOTG trip.  Did you try your first rattlesnake jerky?  Did you go on a whitewater rafting trip?  Did you catch the biggest fish of your life?  Did you see a moose?  Do you have anything that those of us reading your solve in our cubicles or in line at the grocery store or anywhere else not very exciting will read and think “That sounds awesome – I’m jealous of this person’s adventure”?  Put it in.

So maybe you had a solve and put BOTG earlier this year… any chance I’ve inspired you to write-it up and send it to Dal?  If so, great.  If not, that’s okay too (I guess).  While I encourage everyone to write up their failed solves and BOTG trips, part of the fun (at least for me) in the downtime between trips is thinking about how I’ll share the next one with those on this site and what the reaction will be.  Keep this post in mind if you do the same.

by FMC-