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All Clued Up – 9 Clue Styles

Our Treasure Trail Writers are trained to write a mix of clues in the Treasure Trails that they create. Once the route is worked out to ensure that it takes in all the best bits of a town or village, then the next step is to craft the clues. To make a Treasure Trail fun and suitable for all the family, the clues are a mixture of some, or sometimes all, of the following types. Remember, we use permanent plaques, memorials and markers, so our clues are based around observation rather than general or prior knowledge of a place or area.

Hide and Seek

Clues are often easy to solve once you’ve found them, but can be hard to find in the first place!  A hidden clue is one that has to be searched for – amongst gravestones for example or in a mosaic or series of plaques.

Or it could be a clue such as this one “Ding dong, when you find the object that makes this sound, find a word close by that rhymes with box and note down what is immediately above it”!


There are quite often counting clues in amongst those in a Treasure Trail as well as simple additions and subtractions or even a bit of multiplication!  A favourite is to ask the clue solver to figure out how old a person was when he died! And if the plaque has the month they were born and died as well as the year, it can get quite complicated!

All Clued Up - 9 Clue Styles - searching for cluesPhysical instruction

Clues with a physical instruction are fun because even the littlest ones on the Treasure Trail can get involved. “Look for a set of railings and count the number of upright poles. Now walk that number of paces from the end and then look around to identify the name of a tree.”


Clues using anagrams are very useful for the writer when creating names of places for the map in the Treasure Hunts or names of people for the suspect gallery in the Murder Mysteries. We don’t use anagrams for the Spy Mission though because there is no way of confirming that the solver has got it right! 

Spot the Difference

Sometimes a Treasure Trail writer will take a photo of a scene or an object and then either remove from or add something to the picture. The clue solver has to stand in a certain place and compare the photo to the real thing to identify what the difference is!


Many of our Treasure Trails’ clues are easy enough to find but much harder to decode. The plaque sited on a wall with a reasonable amount of information, may give rise to a clue along the lines of “If 3/3 is beef and 12/5 is cattle, what is 7/6?”.  This is a personal favourite as I love trying to find a plaque that yields up three or four ‘matching’ words.

All Clued Up - 9 Clue Styles - here's another clue...Hidden words

We also write clues that require the solver to find the answer either within a longer word or more often than not, across two words –  A pair of pairs from 1900 is what you must track down next. One of those identified is concealing an innocent suspect’s first name. Strike her from the gallery and move on”. The answer is a girl’s name concealed in Alfred Apperly. Can you find it?

What comes next

This is a useful clue type when there is a dearth of clue material and maybe only a phone number or series of letters on a wall – the clue solver has to work out what comes next in the series. First of course, they have to find the series!

Witty Wording

Its not really cryptic but it is fun wording that will lead solver’s to find the answer to this clue. “You’ll need to ‘spring’ into action and ‘tap’ into your powers of deduction to solve this. Age has taken its toll, but the source is still visible”.  Where do you think it was located?

Which are your favourite type of clues?

2nd May 2015

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Sprinkle Some Fairy Dust! How To Write Great Clues

People love Treasure Trails because they are so much more than just a walk. They are a walk with an adventure which takes the ‘Trailer’ to places they wouldn’t normally go to and makes them find clues that will help solve an ultimate mystery.

Sprinkle Some Fairy Dust! How To Write Great Clues - I-Spy with my disproportionately magnified eye...Fun, intriguing, compulsive, clever and ultimately satisfying, a great Trail requires a good route with clear concise directions and a good range of clues too. Writing a great Trail is a mix of art and science and is harder than it looks! I can’t reveal to you the secret recipe of a Treasure Trail (only our Licensed Trail Writers know this) but I can give you a little help with creating memorable clues.

Remember, a Trail is essentially a clever game of ‘hide and seek’. I hide an answer to a question and you solve my instructions (delivered in the form of clues) to seek the answer. Great clues require no prior knowledge, no high IQ, and no awareness of the laws of cryptic crosswords! The answers to clues should be located on interesting things, but what makes a great clue is clever wording that gets people thinking, looking around, and wondering where they can find the answer.

So, the wording of a clue requires a ‘Hook’ and an ‘Instruction’. The Hook gets the solver in the area of where the answer can be found. The Hook should be an intriguing and fun hint of where to look. An example of a good Hook would be – ‘In the area of the large cross find the big black W and then …….’

The second part of the clue is the Instruction, which tells the finder what they have to do next to come up with the answer. Variety is the spice of life and so it is for our clues too. Good Instructions get the participants to do all sorts of things with the various clues they find during a Trail – solve anagrams, decipher codes, convert letters to numbers. Instructions have to be accurate and leave no room for debate over what the answer could be. An example of a good Instruction would be ‘….and then take the last letters of every word on the last line and rearrange these letters to form the name of a famous person’.

Hook and Instruction combine to create the whole clue. They must balance too: A tricky Hook with an easier Instruction, and a complicated Instruction with an easier Hook. I did say it was harder than it looks!

By the way, don’t forget to sprinkle some fairy dust on your clues every now and then. Fairy dust is that bit of magic that raises a great clue to a brilliant clue. Difficult to define but you know it when it happens. Fairy dust is about putting a smile on the face of the solver once they have completed your task. It is about making the solver do something they weren’t expecting, and giving them a ‘wow’ or buzz at the end. A simple example of what I mean by fairy dust is instead of creating a clue where the answer is just a number, add some further instructions that make the person then walk that number of paces in a certain direction to where the answer to that clue lies. You can’t put too many fairy dust clues in a Trail otherwise they would no longer be special!  Two or three is plenty.

Hope this helps.  I look forward to seeing some of your clues.  I will be choosing 5 favourites to go into my commemorative 1,000th Trail.

Keep on Trailing and bring on 5,000 Trails!

Author: Steve, Director and Trail Meister, Treasure Trails Ltd.

21st May 2012

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