Tools for Hunting


The early parts of the Hunt usually involve a lot of quiz questions and/or pictures to identify. You are likely to make a lot of use of your favourite search engine. Of course, the setters know you are doing this and some of the questions will be worded misleadingly to throw you off the scent.

For identifying pictures, it is sometimes useful to use Google's reverse image search. This allows you to upload a picture and see if Google recognises it. To use this, you will need to extract individual pictures from the Hunt and save them as separate files - you can probably do this by doing screen captures.


Some hunts have used coded text which solvers must decipher, by identifying clues that reveal which code has been used and, usually, a keyword. If you need help with a code, there is information about a large number of codes here, including online deciphering tools for many of them. For more about lots of codes, The Code Book by Simon Singh is well worth a read.

Downloadable Decoding Aids

The following are Excel workbooks that allow messages to be encoded or decoded using various ciphers. For more information about the ciphers (and an alternative decoder) see the link above.

In each workbook there is a tab for Encode and Decode operations. In each sheet the message and any codewords are entered into the white cells, and the result appears in the blue cells. Any restrictions are documented in the form of notes that can be seen by holding the cursor above cells marked with a red triangle.

All the workbooks have been virus-checked and contain no macros.

Download the relevant cipher workbook by clicking on the appropriate link and saving it to a local folder location on your computer:

The Substitution workbook will encode and decode various ciphers similar to Poe's Gold Bug code (with which it is initialised). There is also a facility to count the frequency of letters or symbols in any piece of encoded text.

A Line-Word-Letter cipher is the type where the letters of the coded message are picked out of a piece of text, such as a poem, as three numbers - line, word and letter. The encoding tab of this workbook doesn't take things very far, but the decode side works well.

If you have any questions or spot any bugs then please alert the ATH Contact.