A DIY Valentine’s Day Surprise

Speaking from my own experience, a homemade gift of any kind is always so much more meaningful than something pre-made at a store. This is especially true for Valentine’s Day! Of course this isn’t limited to a significant other or life partner, something with a personal touch can be a great way to show love to a good friend, too! For this Valentine’s Day, challenge yourself to DIY a puzzle box or mini escape room for your S.O. or bestie.

How to get started:

  1. Pick a theme

Is your fiancé still reeling from the end of Game of Thrones? Does your best friend quote The Office at any and all opportunities? Is your partner still waiting for their wizarding letter to arrive? All of these are great jumping-off points for you to start creating! 

Need a little extra puzzle-spiration? Swing by Trapped Puzzle Rooms to play one of our themed escape rooms!

  1. Pick a Medium

Are you thinking of creating a contained puzzle box with different locks? Or maybe turning your living room into an elaborate scavenger hunt? A puzzle box can get material-heavy pretty fast. If you’re able to go a little more hardcore and get boxes with latches and locks, you’re on your way to creating an awesome puzzle box!

Different Locks:

    • Letter locks
      • For puzzles, these locks work best if the combination is a real word, rather than just a jumble of letters.
    • Number locks
      • The numbers could be a significant date for you and your girlfriend, maybe an address or apartment number you and your best friend shared.
    • Directional locks
      • These locks open with a combination of movements (up, down, left, right). You could your partner on a walk around your neighborhood, having them keep track of all the turns you take and your stroll together is the lock combination!

When making a puzzle box for my sister, I got the waiter at our restaurant to participate too by holding on to her next clue! Creating these can be so much fun, but it can also turn into a big time suck if you go too big. I’d suggest doing five puzzles really well rather than creating twenty-five so-so clues.

Colorful cartoon padlock and ornate key set. Vintage love and wedding symbols.

3. Get to Puzzlin’

Make the puzzles and clues personal to who you’re creating it for! Here’s some ideas for different puzzles or clues:

Pig Pen Cipher

This cipher takes numbers and turns them into pretty simple symbols based on the grids below. Make sure to give your puzzler a decoder for this one!Ottendorf Cipher

This one can be pretty tricky, but so fun! It involves you–the puzzle creator–finding the right words or letters in a book or some other form of writing, then writing a code with a page or line number, word number, and letter number. Try it out with the poem below:

        • Line, word, letter
  • 1, 7, 6
  • 3, 2, 1
  • 2, 4, 2
  • 5, 1, 4
  • 6, 1, 1
  • 6, 4, 2
  • 5, 3, 5
  • 10, 1, 1

Caesar Cipher

This one is beautifully simple. The decoder for this cipher involves shifting letters of the alphabet. “URYYB!” = “HELLO!”

        • A = N
        • B = O
        • C = P
        • D = Q
        • E = R
        • F = S
        • G = T 
        • H = U
        • I = V
        • J = W
        • K = X
        • L = Y
        • M = Z

Here are some other ways you can disguise clues and make puzzles:

          • Use the NATO Phonetic Alphabet
          • Use morse code to disguise a message
          • Create personalized rhyming riddles
            • Any other way your puzzling brain can dream up!

4. Set-up Time!
Now comes the fun part. If you’re going for the scavenger hunt route, now you get to hide the clues all over your apartment, college campus, or city! If you’re making a self-contained puzzle box, it’s time to play test it to make sure all the locks and puzzles work. After all, you’ll want this gift to go off without a hitch!Happy Valentine’s Day, puzzlers!


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