I'm trying to work my way through Where's Wally? The Fantastic Journey by Martin Handford. But I got stuck on the first page!

A crowded scene with many tables where people sit and eat, other people are carrying bowls, platters and cauldrons of food. Many discarded items lie on the floor. A text insert has the title ‘The Gobbling Gluttons’ and introduces the reader to the book’s story and lists other characters and items which are hidden in the image in addition to Wally (Waldo)

Could you give me some advice on how to find Wally? Where should I start looking, what should I look for, etc.

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    In what sense do you want to know what to look for? You already know you are looking for Wally/Waldo and the page inset tells you other things you can also look for. Were you looking for a close reading analogy? – Spagirl Sep 5 '17 at 9:37
  • @Spagirl to be honest, I'm just curious about the various ways this community can answer this question, and whether this community can write answers that are different from something you would find on puzzling. I don't know what a "close reading analogy" would look like, but it sounds interesting. (I also was interested in whether people would think this question is off-topic, but it looks like the answer to that is no). – user111 Sep 5 '17 at 11:42
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    I would not hazard an opinion on topic-ness here. – Spagirl Sep 5 '17 at 12:17

A computer scientist named Randal Olson actually worked out an algorithm of how to find him.

There are 68 total pages to look in across the 7 books - and by plotting the locations he made a heat map using Kernel Density Estimation:

Location pointsKernel Density Estimate

Then using a computer program, he worked out the optimal search path:

Optimal Search Path

The optimal search path is to start in the black circle and follow the black line. Supposedly, this will help you find him as quick as possible.

A few other tips that I used:

  • Look for red and white stripes

    The iconic white and red striped top and hat often was the thing that alerted me to the location of Wally. While the illustrator has included a lot of other things with red and white stripes, I still found it easier to look for the stripes than to look for Wally himself.

  • Make use of the other characters

    There are (usually) 6 characters to find on each page - Wally, Wenda, Woof, Wilma, Wizard Whitebeard and Odlaw. Wally is, of course, the main target - but often when searching for him I would find another character. Now this isn't and hard and fast rule, but most of the time the characters are pretty spread out. So once you have found one - look in the other sections of the book. You might not find Wally, but you should at least find another character.

  • Know where not to look

    As you can see from the location dots - Wally is found in the top left only once - and is never found at the bottom of the right page. If you know he's not going to be there then you don't need to look.

The more you find him the better you get, so don't give up - keep practising!

  • 1
    Surely this only helps as long as new Wally/Waldo books don't buck the pattern? This is a guide to a known set of data, so Hamlet would have to know if his picture post-dated the optimal path data? – Spagirl Sep 5 '17 at 17:31
  • @Spagirl well of course - but the last book was published in 2006 and the one before that in 1997 - and I doubt there are any new ones coming. However the rest of my tips would still apply to new ones. – Beastly Gerbil Sep 5 '17 at 17:51
  • Ah, didn't realise they were a completed set, as it were. Interesting that they didn't continue, I'd have thought that people who like Wally would continue wishing to search for him. – Spagirl Sep 5 '17 at 17:59

One good way of tackling this particular genre is to take a marking pen (black is best) and put a cross through the face of everyone on the page who isn't Wally. Eventually, you will find Wally. You can work your way systematically through any "Where's Wally" book in this manner.

P.S. It took me less than 5 minutes by just looking.

  • But then this will ruin the book and ruin the experience for anyone who does it after the first time, whether it's you or anyone else. – Mithrandir Sep 5 '17 at 7:01
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    @Mithrandir If it's Mick's book he can do what he likes with it. The question didn't specify that Wally-finding methods had to be non-destructive. – Spagirl Sep 5 '17 at 9:27
  • @Mithrandir yes. You could do this on a computer in a digital copy, but that may cause some difficulties too because Where's Wally books often have large pages and so not quite trivial to scan in decent quality. – b_jonas Sep 5 '17 at 20:42

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