By "mass-producible puzzles", I refer to puzzles that are instances of a generic template. The most commonly-known examples are crosswords, Sudoku, word-finds, fill-in-the-blanks, etc.

I'd actually prefer to append this question to the above one, but the site's content mechanisms aren't conducive to it.

Consider the following types of MPP that comprise dozens of smaller puzzles, all of which can be answered independently:

  1. Rebus puzzles are puzzles where words and symbols are arranged in such a way that a literal description of them matches a well-known term, expression, or idiom. For example, drawing a large letter 'C' through the word "blouse" would be interpreted as "see-through blouse". A female symbol ♀ placed under the word "standing" would be interpreted as "misunderstanding" (Miss. under standing).

  2. Syllable match puzzles are puzzles where a grid of images is shown, each of which has an interpretation as a single-syllable word, and the objective is to combine the syllables into longer words fitting with some theme. For example,

              dog breed puzzle

    encodes the names of numerous dog breeds. (pea + ken + knees = Pekingese; husk + key = Husky, etc.)

  3. Bumper stumpers are puzzles where an sequence of letters, numbers, and symbols must be converted to an expression/phrase, or else a phrase/expression must be converted to a sequence of letters, etc. with some maximum length. For example, the clue u4cnmt6s would yield an answer "You foresee an empty success.", while the clue "I force heaven to be ecstasy." (8 characters) would yield an answer i472bxtc.

  4. Word chain puzzles are puzzles where a source word must be converted to a target word via a series of unknown intermediate words, usually by changing one letter at a time and rearranging. For example, the clue

    INADVERTENT > _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ > RENOMINATED

    is solved by DETERMINANT, which shares 10 out of 11 letters with both source and target words.

More generally, I'm interested in the suitability of puzzles with numerous small, independent answers, and about how to go about requesting answers for such puzzles.

For example, suppose a question presents an MPP of one of the above varieties with 20 independent "mini-puzzles". Which of the following would be good and/or appropriate ways to request answers?

  1. Post an answer when you've correctly solved all clues.

  2. Post the answers to any 5 clues or fewer.

  3. Post the answer to such and such metapuzzle (which can only be solved when the majority of the mini-puzzles are solved, each yielding a clue).

  4. Post the answers to as many or as few clues as you like.

My strong preference is option #2: asking for n answers or fewer, so that no one puzzler comes along and solves the whole works in one shot, spreading the glory around a bit. It also encourages puzzlers who can't solve all the mini-puzzles to provide the answers for the mini-puzzles they can solve. However, some might see this as contrary to the SE format, where answers are typically expected to be complete and integral.

Any thoughts? Suggestions? Existing guidelines?


2 Answers 2


For this particular question where you asked me for feedback here, I will say that in fact we have three independent puzzles, even if they are very similar in structure, so they really should be asked in three separate questions, and the fact that you could pick just one, answer it and ignore the other two is a strong indicator of this.

Now, back to this actual meta question, but without stopping to think in that previous question:

I am not particularly against mass-reproducible puzzles nor against partial answers, this is not the problem.

The problem is when there are multiple independent questions posing as only one, so an answerer may say "I will pick only this part, screw up the rest", which is not the desired behaviour of somebody willing to have the answer accepted.

By accepting an answer which does this, you are discouraging people to try to solve everything, not just one part. At least for me, and I guess that for many people too, when I see that an answer was accepted, I consider the puzzle closed/finished/solved.

If multiple aspects of the questions are desired, they should be tangled in some form where you either answer everything and solved the puzzle completely or did not solved it at all. Partial answers should be considered as partial (!) answers, not complete answers. If something can be untangled from the question and not related to the answer, it should either be an unimportant part or a red-herring.

And if you want to entangle different questions in one, they should be done in a natural and elegant way, where the answer of one subpuzzle is either a vital part of the big picture answer or at least an important hint. Saying just "solve all those X parts" is not good either.

If we do not follow this rules I could post a single question like this:

What is the next number of the sequence 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...?

Somebody robbed a bank, blablabla..., Who killed Joe?

We have a knight, a knave and a joker, blablabla.

And it is clearly a bad idea to post these three in a single question, regardless if they are mass-reproducible or not. Still worse if I require the answerers to solve only one and accept that answer.

So in essence, I do support people posting partial answers, but I don't think that is correct to accept those partial answers (I.E. that do not solve entirely the puzzle). And I think that it is still less correct to design puzzles encouraging people to only solve them partially.

Now to answer your question:

Which of the following would be good and/or appropriate ways to request answers?

The answer that you should request is the answer that solves the puzzle completely.

And by solving I mean that gives the solution and explains how to reach it. With the exception of when the solution itself makes the explanation unneeded and obvious as in some, but not all, "name the entity" or "what I am?" puzzles and similars.

Generally, the number of clues/hints/tips used to solve should not be important. The few exceptions is when you forge some question like "giving this list of facts, provide something that answers the question using the least number of facts", and I didn't saw anything like that here yet (but this would be interesting).


A major issue with your multi-part puzzles, where only some parts need to be solved for you to accept the answer, is that once an answer has been accepted the remaining unsolved parts are left in limbo.

Unable to accept more than one answer you will have to add a comment to other answers to confirm if they are correct. (Which I see you have, which is good.)

If after accepting the correct answer to part of the question, the remaining parts stay unanswered, which is a strong possibility as people are drawn to unanswered questions, this could be annoying for readers who would like to know the correct answers to the unanswered parts.

Like this answer, some answers to the question will be irrelevant part of the question.


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