On of the first things that was brought up on meta was whether simply asking a puzzle as a question was part of the scope of the site. The consensus seems to be a resounding "yes". However, I've noticed a class of questions that give me pause:
- Burning ropes as timers
- Hats and Aliens
- The Puzzle of the Locked Box
- Moving a pawn around on a chessboard
They remind me quite a bit of a segment on the Car Talk show:
The Puzzler is a radio version of the sorts of questions I listed above. A variation of the rope burning puzzle makes an appearance, for instance. For some time, the Puzzler has also been available online dating back to 1996. This presents a number of problems for this community:
There's a temptation to take classic (by which I mean "old") puzzles from sites like that and repackage them as questions for this site.
Our plagiarism policy covers copyright concerns, so that's not what concerns me per se. But some people might be strongly tempted to go through the archives and ask each Puzzler one after another for the upvotes. Self answering them would boost the return on investment. Besides being annoying to those of us who have listened to the show regularly over the years, the practice would morally equivalent to becoming a content farm. The same argument would hold for any collection of puzzles.
The radio or a custom website is a better format for posing puzzles than stock Q&A.
One of the pleasures of hearing a puzzle is the time given to solving it. Whether or not you arrive at the correct answer, it's invigorating to noodle over it. But when the solution shows up shortly after the question, contemplation time is reduced. We might get around the issue with a spoiler blocks requirement.
Once you know the answer, these puzzles become chestnuts.
We might as well collect these for the benefit of future generations. It will probably be useful to close duplicates as they pop up. But it would be even better if we could advance the state of the puzzling art. Riddles in the Dark was great the first time I read it, but I was bored with them by the time Peter Jackson filmed the scene.
If you ask a chestnut...
Try to add a twist so that even people familiar with the problem have something to think about. That's what I tried to do when asking about the girl or boy paradox. Another possibility is to post the original puzzle and then suggest a variation. (Click and Clack did that with the rope timer problem, for an example.)
If you answer a chestnut...
Don't just stick the solution in the answer without commentary. Perhaps you can dig into the logic more deeply or point out why alternate solutions fail. Be creative. We aren't trying to duplicate content found elsewhere, but improve upon it.
If you see an answer or question that do not follow these guidelines...
Consider an edit or an alternate answer that demonstrates what we are looking for. Don't reflexively close chestnuts; try to improve them.