Growing up, my friends and I would try to solve each other's "Red Herring" puzzles. They were notable for containing many details purely for the sake of distraction to mask the truly important parts of the riddle.

I've already seen a number of riddles that could fit into the general category of "Red Herring", but they tend to include the entire story up-front.

The way I used to play would be to leave the riddle vague, and open-ended, and have the audience ask questions for more detail. The questions would have to be answered truthfully, but the answers could be misleading (partial truths, technicalities, etc). The fun was spinning complicated yarns full of useless details as the riddler, and deciphering the important details from the answer as the riddlee.

It seems to me that 20-questions style puzzles would be off-topic for Puzzling. Would a red-herring riddle, that doesn't initially contain enough information to answer the riddle be considered acceptable?

  • $\begingroup$ Might be fun "in the moment/real-time" but once all the details are out (in an extended question/comments) I think the concept would be lost. $\endgroup$ – scunliffe Nov 9 '14 at 4:44
  • $\begingroup$ @scunliffe, how does that differ from having the answer to riddles? The posted red-herring would never include an answer to the underlying riddle, it would just be elaborated on as questions are asked. $\endgroup$ – zzzzBov Nov 9 '14 at 4:50
  • $\begingroup$ It might not be any different... I just think that once the cat is out of the bag "joe is a dog, not a man"... "Cindy is only 3'9" this can't reach the____", "they're underwater"... It might not be as "fun" for visitors reading it in the future. I'm not against it... I just wonder if it will stand up over time. $\endgroup$ – scunliffe Nov 9 '14 at 5:08
  • $\begingroup$ @zzzzBov The fun in these kinds of puzzles is being able to piece together the answer over time by asking questions. You could read along with the comments, but unless you're participating, it's not quite the same. $\endgroup$ – TheRubberDuck Nov 10 '14 at 20:45

These types of riddles are called situation riddles, and a similar question was asked quite a while back that stated that these questions were indeed off-topic.


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Posting a deliberately incomplete question initially and later completing it is neither good for people who see it early on nor good for people who see it later. The early visitors will be frustrated to see an incomplete question, and the late visitors will not see the history.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "the late visitors will not see the history" actually they have full access to the edit history of a question, but it would definitely be more work on the reader's part. $\endgroup$ – zzzzBov Nov 20 '14 at 1:48

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