Let's suppose I generate a coded message using an algorithm other than letter-for-letter correspondence and ask two questions:

  1. What is this message?
  2. How did I encode it?

Would I be allowed to post it on this site, and if so, could I let others answer or would I need to answer it myself?

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  • $\begingroup$ You may want to ask this on Cryptography's meta too. $\endgroup$ – Doorknob May 25 '14 at 14:37

I'd venture to say that a question like this would explicitly go against the Stack Exchange spirit of helping more people than just the original poster.

However, if you can word the question in a way that it is likely to help others, then it would probably be on topic. For example:

I'm trying to decode O AOLR QIXXAOMH; OY OD S DYSVL RCVJSMHR DOYR. I've figured out that there is a one-to-one letter correspondence, and that O and S correspond to one-letter words. How should I go about determining what words they represent?


I'm trying to solve this sudoku. There are two squares in the same row, and they can both be either [x] or [y]. What is this situation called, and how can it be solved?

These aren't the best examples, but you get the idea - try to word the question in a broad enough way that it will help others in the future.

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  • $\begingroup$ Exercise to the reader: Try solving the example puzzle I just made up! $\endgroup$ – Doorknob May 27 '14 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ I solved your puzzle: "I like Puzzling; it is a Stack Exchange site." $\endgroup$ – ProgramFOX Jun 1 '14 at 11:52

If the puzzle is of a genre where such puzzles are mass-producible, it would be a better idea not to post it on this site. Specific puzzles that are posted should be unique and distinct and have fundamentally different solving methodologies, and while questions may be asked about general methods about solving a genre or type of puzzle, we don't want to become a repository of specific puzzles of some sort that are just a bunch puzzles of a specific type.

Your idea of posting an encoded message is an example of such a mass-producible puzzle. Just changing the key, or a few characters in the message, is already enough to produce a wildly different puzzle. That wouldn't count as original enough, in my opinion.

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  • $\begingroup$ What if I just posted the puzzle and didn't ask the question about the encryption method? I assure you, the code is proprietary, and I have no intention of mass-producing it. $\endgroup$ – Brian J. Fink May 25 '14 at 2:28
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    $\begingroup$ No, the point is that it's mass-producible in theory. It doesn't matter whether the code is proprietary or not. $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. May 25 '14 at 2:36
  • $\begingroup$ So, even if the puzzle doesn't exist until I make it, it's technically mass-producible? I'm not sure I understand. $\endgroup$ – Brian J. Fink May 25 '14 at 3:01
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    $\begingroup$ What I mean is, decoding messages is generally a type of puzzle that's mass-producible, no matter what sort of code you use. If the code being used is somehow inherent to the message being encoded, it might be suitable. $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. May 25 '14 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not entirely sure I agree with these criterion. I'm still thinking this over, but I'm beginning to believe we may want to allow specific puzzle situations. We may want to consider drawing the line where "too broad" comes in, however - for instance, if someone posts "solve this puzzle from this state." But if someone posts "I'm stuck with this puzzle in [this state], how do I advance?" I'm leaning towards accepting it. $\endgroup$ – user20 May 25 '14 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeZ what if the code were such that each letter depended upon the one that followed it? In that case, the key would depend on the message itself. $\endgroup$ – Brian J. Fink May 25 '14 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianJ.Fink No, what I mean is that the algorithm has to depend on the message itself for it to work. $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. May 25 '14 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Emrakul From my impression, Brian was thinking of posting it as a challenge, not a "help, I'm stuck" question. If it were a "help, I'm stuck" question about a code that doesn't appear elsewhere, I'd still be a bit hesitant, but I wouldn't outright say no. $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. May 25 '14 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Joe it would also depend on the length of the entire message. $\endgroup$ – Brian J. Fink May 25 '14 at 19:59

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