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I believe that this answer, violates a basic condition of the puzzle and is therefore not a valid answer. Should we, as a site, allow answers to these kinds of puzzles that contain blatant "cheating"?

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  • $\begingroup$ Stack Exchange as a general policy (with a couple exceptions) never begrudges the answers for accurately answering the question. It does, however, refine question scope to address poor answers. $\endgroup$ – Aza Jun 4 '14 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ The question states not to break the neck, nothing about the rest of the bottle, therefore it's perfectly valid. $\endgroup$ – warspyking Nov 2 '14 at 0:33
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The answer is perfectly correct given the rules in the question.

The real question is should we allow the question?

The most popular opinion (which I share) seems to be no, that questions with multiple different answers should be considered off-topic and closed. Therefore, we don't need to worry about "cheating" in this manner.

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  • $\begingroup$ I disagree that the answer in question is valid. If you cut a hole in a bottle, it is no longer a bottle. But you still didn't answer THIS question, as to whether or not cheating should be allowed. $\endgroup$ – Donald.McLean Jun 4 '14 at 17:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Donald.McLean I think it's difficult to have a discussion about whether or not "cheating" is allowed when not everyone agrees on the definition of cheating, and some of us think that if a question is set up to allow this kind of answer then it should be off-topic (thus eliminating any chance of there ever being any answers with this type of "cheating"). I'm not saying that means you're wrong, because we can disagree. But it's hard to discuss the concept of general "cheating" when what some see as cheating, others see as valid answers to off-topic questions. Am I making any sense? $\endgroup$ – WendiKidd Jun 4 '14 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Donald.McLean Specifically in the case of the bottle, all it says is "get the coin out without breaking the neck of the bottle". That is so vague. And I disagree that cutting a hole in the bottom makes it not a bottle anymore; it's a broken bottle, but it's still a bottle. And I feel like the question (and others like it) specifically invite this kind of answer (how else can you solve it, without some kind of trickery?). So I just think it's a hard topic to discuss. $\endgroup$ – WendiKidd Jun 4 '14 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ @WendiKidd A "broken bottle" is not a bottle, to me and I think would bet not to the asker of the question (or to most people who are not going out of their way to be contrary or prove a point). But the fact that we can't agree on what is, or is not cheating in one specific case does not make my question invalid, nor does it make this answer an actual, valid answer to my question. $\endgroup$ – Donald.McLean Jun 4 '14 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ @Donald.McLean The answer to your question, IMO, is essentially "not applicable". If these questions aren't on-topic for the site, it doesn't matter what answers they get, and they should be closed. $\endgroup$ – Kendall Frey Jun 4 '14 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Donald.McLean: If the question had said "without breaking the bottle", then I don't think cutting a hole in the bottom would be a legitimate answer (I would consider "cutting" to be a merely a an expecially-precise method of "breaking"). If the question says "without breaking the neck", however, I would regard any solution which leaves the neck intact as legitimate, even if it destroys the rest of the bottle. $\endgroup$ – supercat Oct 8 '14 at 22:24
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The problem is that "obvious" cheating is in the eye of the beholder. One person might think an answer is blatant cheating while another might just think it's very clever outside-the-box.

Questions with so much wiggle room for subjectivity and yet still require one specific answer from the asker are probably a bad idea for the site.

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  • $\begingroup$ Shouldn't it really be up to the asker? If someone posts an answer that "cheats" then the question may be badly worded, as opposed to a bad question. $\endgroup$ – Donald.McLean Jun 4 '14 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ It should be up to the asker to accept an answer that fits his or her criteria the most closely, but not up to him or her to decide which answers should be allowed. $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. Jun 4 '14 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ I didn't say that the asker can decide which questions should be allowed. I am saying that if one of the answers contains a "cheat", then he should clarify his question. "Outside-the-box" thinking and cheating are not the same. A question that is badly phrased is not the same as one that is subjective. If we are going to create reasonable policy, we must be as clear and as specific as possible on what is, and what is not on-topic. $\endgroup$ – Donald.McLean Jun 4 '14 at 17:47
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An answer that “cheats” is wrong. The proper reaction to a wrong answer is to downvote it, not to delete it.

Your example illustrates why we delete low-quality answers but let wrong answers stand: it implies that we can accurately and authoritatively determine whether an answer is wrong. Let me quote the example here in case it gets deleted:

Let's say you have a bottle with a small coin in it and put the cork back in place. You have to remove it, but without take the cork out of the bottle or breaking the neck.


Push cork into bottle. Shake upside down. — kaine

Cut a hole out of the bottom. It's not breaking the neck! — Kevin

I don't see how you can claim that this answer “violates a basic condition of the puzzle” or “violates the spirit”. What is the basic condition or spirit that is being violated? The puzzle asks about a somewhat contrieved situation inspired from real life and is careful to provide enough information to enable a particular solution, but not so much as to make that solution obvious. It is an inherent risk that the puzzle will accidentally allow other solutions. Who has authority to decide which answer is “the” correct one?

I can't find any intrinsic feature that distinguishes Kevin's answer from https://puzzling.stackexchange.com/a/570. There is of course a distinguishing extrinsic feature — that one of them is one I haven't heard before whereas the other was a tired old thing before I was born. But inventing new answers can hardly be said to violate the spirit of a puzzle: on the contrary, finding creative answers is the whole point of puzzles!

If the question was a different one — if it asked “what is the classical solution of this old puzzle? ” instead of “what is the solution to this puzzle? ”, then kaine's answer would be correct and Kevin's would be wrong. But as things stand, Kevin's answer is not only perfectly legitimate but arguably better than kaine's. And you still haven't put forth any argument why it should be deleted.

Now the fact that we're arguing about what constitutes a proper answer to this question suggests that the question is not appropriate for Stack Exchange. Well, I think that asking a puzzle in challenge fashion should be off-topic (this is a site for asking about puzzles, not for asking puzzles), and that goes double for situation riddles and the like.

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