I think it's time for us to remove the tag. Nobody seems to really know what it means, or what it's supposed to be used for, and as it stands, its description seems like it fits every puzzle on the site.

Here's the tag wiki summary:

A puzzle that involves thinking in unconventional ways or disregarding what seems obvious.

However, we seem to be using this tag for... everything. Take a look through the questions tagged "brainteaser," and it becomes quite apparent that it's used on... pretty much every type of question we have.

That got me wondering: is there any question where doesn't apply?

A puzzle isn't really a puzzle if it doesn't "involve thinking in unconventional ways or disregarding what seems obvious." In other words, seems just as useful as having a tag.

I'm proposing a full-force burnination. Let's destroy the tag, then clean up retag the questions that were tagged only "brainteaser" and nothing else.

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    $\begingroup$ Just wanted to say, I agree 100% on this. This would also fix the ambiguity with the lateral-thinking tag. $\endgroup$
    – user88
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ Another problem with the tag is that "thinking in unconventional ways or disregarding what seems obvious" is used to justify wacky answers that ignore requirements given in the puzzle. $\endgroup$
    – xnor
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @xnor I agree disregarding the obvious to easily becomes an excuse for suggesting the ridiculous. $\endgroup$
    – Bob
    Commented Apr 16, 2015 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ Here's an alternate view. Puzzles, lateral-thinking and brain-teasers are synonyms in ordinary usage. However, brain-teaser has the connotation of something that can be done rather quickly, perhaps even without having to write anything down - it's a teaser as opposed to a tester or worker etc. If we insert the word "short" into the description to be "A short puzzle ...", would that make it a useful tag? $\endgroup$
    – Lawrence
    Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 14:23
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    $\begingroup$ I agree with you Emrakul! Btw, I'd vote to keep lateral-thinking instead, since not all the problems (for example riddles) require a true lateral-thinking. $\endgroup$
    – leoll2
    Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Lawrence Something like short-puzzle may be a useful tag. However, since the questions currently tagged "brainteaser" don't all fit that description, I'd be reluctant to rename it. Cleaning up the questions first in some way may be an option, which would make a good answer here. $\endgroup$
    – user20
    Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Emrakul Apparently the majority agrees to delete the tag. Are you waiting for something? Otherwise why hasn't it been done? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ @ghosts It's likely to happen soon. It's a major change, and I've learned to be a little reluctant to push major changes through too quickly, so we're probably giving this a little more time than it actually needs. $\endgroup$
    – user20
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ There are puzzles, which required solver to "Put the rules under question" (sorry for my bad English) and there are puzzles where rules are clear, or can be clarified with out hints. I suppose this would be better description for "Brainteaser puzzles". But may be there is a better name too. What do you think? $\endgroup$
    – klm123
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ @klm123 My concern with redefining 'brainteaser' is that many questions currently tagged with it won't be appropriate for the tag, and that it'll keep being misused. By replacing it with something (or somethings) more descriptive, we'll prevent further accidental misuse. $\endgroup$
    – user20
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Gilles: Lateral thinking has a more specific definition and connotation than brainteaser does (the current tag definition of brainteaser is just a definition of lateral-thinking). It's generally easier to determine when a puzzle involves direct logic or lateral thinking than whether it should count as a brainteaser or not. $\endgroup$
    – user88
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 22:33

2 Answers 2




My brain can rest easily now.

Please care for the widows and orphans.


Rather than destroying the "brainteaser" tag, it should just be fixed up.

It's not like the term "brainteaser" doesn't have a solid definition. One definition is "something (as a puzzle) that demands mental effort and acuity for its solution". This is quite different from a lateral thinking puzzle, which requires out-of-the-box thinking. A brainteaser requires you to pay attention to the question itself, usually - they're less about "thinking in unconventional ways" and more about making sure you actually think in the box, and make sure you know what the box actually is.

A simple brainteaser is the exact opposite of a lateral thinking puzzle - the answer is obvious, so long as you're actually paying attention and not trying to think laterally. They often require taking things more literally than normal (like "What word in the English language is always spelled incorrectly?" or "How much dirt is there in a hole that measures two feet by three feet by four feet?"), or disregarding information designed to mislead you ("Johnny’s mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May. What was the third child’s name?").

It's not so much a matter of length. There are brainteasers that make use of length to help hide the facts. But what sets a brainteaser apart from other similar puzzles is that the answer, once given, is blatantly obvious. A good brainteaser is hard to solve, but once solved, requires no explanation.

In fact, I'd assert the neatest, most natural way to describe a brainteaser is "finding the right clues amongst the wrong ones". But the key is that the right clues are the only ones that actually fit together to make an answer. In the "Johnny's mother" example I gave above (which is a simple brainteaser), the names of the first two children look like they're forming a pattern hinting at the answer... but they're a false clue. Similarly, the measurements in the dirt example are actually irrelevant. Another classic example is this one (from another site).

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think respecifying the meaning of the brainteaser tag will work. It seems that people use the tag brainteaser much more broadly than your meaning. What you're suggesting seems closer to "lateral thinking". Regardless what you write in the brainteaser tag description, people will use it to tag a wider class of puzzles. $\endgroup$
    – xnor
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ @xnor - that's true of all tags, though. People will always use tags incorrectly at times. It's the job of the moderators to police it. Meanwhile, fixing the description will certainly reduce the frequency with which they are misused. And my suggestion is the opposite of lateral thinking - indeed, you might say the whole point is to resist the urge to think laterally. You might even say it's closer to "literal thinking". You don't have to think laterally to realise that the third child's name is Johnny - thinking laterally is precisely what gets you into trouble with that question. $\endgroup$
    – Glen O
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 3:03
  • $\begingroup$ The point is that this particular tag is more prone to chronic abuse than other tags, and it's less effort to forbid it completely than to constantly police it. $\endgroup$
    – user88
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 22:35

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