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I'm quite new to Puzzling Stack Exchange but am slowly starting to make more difficult questions. I'm thinking of giving hints but obviously we shouldn't give too many hints too fast. So is there a rule of thumb or a guideline for the amount of hints and the time in between hints so the question stays difficult but also interesting?

No hints would create a situation of the NOC+10 riddles, though for this particular riddle it seems after a few weeks there is still somewhat of an interest though not much..

So what would be the best thing to do considering unsolved puzzles and hints?

EDIT: To clarify, all the puzzles I make are solvable without the hints (at least that's the way I intended them to be). The hints should (normally) not be needed to solve the puzzle, but when it proves to be too difficult (something I did not foresee), when should I post hints to help people? So perhaps the question is more: when do I know the puzzle is TOO difficult and needs additional information (hints)? I hope this clarifies it a bit more.

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  • $\begingroup$ Doesn't BmyGuest's answer address the main point of your question better than xnor's? It's always possible to change the acceptance if you want to ... $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jan 9 '17 at 12:45
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor I haven't visited the meta in ages (or puzzling for that matter) I must have overlooked that someone posted an other answer to my question, and yes it is a good answer. though i'm not certain if i want to change my acceptance of xnor's answer because it did answer my question. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Jan 9 '17 at 13:35
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The appropriate time to post hints is when you post the puzzle, incorporating them into the puzzle. Try to target the difficulty level you want.

If after a while, the puzzle is still not solved, then you have misaimed, and you can consider adding more hints or perhaps reworking the puzzle. Learn from this experience.

I want to discourage the practice of posting an incomplete or overly hard puzzle with the idea of making it easier with hints as you go along. It's frustrating not to know if the puzzle you're trying to solve is reasonably solvable at the current stage.

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    $\begingroup$ Well the puzzle should be solvable without hints, that's how i always (try to) make my puzzles but if it does not get solved after X amount of time i think i will have to help people since I've probably made it to difficult. So what i wanted to know is when do i know my puzzle is too hard and i should add hints. and if it is still too hard when should i post the next hint. Obviously the puzzel should be solvable with what is given and should not depend on my extra hints. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Apr 17 '15 at 8:30
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    $\begingroup$ @VincentAdvocaat I see, I guess I wasn't responding to you but to a common practice that bothers me. I'm not sure about good timing, so I'll let others speak to that. I do want though to raise the option of not adding hints, but reworking or editing your puzzle to make it easier. $\endgroup$ – xnor Apr 17 '15 at 8:32
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The answer does to a certain extend depend on how patient you are.

Let's consider a few scenarios:

Adding hints very soon after posting.

There is a good chance that some puzzlers are already working on your puzzle, even if they have not yet posted anything (comment or answer). Whether or not they can solve it, they clearly believe that they can solve it, or they would ask for hints (or have given up).

If you now add hints, there is a good chance that you take away the fun for these (serious) puzzlers, and it is likely that somebody else answers the puzzle, because it is now too easy.

Additionally:

Adding hints within 24 hrs

All of the above aplies, but you might even have excluded some puzzlers alltogether, because they didn't even get a chance to read you puzzle. Remember: This is an international site and there are time-zones.

The other extreme:

Adding hints 'never'.

What could happen?

  • Some puzzlers might give you partial answers, from which you can estimate their thinking and why your puzzle is too hard. This will help you to judge if some hints should now be added.
  • The puzzle remains open and "forgotten": You can still reactivate it, by adding a hint now. Even better: Maybe add a bounty to just up-the-game.

By comparison of the scenarios above it should be clear that

Posting hints too soon can cause 'damage'.

wheras

Posting hints late causes only delays.

I would therefore advise to refrain from adding hints as long as possible, which, essentially, depends on your patience. Some very good puzzles have remained unsolved for months, but eventually, somebody solved them.


I would also like to point you to an alternative approach:

Adding hints with the original posting

If you consider hints to be optional difficulty-modifications of your puzzle, you might as well post them right from the start.

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