Following up on a recent discussion in comments...

Does the community approve of linked puzzles?

Linked puzzles can come in at least two varieties.

  1. One user posts a puzzle of a certain type, which inspires other users to post more puzzles in the same genre (e.g. the recent Four-words, Five-words, Six-words, etc. sequence and the infamous Security to the Party sequence)

  2. One user posts a sequence of puzzles which can be linked together to form a longer narrative, each one following on from the events of the last (e.g. the Murder of the President series, the SErial Killer series, the Slumdog Millionaire series, and the Mysterious email miniseries - in each case I've linked only the first puzzle in the series, but you can see the others in the "related puzzles" list on the right). This type of linked puzzle itself comes in two varieties:

    • the puzzles in the series are related, and the solution to one is helpful or even vital in solving the next (I believe the Murder of the President and SErial Killer series fall under this header)

    • the puzzles in the series are related only in that they involve the same people or are set in the same context, and each one can be solved independently of the rest (the Slumdog Millionaire and Mysterious email series fall under this header).

  3. One user posts a puzzle which takes such a long time to be solved that they then post a new puzzle whose answer is a hint to the first one. I can only think of one example of this happening.

Do you think none, some, or all of these types of puzzle are acceptable/valuable/should be encouraged?

(I've done my best to make this post unbiased. I'll post my own opinions on the topic as an answer. If anyone can think of a kind of linked puzzle not covered by the above, feel free to edit the question.)

  • $\begingroup$ You forgot puzzling.stackexchange.com/questions/11226/… $\endgroup$
    – leoll2
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 20:57
  • $\begingroup$ @leoll2 I disliked those questions so much (with apologies to Haobin) that I never read through them properly after the first one or two! Which of my categories do they fall into - I guess 2b? $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2015 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ Second category. The context is always the same, but the solutions are indipendent $\endgroup$
    – leoll2
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ @leoll2 Thanks - I've edited it in. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2015 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ This question is fine but it has very little relationship to the "linked issue" that was being addressed. $\endgroup$
    – Len
    Commented May 23, 2015 at 21:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Len As stated in the OP, If there's a type of linked puzzle that doesn't fall under any of the sections I've created, then feel free to edit it in. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2015 at 21:17

2 Answers 2


For what it's worth, here's my opinion on the puzzles of the kind outlined in the OP.

  1. One puzzle inspiring other people to write similar puzzles is excellent in moderation, but undesirable in excess. On the one hand, a good puzzle inspiring other good puzzles is exactly what the site needs to keep going; on the other hand, a good puzzle can also inspire a lot of poor-quality spinoffs, perhaps by people who hope that their puzzle is going to be just as good as the one that's just got a Famous Question badge but don't realise that it's either intrinsically much crappier or just almost identical to the original with some trivial twist.
    I noticed on the recent Four-Words, Five-Words, etc. sequence of puzzles that the number of votes on each of these puzzles was always strictly less than on the last one. This suggests that other people agree with my assessment: the first one is brilliant, a few more are great, but after that it starts to get boring. As for the Security to the Party questions ... say no more!

  2. This is absolutely fine (as long as quality is maintained, of course). The only thing you need to do, at least in the first bullet-pointed case and preferably in the second too, is to include a link to the previous puzzles in the series. Then anyone who wants to solve the latest puzzle can go and read through the others, and the comments and answers on them, and approach the new one in just the same way as someone who's solved one of the previous ones.

  3. This one is perhaps the most dodgy case. Arguably hints should be incorporated into the first puzzle rather than in new posts. On the other hand, including clear links on the first puzzle to the later 'hint-puzzles' is just as good: again, anyone attacking the first puzzle can go and read the hints in the same way as if they were included in it. And if a puzzle is taking a long time to be solved, why not increase the fun by posting sub-challenges - which can be great puzzles in themselves - rather than just adding straightforward hints to the question?


Wow. You have used such a broad definition of "linked puzzles" that the original issue is glossed over. Of course, I agree with 90% of your discussion.

The only "linked issue" being addressed was the five questions with the following titles "Encryption chained. Quotes surely. Cryptogram #1-5". In the author's own words, "you need to solve one to proceed to next".

My advice to "provide sufficient information so it can be solved by itself" was based on a few meta discussions, including this one. In my opinion, this is the only issue worthy of further discussion.


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