I've been working on a whodunnit style of puzzle where the community plays the role of the detective using skill and investigation to solve a crime. Before I put the finishing touches on it however, I wanted to post the basic structure here and see if it seems that this is appropriate for the site. I've read the previous question about semi-interactive puzzles where one of the main critique's was organization. I've tried to address this in my rules. My main concern is length; I've tried to handle this as well, but want some feedback. I really like this idea and think it could go well, but also fear it would get downvoted to oblivion if done poorly. Without spoiling the contents of the story, here are the rules I have so far. Note that these rules would follow text laying out a story and describing the discovery of several deceased victims with details regarding their state.

This will be an interactive puzzle, meaning that you all will play the role of the detective. You must ask questions to get more information. Keep in mind, you can only ask questions that a detective could reasonably get an answer to and I will provide the answer from the appropriate source. So for example, "Was the victim pushed off the roof?" is an unreasonable question, whereas "Did anyone see the victim go on the roof with anyone else?" is something Detective PSE could actually look into. Also understand that if you ask someone who did go on the roof with the victim, they would lie about it when asked in order to protect themself. This puzzle requires lateral-thinking, so feel free to ask any questions that you think could yield relevant info. I will provide answers with realistic levels of detail.

Your task is to determine how and why the victims died and who should be placed under arrest. I will create an 'investigation' community wiki post. Add any questions you want the detective to investigate (specify who to ask if applicable), and I will edit with the answer detective PSE determines. When you feel you have a complete answer to the mystery which includes

  1. A description of how and why each victim died, with any evidence to back it up
  2. Who was responsible
  3. The motive (it's not very far-fetched)

then post it as a separate answer. Again, for the sake of brevity, please don't post unless you have certainty based on investigation. This separate answer will serve as your 'hunch'.

(Looking for better alternatives here especially)

If it reaches a confidence level of +5 upvotes, I will respond to it. If it reaches a score of -5, I ask that you please delete it (if you believe this request unreasonable, comment below). Similarly, if your hunch is debunked by later investigation, please delete it for brevity's sake.

Criticism is (obviously) very welcome and if you have better suggestions as far as implementation, I would love to hear them. I'd like to believe that this can work and be a blast, what do you guys think?

  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm ~50 views, some upvotes and (at least) one downvote but no comments or answers. The point of this question was to get feedback from the community, so those of you who voted, would you please comment or answer your opinion here? (especially the person/people who downvoted) This way it's more helpful to me than the ambiguous votes $\endgroup$
    – NeedAName
    Aug 31, 2015 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ I've actually been considering something like this, and almost made a META post about it before I changed my format and posted my most recent murder mystery puzzle. I like the idea, and I'm interested to see how it works out! $\endgroup$
    – Bailey M
    Aug 31, 2015 at 13:22

1 Answer 1


I see a few problems with this:

  1. It smacks of "too broad." I understand that your intention is to narrow down the criteria with user questions, but I can guarantee that "...please don't post unless you have certainty based on investigation" will not be taken to heart, and you'll get a lot of speculative answers, which may result in your question being closed as too broad before anyone can work out a legitimate solution.
  2. Relying on users to delete their own answers will never work. My suspicion is that half of the answers will be from someone who casually brushes by the question, and posts a quick "The butler did it" and never comes back. They won't be checking to see if their answer gets voted down, or whether it is invalidated. This will require extra work for the moderators to delete all of the invalid answers.
  3. You will lose a lot of initial questions. When the puzzle is first posted, you will probably have a lot of questions added to the community wiki in a very short period of time. There will inevitably be edit conflicts that will result in people blitzing each other's questions.
  4. "Questions that a detective could reasonably get an answer to" is extremely subjective. You're going to get a lot of invalid questions, which will either clutter up the question post or will need to be deleted by you.
  5. People will lose interest. Either the mystery will be solved quickly (in which case you published most of the required clues at the beginning), or it won't, in which case most people will move on to new puzzles and the puzzle will likely remain unsolved. Also, either you will need to be constantly checking and responding to questions, or people will lost interest and move on.
  6. It doesn't consider the future solver. The real goal of StackExchange is to compile a repository of questions and answers that can be referred to by others in the future. Once solved, this puzzle will be of little value to future readers. Either they will read only the original question, which will probably not provide enough information to find a solution, or they will read all the questions and answers, which will most likely make the solution overly obvious. There won't be an opportunity for them to attempt the puzzle themselves, which makes it inappropriate for a SE site.

Personally, I think the idea of "semi-interactive" (or fully interactive) puzzles is great, but it doesn't belong on this site. I think that ideally, a question should be fully solvable when posted, without requiring any interaction with the author.

  • $\begingroup$ Several good points. I anticipated #6 but couldn't think of any remedy unfortunately. I don't see how #5 is unique to this format however (any puzzle could be too easy or too hard and be abandoned). #3 is one I had not before considered and would be very important at the beginning (you didn't even count the fact that I'd also be trying to edit in answers) $\endgroup$
    – NeedAName
    Aug 31, 2015 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ A potential solution for #3 would be to have people ask the questions as comments, and then you could add them with your answers either to the community wiki or to the question itself. Then the comments can be deleted (although that runs into #2 again). $\endgroup$ Aug 31, 2015 at 21:29
  • $\begingroup$ For now, I think I will back off of the idea; the disadvantages you listed showed me that I'm sort of stretching the problem to make it fit a format that really isn't set up to handle it. Maybe I'll repurpose the puzzle so I can salvage the story or maybe someone else will figure out a solution to the issues above. Thanks for your thought-out answer! $\endgroup$
    – NeedAName
    Sep 8, 2015 at 20:57

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