I'm fairly new here, and I'm looking to learn the ropes, so by all means please let me know if I'm missing something or doing something wrong.

I posted my third puzzle yesterday, and there's been a significant negative response. Within hours of posting it, I had already received multiple downvotes, with only one comment from Emrakul (by the way, thank you for suggestion).

I realize that, at first glance, it may seem that what I posted is a shoddy, quickly-thrown-together, for lack of a better word, "low quality" post, but it's actually something I've put quite a bit of effort into, as I have with my other puzzles, both of which were both very popular and which I really enjoyed making and watching develop.

I know I'm in a bit of a predicament because of how seemingly substandard what I posted is, but I'm feeling like all the negative attention it's received (which resulted in it being delisted from the "active" page) is somewhat unwarranted. I also appreciate the additional complication that I can't really adequately defend my post (at least until someone answers or deletes it, or until I delete it) because I don't want to spoil it.

I don't mean to complain, nor draw undue attention to my quandary, but I'm wondering if there's any steps I can take to ameliorate the situation. I've tried adding and adding updates and hints, but to no effect, it seems.

Is there anything else I can do, short of spoiling the puzzle?

Again, I know this is a strange situation, not least of which because my riddle relies only the title and the characters at the top of page (which was all I was going to post, until I was stymied by the character and good-post requirements—which I understand).

Please, let me what I should do in such a situation—I may be new here, but I'm looking forward to being a part of this community.


3 Answers 3


Puzzle-writing is one part puzzle, two parts writing.

The best puzzles do two things: first, such puzzles convince you they are interesting problems worth solving. Second, they must actually contain an interesting problem and solution.

I naturally have no way of verifying, but I'm going to assume the problem and solution you've created really are interesting. What, then, is the issue?

It doesn't look like they are.

Part of this has nothing to do with the way you wrote the puzzle. Sequence puzzles have a harder time getting recognition - particularly on Puzzling - because there have been so many of them, and they are so frequently of poor quality in solution. This puts yours at a disadvantage right out of the gate.

Still, part of it does: By presenting it as just another sequence puzzle, that's what people are bound to think, since that's the only information they have to go on. Unfortunately, updates and hints (while they can be useful) don't accommodate for this: the puzzle itself needs a major contextual revision.

I would suggest writing something descriptive. Anything. Seriously, it will help, even if it seems a little silly or misplaced. As long as it pertains, even minimally, to the puzzle at hand, it will look like it isn't just another sequence puzzle - the impression you're trying to avoid.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "Puzzle-writing is one part puzzle, two parts writing." Then it should be called puzzle-writing-writing. :-) $\endgroup$
    – msh210
    Nov 22, 2015 at 7:13

There have been a lot of puzzles posted in the past of the form:

What's the next number in this sequence?
2, 3, 5, 7...

The problem with these puzzles is that while the person who posted them certainly has a specific solution in mind, it is virtually impossible to present the puzzle in such a way that there is one unique solution.

I'm no mathematics expert, but my understanding is that you can use polynomials to develop a function for basically any sequence of numbers, that will output the given sequence given the input 1, 2, 3, ....

This type of puzzle has typically been aggressively downvoted for that reason: anyone can come up with a viable solution, so it really is no longer a puzzle, but rather a nondescript mathematical problem.

I'm sure that most of the solutions that are arrived at in this way are not the intended solution, but there is no way of knowing what the poster's intended solution is, short of mind-reading.

Further, based on your previous puzzles (that you linked in the question), your puzzles tend to require a lot of leaps of intuition, and are not easily solved. For a puzzle like this, that means that if there is a more "obvious" solution (like D), it will be presented before the intended solution anyway.

TL;DR: Even if you have a specific answer in mind, the history of this type of puzzle on this site means that nobody has any interest in trying to solve it, and it will be downvoted.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the quick response. While I would like to say that I don't exactly agree that my past puzzles have required leaps of intuition, I'm grateful for the feedback. Additionally, and perhaps I should make this known as this may be the greatest source of confusion, my puzzle is not a sequence puzzle. $\endgroup$
    – Riddler
    Nov 9, 2015 at 23:40

NOTE: The below is a response I have been sitting on since this question was posted. I didn't want to dogpile the asker, but I have a lot of Thoughts about issues with this and similar puzzles and wanted to put them in a place where it was relevant.

As someone who was watching that particular question with interest in its (intended) answer—I posted an answer but the author seemed to have signed off for the night by that point—I want to explain what frustrated me about it:

Looking at that puzzle felt a bit like someone had handed me an apple and said "Well??" while staring at me expectantly. Most—certainly not all, but most—puzzles are to some degree self-evidently puzzles. That is, beyond simply being told by the author that what is being presented is a puzzle, the puzzle itself communicates, via context and (for lack of a better word) a sort of shared "grammar", that it's hiding something, or has something about it that needs to be solved, which is ultimately and evidently purposeful and within the domain of the puzzle's content.

I very much do not want to get into a semantics discussion about What Constitutes a Puzzle, and quite frankly, I'd be sad if this site were to impose stricter rules about what could be considered a valid puzzle (especially as any such determination would ultimately be arbitrary anyway), but I think that good puzzles generally communicate their puzzlehood implicitly, and tend to "come together" once the answer is found. They provide a logic by which a guess could be checked; the puzzle in question, as mentioned in other answers, does not do much to engender a belief that any one answer is the answer.

I don't think the core of the puzzle in question was bad, necessarily. I just don't think the form it took—hiding something* in unadorned text and obliquely hinting at summation** in the title—was any more a "puzzle" than lying to someone to make them upset on April 1st is a "prank".

In any case, I am still very curious about the answer to that particular puzzle and would watch that space again were it to be reworked and reposted.

* the answer? a hint? I still don't know what the HTML/Unicode values were intended to signify.

** maybe? again, I'm not even sure that what I was getting out of the title was what was intended.


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