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I'm looking back at some old questions from the beginning of the site, and I've noticed a set of questions that, to this day, are still posted.

It started when I re-viewed the Security to the Party series. Looking through the list of all 39 questions, I'm struggling to find any of them that are of high quality. I'd ideally like to put (nearly) all questions in this series, and potentially also of this style, on hold as too broad. Looking through recent examples, it's very difficult to find any that are done well enough to limit the scope of reasonable answers to any degree - there are always many detectable patterns, as the sample sizes are just too small.

In my opinion, questions where the asker comes up with a pattern and provides a couple examples of them, and we're supposed to infer backwards off very little information what the original pattern is, are categorically too broad - at least how they're done right now.

Compare these with the "What is a _____ word™?" series, where each question had 10-20 examples, and frequently well over 15 - and the only reason I think these worked at all is because there were actually that many examples. With fewer examples, more wrong guesses would start to match all the provided clues. Only one password puzzle has provided a comparable number of examples.

Under what circumstances, though, are these questions not too broad? Can you cite, with examples, situations under which they become sufficiently well-defined?

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Honestly, I think that these questions are nearly always too broad. The only way they can be sufficiently well-defined is:

  • if there are a large quantity of examples (like your example of the Word™ series)

  • and if there is some other clue pointing to the answer (for instance, the adjective before Word™/Phrase™)

Otherwise, they are either too broad or low quality (if not both) and should be deleted. (After all, nobody sees the SttP puzzles as an example of good puzzle design, except potential newbies.)


This opinion extends to a vast majority of puzzles tagged: , , , , and .

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  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't that make all the puzzles a bit one dimensional?? I mean, that the variety of puzzles will be lost.. $\endgroup$ – Sid Aug 8 '16 at 16:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Sid: How? Puzzles have tons of variety without being "guess what I'm thinking". $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Aug 8 '16 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I guess the logic in removing those puzzles is that There are many answers which seem correct. Similarly, many riddles would be removed as well going by the same logic(As they too are somewhat "guess what I am thinking").. That's what I mean when I said variety will be lost. $\endgroup$ – Sid Aug 8 '16 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ @Sid: If there are multiple equally valid answers, then the puzzle should be removed. But we won't lose variety - you can still have riddles, as long as they're constraining enough. Look at the quarterly best-of: there's so much variety there, and none of them would be removed by this. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Aug 8 '16 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ Multiple valid answers depends upon perspectives. Because as you see answers of many posts, Many answers sound valid and make sense as well.. Would those be closed? For example, new users would post puzzles which usually would have valid answers which the OP didn't have in mind. $\endgroup$ – Sid Aug 8 '16 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Sid: If the answers are all equally valid, then yes. Puzzles should be sufficiently constrained to have one valid answer - otherwise it's "guess what I'm thinking", not "figure out the solution using logic and intuition". $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Aug 8 '16 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with that. But, the fact is when you have such a large community, there would be many different answers for a certain puzzle. All of them would even make sense as well. $\endgroup$ – Sid Aug 8 '16 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Sid: No. If a puzzle has many different answers, then it is poorly made. For instance, f'''s Puzzling Image Maze has one final answer. Each of the sub-puzzles has unambiguous answers. Why do you think all puzzles must be possible to interpret in different ways? $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Aug 8 '16 at 17:28
  • $\begingroup$ Now, that makes sense. What is the difference between a red-herring and "guess What am I thinking"? I mean, both of them are almost the same. Many puzzles highlight it... $\endgroup$ – Sid Aug 8 '16 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Aug 8 '16 at 17:43

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