My carefully designed puzzle What is a Xilly word? with a tons of clues, historical as well as contemporary references, (and of course, red herrings) was removed at the moderator's discretion (what I am no way challenging at all: they are here to make these kind of decisions).

The comment was:

Since this appears to be a joke rather than an actual puzzle, it has been removed. – Deusovi♦ 3 mins ago

For those amusement who are below 10.000 rep., here is a snapshot of the puzzle:

enter image description here

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Yes, this was a humorous twist on @Maria Deleva's recent puzzle What is a lonely word?. Was it intended to be a joke? No.

How can I ensure that my posts will not be treated like this in the future? In particular, would it be possible to identify objective reasons for a puzzle to be termed as joke, and deemed to be removed? Maybe a [humour] tag would have helped? (Just as a side-note, as -- again -- I am not here to challenge at all the deletion, shouldn't be posts like this put on hold first?)

I am planning on reposting the same kind of puzzle (carrying essentially the same message), once community consensus has been reached on what is a joke and what is not, and how much similarity and resemblance is acceptable between questions. For what is worth, at least for the uninitiate, the post appears to be as much of a puzzle, as one can be.

I am open for suggestions.

Edit: I got a warning from the moderator team. I believe there is nothing personal here, they just need to address somehow internally that they have observed a not really popular puzzle.

The post, before we could have discussed what is wrong with it, and what parts of it requires fixing, disappeared again. At this point it seems nearly impossible to review it because of the high number of downvotes (of which I don't personally care about at all) make it look bad.

To clarify, my intentions were to show a very transparent example of what is called chaos theory. For those who are not familiar with this concept: the essence is that there are systems where if you change the slightly bit of any of the initial conditions, you will have strikingly different outcome. Colloquially this is called the butterfly effect. You have a set of words what seems like to share a common property. But once you add a new word, this property could disappear at once, forcing you to reconsider your previous thoughts, and start to explore new kind of ideas. But this happens with everything. For example, you can have the following Childish (R) (C) TM riddle:

I am an animal. I live in the zoo. I have long neck. What I am?

You are:

The giraffe!

Yay, that was one notable answer. And how about this twist on the previous riddle:

I am an animal. I live in the zoo. I have long neck. I run fast. What I am?

You are suddenly:

the ostrich.

Another brilliant answer. Note that the solution of the previous riddle no longer fits this twisted one, as giraffes are rather slow animals. You see, to make this kind of twist (whether or not it is humorous), you need something to twist on. You need another puzzle, to make this kind of comparison. The reason why I chose M D's post, because it was up in the front page, making it very easy to compare the two posts, as the first commenter instantly did, and because it happened that I could make a nice puzzle out of their set of words.

Thank you for reading my post.

Happy problem solving!

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    $\begingroup$ Personally, I think now that you've made clear it was a genuine puzzle and not just a joke, this question should be undeleted. I can't vote to undelete since it was deleted by a moderator, but I have flagged it for mod attention asking for it to be undeleted. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Sep 18 '16 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ @randal'thor, I agree. This is completely okay based on the tag wiki that was composed for humour $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Sep 18 '16 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ @BeastlyGerbil Of course, if the humour tag gets burninated, as proposed by GPR with 12 upvotes on the other meta thread ... $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Sep 18 '16 at 20:46

My suggestion for a question like this would be to run it by the person you are joking about first.

That question felt like it was mocking the question by M D which she said she put a bunch of effort in and your puzzle seemed to dismiss it as silly. This is very different IMO for the Mithrandir lost his key puzzle which was also a joke but didn't mock any sort of effort that Mithrandir made to improve and add content to this site.

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    $\begingroup$ 100% agreed. The puzzle by M D seems to have a lot of effort put into it, and mean-spirited jokes are not welcome here. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Sep 19 '16 at 6:12
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    $\begingroup$ Hello, I thank you for your suggestion! As I said in my post above, there were no intentions of joking about other user whatsoever, and I came here to meta to discuss what, if anything is not ok with the post. I borrowed and attempted to "humorously twist" an example, that is what happened. I have no intentions asking permission from other users whether or not I can use a phrase, or a set of words in the future. Thank you for your understanding. $\endgroup$ – Matsmath Sep 20 '16 at 2:13

It has been undeleted.

Edit: And re-deleted, since it is now clear that I'm not the only one who thinks it's intentionally insulting to anoter user.

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    $\begingroup$ I downvoted this because I disagree with deleting a question based on the assumption it is intended to be insulting without knowing the answer. I also don't think just because it was a parody it should be deleted, since it didn't contain any inappropriate terms and I don't view it as harassment. But I know that is another topic probably almost no one will agree with me on, but I just wanted to bring it up in order to further explain my view on this issue. $\endgroup$ – user14478 Sep 19 '16 at 18:03
  • $\begingroup$ By now, perhaps the most important reason to ice the puzzle (and allow for behind-the-scenes revision) is to cool our inflamed immune-system overreaction of outright hostility, which I think has caused harm beyond the site of the original insult. Only a handful of regulars would perceive any malice in the puzzle, weren't it for the attention drawn by our well-intended torches and pitchforks. Constructive criticism itself is an implicit puzzle to solve, over and again. $\endgroup$ – humn Sep 19 '16 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ Hello, thank you for your efforts. I duly noted the moderator warning. I believe there is nothing personal here, this is just the standard protocol once something is wrong. A post with nearly 20 downvotes is certainly something wrong. As a constructive criticism, if I may, is that the same way as you prematurely deleted the post, you the exact same way reopened it hastily, without reaching a community consensus on what parts of the posts are requires fixing. I came here to meta not to whine about my post being deleted, but to address the potential problematic parts, and fix them... $\endgroup$ – Matsmath Sep 20 '16 at 2:16
  • $\begingroup$ ...you, as a moderator deleting the post, also should have addressed here the concerns you have had with the post in the first place. Moderators are looked up on, and a It has been undeleted *\vphantom{too short response countered}$ is not really an answer people kind of expect from you. Please don't take these comments in the wrong way. I thank you again for taking care of the site to the best of your knowledge. $\endgroup$ – Matsmath Sep 20 '16 at 2:18
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    $\begingroup$ @Matsmath: I very much appreciate your courteous attitude and honesty here. I apologize for the hasty undeletion - it seemed to me that several people were saying it should be undeleted, and I had real-world issues to attend to. Plus, neither of the other mods were online at the time, and other users can't reverse mod deletions, so it fell to me to undelete. I didn't have the time to write up a longer post explaining my reasoning for deleting, so this was the best I could do. I do agree that I could've handled it better, though, so I'm very sorry for that. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Sep 20 '16 at 2:25
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    $\begingroup$ As for the "problematic parts", many parts of the post seem like a mean-spirited joke towards another puzzler's work - that's why it was deleted in the first place. Is there any way you could edit your post to make it seem less disparaging, and possibly distinguish it more from the other puzzle in question? As it stands, the question seems like mockery phrased vaguely like a puzzle rather than a legitimate puzzle with a satisfying solution. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Sep 20 '16 at 2:27

The tag was recently removed after I brought the issue up that it was encouraging users to post simple one line puzzles that weren't puzzles

The definition of the new tag that replaced it in an effort to discourage this is:

'For puzzles that contain an element of humour or wit. Please do not use this tag to post simple jokes which are not puzzles, and remember that questions should be uniquely answerable.'

This tag is to be used for puzzles that contain an element of humour or wit, or for questions about such puzzles. Questions which are simply jokes and nothing else are likely to be closed if they don't relate to puzzling.

Puzzles should also have a unique, demonstrably correct answer; see this meta post and the associated off-topic close reason. While humour is welcome in puzzles, it shouldn't come at the expense of answerability.

This puzzle may have been deleted because it is not 'uniquely answerable'; i.e. it is too similar to What is a Lonely Word?, a problem raised in the comments.

However for me this is still a valid puzzle, not just a joke and follows the requirements stated above, so I am for it being undeleted.

Questions like this should be closed as they are just jokes not puzzles. However this seems like a genuine puzzle which just involve humour, which is allowed as stated in the tag wiki above.

I am not saying that Deusovi made a mistake here, in fact I thank him for doing his job as a moderator. He acted on what he thought, however I happen to think differently.

If the question is undeleted, I strongly recommend adding a tag

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    $\begingroup$ Re your second-to-last paragraph: the job of a moderator is not just to act on what they personally think. Mods are there to enforce the standards decided upon by the community (as well as to take actions which cannot be performed by non-mods, such as dealing with disruptive users). Deusovi did make a mistake, albeit an understandable one: he acted on the assumption that the question was a sarcastic joke rather than a puzzle, which at first glance it did seem to be, but in fact it wasn't. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Sep 18 '16 at 20:42
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    $\begingroup$ (I want to say that mods shouldn't delete posts unless they're absolutely sure they need to be deleted, and indeed that is the ideal state of affairs: the community working together with their rep-based privileges to close/delete bad posts, and mods only intervening in absolutely clear cases. Even A Theory of Moderation says that "The ideal moderator does as little as possible." But unfortunately this site has so few 10k and 20k users that most deletions can't be done without mod intervention. Get more rep, people! :-) ) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Sep 18 '16 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe it would be good for mods to ask in a meta question if question should be deleted. That way the community can agree and we won't need questions like this $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Sep 18 '16 at 20:46
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    $\begingroup$ @BeastlyGerbil Actually, question deletions are very rarely needed at all. If a question is blatantly off-topic, close it and downvote it; it'll get deleted later by the roomba. If a question is spam, flag it; enough flags will delete it automatically. I can't think of many circumstances where a question needs to be deleted quickly - and the cases when they should tend to be very clear-cut and don't really need community consensus. In this case, the best action would probably have been either to take it to meta or just to ping Matsmath and ask if it was really a serious puzzle. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Sep 18 '16 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for taking the time for writing your suggestion. I believe adding the humor tag is a good idea, but not adding it does not explain nearly 20 downvotes. Whatever is the problem with the post, is not this. $\endgroup$ – Matsmath Sep 20 '16 at 2:10

Sorry to imagine this, but you might consider posting the solution yourself. Puzzle lovers of the future will get just as much out of it, probably more because you can cover every detail, as if it had been solved by someone else.

It might even help downvoters in the present understand that voting is better suited to honest puzzle valuation than to personal righteousness.

You could also slightly alter the puzzle statement, out of consideration, whether or not it ever contained an element of displaced frustration, if you can do so without compromising its structure (or lightheartedness).

Probably should, in any case, add sincere attribution to the puzzle being reflected.

Revising the puzzle would also allow moralistic downvoters to at least cancel their votes if they are honest enough to realize that the voting system is not robust enough to withstand being flexed like this.


Yes, this post contains an element of didactically ironic self-righteousness with the secret hope that puzzle revision will result in enough vote rehabilitation to allow puzzle lovers of the present to enjoy trying to solve it. Would just solve it myself... but... from each according to their ability.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this is good advice. The puzzle is very heavily downvoted and I don't think enough solvers will take it seriously enough on its own merit for it to get solved by others; what it would take for me, at least, to be convinced that it has real point besides mean-spirited mockery would be to see its intended solution and see that there are good reasons for the puzzle to be the way it is. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 19 '16 at 11:56
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    $\begingroup$ I don't believe that downvoting that question is in any way flexing the system [what is voting down ](puzzling.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/vote-down) states Voting down, also known as "casting downvotes", is how the community indicates which questions and answers are least useful. I believe a question that belittles another user is less useful then almost all other questions regardless of how well it is constructed. For me to remove my downvote would take a complete rework of the puzzle regardless of how clever the solution is. $\endgroup$ – gtwebb Sep 19 '16 at 16:20
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    $\begingroup$ I was attempting to give the benefit of the doubt; I can just barely imagine that the solution might somehow explain all the things that look like mean-spirited mockery in a more plausible and less unpleasant way. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 19 '16 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer, and for the comments. I have no intentions at all of revealing the solution of any of my puzzles. As I have indicated earlier, I brought here some not-at-all evident puzzles, and I have no problem if they are downvoted (people vote for whatever-the-hell-reasons-they-want-for), or not solved for many weeks. I might put some small bounty on them to advertise them a bit. The point is to challenge other users' mind, not so that I can blow my own trumpet. Unsolved, long-standing puzzles are almost nonexistent on this site, apart from a few classical examples. $\endgroup$ – Matsmath Sep 20 '16 at 2:07

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