Anyone who knows me knows that I like metapuzzles. I love when seemingly unrelated things come together into a satisfying conclusion. I've had a few ideas for new ones recently, but I didn't just want to use cryptic clues again. I had another idea - what if the component puzzles weren't cryptic clues, but were instead puzzles by other people?

How I imagine this working

  • I finish planning the metapuzzle and modifying it to have the right number of answers.
  • I send off an answer to everyone who's interested.
  • The participants make a puzzle with their given answer word/phrase as the unambiguous solution.
  • They post the puzzle on a specific day.
  • I post the metapuzzle on the same day, after most or all of the others are up.
  • Solvers work on the individual puzzles, then eventually crack the metapuzzle.
  • That solver is crowned the Czar of Puzzles until thirty seconds later, when we all get distracted by a new puzzle.

What kind of puzzles are acceptable?

Pretty much anything! It can be a riddle, a crossword, a math puzzle, a cipher, or something else entirely! As long as there's some way to unambiguously get a specific word or phrase from it, then it's fine. (The A1Z26 cipher may help if you're limited by the genre you chose - for instance, a honeycomb maze could have specific hexes circled to spell out the answer.)

The actual questions

The main goal of this post is, of course, to gauge interest. Would you be interested in participating? You can still solve other component puzzles even if you make your own. (Also, I can assign you a specific type of answer if you need it - say, a noun for a riddle - but you might have to be flexible when I cannot. You can always write several riddles and have the initials spell out an answer, for instance.)

Some more questions:

  • How long should the time between answer sending and post deadline be?

  • What should we use to communicate? It'll mostly be sending off the answers and saying "ready", but we need some method. I'm fine with email, Skype, and Discord. Other tools would also work, but those might be the easiest.

  • Would this even be allowed? Technically, the metapuzzle wouldn't be self-contained. I don't think it should be too much of a problem, since it'd all be hosted on SE anyway (and we're pretty lenient on Puzzling compared to other sites anyway), but I'd like to get community approval beforehand.

  • $\begingroup$ Ok, correct me if I am wrong- Here's what I have understood from your post- You will design a puzzle which would be made up of different number of answers to specific puzzles which would be decided beforehand(possibly with a note), So, a group of puzzlers post different questions on the main site, each with an answer which is needed to solve your puzzle. And puzzlers volunteer to take part in your idea and you somehow contact them and provide them an answer upon which they base their puzzle upon? $\endgroup$
    – Sid
    Oct 17 '16 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Sid: Yep, that's pretty much it! $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Oct 17 '16 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ These are the times when you hope for a sandbox, so that puzzles leading to a bigger could be ironed out before posting on the main site.. $\endgroup$
    – Sid
    Oct 17 '16 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ Public key encryption for passing component secrets? Been waiting to use it hands-on ever since an algebra class. Some web sites probably exist to help us not have to do our own megaprime factoring from scratch . . . $\endgroup$
    – humn
    Oct 18 '16 at 0:49
  • $\begingroup$ What if some components were redundantly passed to more than one puzzler? Would make me more likely to volunteer if I didn't have to be sure that my puzzle would work out. Could also (if it even makes sense within the metastructure) add an element of intrigue for each puzzler to wonder whether another puzzle contains the same component as theirs. $\endgroup$
    – humn
    Oct 18 '16 at 1:06
  • $\begingroup$ @humn: I'll probably make one or two if people have to drop out for some reason or another, or maybe reveal an answer at the start. It depends on how many people we have - I'll need to modify the puzzle based on interest. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Oct 18 '16 at 2:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'd be willing to participate if this goes forward. $\endgroup$ Oct 18 '16 at 7:13
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This sounds nifty, I don't think I'm all that great at puzzle making but I'd be happy to help. $\endgroup$
    – dcfyj
    Oct 18 '16 at 14:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would be interested in participating $\endgroup$ Oct 18 '16 at 21:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Count me in too. $\endgroup$
    – Gordon K
    Oct 19 '16 at 10:00
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ ....and my axe! $\endgroup$
    – Alconja
    Oct 19 '16 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ This looks cool :) $\endgroup$
    – ABcDexter
    Oct 20 '16 at 8:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Oops, didn't realise you were already at the stage of gathering volunteers via comments. If it's not too late, I'd love to join in too! $\endgroup$ Oct 25 '16 at 22:57
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor: Not too late yet! I've been a bit busy, so I haven't finalized the metapuzzle yet. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Oct 25 '16 at 23:04
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ If it's still not too late to jump in, Deusovi, I've built up enough courage to volunteer an ad hoc honeycomb maze. $\endgroup$
    – humn
    Oct 29 '16 at 1:02

Personally, I don't see any problem with this type of puzzle. In fact, it has been done before (shameless self-promotion). I realize that's not quite the same as what you're proposing, because it isn't using the actual answers to previous puzzles, but I think to someone coming in and viewing the puzzles later on, there won't be a lot of difference. It certainly isn't "self-contained", but neither are lots of other puzzles.

Like Alconja said, I see this as a great opportunity to promote community within the site. It's not at all the same as a puzzle series, because it doesn't require building from one puzzle to the next; each is self-contained and only the meta-puzzle requires solving any other puzzles. For a person who stumbles on it months later and wants to solve the meta-puzzle without all the other puzzles, they can easily look up the posted answers to the others and then just go about solving the meta if they like.

So I am an enthusiastic supporter of this idea (and would love to participate)!

The communication thing is a bit tricky, because ideally you'd want it to be all within the site, but there's no way to do that without providing all the solutions to everyone. But since it will basically be one message stating, "Here is your solution word," I don't think it matters that much how it happens.

Oh, and I would suggest about 2 weeks between providing the words and expecting a solution. To short, and you'll get substandard puzzles. Too long, and people will just procrastinate.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Your "shameless self-promotion" has resulted in an upvote from me :-) $\endgroup$ Oct 17 '16 at 21:52

I like the "community" aspect that things like the fortnightly challenges bring to PSE, and would love to see more of it (for example). Similarly, I've enjoyed the way collaborative solving in chat has become a thing, and think that collaborative creation in some form would be a fun and welcome addition to the site...

However, my concern is that this type of puzzle would be explicitly breaking the generally held convention on PSE, that all Puzzles should be "self contained". It is frowned on when people try to make puzzle "series", where one puzzle relies on the answer to the last (beyond just being a story/theme continuation). I personally like that rule, because it means you can more easily "jump in" to any puzzle without needing to worry about requiring prior knowledge. Loosening the rule for this mega/meta-puzzle would create a precedence and invite more.

So, I'm torn... I like the idea and its goals (to the point, that I'd happily be involved, excepting time constraints), but I'm a little concerned about the precedence it would create.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that's what I'm worried about. We have had puzzle series before (as well as those that require knowledge of other puzzles), but I'm not sure if setting a major precedent like this wlould be a good idea. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Oct 17 '16 at 6:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Deusovi - Yeah, I guess that's my concern too - i.e. this would be a "major" precedent (especially, unfortunately for you, given your diamond). As you say, there are exceptions, and the self-contained "rule" is more of a convention than anything formal (to my knowledge), but similar to that riddle "competition" I linked to, a small number of high quality ones would be good, but I don't know how they could be "contained". $\endgroup$
    – Alconja
    Oct 17 '16 at 6:31
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ...that being said, maybe I'm being overly pessimistic... Sometimes these things just need to be given a run and see how it goes... $\endgroup$
    – Alconja
    Oct 17 '16 at 6:32
  • $\begingroup$ If the meta-puzzle question explicitly linked to all the related questions (rather than having to guess/search), and was updated every time one of the latter was solved to include the word next to the link, I think it would eventually be self-contained, which may be sufficient to avoid setting bad precedent. $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    Oct 19 '16 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Bobson: The explicit links were definitely going to happen. Not sure about adding the answers, but I may do it if it's still too close to being not self-contained. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Oct 20 '16 at 2:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Deusovi maybe it'd be better if the meta-puzzle was on meta.puzzling, given that meta is about the site. Then the precedent of having non-self contained puzzles on puzzling wouldn't be broken? $\endgroup$ Oct 29 '16 at 14:05

I've decided to go through with it for now. Consensus generally seems to be "possibly good idea, but worried about potentially setting a precedent for bad puzzles". If it succeeds, then we can continue allowing things like this as exceptions (maybe if they're brought up on meta first?). If it fails, then it'll go the way of , and we'll just disallow it in the future. Either way, there's probably no harm in trying it out.

The meta-puzzle has been designed. There are different versions for five to seven people: if necessary, I can go above or below that fairly easily, though.

There is now a chatroom for general organization and communicating answers. Currently, only the seven people who volunteered in the comments have access. If you would like to be invited, let me know in chat or by email.

  • $\begingroup$ One question- how do we know that a puzzle is part of your meta puzzle? Would there be a disclaimer at the top? $\endgroup$
    – Sid
    Nov 4 '16 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Sid: Ideally, yes. Also, the metapuzzle would link to all the others. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Nov 4 '16 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ I would be interested in participating(my tight schedule at this time of the year hasn't turned out to be as tight as I expected it to be) if there are more spots open. If not, feel free to inform me of my late candidacy :-) $\endgroup$
    – Sid
    Nov 4 '16 at 17:24

I didn't see an answer posted to the effect of "no".

I agree with Alconja's answer's reasoning:

However, my concern is that this type of puzzle would be explicitly breaking the generally held convention on PSE, that all Puzzles should be "self contained". It is frowned on when people try to make puzzle "series", where one puzzle relies on the answer to the last (beyond just being a story/theme continuation). I personally like that rule, because it means you can more easily "jump in" to any puzzle without needing to worry about requiring prior knowledge. Loosening the rule for this mega/meta-puzzle would create a precedence and invite more.

However, I'm not torn and think it's not a good idea.

  • $\begingroup$ What if copies of the component puzzles were included in the central puzzle but still be expected to be solved at their individual posts? $\endgroup$
    – humn
    Oct 29 '16 at 21:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @humn I still wouldn't like that. Maybe if the actual puzzle answers were included in the main puzzle, but the links were included for exposure. I'm not sure, maybe it will work out perfectly for the community, I'm not like hardcore against it, but there wasn't an answer essentially saying no. If this answer doesn't gain traction, then the "no" is in the minority anyway. $\endgroup$ Oct 30 '16 at 13:32

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