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Many questions here on PSE are in the form of a straightforward riddle. I'm not talking about more complex puzzles which have a riddle element as well as many other parts to them, but just about puzzles which consist of a single riddle, with a single solution, and nothing else.

When should two such puzzles be considered duplicates?

I had a quick look through some of the existing duplicate riddles. There are many which have the solution NOTHING and have been closed as duplicates of Oh, it is greater than God! despite not having quite the same wording (examples: one, two, etc.) Then there are some which have the solution COFFIN and have been closed as duplicates of Riddle of the Unwanted Present (examples: one, two, etc.) Both of these are old 'chestnut' riddles, which explains why they appear so often.

On the other hand, there are riddles which have the same answer and reasonably similar clues but haven't been closed as duplicates: for instance, I'm 26, what am I? - riddle and the earlier An easy riddle, for once. I'm a hot girl! I don't remember whether I VTCed this one or just commented with a link to the previous question, but in any case it was never closed. Perhaps it should have been?

Let's try to make some reasonably clear guidelines for when to dupe-close riddles.

I'm very close to getting a gold tag badge for , which is why I'd like to have a clear policy on this. If there's a community consensus on when riddles should be considered duplicates, then I'm less likely to be accused of abusing my dupehammer powers.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just as a note (not necessarily disagreeing with you): The answers to the two riddles you mention aren't quite identical. One is a specific object, while the other is simply the word itself. A subtle distinction, but a distinction nonetheless. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Dec 6 '16 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ @GentlePurpleRain Good point. The only part of the older riddle (mine) which hints at the word more than the specific object is the third line. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Dec 6 '16 at 15:32
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Two riddle postings are duplicates if they essentially set the same riddle in the same way.

They have to follow a very similar path to get you to the same answer, with similar/identical hinting about similar/identical characteristics of the riddle's target. If some reasonably high threshold percentage of the hinting is the same — potentially in different words, rhymes, order, or whatever, but nevertheless pose fundamentally the same riddle — they're duplicate and should be marked as such.

I don't think you can just look at the answer to conclude that two riddles which resolve to the same thing are of necessity duplicate, or even probably duplicate. If two riddles take different approaches to get you to the same answer, there's a good likelihood that (at least) one of them put conscious thought into providing a novel approach to setting their riddle, and should not be considered duplicate despite having a common answer.

But where the hinting is substantially similar, and arrive at the same answer, the riddles as a whole are substantially similar. The thing we're solving is the puzzle. If two (sufficiently) unique puzzles happen to arrive at the same answer, I don't think that's enough to deem them duplicate. If they are not (sufficiently) unique, and arrive at the same answer, I think they are duplicates.

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    $\begingroup$ Also note that it is possible to close an earlier post as a duplicate of a more recent one, if the more recent post is obviously of better quality, and has better answers. There is also the option to merge two posts, if they really are identical and both have good answers. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Dec 6 '16 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ See also: I know it when I see it $\endgroup$ – user20 Dec 7 '16 at 11:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Emrakul That looks strangely familiar ;) $\endgroup$ – Rubio Dec 7 '16 at 12:57
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One possible policy could be:

if two riddles have the same answer, they're duplicates.

This is partly inspired by another site's policy on when to count ID questions as dupes. The rationale here is that the most important thing is the solution, and it doesn't really matter that much what information is given in the question to hint towards this solution. That's not as much the case for puzzles as for ID questions, but a case could be made for it in the specific case of riddles: a riddle is essentially a cryptic description of an object or concept, and if the same thing is being described, then the two riddles are pretty much duplicates, even if they're not written in exactly the same way.

(This, by the way, is why I was careful to specify that I'm talking only about straightforward riddles. Obviously we shouldn't close more complex puzzles as duplicates just because both final solutions are "jet fuel can't melt steel beams", but two riddlish poems which both describe an apple might be close enough to be considered duplicates.)

Please upvote or downvote this answer accordingly.

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    $\begingroup$ I've posted exactly one riddle (this one). I think it's fair to say I put in a great deal of effort to make the riddle interesting and to have an unambiguous answer once solved. If two years ago someone had posted a 4 line riddle I've never seen whose answer was the same as my riddle's answer, I would be deeply irked if my riddle were closed as duplicate because a prior riddle had the same answer. Someone who puts in the effort to make a riddle unique shouldn't be VTC'd due to duplicate answer. $\endgroup$ – Rubio Dec 6 '16 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ "I would be deeply irked if my riddle were closed as duplicate because a prior riddle had the same answer" - do remember that being closed as a duplicate is not some kind of criticism, even less so than being closed for any other reasons. Duplicates are useful, and the system recognises this. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Dec 6 '16 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ 10 - 5 = 5. 2 + 3 = 5. Those sums have the same answer, but we don't consider the duplicates. Lots of things have the same answer, but a question shouldn't be closed as duplicate because of the answer. It should be closed because of the question. $\endgroup$ – Beastly Gerbil Dec 7 '16 at 7:14
  • $\begingroup$ So all answers to this meta would be duplicates? $\endgroup$ – David Starkey Dec 13 '16 at 18:21

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