So almost 8 months ago I wrote a decently popular riddle. It enjoyed some pretty decent activity, garnered enough upvotes to be instrumental in me getting out of Low-Rep Hell. However, it is still unanswered.

Despite the fact I am still reasonably proud of it, I have horribly botched its execution. I released hints too early and too rapidly, introduced new elements in (obtuse and cryptic) hints, my clear demarcation between fluff and crunch wasn't so clear to many answerers, and - worst of all - I tried to pull off two puzzles at once (sort of).

I have made a load of mistakes, and I feel some of them might be interesting to analyze and prove useful to other would-be posters. However, I'm not exactly sure if anyone would bother reading that (or if I would botch the analysis too, or write it in such a way it would be a pain to read).

My question is: which of the following actions should I take?

  • Do nothing and hope somebody answers the puzzle.

  • Provide the intended answer and explain the hints.

  • Provide the intended answer, explain the hints, and write a separate postmortem about the mistakes on Meta.

  • Provide the intended answer, explain the hints, explain the mistakes in the answer.

EDIT: it is done.


2 Answers 2


I'll echo what @GentlePurpleRain has already said, and will add -

I would be most in favor of your last option, though again any of the 3 GPR noted would be fine. I only have this preference because you've already as much as admitted that due to issues with the puzzle's formulation you think it unlikely someone will ever get the intended solution. Rather than leave a tantalizing but unsolvable riddle abandoned to its fate, it would be preferable to give it some closure. Providing an explanation of the solution and the hints would do this nicely.

One note of caution. We've seen unsolved puzzles be self-answered by their setters after no progress is made toward the intended answer for longer than the setter wants to wait; and then, particularly depending on what the answer is, the tone in which the self-answer is written, and ultimately the perceived fairness / flaws the community sees in the puzzle, the puzzle may then get a rash of downvotes. If the puzzle went unsolved for a long time because the path to solution is all "guess what I'm thinking", completely unmotivated or contrary to the direction the puzzle tends to lead, or otherwise deeply flawed, such downvotes are inevitable and probably well deserved. Having said that, a self-answer that explained what the answer was and goes on to explain where the puzzle went wrong would go a long way toward mitigating backlash.

Not to say that yours is a bad puzzle, but if it was, even a bad puzzle can serve as a good example of things not to do, and lessons to learn from. I think if you choose to provide the answer, an explanation of where you think things went wrong and how others might avoid those pitfalls would be an excellent supplement to it.

The wrap-up post template might be useful for ideas of what to include in such a post.


I think any of 1, 2, and 4 are acceptable.

You might want to think about what your goal is.

Is your goal

  • to have someone solve the puzzle?
  • to offer an explanation the puzzle and what you feel was wrong with it?
  • to help others learn from your mistakes?

In any case, self-answering the puzzle is probably the direction you want to go, although there's nothing wrong with leaving the puzzle unanswered, either.

How much you explain about the puzzle and your mistakes is up to you and what you hope to achieve from the process.


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