So, I've had an idea for a puzzle format. It could be considered trivia, so that is why I am asking. My idea is a Trail question:

  1. A set of prompts is laid out, in numbered order.

  2. Each line refers to an object, place, or idea, and can take any form (riddle, cryptic clue, a few words, etc)

  3. Once the first solution is found, it must be combined with the following prompt to solve the next one.

  4. In this way, clues can only be solved in order (if written successfully).

  5. The final solution is the answer to the last line.

Example puzzle:

Where does the Winding Trail™ lead?

  1. Analyse, Advertise, Expand, Bend more rules, Buy yourself an island.

  2. Produced by a Hammer and Keys in 1966.

  3. I am long and smooth.

  4. My name implies I can perform maths.

This is a relatively short puzzle (my aim is for 8 to 10 points) just to demonstrate how it works:

1: A simple google search reveals these are the lyrics to "Animals" by Muse.

2: The film "The Reptile" was released in 1966, produced by Hammer Film Productions. The producer was Anthony Nelson Keys.

3: Hopefully, most people would deduce a snake from this clue. In this particular example it may be possible to skip out number 2, since "Long and Smooth" combined with "Animal" makes it pretty clear. Poor writing on my part.

4: Adder.

Is this type of challenge on-topic and am I allowed to make more of these on the main site?

  • $\begingroup$ I've just realised you can actually solve the whole thing just by looking at the last two clues. I wrote this on the fly without planning though, so the real thing would be better organised and tested. $\endgroup$
    – Aric
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 10:15
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not a mod, but it seems viable. Obviously, the test would simply be to design it, post it, and take in some feedback. Maybe start for small but well-thought and if it is pleasing to people, go bigger? $\endgroup$
    – Forklift
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Forklift i'll wait for a couple more people to add input, but you have a fair point. $\endgroup$
    – Aric
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 12:49
  • $\begingroup$ I think the real sticking point is that it's Googling trivia and that may feel like work to some puzzlers. $\endgroup$
    – Forklift
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ agreed. My preferred format would be to challenge people to research to find the answers, however this could be done equally as well in riddle form, with consecutive riddles? $\endgroup$
    – Aric
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 12:56

2 Answers 2


In my opinion there is absolutely nothing wrong with a puzzle comprised of several parts, the answer from each part serving as a key clue to solving the next. Perhaps not often seen in the context you're suggesting, the idea is somewhat common in other puzzles - cryptography puzzles in particular, for example, where we frequently see the solution of an earlier part of the puzzle providing the decryption key for a later part. So a puzzle wouldn't be "off-topic" just because of a sequential solve pattern.

I'll add an observation that you've already made about your example: making later parts too explicit on their own can allow someone to bypass earlier clues altogether, as you found. I don't have a particular problem giving clues that would require a web search to solve, but that kind of clue is hard to make both specific enough to clearly point to ONE (interim) answer, and vague enough that without the prior interim answer you'd have no idea where it leads. Loose associations might indeed work better:

  1. A few are wise, many are sharp, some become rotten to the core.
  2. Dull, grinding, back-wards.

likely make little sense on their own, but following

  1. Lip, tongue, gum, palate.

would give "Part of the mouth" for 1, leading you to figure out "Teeth" for 2, and "Molars" for 3.

I'd love to see a puzzle that did this kind of thing really well, and look forward to seeing what you might come up with!

  • $\begingroup$ I think this would be my favorite form of the proposed type of puzzle simply because I can do it without research and then get that all-so-crucial "a-ha" moment when I either discover it through my wits or (more likely) read someone's clever answer. $\endgroup$
    – Forklift
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 18:28
  • $\begingroup$ I saw this puzzle on the main site, with the tag enigmatic puzzle tag. While I definitely enjoyed the type of puzzle, and agree that the puzzle isn't off-topic for Puzzling, is this the best tag? In the trail posted, it does state that one clue leads to another, there is a (in my opinion) distinct solving strategy. Perhaps, its own tag should be assigned to future "trails"? Please advise. $\endgroup$
    – Apollo-XII
    Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ I'd probably use word - I'm not sure there's a need for a new tag specific to this type of puzzle. (Even the venerable "What is a ... Word™?" puzzles don't have their own tag, and that's probably as it should be) $\endgroup$
    – Rubio Mod
    Commented Aug 6, 2017 at 0:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ They actually do, we created the word-property tag for those puzzles. (And I see no reason not to create one here if this gets even a tenth as popular as that). $\endgroup$
    – ffao
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 5:21
  • $\begingroup$ (@ffao True, but it's a general purpose tag, suited to those puzzles but not exclusive to them. The "word" tag actually already fits, at least for now; if these become numerous enough that a more specific tag is warranted, hopefully they'll all follow the "... Trail™" motif and be easy enough to deal with then.) $\endgroup$
    – Rubio Mod
    Commented Aug 7, 2017 at 5:52

I also think this is a very valid form of puzzle. I would maybe just add, that ideally you want to construct puzzles so that "easy Googling" is not an essential or possible step.

Nothing inheritly wrong with it, but the quality of the puzzle would be better.

Also: If you either need or (deeper, topic-centered) in the puzzle to get you started, consider adding those tags.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, I have two different puzzle types. The first is logic clues and piecing information together. The second is a "Google Treasure Hunt" where you need to google and find obscure facts which you would not be expected to know. $\endgroup$
    – Aric
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 9:56

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