I have seen a couple of these posted recently. They don't really seem to do the community any good.

We don't really seem to have a policy on 'classic' riddles. These are riddles which

  • are usually short
  • have been around for a long time and are usually quite famous
  • are everywhere online and the answer is freely available

What do we do about these? They are very short - and any other riddle so short would be closed as 'too broad' but that is difficult to do when there is a well known answer easily found online.

What should we do about these?


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If new riddles are closed for being vague, then so should classic riddles. To me, this isn't beneficial. Therefore, I would personally prefer if we allowed classic riddles, and vague new riddles. Sure, they don't have an exact answer, however it is possible to find an answer that fits elegantly. At the end of the day, there's always the correct answer as defined by the OP, too. $\endgroup$
    – Aric
    Aug 10, 2017 at 12:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Not sure if I see any problem with adding these to the PSE repository. If we want to be a store of nice puzzles, then it makes sense to include classic ones here too, otherwise people will go elsewhere for those and our site will be incomplete. $\endgroup$ Aug 10, 2017 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ ^vote for a valid concern, though I'm always for the more the merrier, regardless of how you, Beastly Gerbil, as I, spend days to weeks in preparing original puzzles $\endgroup$
    – humn
    Aug 22, 2017 at 13:10

1 Answer 1


I think there may be a case for some sort of special handling for riddles that are notable for some reason, such as appearing in a story. I'm thinking of things like the Sphinx's riddle in the Oedipus story or the riddle game in The Hobbit and the like. I've been tempted a couple of times to post some of the riddles in Jane Austen's works. I would suggest posting the riddle with a brief introduction saying why It's noteworthy, tagging it as "puzzle-history" and then following up with a community wiki answer.

If it doesn't qualify as "puzzle-history" but comes more under the heading of "crappy riddle that most people have already seen" then I'd be very tempted to close it like any other bad puzzle.

On the other hand, according to the tour this is supposed to be: "a library of detailed answers to every question about creating, solving, and studying puzzles." I don't believe that's what we are but it's what we say we are. If that is true, then I think it means that we should have and entry for "what's black and white and red all over" with a community wiki answer that explains what the accepted "correct" answer is and likely some discussion about why it's not an especially good riddle. If we do have this, I would suggest having some sort of a template saying that this ought to be preserved as a reference entry due to... whatever.

The problem is that this doesn't fit our model. "Black and white and red all over" is clearly too broad. It's also (in my opinion) a crappy riddle. Do you down vote it or not? Does a riddle (or any other puzzle) acquire some sort of worth after it has crossed some sort of notoriety threshold? How well known does a bad riddle have to be before it is worth preserving?

  • $\begingroup$ SE is notionally a collection of expert (or high quality) Q&A, which gives us a bit of an "out" from having to be an exhaustive catalog of every riddle and its answer(s), no matter how insipid. (Note also that puzzle-history is not about old or historically relevant puzzles, but rather about the history of puzzle making.) Notable historical puzzles that are good are probably topically fine—I haven't gone digging but I seem to remember many riddles during Beta were exactly these, and others have made a showing since; perhaps a "classic" or "chestnut" tag could be added, if we see more. $\endgroup$
    – Rubio Mod
    Aug 18, 2017 at 15:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Rubio Agreed. I was rather surprised to see the library thing at the top of the puzzling tour page. $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2017 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Rubio wouldn't that be a meta-tag, though (or am I confusing things)? $\endgroup$
    – boboquack
    Sep 7, 2017 at 21:53

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