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As of late, there have been numerous puzzles regarding "making x to y using the numbers 2, 0, 1 and 8". So many, in fact, that imho it's just plain annoying. Just a few examples: Here, here, here, here, and the one post that started them all. There are even more but I assume this is enough to serve my point.

There's been a similar discussion on chess puzzles, but my opinion is that there, there are very clear differences - rooks are completely different from knights, etc. (Not gonna comment on whether that makes them more valid). For the 2018 puzzles, all that's different is:

  • The numbers to make.
  • The operators allowed.
  • Whether or not the numbers should be in order

I was wondering what the community's standpoint on this was - are these similar enough to mark as duplicate, and be closed/deleted? Should they simply be downvoted, if not deemed interesting, in the hope that the authors will get the point?

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  • $\begingroup$ Seems we had the same idea at almost the same time... $\endgroup$ – Tweakimp Jan 9 '18 at 11:58
  • $\begingroup$ Yet another 2018 puzzle... $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Jan 11 '18 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ Solution: Write a program that solves every yearly puzzle for the next 100 years in advance, then automatically answer every yearly puzzle that comes up. $\endgroup$ – Ambo100 Jan 11 '18 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Ambo100 Oh, devious. I'll keep that in mind $\endgroup$ – Lolgast Jan 11 '18 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ use one 8 and one each of the numbers 0-2 to make the number 2018... $\endgroup$ – NH. Jan 16 '18 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ There has been a few more of these questions recently, and it brought to light another issue with these kinda problems: Sometimes, even the posters themselves don't know if the puzzle has a solution, and relies on the ingenuity of the solvers to find one. Really makes these kinda puzzles feel cheap and low-effort to make... $\endgroup$ – votbear Jan 17 '18 at 9:41
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    $\begingroup$ @VotBear, yeah, that is definitely bad form. I had Random Numbers float through my head! I'll write them down and call it a puzzle! $\endgroup$ – NH. Jan 17 '18 at 15:20
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Most of these puzzles aren't close-worthy as such: we have a tag with over 150 questions nearly all of the form "make <number(s)> using only <number(s)> and <operations>". Some of these are fun and challenging, while others are pretty prosaic, but on the whole I think the community does a pretty good job of sorting out the interesting from the uninteresting by their votes.


Historically, it's always been the case that a stream of very similar puzzles within a short timespan will have monotonically decreasing scores.

  • Someone posts Puzzle #1 based on what's then a brilliant new idea, and it gets lots of upvotes.
  • Someone else is inspired and posts Puzzle #2 based on the same idea, and it still gets a reasonable number of upvotes.
  • Someone else gets in on the fun by posting Puzzle #3 based on the same idea, and it gets a lukewarm reception because the idea isn't novel any more.
  • Someone else jumps on the bandwagon and posts Puzzle #4 based on the same idea, and people start to downvote.

Something roughly like this has happened time and time again on Puzzling SE. A 'craze' for some particular type of puzzle surges through the site, but quickly loses its momentum as people move on to some new idea. See also A rise in low-quality questions (March 2015) and its answers - the worries you raise have come up time and time again here, and the site always survives. This too shall pass.


So how do we tackle this surge of similar questions? Vote, vote, vote! Your upvotes and downvotes are yours to use as you see fit, and the best way to discourage a rush of unimaginativity.

Let me just drop a reminder, though, that a close-vote is not a super-downvote. If one of these 2018 puzzles is completely covered by another, then we should close it as a duplicate (case in point); but we shouldn't start closing individual questions in this class just because there are getting to be too many of them. If we want to declare all questions off-topic, then we can have a meta discussion about that and a mass close-voting spree; but, for example, this puzzle (after the edits made to it) is no more off-topic than this one and should be reopened.

In short:

are these similar enough to mark as duplicate, and be closed/deleted? Should they simply be downvoted, if not deemed interesting, in the hope that the authors will get the point?

Yes. Some few of them are actually covered by others and can be marked as duplicates; the rest should simply be downvoted until they stop coming. Don't worry; we'll weather this inrush of puzzles as we've weathered so many others.

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    $\begingroup$ Another point I'd like to add is that questions saying "use any mathematical operation (except those in ⟨finite set⟩)" are almost always VTC-worthy as too broad. $\endgroup$ – Ankoganit Jan 9 '18 at 15:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Ankoganit Yeah, I'd agree with closing the original version of that puzzle. But I do think the edits salvage it somewhat, at least enough to make it on-topic (if not particularly interesting). $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Jan 9 '18 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ Sounds fair enough Rand. I haven't been around long enough to see those other waves, but I'll happily stick to your advises. $\endgroup$ – Lolgast Jan 9 '18 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ i like the last sentence. +1! $\endgroup$ – Omega Krypton Mar 16 at 2:46

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