# Are we allowed to offer prizes for solving puzzles?

I just logged onto the site and noticed this cipher puzzle. As an "incentive", the person who asked it has apparently hidden AU\$50 worth of Bitcoin inside the solution ($38.50 in US dollars, or just over £27). They've provided a link to its address in the blockchain, so I'm proceeding under the assumption that the Bitcoins really are in there.

Is this allowed? Providing an incentive to solve a puzzle is what bounties are for, as far as I'm aware. Is it okay to offer an actual monetary reward instead? I feel like this would be frowned upon on other StackExchange sites ("Hey, I'll give you $30 if you can fix my code"), but perhaps Puzzling.SE is a special case? As a final, unrelated note, how do you insert multiple dollar signs without MathJax$doing the thing?$• I will give you \$50 if you can show me how to put two \$signs into a single message? (Just backslash them: \$50 + \$50 = \$100) – Rubio Mar 24 '18 at 12:29

## 3 Answers

From "What to do when OP offers payment for solution?" on stackoverflow meta --

Whatever you want to do offsite is your own business, but the community frowns on monetary bounties for questions.

If you see language like this in a question, feel free to edit it out to focus on the meat of the question. If it's in a comment, flag the comment as noise and we'll get rid of it.

I wouldn't recommend downvoting or closing a question just because this had it in it. Again, if editing that out leaves behind a good question, do so and judge the question on the result.

See also What happens if a user offers money for an answer? with much the same answer,
and How should one handle posts offering money? on Mathematics.SE Meta (similar answer).

There doesn't seem to be a policy against offering a reward, but it certainly runs counter to the spirit of SE, and we don't want to encourage people to start offering off-site rewards (that cannot be verified or enforced) for on-site activity, for hopefully obvious reasons. As some of the other linked answers note, repeated attempts to do this might draw unwanted attention from Moderators, but for a single occurrence, it's probably best to edit the offer out and ask the poster not to do that.

In this specific case, where apparently solving the puzzle means unlocking the reward, it's hard to see how one might disentangle the puzzle from the reward offer. The puzzle will presumably be as interesting to solve whether the reward is actually present (or still up for grabs) or not when a solver solves it, so the puzzle in its own right is fine, but there doesn't seem to be a way to edit the reward out of the puzzle if it's intrinsically part of it.

Anyone have any suggestions?

• The only thing I can think of is the nuclear option - close/delete the puzzle and ask the poster to submit another one, using the same cipher but with different text. – F1Krazy Mar 24 '18 at 14:37
• In this specific case, the reward could also be nullified by asking the OP to move the BTC out of that address. – Raghav Sood Mar 24 '18 at 15:08
• The puzzle is more difficult because of the embedded bitcoin and requires a complete solution to reveal the necessary information per the hint. Any solver will require doing the same work for the complete answer whether the Bitcoin still exists unspent or not and, can verify that their complete answer is correct by using the embedded information - they just won't get the Bitcoin if it is already 'claimed'. I won't be awarding the Bitcoin to anyone, the solver will be taking it. – Willtech Mar 24 '18 at 21:21
• This answer would be a fantastic place to make those "hopefully obvious reasons" explicit. I would've thought that on Puzzling.SE, of all places, it might be easier to recognize that what may be "obvious" to some is not necessarily "obvious" to all. – WBT Mar 31 '18 at 14:25

I thought I might write my comment up.

I won't be awarding the Bitcoin to anyone, a solver will be taking it. Hence the 'real' tag.

The puzzle is more difficult because of the embedded Bitcoin and requires a complete solution to reveal the necessary information per the hint. Any solver will require doing the same work for the complete answer whether the Bitcoin still exists unspent or not and, can verify that their complete answer is correct by testing the embedded information - they just won't get the Bitcoin if it is already 'claimed'.

I'm not sure if this would be rude or abusive or that it might get flagged, but I would like to mention one thing:

In the case of the OP putting a monetary bounty on their question, they must either have some kind of reward themselves from solving the puzzle, or because they are just extremely avid puzzle fanatics who have the money to spare. In the first case, if the prize is a larger sum of money, then the OP would just be using Puzzling SE as a way to earn money, which is not okay. But, in the second case, I feel that it is somewhat okay, but against SE tradition.

In any case, I feel that money is not needed. If the OP wants to get more Puzzling SE users excited for their question, a good question or a 100 rep bounty will be good enough :D

And as a question in my answer, to those who can straight up edit others' posts, is it against SE rules to just edit out the monetary bounty on their post?

• As an answer to the question in your answer, it is not only NOT against SE rules to edit a monetary bounty out of a post, doing so is actually the guidance given for how to handle these situations. See the links in my answer. – Rubio Mar 24 '18 at 23:41