Yesterday I posted a cookie-cutter formatted riddle. Turns out, someone else had already used the same cookie-cutter on the very same answer word.

Because of the way that particular cookie-cutter works, this resulted in the answer and the deduction process being pretty much identical, which is grounds for closing the puzzle as dupe according to this meta answer.

However, in this case, the outward form of the clues is different, even to the point that you basically have to independently solve both riddles before you can tell that they have the same answer. To add some anecdotal evidence to that claim, the person who solved the earlier puzzle says that he didn't realise that the same answer would fit the latter one.

The way I see it is that from a purely riddle solving point of view, solving a duplicate riddle (particularly if it's of the wordplay variety) that you can't tell is a dupe isn't all that different from solving a brand new non-dupe one, so there is at least some value in having both versions of the riddle. All this raises the question:

Should we change the "dupe" VTC guidelines on riddles so that they'd include a condition of being able tell the dupeness without independently solving both puzzles?

(As an unrelated observation: while the answer to both of the example riddles is the same, the one posted to the "dupe" has double the score of the other (+30 vs +15 at the moment) despite having fewer views. Go figure.)

  • $\begingroup$ Re. your unrelated observation - your riddle's title practically dared the teenage boy who still lives in me to click it, whereas the other riddle had quite a vanilla title. The vote counts indicate that I'm not the only one harbouring an immature mind behind my façade of professionalism 😊 $\endgroup$
    – Phylyp
    Aug 6, 2018 at 10:13

1 Answer 1


This is a really good question. Here is a not so great answer.

I would direct you first to our tour. In particular our purpose is described as:

Puzzling Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for those who create, solve, and study puzzles. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about creating, solving, and studying puzzles.

What you have raised is a concern regarding what we mean by "every question" and we don't have a good answer for that. On other StackExchange sites the goal is to match up the best problem statement with the best answer. The criteria are informational and less open to dispute. Here, the issue is more artistic. Is it "better" in rhyme form or in the adult language form? Only one of the clues is substantively different (amp as a unit versus amp as a shortened form of amplifier).

I think what I'd like to say here is that your question is a duplicate: same format, almost entirely the same clues, same answer but different language. I'd like to argue, though, that "duplicate" does not mean "bad" or "invalid". You have recast the question in a different form. In an ideal world I would like to call it an "alternate" rather than a "duplicate" and make the two forms "linked" rather than marking one of them "closed" but this doesn't fit with the general StackExchange paradigm of matching the best questions with the best answers. Puzzling is a different kind of StackExchange site and I think this is one of the compromises we have to make. I like your version. I think it has merit. I upvoted it. But I'd still class it as a duplicate.

I hope this makes sense to you.

For what it's worth I'd like to further muddy the waters by throwing this out there:

Cryptographic standard (SHA), portion of a pig (ham)
Little word for something that makes your voice sound big (amp)
Transportation bigwigs (MPO - Metropolitan Planning Organization), stir in some manure (poo)
Squish them all together, your hair is soft and pure. (shampoo)

I'd call this a duplicate too: same overlapping word gimmick, a rhyme again, a couple of same clues (amp and poo), and same answer. It's artistically different. I think it has some merit (probably not enough to post). But my call would be that it's close enough to be marked as a duplicate.

Again, I do like your version.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Tangentially: it would be an interesting fortnightly challenge to make a series of puzzles that all have the same end, but different beginnings. $\endgroup$ Aug 3, 2018 at 15:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @IanMacDonald We did that in Meta once. Puzzles whose solution was “flower” $\endgroup$ Aug 3, 2018 at 15:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Link to the question mentioned above by Hugh puzzling.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5306/… $\endgroup$ Aug 7, 2018 at 20:58

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