Usually when I see , it's used to deter people from using brute force. In my time here, I have only seen this tag used to exclude brute-forcing a solution with a computer.

However, the tag wiki reads

A puzzle designed to be solved without using calculators, online decoders or computer programming.

This seems a bit confusing - one could use a text document, for example, to keep track of things in a puzzle - hardly different from a pen and paper, yet not allowed.

Let's make the tag a bit more straightforward and add it's old self as an alias.

  • $\begingroup$ I've seen people explicitly state that using calculators for, e.g., checking individual results is ok even on a no-computers puzzle. But the intention seems to be to exclude brute-force no matter what device is used ... and given that some calculators are actually quite sophisticated and programmable, having the exclusion extend to cover them seems appropriate to me. $\endgroup$
    – Rubio Mod
    Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Rubio that's definitely true - maybe add a qualifier like "advanced" or "graphing" or "CAS" or something like that in the wiki? $\endgroup$
    – Brandon_J
    Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 17:42
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps the tag should be renamed to no-brute-force? That seems to more accurately reflect what it actually means. (In a couple of my puzzles with the no-computers tag, I have explicitly stated that computers may be used, but not to brute-force a solution.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ Renaming the tag, and aliasing “no-computers” to it, seems a reasonable thing to do. @Brandon_J maybe you can edit this question to a proposal to do that instead, as it has no answers anyway and all the relevant conversation on that proposal is already here. $\endgroup$
    – Rubio Mod
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 4:10
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    $\begingroup$ brute-force is less restrictive than no-programming. I imagine most who place the existing tag mean to ban automated-solving. While most automated solving may well be brute-force as soon as the programmer makes a non-brute force algorithm, should that suddenly be allowed? I doubt it, and as such suggest no-automated-solving over no-brute-force. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ @JonathanAllan could you give an example of such a solution? $\endgroup$
    – Brandon_J
    Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 23:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Brandon_J any backtracking algorithm that backtracks prior to the final leaf is not brute-force $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 23:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Brandon_J As an example if I were to write code for this I might avoid searching at a further depth any time I have left any so-far-unvisited point such that it does not have two valid knight-wise-neighbours. Now I am not strictly brute-forcing (but I am still automating the solve). $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 15, 2019 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ "This seems a bit confusing - one could use a text document, for example, to keep track of things in a puzzle - hardly different from a pen and paper, yet not allowed." Why is it not allowed? What does a text editor have to do with calculators, online decoders, or programming? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 16, 2019 at 1:06
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    $\begingroup$ In chess puzzle questions, from my experience making them, generally means that you are not allowed to use any onlines chess engines or any websites to find a solution. It's your brain power alone. You can write down your thoughts on a paper or Docs given that you don't use the web to solve the puzzle. I think thato renaming it to no-brute force doesn't leave a good tag for such puzzles like that. Why not just create it as a new tag? That way everyone is happy. A ew no-brute-force s needed because editing every single question that uses no-computer with a new tag as I said would waste time. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ Probably add more definition or explanation in the tag info? About how OP should define and what's generally accepted around here? $\endgroup$
    – Shinjo
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 7:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Shinjo seems reasonable $\endgroup$
    – Brandon_J
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


No, leave it as-is.

In many cases, use of the tag does mean no brute force. But not always! Sometimes it's used to mean, for example, no Googling for solutions.

The spirit of the tag is to solve the puzzle on your own, without the aid of computers. Obviously you will need a computer for some aspects, such as typing in the solution and posting it, but the real point is that you should use your own knowledge or ingenuity. There are various ways you could use a computer for not-in-the-spirit-of-the-puzzle shortcuts:

  • programming,
  • brute-forcing possibilities,
  • using online word finders,
  • searching the web for specific strings/information,
  • etc. etc.

Depending on the puzzle and the OP's intent, any of these might be acceptable, and the tag is there to tell you that it isn't. The tag means different things in different contexts, as may be clarified by the OP in the body of the question.

A tag would only exclude some of these ways to use a computer for "cheating". Sometimes a puzzler wishes to exclude more of them, and the broader tag better expresses the idea of "just use your own skill" rather than "don't write a program to brute-force all possibilities, but use a computer in any other way you want".

Don't take the tag name too literally: it doesn't exclude things like keeping track of your progress in a text document, which could just as easily be done with pen and paper.

(I'm the one who created this tag, by the way. I dunno if that makes my arguments worth less or more, but I thought I should mention it.)

2021 edit: I've just rewritten the tag wiki to reflect the clarifications in this meta post.

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    $\begingroup$ It also forbid you to hire somebody online to solve the puzzle. I think… On a serious note, I do agree with you as there as bruteforcing is just one of many things which can be done quickly with computers but hardly without them. However, why not to both keep [no-computers] and create [no-brute-force] for ones who need it? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ @val We could, I guess, but IMO it's easier to simply clarify what "no computers" means in the body of the post if necessary, the same as with all other meanings of it as well as "no brute force". $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 14:39

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