My word puzzle has a finite number of unique words that can be combined to make a sentence. Because there is no repetition, the answer must be finite (no buffaloes). Ingenuity is required to maximise the length of such a sentence. I can make rules about what constitutes a proper sentence but I'd like to award the green tick to whomever gets the most up-votes. This allows points for style (and perhaps humour) as well as strict rule-following maximum length. I will set a time-limit.

Is this valid?


2 Answers 2


The puzzle shouldn't be open-ended ...

Per the meta about open-ended puzzles, your question would be off-topic if there's no absolute "best possible" answer and any answer could be outdone in the future. It's hard to tell from the vague description whether the puzzle you're thinking of would be open-ended or not: it seems there's only a finite number of possibilities (good) but maybe not a way of objectively deciding which one is the best (bad). The puzzle may well be on-topic, if there is a "best" answer which is feasibly findable (read my and Deusovi's answers to the linked meta for more details). So what about your query regarding answers?

... but you can (technically) accept whatever you want.

SE network policy is that acceptance is completely the OP's prerogative, and that applies here on Puzzling too. You're free to accept whichever answer you feel is best. However, be aware that people might look negatively on your puzzle if you place your checkmark unexpectedly. I know a case (now deleted) of an originally-popular puzzle which got a lot of upvotes and answers, but rapidly got downvoted, closed, and eventually deleted when the OP accepted an answer that seemed to everyone to be weird and wrong. If there is a "best" answer and you accept another one instead, then your question might start to attract downvotes even while being technically on-topic.

  • $\begingroup$ I cannot be certain that there is a unique longest answer - only that there is a finite limit. There might for example be two or more different answers, all of which have the same maximum length. $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2020 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ That's still enough to make it not open-ended, IMO. $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2020 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ "If there is a "best" answer and you accept another one instead, then your question might start to attract downvotes even while being technically on-topic." That is precisely why I want to accept the most upvoted. By definition this will be the most popular decision. $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2020 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ No, that's not how voting works. Often (especially on a question that goes HNQ) an answer may get lots of upvotes even if the active community knows it doesn't deserve that, and it's the active community that's likely to downvote if anyone. A 101-rep drive-by HNQ voter can't downvote, only upvote. $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2020 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ Okay - I'll bear that in mind. (HNQ?) $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2020 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ I think the second part of your answer is very good, but I think the first part deserves at least an extra note. While a question may be technically not unbounded, it still runs into the problems in that meta post you linked if the bound is not feasibly reachable. (And you mentioned that in your answer to that meta post!) Additionally, it sounds like the question is likely based on language, which -- as you mentioned in that same answer -- is likely to lead to subjectivity. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi Mod
    Jul 23, 2020 at 19:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Deusovi That's fair, I've edited. I was trying to give the benefit of the doubt, but I guess there's no real purpose in doing that with a still-hypothetical puzzle: might as well come out and say that, given the understandably vague description we have so far, we can't tell if it's going to be on-topic or count as open-ended. $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2020 at 19:04

You can, but...

There is nothing forcing you to accept any particular answer. You may accept any answer you want, as Rand mentioned in his answer -- but also as he mentioned, accepting a "wrong" answer may earn your puzzle downvotes. Acceptances mark answers with a sort of "official" status, and if that seal of approval is given to a bad answer, it reflects poorly on the question as well.

... it goes against the purpose of the site.

While you can accept any answer you want, you should accept the answer that best explains the solution to your puzzle. What is "best" is often subjective, of course, but just accepting an answer based on upvotes alone will often not lead to that. Things like the Hot Network Questions sidebar often attract people who are not Puzzling regulars. When that happens, answers that are short (or even jokes, not intended as a serious answer at all) are disproportionately upvoted.

And it suggests more fundamental issues with the puzzle.

The fact that you can accept answers based on upvotes suggests that this is more of a game than a puzzle. As quoted in the "open-ended questions" meta post, Rubio also expressed the problem:

The danger - and I think we're correct to avoid it, and it's something Deus alluded to in an earlier comment - is that instead of a puzzle what we really have is a game: find the best thing you can come up with. (I've even seen some that are: best solution in __ days is the winner)

Based on the mentions of "points for style (and perhaps humor)", it sounds like this is applicable here. From your description, it appears that the goal here is not to set up a puzzle with a definitive solution, but a question where many people submit answers, and then one is given the checkmark after an arbitrary amount of time.

Also, given that this is apparently a puzzle based on the English language, it may run into an additional issue of answers being subjectively correct. What counts as an English word, or grammatically correct sentence, is very difficult to define. If this isn't precisely defined, whether an answer works is subjective. And subjectivity of answers is another thing that makes questions off-topic.

  • $\begingroup$ Okay - I'll keep thinking about it. I'm something of a Darwinist at heart so if I submit it and get down-votes, that's just a lesson learned about how to improve next time. $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2020 at 19:09

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