UPDATE by Jeremy Dover

This question seems to have hit the point of inertia with no significant objection, other than the practicality of retagging several hundred old posts. I have gone ahead and created an [affix-riddle] tag, and applied it to the (as of 30 Sept 2020) recent active examples. Hopefully folks who author these riddles will use this tag in addition to the more generic [riddle] tag in the future.


Lately I've seen a large profusion of word puzzles on this site that go like this:

My prefix is [], My infix is [], My suffix is [], My whole is []

where the goal is to figure out what word the user is talking about.

Example, Example, Example, Example, Example, Example, and there are many more from this week alone and going back for several years. They are usually categorized under the , or tags as a catch-all.

Previous discussion of this point

This meta question was posted by @Riley two years ago:

The OP was proposing that these puzzles have their own tag. The final consensus, succinctly put by @Alconja, was no, because there wasn't a strong enough trend to justify it. There were some arguments against, however, specifically by @Bass, who argued for giving them their own tag and calling them "Riley riddles." But that never happened.

However, that was two years ago. Since then, I think there is now a strong enough trend to justify doing this. This puzzle type has become so common on the site that I propose, again, that we give them their own special name and tag category.

Thus, since it has been two years and there is now a strong trend and hundreds of examples of this type of puzzle, I would like to reopen the discussion. Should these types of "prefix-infix-suffix" puzzles have their own specific name, tag and category of puzzle, owing to their popularity and how many there are on this site? All opinions on this point are welcome.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, they should! $\endgroup$ – Voldemort's Wrath Sep 13 '20 at 15:32

I agree that a tag for these riddles should be created. Not judging those who do, but I don't enjoy these particular puzzles, and I currently am filtering out the riddle tag so as not to clutter up my front page. I do enjoy riddles in the more classic form, and would appreciate differentiation so I could filter out just the substring riddles.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a very fair point, and one I didn't initially consider. It would be nice for those who don't favor this particular puzzle type to be able to filter them out using a unique tag. $\endgroup$ – Sciborg Sep 14 '20 at 13:36
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    $\begingroup$ It just seems like there are so many of these puzzles lately. A large group of words can be turned into "prefix-infix-suffix" puzzles. I think - I hope- eventually most relevant words will be covered and then we will have to get more creative? :) $\endgroup$ – DrD Sep 15 '20 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ @DrD There has definitely been a huge profusion, I think because it is a very accessible format for new askers and it's not too hard to solve for new solvers. I don't mind it but obviously it would be nice to be able to filter it out as Jeremy says :) $\endgroup$ – Sciborg Sep 16 '20 at 2:00
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    $\begingroup$ @DrD Totally agree re the profusion of these puzzles of late. Sadly the vast majority have been low-quality cases of "I've thought of any old word, how can I shoehorn it into an affix riddle?" rather than necessarily choosing topical words or ones which lead to interesting clues. In many cases the clues given don't even satisfactorily lead a solver to the intended affix! (Made-up-but-scarily-rather-accurate example: "My prefix is full of milk" being used to clue "EARTH", because of all the mammals on the planet...) And don't get me started on- BOOM [Stiv explodes] $\endgroup$ – Stiv Sep 16 '20 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ @Stiv I am glad to see these comments from the likes of you, who has created dozens of interesting puzzles and solved many more. I think most >5 letter words can be turned into --fix puzzles by hook or crook. Just my opinion that they are easy to create. Creation and creativity are two different things. $\endgroup$ – DrD Sep 16 '20 at 14:40
  • $\begingroup$ Just to weigh in on said profusion: Before Riley riddles became a fad (March 21, 2018), there were way more riddles that were just outright bad. As a possible explanation, lazy puzzle creators will post a lazy riddles anyway, but when it's a Riley riddle, at least the solution will be unique most of the time. (If you are reading this at a later date, the link above is probably out of date; there's no option to sort "oldest first" in the PSE search.) $\endgroup$ – Bass Sep 17 '20 at 14:55

Yes, Riley riddles are here to stay and definitely more than a temporary trend. There are over 400 of them; searching for prefix, infix or suffix is probably the best option, since the word riley isn't mentioned in all of them.

However, do we really want to bump 400+ questions to the front page just to add a tag like or ? If so, it needs to be done a few questions at a time; I have a script which is capable of that. Some of its incarnations are the Broken Image Repairer and this URL rewriter on German Language Stack Exchange.

  • $\begingroup$ That is a fair point about bumping all those 400+ questions to the front page, and I did not think of that being a side effect of this change - definitely something worth considering. I think your scripts can be very helpful if the community agrees this is a good idea :) $\endgroup$ – Sciborg Sep 13 '20 at 23:08
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    $\begingroup$ I think [riley-riddle] should not be the tag name, were this tag to exist. It's not helpfully descriptive, and I find naming a tag after a particular person who happened to create the first instance of it to be... strange. (We don't call word-property puzzles [jlee-puzzles], and for good reason.) Maybe something like [substring-riddle]? $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Sep 14 '20 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that was just an example, not a suggestion for the tag name. $\endgroup$ – Glorfindel Sep 14 '20 at 9:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Deusovi Fair point. $\endgroup$ – Sciborg Sep 14 '20 at 11:16
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    $\begingroup$ @Deusovi, we call them abelain groups, Hamiltonian matrices, Faraday cages, and Freudian slips, so why not Riley riddles? With a good, descriptive tag wiki, of course. $\endgroup$ – msh210 Sep 21 '20 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ @msh210 "commutative group" would be a better name. If we can find a more immediately descriptive name that doesn't rely on already being immersed in PSE culture, I think using that instead would be better. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Sep 21 '20 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ Given a choice between having 1 moment when the front page is suddenly taken over by these as an appropriate new tag is added in a single hit (and they quickly drop off as other puzzles are modified) vs potentially weeks of old puzzles of this type being drip-fed to the front page, each individually getting more attention, I'd probably prefer the former... provided of course the full details are agreed first, and the new tag gains acceptance by being applied to new puzzles of this type before the big update. $\endgroup$ – Steve Sep 25 '20 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ ... even better would be to use some kind of "bulk update mode" that notifies those following the individual questions of the new tag, but explicitly does NOT push them to the front page. I'm surprised at the implication that such a facility doesn't already exist.... $\endgroup$ – Steve Sep 25 '20 at 8:17

Yes, sure, though you should be careful as there could be a cryptic puzzle that just so happens to have something to do with infixes, suffixes, and prefixes.


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