Recently a user posted a "puzzle" about a specific equation. I tried my best to come up with a solution that objectively solves both parts (which is mathematically sound as far as I can tell), but the OP keeps insisting that it is not their intended solution. Without accepting my solution or refuting it in any reasonable way, they reposted the puzzle, claiming "it caused a lot of misunderstanding". The same is happening now with Bass's answer.

While the posts have multiple issues, I'm seriously annoyed by the single fact that the OP's intended solution is mathematically WRONG. How can we deal with it? Is such a question even on-topic on PSE, ignoring all the other issues the linked posts have?

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    $\begingroup$ imo, this might be treated the same way as "insisting an intended solution" in a grid-deduction puzzle whereas the grid has multiple solutions (is there any reference how to handle it too?) $\endgroup$
    – athin
    Nov 24, 2020 at 3:07
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    $\begingroup$ Another thing to note is that if they keep reposting their question and insisting on their intended answer, they will likely accrue many more downvotes. Enough downvoted questions will earn a question ban. $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Nov 24, 2020 at 3:09
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    $\begingroup$ A related link, from the opposite perspective: a setter asking what to do if their puzzle has a mistake, $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Nov 24, 2020 at 3:31
  • $\begingroup$ I just want to add that the "intended solution" is basically correct (in the sense that it validates the equality): there is a typo, an extra $8$ is added. It should be $41^4-400.3515625 \times 8^4=33^4$. $\endgroup$
    – WhatsUp
    Nov 24, 2020 at 6:23
  • $\begingroup$ @athin Probably super loose Riley Riddles? $\endgroup$ Nov 24, 2020 at 13:04

3 Answers 3


There's a famous example (now deleted, link for 10k+ users only) where something similar happened before:

  • A user posted a puzzle which was initially well-received and seemed to make sense. (It wasn't a mathematical puzzle, but a puzzle where a troll tells a man, “There is no escape. You cannot run. You cannot jump. You are weak and you have no weapons. You will die here [...] however, there is no reason we can’t talk before you die. I will allow you to ask me two questions. I will take a second to think about each question and answer each as truthfully as I can. If I do not know the answer, I will kill you.”)
  • Several other users posted answers, attempts for how the man could escape this situation with the troll. Some of these answers achieved many upvotes and the question went HNQ within an hour of posting.
  • One user posted an answer proposing the two questions "Would you answer the second question after this question?" and "To answer this question, can you refer to the first question?", claiming that this would send the troll into an infinite loop and the man could escape. The OP accepted it.
  • Public opinion swiftly turned against the OP. Someone edited the question enabling people to reverse their votes, and by the end of the day the votes on the question stood at +16/-8. By the end of the next day, it was +18/-20. The hapless accepted answerer had their answer downvoted to -22 before the whole thread was ultimately closed and deleted.

The moral of the story being, if an OP insists on a nonsense answer, votes will handle the situation - downvotes and even close votes if applicable. (I imagine "unclear" close votes could be appropriate; if the OP is insisting on a wrong answer, then it's unclear what the real puzzle and solution are supposed to be. In some cases, though, it might be better to let the question and the correct answer stand, even if the OP wants to promote a wrong answer.) I agree with ention everyone's answer here saying that this isn't something requiring mod attention.


In my opinion, people can have different opinions on the logic of a puzzle, so a mod flag wouldn't do much, as the mod's opinion cannot encompass other people's opinions. Unlike science, math, grammar, etc., a puzzle is not so tight.

The community will take care of such puzzles. In such cases where the majority agrees that the intended solution doesn't make sense, they can downvote it, while the minority who agrees with the logic can upvote it, resulting in a net negative score.

Honestly, in the other answer, what good does flagging for moderator attention do? Delection is not appropriate in such cases (I doubt the answerer wants this either, or why didn't they delete their answer first?), and a mod can't force the OP to accept an answer.

What? Send a moderator message? You mean like

Your intended solution for your last puzzle didn't make sense. Please post puzzles where the intended solution makes sense from now on.

That wouldn't do much, obviously, as what makes sense to the OP can be illogical to other users.


I think one of the most peaceful ways to do it is to downvote the question and flag the question. That's all I can say.

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    $\begingroup$ Using what flag? $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Nov 24, 2020 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ @bobble - custom mod flag explaining the problem $\endgroup$
    – Mithical
    Nov 24, 2020 at 6:10

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