I've been doing some tag wiki/excerpt edits recently. While doing so I realized that I really don't know the difference between and . Neither do the tag excerpts.


A puzzle that involves figuring out what happened with regard to a certain incident.


A puzzle that involves figuring out what happened with regard to a certain incident through analyzing clues and deducing conclusions.

Uh... those sound exactly the same. The "analyzing clues and deducing conclusions" is a given, given that this is a Puzzling site where we solve puzzles.

There is a difference in the wikis of the tags. Ish. Quoting the relevant sections:


Situation puzzles are usually played in a group, with one person hosting the puzzle and the others asking questions which can only be answered with a "yes" or "no" answer. The puzzle is solved when one of the players is able to recite the narrative the host had in mind, in particular explaining whatever aspect of the initial scenario was puzzling.

That's not how puzzles here work. We have an explicit rule banning semi-interactive puzzles. Puzzles should be self-contained; all the necessary information should be present in the question on posting (and ideally not in the hints, since if hints are necessary they're not hints).

The example puzzle given is, quite honestly, off-topic. It's broad, amounts to guess-what-I'm-thinking, and I would VTC it if posted. (There's also a typo in the solution, but at this point I'm just being pedantic.)

Okay, so this wiki isn't useful, given that everything it describes is off-topic. Moving onto the wiki:

A mystery puzzle is a puzzle that involves figuring out the exact details of an incident or a specific desired detail, given limited relevant information. Mystery puzzles usually take the form of solving a crime, often murder. Such puzzles are a subset of the genre.

At least this is on-topic. We have many crime-mystery solving puzzles here; as long as the given information is enough to solve they're fine. But I'm still confused how it's different than . Is for crimes and for non-crimes? Where is the line?

Congratulations on nearing the of this long post about our tagging system. What to do about this is still a to me.*

  1. Synonymize the tags?
    • Which one is the mother tag?
  2. Update the wikis and excerpts to note a clear differnce?
    • What's the difference? Crime and non-crime?
  3. Do nothing?
  4. Something else I haven't thought of?

Related earlier discussion: Please vote on whether to make [detective] a synonym of [mystery]

Another related tag is :

A puzzle that is dressed up as a story or a longer description of a situation.

But I think that's probably fine; it's a manageable broader tag.

*A variation of this sentence was nearly the title of the meta question

  • $\begingroup$ Added synonym-request because it appears that the consensus here is to make mystery a synonym of situation $\endgroup$
    – HTM
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 17:14

2 Answers 2


I'll go ahead and post my thoughts.

Make a synonym of

I think the the tag excerpt for is a good explanation of this type of puzzle:

A puzzle that involves figuring out what happened with regard to a certain incident through analyzing clues and deducing conclusions.

This kind of puzzle describes a situation. There are clues, in text or image form, perhaps some mini-puzzles to be solved, perhaps a bit of trivia required. Solving/connecting the clues together leads to an answer. The answer could be to "What happened here?" or "How do you get out?" or "Why did X occur?", etc.

This is a sub-tag of . If you're describing a situation, you're telling a mini-story about what is there, and the clues provide information about how it came to be. The vast majority of these puzzles lean harder into the aspect, coming up with a narrative to make the puzzle more interesting.

Many puzzles can be without being . A complex geometrical problem dressed up as a story (but still at its core just a math puzzle) would qualify for but not .

Why should be the synonym and not ? I think that using the broader tag name is better, as people may think that a tag named "mystery" only applies to "whodunnit"-s or similar kinds of puzzles.

Now, we'd also need to update the wiki. Neither the or wikis are good. (I'm suspicious that someone looked up "situation puzzle" and then copied the Wikipedia entry) My draft of a wiki:

Use this tag when a puzzle provides some information about a situation, and requires working through clues to arrive at an answer. Clues might be snippets of conversation, transcripts of letters, pictures of a scene, etc. These puzzles will generally be dressed up as a narrative/story, and will usually apply. Some examples of puzzles include:

  • "Whodunnit" mysteries: Description of the crime scene and suspects, with the question being "Who did it?"
  • "What happened here?": Description of an unusual situation, with elements that seem to be incongruous or impossible, with the question being "How did this happen?" or "What happened?"
  • "Why did X do Y?": Description of the events surrounding a choice/action/event, with the question being "Why did X do Y?" (What was their motivation?)

There are of course overlaps and interrelations between these sub-types of situation puzzles.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all possible kinds of situation puzzles. Be careful to close off unintended solution paths; if there are too many valid answers to your puzzle (something that puzzles can struggle with) it will be closed under our custom close reason for "speculative answers".

I'd welcome anyone with more experience setting/solving these kinds of puzzles to weigh in, especially on the wiki draft.


It's only my opinion and I am pretty much a noob for Puzzles. However, taking everything at face value (not always the wisest solution when reading some of these puzzles!)

: the word says very little - is it a 'need to escape' situation? Is it a 'kill the king!'? I see it as a placeholder for narrative style puzzles - but you already have 'story' for that. It's a tag for the sake of being a tag. What does it tell the reader? Not much.

: the word says much more but it's not a synonym of the aforementioned. It does also suffer from similar problems: Mystery has no strong connection with crime; Instead I would consider it to be a synonym of - so there's its problem - Again, what does it tell the reader? Not much. A bit more than 'situation', but not much.

would possibly be a better alternative to either. But using named themes would be far more useful - like , if one is going to use 'theme' tags. But the vast majority of tags on this board classify the type of the puzzle or, like , the knowledge required in order to solve it.

Tags have got to assist in understanding the contextual space of a puzzle. Otherwise they don't really serve much purpose.


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