We have an attribution policy for non-original puzzles. Our site-specific custom close reason reads:

This looks like a puzzle you found elsewhere. For content you did not create yourself, proper attribution is required. If you have permission to repost this, please edit to include (at minimum) where it came from, then vote to reopen. Posts which use someone else's content without attribution are generally deleted.

I've always been confused over whether statements such as "I got this puzzle from a friend" or "I just have the image" are sufficient attribution, and I confess that in this case my close-votes have been inconsistent. (Of course it is sufficient attribution to say "I got this puzzle from a friend, here's a link to where it was originally from". The point of this question is for cases where the entire attribution is "I got it from a friend" or similar)

For recent puzzles (e.g. What's a general method to solve this calculation puzzle?) it seems that the answer is "yep, sufficient attribution". There's nary a close-vote there, and two answers (granted, one is in the comments) posted after this comment exchange:

What is the source of this puzzle? – Rand al'Thor

no idea, a fellow mate asked me to solve it – Hmmwell [original poster]

I've seen similar scenarios play out over other questions. However, when an old puzzle (A 4x4 grid puzzle with one missing number) was bumped by an edit, I saw a different policy in action, the events preserved in the comment section and edit history. Crucially, after the OP edited to add a link to the image they had, this comment exchange occurred (emphasis mine):

That's not quite what's meant by "citing the source". The point is that we need to know where the question comes from. While we're at it: do you have the permission of whoever made the puzzle to reproduce it here? – Gareth McCaughan♦

@GarethMcCaughan I understand, but I don't know anything about this puzzle. I just have this piece of the image. It has been circulated among some people and I don't know its origin. – 01000110 [original poster]

Ah. Then I think we have to close it; sorry! (For all we know, it may be a copyright violation, which would be illegal; for all we know, it may be a still-ongoing competition, which we have a site-wide policy against.) – Gareth McCaughan♦

The question was later re-opened once the original source was located, but that's besides the point

Wait, what? That's not what we're doing now!

It seems that policy/practice may have changed in the intervening time, turning the answer to my title question from a "no" to a "yes". Frankly, I would prefer the answer to be "no". So I'm opening this up to discussion: Is "I got this puzzle from a friend", "I just have the image", etc. sufficient attribution for a puzzle?


1 Answer 1


Yes, this kind of "attribution" should be OK.

I've long tried to remind PSE that the definition of plagiarism requires passing someone else's work off as your own. If you make clear that you didn't create the puzzle yourself, then that should be OK. There's no false pretence going on, the OP has provided as much information as they have, and the puzzle can then be voted up or down on its merits.

Many good puzzles are circulated around, among puzzlers who know each other, until the original source becomes forgotten and frankly irrelevant. I have a lot of puzzles in my head that I've heard from friends or found "somewhere" but I no longer remember where. Should I be disallowed from sharing those puzzles with the PSE community unless I can track down a source? Some puzzles have become such "old chestnuts" that they no longer have an identifiable "original source".

Allowing "I found this puzzle at the following link" while disallowing "I heard/remembered this puzzle from somewhere" would actually tend to optimise for worse puzzles. It would enable anyone doing online IQ tests to spam the site with low-quality puzzles as long as they provide a link to the IQ test, while preventing actual puzzle experts from sharing puzzles that they've known for years but can't remember where from. An experienced puzzler won't always be able to connect all of their knowledge to specific links or sources.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has an interesting puzzle, maybe sent to them by a friend or in a file they found on their computer. Why shouldn't they be able to share that interesting puzzle on our site? If they give as much information as they have about the source, making clear it's not their own invention, that's fair enough. We can't expect them to go bugging their friends and friends' friends for an original source, or trawling through ancient browser history to find where they got an image from. Such an expectation would disincentivise people from posting a puzzle at all if they don't know the original source, even if they're aware of all the PSE rules - there would be no possible edit the OP can make to make the question reopenable, unlike the usual "closed for lack of attribution" when the OP can add a link/source for a swift reopen - and would have the effect of depriving PSE of potentially interesting content.

  • $\begingroup$ Should I post an original question as if it's made by an imaginary friend? He's just starting on a cryptic crossword. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Scratch---Cat Posting original puzzles with some story or flavour text is common, and that might include "I got this from a friend". It's probably a good idea to make clear that the story is fictional if it is, though. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 9:48
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    $\begingroup$ In my opinion, as long as one acknowledges that it is not an (his/her) original puzzle and honestly states that they do not know the origin, we should accept it. It is an honor system here. $\endgroup$
    – DrD
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 12:30

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