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As of posting the tag has this minimal usage guidance:

Puzzles where the genre or solving strategy of the puzzle is not explicitly stated; puzzles where the puzzler must deduce what type of puzzle it is.

But there is no further explanation or information about this tag, and it's intended use.

If you look at this SEDE query, you can see the top 5 tags without a wiki:

That the enigmatic-puzzle tag is so widely used, without a good usage blurb and no further wiki information, is slightly troubling.

It causes the tag usage to vary wildly, and (anecdotally) in the worst cases encourages making questions obscure for the sake of increasing the difficulty rather than making them better puzzles (evidence by the fact I've seen some enigmatic puzzles get highly upvoted, only to nose dive once the 'trick' of solving is revealed).

Here is a suggestion for the sort of thing I'd like to see in the usage guidance, partly based off of this answer:

Use this tag when the solver's first task is to determine how to solve the puzzle. Merely omitting information on how to solve is not sufficient to justify using this tag, and an enigmatic introduction or pseudo-explanation is favoured.

However I'd still like to see answers discussing how to improve on that block of text, and what to put in the wiki-info for the tag. Preferably we'd list some good examples, and also some more information what makes a bad , i.e. what to avoid.

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    $\begingroup$ I am not following what the concern is, the tag has always seemed useful to me, as if a puzzle lacks info on how to solve, but has the tag, I know it was intentional and can work with that. Maybe some examples of puzzles that omitted information on how to solve, yet the puzzler did not have to deduce what type of puzzle it was? Maybe they were simply mistagged and need to be edited? I have no issue with your proposed new text, it seems very similar to the first, yet a little more difficult for me to understand what it is getting at. $\endgroup$
    – Amoz
    Oct 7 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ @Amoz well, that's how you understand the tag, but I think the point of this is to develop better usage guidance so that everyone can agree on what the tag means and how to use it. $\endgroup$
    – bobble
    Oct 7 at 19:24
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Let's create the tag info for the tag!


The usage guidance is fine because it summarizes what an enigmatic puzzle is. However, the tag info could surely use some work (just look at the tag).


This answer is intended to enable community collaboration on generating the tag info for the tag. Please use our chat feature to communicate with members of the community on sub topics and iron out ideas and nuances prior to adding to this answer. The overall objective is to answer the following questions:

  • What is an enigmatic puzzle?
  • What makes a good enigmatic puzzle?
    • How can an author determine the minimum amount of information required for a solution?
  • What common techniques exist for solving enigmatic puzzles?

Note: Before migrating the results of the community's efforts over to the tag wiki, be sure to remove the "contributors" statement from each section.


What is an enigmatic puzzle?

An enigmatic puzzle is one where the solving method is not given. Some great examples of enigmatic puzzles are BmyGuest's "hyper-modern art" series, like this puzzle and this one. They are also common in puzzle hunts such as the MIT Mystery Hunt, ΣUMS, and P&A Magazine.

They frequently involve a leap of intuition hinted at through the puzzle's framing, and their solutions are usually a common English word or phrase.

Contributors: @Stevo, @Taco タコス, @Deusovi (through this post)


What makes a good enigmatic puzzle?

Enigmatic puzzles may contain misdirections and deceptions ("red herrings") intended to lead the solver away from the intended solve path. A good enigmatic puzzle involving red herrings will also have good hints leading towards the correct solve path, so that solvers do not waste all their time pursuing fruitless avenues of inquiry.

Contributors: @Avi

How can the bare minimum be determined?

TODO: Describe how to determine the bare minimum amount of information required to solve an enigmatic puzzle.

How can I solve an enigmatic puzzle?

An enigmatic puzzle often, but not always, leaves its first few steps, which is a non-trivial puzzle in itself, unclear. They will leave components of either the puzzle's goal or solving process unclear to the solver. The solver needs to try find out what the puzzle-maker left as information, and what is a red herring.

Contributors: @Stevo

How do I write an answer?

When you post an answer to an enigmatic puzzle, it is usually a good idea to explicitly specify how each element of the puzzle known at present contributes to the next step in solving the puzzle. In this way, readers can clearly understand the elements of the puzzle and how they lead to the solution. Writing an answer with too few details is discouraged for most questions, and is highly problematic for enigmatic puzzles.

This is because enigmatic puzzles are by nature harder to understand, so omissions or poor explanations can make it impossible for readers to follow the answerer's logic.

Contributors: @Avi

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  • $\begingroup$ Is "Instructionless Puzzle" (IP) counted as an Enigmatic Puzzle? IP has no given solving method but is usually accompanied by a set of examples to deduce the instructions. However, I don't think IP usually has some "red herrings" or "hints" compared to ones in Hunt Puzzle-type. $\endgroup$
    – athin
    Oct 10 at 5:59

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