I once made a logical puzzle that deliberately had insufficient info to be answered directly. However, the insufficiency was sneaky and the puzzle misdirecting; that's what made it a clever puzzle in my head. The apparent answer was kind of difficult to get and simply required a close reading and basic probability knowledge. However, those who gave this answer all made an unfounded, yet reasonable, assumption. That was their mistake.

When I showed this, they told me that's not a puzzle! It has no answer! But what is an answer? Isn't it simply a response that resolves the question? If the question asks for information that is impossible to give, then the answer is the proof that the information is impossible to give. That resolves the question to the greatest degree possible. To say that that isn't an answer seems to be arbitrarily restricting the definition of answer, and I think doing so would be robbing e.g. a puzzle site from great potential. The world is filled with badly-posed questions and unknowable questions. Isn't puzzling supposed to be an exploration of questions, answers and the road between them?

I think so, but I do not know whether the users of Puzzling.SE thinks so. Therefore, my question is this: is it allowed to post puzzles who sneakily give too little info to be directly answered? By direct answer, I mean an answer that yields the requested info of the puzzle, as opposed to a meta-answer, which proves the requested info isn't derivable from the insufficient info given within the puzzle.


1 Answer 1


These sorts of questions are explicitly off topic, since they have no answer. From the context of this website (and probably most reasonable people) a "meta-answer" is not an answer to a puzzle, since it necessitates reframing or invalidating the question itself.

Rules aside, it's not fun to solve a puzzle like this. When a puzzle is posed there's an unspoken agreement between creator and solver that the puzzle is indeed solvable within the narrative created (which may include an explicit, "or prove no solution exists"). To break that agreement is either poor communication or just plain trickery.

On your comment "that's what made it a clever puzzle in my head", remember that the purpose of a puzzle is to make the solver feel clever. :)

  • $\begingroup$ Calling a meta-answer an answer does not require reframing the question itself. As I said, a meta-answer does not supply the question's requested information. By admitting that, I am thus not trying to say a meta-answer is the answer to some new question. No, I am simply saying that a meta-answer is an answer under the general definition of: an answer is a response to a question that resolves it. Resolution comes in different grades, and the highest resolution is what you get with a meta-answer to a so-called unanswerable question. Why should we define answer in a more restrictive way? $\endgroup$
    – user110391
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 13:50
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with A; the very first puzzle I solved on this side turned out to "not have an answer" (and this was hinted at in the flavor text) and while I was technically able to "answer" it by posting an explanation and showing the puzzle had no actual answer to the question posed, it was certainly disappointing to not have the satisfaction of a final solution. In addition, I had no way to know if there was more 'hidden' information in the puzzle that might have yielded an actual solution, or if it was actually an enigmatic puzzle where I should have been looking for something else entirely. $\endgroup$
    – Amoz
    Commented Oct 23, 2022 at 22:08
  • $\begingroup$ @user110391, "Why should we define answer in a more restrictive way?" - put in a way that fits a comment: because this is a puzzle site not a philosophy site. Posters aren't "answering questions", they're "solving puzzles" (or answering concrete questions about puzzles). Pointing out that "no one can have perfect logic" or "we can't know that one of the logicians isn't an anarchist" aren't solutions to a blue eyes/brown eyes puzzle even though they "answer the question". $\endgroup$
    – Alconja
    Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 1:18
  • $\begingroup$ Alright, I see how "solving a puzzle" is more restrictive than "answering a question", and given this is a puzzle site (as you say), deferring to that fact makes sense. I'll accept your answer now, thanks. $\endgroup$
    – user110391
    Commented Oct 26, 2022 at 16:55

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