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When I asked this question I did not yet know the answer. Even though I felt that I could probably solve it given a little time, I also felt that I had been able to formulate a question that was clear and would be interesting for the community.

I have since solved it and announced that in comments without giving away the answer. The community seems to be frustrated that after trying to help me, I really didn't need their help, and I can understand that. But I do want to keep the question open as a puzzle. However, they have voted to CLOSE the question. Now I can't answer it!

I have other puzzles that I think would be interesting and educational. Is there any way to post them or should I just file them away?

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  • $\begingroup$ About [puzzle]: This tag is meant for questions about the mathematical principles behind games, riddles, or their possible solutions. If the answer is known to you please do not use this tag to "riddle" other users, but rather to ask about the correctness of a possible solution or ways to extend and improve an existing solution. $\endgroup$ – Trevor Gunn Nov 14 '17 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ I'm against quizzing other users. If you figure out the answer, then post an answer to your own question but I don't come to this site to take a test. $\endgroup$ – Trevor Gunn Nov 14 '17 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Trevor I can understand that perspective. Does the community agree with it? If so, why aren't there general guidelines with advice like this so people can .know what is going on. But that is a meta question for another day. $\endgroup$ – Stephen Meskin Nov 14 '17 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ "However, they have voted to CLOSE the question. Now I can't answer it!" On the contrary, now you are the only person who can answer it. @amWhy has told you how. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 14 '17 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ "I have other puzzles that I think would be interesting and educational. Is there any way to post them or should I just file them away?" math.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/27348/… isn't about puzzles, but some of the points raised there may be relevant. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 14 '17 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ Yes it appears my comment was deleted, so, to repeat the point that @GerryMyerson was referring to, you can indeed, answer the question, within your question post. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Nov 14 '17 at 23:39
  • $\begingroup$ I delete all comments relating to the score of this question, which is tangential. $\endgroup$ – quid Nov 15 '17 at 18:32
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You're right, the general guidelines aren't exactly clear on this point. And they even mention "solving mathematical puzzles."

My perspective (which may or may not be shared by others) is that we'd rather have posts by askers engaged in the process of solving a problem, not "sharing a problem they solved."

I contend that even so, are a lot of "outs" that re-qualify a post to be a good one for this site. For sure, if someone is stuck on a mathematical puzzle, then it would be fine to ask a question about it. Or maybe you suspect there is a different solution that uses a particular approach, but you just can't quite see how it goes through, you could ask "can this puzzle be solved in this way...?"

But if you're just posing a puzzle question for others to solve, that would seem like the purview of puzzling.se.

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This is not going to be a straight answer, but that's because it's a bit of a grey area.

Firstly, the site-specific help page on what's on topic mentions

We welcome questions about:

  • ...
  • Solving mathematical puzzles

However, there are no doubt various interpretations of what that covers. I'm sure that some people, for example, would understand it to mean that the scope of the site is wider than problems from a textbook, but would still expect the asker to show effort by explaining what ideas they've tried without success.


Secondly, I note that this subject has been discussed before. E.g. one dupe target is Is math puzzle "on-topic" or "off-topic"?

The answer which I find particularly striking there begins

I have changed my mind on this issue.

which really reinforces that it's a grey area.

Note also that that discussion predates by several years the launch of puzzling.stackexchange.com, which has its own debate over mathematical puzzles.


For what it's worth, my opinion on the specific question mentioned is that, using the puzzling.SE dichotomy, it's a maths question rather than a maths puzzle. It looks to me like something that would be set as an exercise in an early lesson on probability, and I don't see any trick in the solution.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree that the Question at issue is not a "puzzle". The existence of tag "puzzle" is not a justification for questions lacking context. The problem posed in the Question is one that can be resolved by mathematical reasoning, and the OP is welcome to ask such Questions with appropriate context. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Nov 15 '17 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ Please @hardmath what would be "appropriate context", in this case and in general? I'm not trying to be a wise guy, I really want to know. $\endgroup$ – Stephen Meskin Nov 15 '17 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ To @hardmath, et al. It was posed as a puzzle, and there's a place for that in the SE network. Puzzling.SE doesn't forbid mathematical puzzles (especially, at this level, all is good).. So, best suggestion I can offer is "don't play games on MSE." There's already a dedicated SE site for that. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Nov 16 '17 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ @amWhy: Although the user is asking here on Meta about whether it is allowed to ask a Question as a puzzle, my reading of the edit history for his linked Question on the main site is that originally it was not "posed as a puzzle" in form or substance. After it was closed, some extensive edits took place, and it seems to me that even after there is nothing of a "puzzle" nature about it (but rather that it was cast as a practice exercise). I'm at a loss to respond to the Meta Question without remonstrating with the user, so I'm trying to be as constructive in commenting as I can. $\endgroup$ – hardmath Nov 16 '17 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ @hardmath I can understand that. I really meant the comment to address the asker here. Thanks for your comment. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Nov 16 '17 at 21:56

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