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A recent question cites a puzzle, and is skeptical that there is an answer.

It looks like a notable claim and an expression of skepticism that it is true.

Should we accept puzzles as questions?

See also:

  • What's the policy on non-puzzle "does X exist in Y artwork" questions? For example "Is there a woman among the figures in The Last Supper?" (people sometimes claim one of the figures is Mary Magdalene)? Obviously the Last Supper is much more notable an artwork than these owls... But I think the owls do pass notability – user56reinstatemonica8 Dec 28 '15 at 11:24
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    There is no factual claim, so it's off topic. – Sklivvz Dec 28 '15 at 19:05
  • The fact that there is a meta question about the trolling (I hope) question is almost as surreal as the original one existing. – Spork Jan 6 '16 at 0:37
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The solving of puzzles - i.e. toy problems designed to test ingenuity - should not be considered on-topic.

Simply finding the answer is not the role of this site, even if the puzzle itself may be notable - e.g. Rubik's Cube or any of those interminable arithmetic questions that create a buzz by revealing people's ignorance about the order of operations in arithmetic.

Finding solutions may be on topic at Puzzling Stack Exchange.


Puzzles may still be on-topic here in at least a couple of ways.

There may be claims about the puzzle - e.g. that the Riddle of the Sphinx originated in Ancient Egypt.

There may be claims about the answer - e.g. an answer declared to be right on a trivia quiz show like QI - which is based on doubtful facts.

Both of those are claims that amenable to answering based on the application of scientific skepticism. However, simply linking to a puzzle and asking for the solution is not.

4

I voted to close as primarily opinion based. Whether one of the animals looks like a cat, or looks like an owl, is a matter of opinion.

I reckon the cat looks like Totoro!

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    There are no real cats or owls in that drawing, so there's no evidence based answer. – Sklivvz Dec 28 '15 at 3:57
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    This is an answer that addresses a short-coming of this particular puzzle. I was hoping for a generic answer for well-constructed puzzles. – Oddthinking Dec 28 '15 at 6:16
  • Not to mention it's a rather spurious claim. The intent of the puzzle was to find a cat. One of the objects is different and lacks a beak. Arguing that a artistic depiction of a cat is not a cat is rather silly, and it's a sort of skepticism that would be a different question in and of itself of art-interpretation. Bringing absurd and ultimate skepticism into discourse does nothing. Next up, why the census is unfair and inaccurate because it doesn't define "person." – Evan Carroll Dec 28 '15 at 19:27
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You can make almost everything fit into the literal description of our scope, but I think solving puzzles here doesn't make much sense. We usually deal with finding answers to "real world" questions, a puzzle is an artificial challenge. I personally don't think we should solve puzzles here.

There are probably cases where questions about puzzles might be on-topic here, I'm thinking mostly about cases where the solution is controversial and the whole thing is making the round on social media.

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In the interest of clarity and indexability I would leave puzzles to the appropriate sub-site, unless the solution is part of refuting/confirming a larger claim.

("Is there a cat?" vs "Is it true that only the thrice sworn monks of quala lumpur can solve this puzzle?")

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For me, the key to this particular question being on topic comes from the appearance of a notable published source of the specific claim that the puzzle has a solution. If the puzzle were "making the rounds on Facebook", then there'd be no guarantee that was even a single version of the puzzle. But given the Us magazine article, the question becomes well defined and answerable.

So it comes down to whether this is within scope. I want to say yes to that as well. The image is just a big 2D array of numbers, and the claim is about an observable pattern within those numbers. Therefore this is isomorphic to questions like "do the digits of pi really contain the works of Shakespeare".

  • I'll stipulate it is well-defined, notable and answerable. Is it in scope though? – Oddthinking Dec 28 '15 at 3:29
  • @Oddthinking added a bit more – Ernest Friedman-Hill Dec 28 '15 at 3:49
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    I think that especially questions worded as "Does this puzzle have an answer" can be on-topic, as analytical answers are far more welcome here than on Puzzling.SE. On Puzzling, the answer would be "yes, the cat is right there." On Skeptics, it could be "One of these figures lacks a beak, this could imply it it a cat. The illustrator has also said in an interview that there is indeed a cat." So, I don't think all puzzles are out of scope, but it would depend on the puzzle and the question. – Will Dec 28 '15 at 16:24
  • @Will analytical answers are not acceptable here, as we don't accept theoretical answers... – Sklivvz Dec 28 '15 at 19:04
  • I don't agree that breaking the image down into an array of numbers is an appropriate level of abstraction. That allows a false analogy with the "pi" question. If that analogy is accepted, we must also accept that the question "Was Darwin secretly a mason?" also is represented by a mere a string of numbers and is therefore also on topic. – Oddthinking Dec 29 '15 at 3:59

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