If a challenge is difficult, when is it suitable to hint?

(I don't think early is good, it breaks other's thought)

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ There is spoiler blockquote (>! content). \$\endgroup\$
    Jun 14, 2018 at 1:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd say if there are no (or only a few) answers after several days. Basically when it's not on the front page anymore and few people are viewing it anymore \$\endgroup\$
    – ASCII-only
    Jun 14, 2018 at 1:38

1 Answer 1


Almost always as fast as possible

Generally speaking, PPCG is not a place for challenges that becomes trivial once everyone knows how to solve it. This is not an enforced rule as far as I'm aware, but could easily lead to controversy. For example challenges with a known optimal algorithm (well, maybe not trivial for everyone), and some of the pure s. So better use the sandbox, or at least try to be creative if you want to post these challenges. is a notable exception.

Or you could use another winning criterion, to make things easier, say with . Better not use code-golf as a tie-breaker. But the main challenge is also different. In most cases you should give information about how to solve the first part (to reach the required complexity), and answers compete with each other by only golfing.

If the challenge is so difficult that you have to give hints so that anyone could post an answer, you are likely doing this, but still want the first part to be a part of the challenge. This hides the controversy, but doesn't actually improve the situation. Even if you don't give hints, the first answer automatically serves as a hint to everyone else, and someone could golf it in another language and win despite it's not their own idea. Worse if the user who comes up with a solution isn't interested in golfing it. Better just tell everyone the answer, as it is irrelevant to who wins.

But if you want to stick to the original winning criterion, and not just golf, it wouldn't be easy and could only be answered per challenge. And sometimes it only proves that challenge type doesn't work well.

If you simply want others to think about it for a while, as user202729 have commented, you could use the spoiler blockquote. This should be enough if you don't consider this part the main challenge. To make life easier, don't be too obsessed about whether others has taken your hint. You could always think yourself a winner if you are sure nobody else could come up with a solution. And you could always assume some people know it if it is helpful and you were willing to share.

In practice, I see many users edit the information about how to solve something into the question as soon as someone asks, if they weren't already there.

Also note that, for the most challenges, you should be able to post your own answer. Some users would try not answer in a few days because they prefer not winning their own challenge, but not that they have something to hide. This could be better than a hint sometimes.


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