Here are two groups of flags.

In your opinion, which flags look better, those in group A or in group B? I'm curious. Please answer this poll by upvoting the corresponding comment. EDIT: The puzzle has been solved, but I still encourage people to vote for a group without looking at the answer.

To solve the puzzle: What is the distinction between the two groups?

Two groups of flags

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Upvote here for group A. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2023 at 16:50
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Upvote here for group B. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2023 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ Someone suggested that the solution requires prior knowledge, but I disagree. You can solve the puzzle with only the information given. $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2023 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


The difference between the two groups of flags is ...

... based on the distinction between metals and non-metals in heraldry. The metals are or (gold or yellow) and argent (silver or white). All other colours and tinctures are non-metals.

There is a rule in heraldic design that only metals and non-metals can touch; there shouldn't be any borders berween two metals or two non-metals. The flags on the left obey that rule, the ones on the right don't.

  • $\begingroup$ You got it! To clarify the wording a bit: the Rule of Tincture only applies to solid-colored tinctures (not to "furs"). The solid-colored tinctures are in two categories: yellow/gold and white/silver are called "metals," and all others are called "colors." The Rule of Tincture states that two "metals" may not touch, and two "colors" may not touch. $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2023 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ I'm a bit disappointed that nobody voted. I wanted to see if people thought the rule actually produces better-looking flags. Who would have thought opinions would be so hard to come by on the Internet? $\endgroup$ Feb 6, 2023 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, I got the rule right, I think, but I described that exactly the wrong way round: only metals and non-metals can touch. I'll correct that. (I answered that from memory and I'm not exactly well versed in the nomenclature of heraldry.) $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Feb 6, 2023 at 20:05
  • $\begingroup$ I would accept a solution that doesn't mention heraldry at all, as long as it accurately describes the restrictions in group A. For example: "In group A, yellow and white may not touch each other, and any two colors that are not yellow or white may not touch each other." $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2023 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ But the criterion is hard to spot if you don't know about the metals in heraldry. It's something I had stashed away in the back of my brain, probably from reading about the Middle Ages in my early teens. (Quite some time ago. I'm now in my "middle age" myself.) $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Feb 16, 2023 at 20:43

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