17
$\begingroup$

Heading down to the city of Thebes, you encounter a Sphinx who stops you in your journey and speaks to you. The Sphinx has a riddle for you: if you can solve it, she will let you pass; if you fail, she will devour you.

And this is the riddle the Sphinx has prepared for you:

If this were an answer, what would be the question?

Can you answer the Sphinx's riddle? There are two rules you must accept:

  • Your answer must not repeat the Sphinx's riddle verbatim.
  • Your answer must be itself a real question, not just a sentence and not a rhetorical question.

Hence the following is not acceptable, the Sphinx will eat you if you say:

Could you kindly ask: "If this were an answer, what would be the question?"?

While the Sphinx is highly intelligent, she has no time to lose, so don't expect her to check any weblinks, decode messages, watch you writing or mimicking, etc.

$\endgroup$
  • 16
    $\begingroup$ don't people know by now not to go to Thebes? $\endgroup$ – njzk2 Nov 20 '14 at 0:14
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Hmm... is this question possibly too broad as written? Is it possible to envision an unlimited number of possible answers? $\endgroup$ – Aza Nov 20 '14 at 1:10
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Currently, riddles are off-topic per this meta question. We've been lax on this, but the moderators are going to start enforcing this more strictly, so if you want this and other riddle questions to remain open, I suggest you go to that meta discussion and make your argument there. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Nov 20 '14 at 5:48
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @GOTO0 OK, I think this is really the focal point of our meta-battles... I'll try to come with something... we cannot do without (real) riddles! $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Nov 20 '14 at 7:08
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Why was this reopened. Do people do believe it violates the close reason: "This question may invite speculative answers, as the question is not fully defined. The validity of some answers may be based upon opinion. Good questions for this site have a limited number of objectively correct answers." $\endgroup$ – xnor Nov 21 '14 at 22:38

17 Answers 17

32
$\begingroup$

I'd say some variation of the following:

What is the Sphinx's riddle?

The trick is to get the Sphinx to repeat herself somehow without repeating the text in the question yourself. I think this is about as simple and direct a method of doing this as is possible. It doesn't rely on any sort of social cue tricks (e.g., "huh?", "say again?") or loopholes in the logic of the puzzle.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I don't like this answer. It sounds like a typical "question" the rules try to forbid. $\endgroup$ – Nova Nov 23 '14 at 1:10
57
$\begingroup$

What kind of pointer do you use to refer to the current object in C++?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/This_(computer_programming)#C.2B.2B

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ OK, that's brilliant. $\endgroup$ – BenM Nov 20 '14 at 0:29
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ And, uh, a bunch of other languages. $\endgroup$ – wchargin Nov 20 '14 at 2:49
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I find this answer to be unsatisfactory because it takes the puzzle out of the realm of logic and into trivia. $\endgroup$ – Josh Caswell Nov 20 '14 at 5:27
  • 16
    $\begingroup$ I like this answer for the very same reason. $\endgroup$ – Florian F Nov 20 '14 at 8:35
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I wouldn't risk it--"this" in the riddle might be dereferenced. $\endgroup$ – Milo P Nov 21 '14 at 21:20
16
$\begingroup$

I think the key lies in the use of the word an. It's not saying that this is the answer, but one of multiple. Then, you really just have to ask it something open-ended like:

What is an example of a self-referential riddle?

There are many such solutions, all with many possible answers, including the one given. The sphinx would have to let you pass (assuming the sphinx plays fair, of course).

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This is a great point. Though if it just has to be an answer you might as well ask for a string of random letters or words. $\endgroup$ – Ric Nov 20 '14 at 0:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Agreed. I don't know if this was the intent of the riddle, but if not, it would be better to use "the". The Sphinx may be getting on in years, slipping on the tricksiness. $\endgroup$ – Set Big O Nov 20 '14 at 0:38
12
$\begingroup$

What's the typical format of a Jeopardy! clue?

I'm not sure if the question is "elegant", but I think it works.

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I was thinking of this when reading the question title, actually. $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. Nov 20 '14 at 0:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Gilles I am just wondering... what could "not" be hidden without spoiling? $\endgroup$ – QuyNguyen2013 Nov 20 '14 at 2:55
8
$\begingroup$

This is both a normal response and a question. Often people use it after a question they don't understand.

Could you kindy repeat the question?

or this:

How would you answer this?

$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ What if the Sphinx says, "No"? $\endgroup$ – Ric Nov 19 '14 at 22:55
  • $\begingroup$ The Sphinx won't say "No".. too busy and too hungry. I'd just be dinner! :) $\endgroup$ – David Nov 19 '14 at 23:00
7
$\begingroup$

The first thing that comes to mind is

If this was the question, what would be the answer?

but that seems too easy

Another possibility in the literalist bent

Hold some object in your hand and ask "What?"

$\endgroup$
7
$\begingroup$

Here's my try:

What sort of self-referential question could you ask that requests the question to the answer which is the question you just asked?

A quite literal interpretation of the question, but I think it works.

More poetically phrased (in the same way as the Sphinx), we might say it as such:

If the answer to this question were to ask for the question it answered, what would the question be?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 This is indeed very close to what I have in mind. I like your question because you could ask it to somebody else - somebody who didn't ask the riddle and does not know it - and still get the expected reply. $\endgroup$ – GOTO 0 Nov 20 '14 at 7:46
4
$\begingroup$

What is the opposite of "that"?

According to Merriam-Webster, "that" is an antonym for "this".

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I thought of this too: "If 'this' was the answer..."... I think people are voting against this because they don't really get it :p btw your rep atm it leet $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Nov 20 '14 at 2:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop Thanks for the support! I should probably make it clearer in the answer that the Sphinx is emphasizing "this", but I think I might want to wait and see if a 3rd person votes to delete. Then I'll have an edit ready to re-open it. $\endgroup$ – pacoverflow Nov 20 '14 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ Noone can vote to delete now because it's got a positive score :D but frankly this question should probably be closed... it's because of this kind of question (which is currently #1 on HNQ) that makes us look bad :p $\endgroup$ – d'alar'cop Nov 20 '14 at 5:44
3
$\begingroup$

"They say the answer of The Question of Life, the Universe and Everything is 42. What do you think?"

It looks like an anchronism, but if you consider the Sphynx as immortal, it cannot be.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

What is the name of the capital city of the first dynasties of ancient Egypt?

or you could ask

What's the other name for Thinis,the capital city of the first dynasties of ancient Egypt?

The questions above considers the given sentence literally by taking the word "this" to refer to the answer.

Source

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thinis

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ What is the bizarre community that down voted this answer although is technically identical to the much less contextualized one using C++? This! $\endgroup$ – DarioP Nov 22 '14 at 12:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the support. I really fail to understand whats so wrong with my answer when compared to all the others. The answer even fits the theme - Sphinx/Egypt. $\endgroup$ – Hubble07 Nov 22 '14 at 13:31
2
$\begingroup$

An ideal solution seems to be along the lines of a quine, posing a question that contains the Sphinx's challenge so that the two "generate" each other. Unfortunately, embedding her riddle verbatim --

If "If this was an answer, what would be the question?" was the answer, what would be the question?

-- is not allowed.

One could refer to the Sphinx's expression:

If what you just asked me was the answer, what would be the question?

Although it seems to me that the correct response to that is itself again, producing a sort of fixed-point dialogue.

Possibly better would be this inversion:

If what you just asked me was a question, what would be the answer?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I like your answer and it's the best on here in my opinion. The only thing I see potentially wrong is the verbatim rule. "You must not repeat the riddle verbatim." $\endgroup$ – David Nov 20 '14 at 0:15
  • $\begingroup$ That's a very good point, @David. Having thought more about this construction, I'm not totally sure about the precise form I chose anyways. I will try to revise. $\endgroup$ – Josh Caswell Nov 20 '14 at 0:18
1
$\begingroup$

A possible solution:

What question would you ask me if I should answer with the question I would ask to get your answer?

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

The answer (or question) is so easy though!

If I were to have you repeat that question in exact words, what would you reply with?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ She might reply with, "my riddle" $\endgroup$ – Ric Nov 20 '14 at 0:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Ric Doesn't matter what she might say, but what she could say. The riddle doesn't say it's the answer, but an answer. $\endgroup$ – Set Big O Nov 20 '14 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Geobits, great catch! $\endgroup$ – Ric Nov 20 '14 at 0:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Ric Better now? $\endgroup$ – warspyking Nov 20 '14 at 1:24
0
$\begingroup$

I would answer:

Well, what are you going to ask me?

And the explanation is, the dialogue must make sense played in both directions. For example, the sphinx question first and my answer after have to make sense, as well as my answer first and then the sphynx question.

$\endgroup$
-1
$\begingroup$

First thing that comes to mind:

What is the logical way you should question if i say this were an answer?

$\endgroup$
-1
$\begingroup$

What do the letters T-H-I-S spell?

Or another possibility (though this doesn't have a unique answer...):

What's an anagram of 'hits'?

Sorry, I think I'm too much of a fan of wordplay and misinterpretation!

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ One of the anagrams of 'hits' is shit. $\endgroup$ – Rohinb97 Mar 3 '15 at 22:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Rohinb97 That's why I said it doesn't have a unique answer! ;-) $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Mar 3 '15 at 22:36
-2
$\begingroup$

My guess...

May I pass through?

And 'this was an answer'...

refers to how the Sphinx explained you need to solve her riddle to pass through

$\endgroup$

protected by Aza Nov 20 '14 at 1:10

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.