When creating puzzles, I often find that the difficulty is difficult to estimate. Some puzzles seem to be "too difficult" to be solved without any hints (as in, the person who is supposed to solve the puzzle gives up after several tries because none of their approaches worked. At other times, a puzzle seems to easy when it is solved immediately.
Of course, experience of the person plays a huge role in estimating difficulty. A person who has a lot of experience with word-based puzzles will be able to solve those kinds of puzzles blazingly fast than a puzzle based on geometry.
Hints are supposed to make the puzzle more accessible to newcomers. They allow people who are "stuck" to potentially see a different angle, while people familiar with those puzzles can challenge themselves to solving it without hints.
However, I noticed that some hints, just like some puzzles, are terrible. Some of the worst offenders are:
- The "hint" that is actually the solution.
- The "hint" that, even when knowing the solution, makes absolutely no sense.
- The "hint" that states the obvious. (E.g. rephrases the question)
As such, I would like to ask what makes a good hint?
Small note: I am aware that rephrasing the question can sometimes be useful, as it allows you see the question from a new angle. My idea for a hint that states the obvious is a hint such as "Think carefully what the solution can be".