Here is a short puzzle story that I created. People on other forums seem to not understand it for some reason, but everyone I spoke to in real life understood it. But no one I knew so far got it right the first go! Can you? Be honest. This is purely logical, not that much mathematical.

One day God had a task for an angel. He told the angel to write a perfect (in this case, “excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement”) essay about today’s weather. He told the angel to do his best possible job he could at writing the essay. The angel agreed and took out his pen and paper and began writing. While the angel was writing, God was watching him. When the angel was finished, he handed the essay to God. The angel had in fact written the essay at the fastest possible speed it could have been written. However, God said, “This essay is perfect, but you could have done better.”

What did God mean or possibly mean by the 2nd part of that sentence?


God did not say "you could have done it better," but just "you could have done better." This statement was intentionally vague, but what possibilities does it offer?

P.S. If you figured out the answer, how can it be concrete (in other words, no other options), yet not purely mathematical?

Since I put one of the correct answers here, I'll give the correct answer to the first alternate complete correct answer. There are two more. If you honestly got this answer without looking, please post so I would know someone did.


closed as off-topic by Deusovi Aug 25 at 18:50

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  • $\begingroup$ We have seen decent replies here. On the other forums I asked this in, it was just people saying a perfect essay can't be done better (which is obviously true here by the definition given). Anyone just wants the straightforward no ambiguity answer? Can I send private messages? Sorry, I'm new. $\endgroup$ – Yukang Jiang Aug 25 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Puzzling! (Take the Tour!) If you feel the need to post a full explanation yourself, please post it as a self-answer. The solution is not part of the question and shouldn't be included in the question post. Having said that, it is generally nicer to give a solver some hints and some time to let them come up with the full solution themselves, and/or to annotate an answer that is close but not quite complete with (e.g.) "Added by OP" notes that fill in missing or incorrect details. $\endgroup$ – Rubio Aug 25 at 4:04
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, I'll post it as a self-answer, but I'll be awarding the correct answer to the first alternate correct complete answer, so it'll still be tricky to get it right! $\endgroup$ – Yukang Jiang Aug 25 at 4:06

God said, facing the angel he gave the task to, "This essay is perfect," then God turned to the other angel in the room and continued, "but you could have done better."

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    $\begingroup$ This relies on there being another angel in the room, which the riddle doesn't specify. $\endgroup$ – F1Krazy Aug 25 at 9:05
  • $\begingroup$ @F1Krazy Riddles often have answers based on noticing nuances in what was said, and what wasn't said. $\endgroup$ – NotThatGuy Aug 25 at 13:22
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    $\begingroup$ This is an interesting example of why your problem is simple in person and difficult online. "This essay is perfect <pause> but you could have done better" is fairly obvious in speech. $\endgroup$ – Cireo Aug 25 at 17:08

I guess the angel could have written



Nothing is better than perfection.

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    $\begingroup$ Nice try on the pun, but if the angel wrote nothing and a blank essay was the perfect essay, that is not really evidence that he could've done better. Still, bravo for thinking of the pun. Most people would just say something that didn't make sense. But this is supposed to be a logic puzzle, not word play. I would upvote you, but my reputation is too low. $\endgroup$ – Yukang Jiang Aug 24 at 22:54

God, being omniscient, could tell that while the angel was writing his essay, he was thinking horrible, perverse, murderous thoughts. Or perhaps the angel was simply annoyed by being asked to perform such a meaningless task. Either way, God was disappointed.

  • $\begingroup$ True, the angel could have been doing other stuff such as thinking perverse thoughts while writing the essay, but God said "you could have done better" in the context of the angel writing the essay and the context of what God said to the angel. It is implied that God was referring to something related to the essay or the job of writing it as He mentioned earlier. Thinking perverse thoughts is kind of off-topic in the vein of "you could have done better." Also, this is assuming doing other stuff didn't impact the angel's speed at writing a perfect essay (which realistically it should). $\endgroup$ – Yukang Jiang Aug 25 at 1:47
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    $\begingroup$ I would argue that if the angel was annoyed or resentful about having to write the essay, that is related to the essay. But oh well, I guess we'll just keep guessing things until we land on the one that you want it to be. $\endgroup$ – hdsdv Aug 25 at 1:54
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    $\begingroup$ It is possible for it to be related to the essay, but in order for it to be related, it has to affect the perfect essay, which means it wouldn't be a distraction anymore. But if it was a distraction, then it wouldn't be related to the essay. See what I mean? If it affected the perfect essay, then there wouldn't be a way to do the perverse thinking any better. I don't think this part is vague. So if it's related, then he did the perverse thinking perfectly. If it's not related, then the answer above applies. You know I can still mark you with the right answer if you can prove it to me. $\endgroup$ – Yukang Jiang Aug 25 at 1:57
  • $\begingroup$ I also meant if the angel was annoyed and wrote the perfect essay, not being annoyed wouldn't be doing "better" because it wouldn't have affected his ability. He can be happy or annoyed, it wouldn't affect how good he did even though it's related to the essay. $\endgroup$ – Yukang Jiang Aug 25 at 3:01
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    $\begingroup$ shrug you seem to have a lot to say about this, and I honestly am not that interested in it. your "puzzle" is underspecified, and this conversation is frankly boring. sorry. $\endgroup$ – hdsdv Aug 25 at 9:50

The angel wrote a perfect essay at the fastest possible speed but

s/he could have written on a better medium. The paper used was substandard both in terms of the quality of paper and in the fact that paper was used at all. Surely, the angel would have known to use the metrology stack exchange?

As to the question contained in the post script:

In manufacturing, the MECE delivery list is time, quality, and cost. Cost, presumably has no meaning to God (His repeated attempts to gather tithes, notwithstanding). Time also usually wouldn't, but in any event, it was done as fast as angelly possible. Perhaps even as fast as divinely possible although we may be wading too deeply into theological issues for the purposes of this puzzle.

That leaves quality. The quality of an essay is in the content and the form. The content, God has told us, is perfect. So we are left with the form.

The form is presumably the medium and the font. I went with medium, but perhaps God didn't like the angel's chicken scratch.

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    $\begingroup$ Getting closer, but what I meant when I wrote God saying "this essay is perfect" is the entire essay including the paper is perfect. There is a better, more straightforward answer. Although I guess, you can be right depending on the definition of essay, but I always thought of "essay" as similar to "research paper," which includes the medium it's written on. The dictionary on www.dictionary.com doesn't really say if essay includes the medium, but that was my intention. True that cost isn't the right answer, as it does not affect the actions of the angel (him/her doing "better"). $\endgroup$ – Yukang Jiang Aug 25 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ And no, font isn't the answer I'm hoping for. I would have thought like the medium used, it is part of the essay, but again I guess you can make an argument depending on the dictionary definition of "essay." You are thinking in the right direction though. I'll give you another hint: the answer is not speed but similar in its relationship to the product (the essay). $\endgroup$ – Yukang Jiang Aug 25 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ I searched online and one site used the word "essay" like this "Use one side only of A4 paper per page of your essay," which implies the paper is part of the essay. If it wasn't, it would say "for your essay" instead of "of your essay." If anyone can shed light on this, I would gladly make the story clearer. $\endgroup$ – Yukang Jiang Aug 25 at 1:25
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    $\begingroup$ There may be some slight ambiguity there but not really. "This essay has been copied!" is unlikely to be resolved by saying "no, this one is on paper and I read it online!" $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Aug 25 at 2:06
  • $\begingroup$ Wait, so are you saying the essay includes the medium or no? Sorry I am a bit confused xD. You mean like Xerox copy right? $\endgroup$ – Yukang Jiang Aug 25 at 2:13

Writing an essay about the day's weather should not be done as quickly as possible. One must observe the weather to write perfectly about it. The angel wrote the best essay he could based on the limited time he took to write it, only observing a small amount of the day's weather.

Therefore, it is perfect given the amount of time he took. But it could have been better with more observation.


Based on the assumption that

the angel doesn't know the future.

It was perfect considering

the weather up to the point when it was written.

But one could do better by

waiting until a later time (possibly tomorrow) and taking into account the weather for a greater part of the day (or the entire day).

  • $\begingroup$ I like this answer the best! $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Aug 25 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ This answer is on track in that the story doesn't specify how much time passed while it unfolded, but perfect is not relative. All the definitions except two for "perfect" on www.dictionary.com are absolute. $\endgroup$ – Yukang Jiang Aug 25 at 16:29

The angel forgot about the observer effect. It is perfect because the angel completely wrote about what the weather would be, but it could be better, because the act of writing about the weather changed the weather.


Answer: (8/24/2019 11:52pm US Eastern Time, 8/25/2019 3:52am GMT)

There are 3 correct answers so I'll be giving the correct solution to the first alternate correct answer.

The answer is the order of the words the angel wrote it (the order of writing) could be different at different times (even though the arrangement/order of the words on the essay is the same). For example, the angel could have scribbled this sentence backwards from the end to the beginning, keeping the spaces the same. This is important to God, because before the essay being completed, the incomplete essay could be very different. What God meant by "you could have done better" was "you could have done a better job," referring to what he stated earlier about the angel having to do the best job he could possibly do at writing the essay. Like speed, order of writing is just one of the variables that could be changed. It is like the MECE delivery list of manufacturing posted earlier, except there is one more variable.

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    $\begingroup$ This answer doesn't make sense at all - how can the order of writing be "better"? How does that relate to the alternate possible essays that could have been written (when it was already "perfect", so it couldn't be improved, even by erasing everything and writing a new one)? $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Aug 25 at 5:36
  • $\begingroup$ For example, if the perfect essay was "This is perfect" and it took the angel 10 seconds to write it. Maybe at 5 seconds into his task, the angel wrote "_____s perfect," but "This I_______" is closer to what God wanted at 5 seconds into the task than "_____s perfect." Doing better could mean the angel needed to do a better job every step of the way, not just at the finish line. $\endgroup$ – Yukang Jiang Aug 25 at 6:44
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    $\begingroup$ No. This is not the only variable. He could have used a different writing instrument. He could have chosen not to use paper. He could have used a different font that consumed less ink or had improved legibility. The problem is that you assume a narrow set of variables without realizing your choice of variables is arbitrary. You could assume that the direction the angel faced affected the weather. Etc. This is a question about mythical beings so all constraints are valid. $\endgroup$ – Sentinel Aug 25 at 10:11
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    $\begingroup$ I think I understand what you were going for with this riddle, but it is impossible to find your expected answer because of how vague the definition of "perfect" is here. If God asked the angel to solve a mathematical riddle, such as completing a magic square, or a minesweeper, we could look at the steps the angel took and try to find a more "perfect" solution (less steps, preservation of a property of some kind after each step, ...). But here, the definition of "perfect" is so vague that way too many answers could fit as correct. $\endgroup$ – Julien Lopez Aug 25 at 14:14

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