I have to solve a Rubik's cube, so I rearrange the stickers.

My friend asks me to remind her to read chapter five, so I immediately say, "Don't forget to read chapter five."

I have to find d such that f(x + d) - f(x) < 0.1, so I pick an infinitesimal d instead of solving the inequality.

I have to untangle something, so I cut the knot.

What do you call a technically correct solution that doesn't answer the question or solve the problem as intended?

(I'm bracing myself now for a bunch of words that meet that description but don't answer my intended question…)

Here's an example sentence: I wrote a brute-force algorithm, Annette wrote a nondeterministic probabilistic algorithm, Yun wrote a recursive branch-and-bound algorithm, and Jen wrote a(n) ________ algorithm that just returned pre-calculated answers for every possible input.

(It's fine if the words aren't adjectives or don't relate to programming.)


If you really want to refer to cutting the knot, maybe call it a Gordian solution to the problem.

  • I'm afraid you need to substantiate, better still, support, and strengthen your point to make that qualify as an answer. – Kris Oct 27 '14 at 5:30
  • Also, Gordian Knot is an application that calculated the bit rate .... So there's a possibility of ambiguity, in the domain. – Kris Oct 27 '14 at 5:37
  • It's surprising no one here bothered to check what the adjective "Gordian" means and why. – Kris Oct 27 '14 at 8:26
  • Unfortunately, people may talk about "cutting the knot" to solve a problem, without knowing the story of Alexander and the knot in Gordium. – GEdgar Oct 27 '14 at 16:07
  • So we know this doesn't work as an answer. – Kris Oct 27 '14 at 16:32

Cheating may be a suitable word.

However there are better phrases such as thinking outside the box. The general idea is that the problem maker did not intend for this solution to occur.


You might refer to those solutions as lateral thinking:

solving problems through an indirect, creative approach (wikipedia).

Cutting a difficult knot instead of trying to untie it is a classic "lateral solution".


I think what OP may be looking for here is...

rule of thumb
a broadly accurate guide or principle, based on practice rather than theory

I've just finished reading David Deutsch's The Beginning of Infinity. He constantly distinguishes early cultures adopting rules of thumb (methods that work, even if the users don't know why) from the modern era where Western civilsation is based on explanations (and we strive to actually understand why some methods work and some don't).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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