What is the right verb for when puzzles are shared with another person? Do we "raise" puzzles? Do we "give" puzzles? Do we "cast" puzzles? ... or do we simply "say" puzzles?

What, for example, can be put in the following blank space?

In this reality show, they ____ puzzles and participants try to solve them.

I want the puzzle to be in the sentence.

The interesting thing is that the main dictionaries on the web Cambridge Marriam Webster Oxford do not give proper examples to solve this puzzle!

  • 20
    Perhaps pose - a question, a problem, a puzzle: something to answer or solve.
    – Drew
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 1:34
  • 2
    Well, that's the puzzle, isn't it? We should buy a bar, and name it puzzles! youtube.com/watch?v=2pZc00jnvRg
    – NVZ
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 6:10
  • 1
    If you want to ask Hellion a question you have to post your comment underneath his answer. He will not be notified if you mention his username under somebody else's post, unless he himself has also left a comment. And he has left no comments under Tom22's answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 18:04
  • "Riddle me this..."
    – Patrick M
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 18:32
  • Really, you normally just say "told me .." (or, them etc.) "He told the kids some great puzzles" "Oh man my brother told me a great puzzle last night." The fact is that's the most colloquial. Same as for "story".
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 0:18

5 Answers 5


The word that first came into my mind when reading your question was pose, defined by the online M-W as (among other things):

a : to set forth or offer for attention or consideration let me pose a question

I would say that we pose puzzles just like we pose questions. However, it depends on context. For example, I would say that

The mysterious event presented the police with a puzzle.

However, if we're referring to one person actively showing another something as a puzzle to be solved, then I would use pose:

I posed a puzzle for my friends to solve.

And if this is somehow obligatory, as in your example of a game show host, if it is a task that must be done, I would use set:

The host sets puzzles for the contestants to solve.

So, for me, set is for cases where the puzzle is somehow work to do. Not really for describing something which is puzzling (where present would be more common) nor for the action of telling a friend a riddle to solve (where pose is more common).

This Google NGram seems to support this interpretation (for what it's worth, this is far from conclusive) with presents a puzzle being more common than poses a puzzle (the latter is likely mostly used for active cases like my second example above) but pose a puzzle being far more common than present a puzzle (which has no hits at all) and set/sets a puzzle being by far the rarest.

Google NGram comparing pose a puzzle,set a puzzle,propose a puzzle,poses a puzzle,presents a puzzle and sets a puzzle

The dubious evidence above suggests that set a puzzle is far less common than either present or pose. In the specific example you cite, that of a game show, set does indeed work and sounds perfectly natural, but I feel that setting puzzles is not as common outside that specific context. Perhaps because set carries a connotation of homework. So I would pose a puzzle for my friend to solve, but I would set a puzzle for a game contestant (who has to solve it in order to proceed) and I would write that a murder presented the police with a puzzle.

  • What about an example like this: "Our life in this world is somehow like a puzzle. One way to ... such a puzzle is to ask whether it has a purpose at all." I mean examples where we see something as a puzzle in the most general way and then we want to give a more particular form to such a puzzle. The first verb that comes to my mind is "cast". @Neil_UK
    – Sasan
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 14:02
  • @Sasan please don't take my examples as any sort of "rules". They were just my attempt to formalize the way I would use the words. That said, your example here is quite different. I would fill the blank with approach or look at. You could recast the puzzle in a different way, yes, but not cast it.
    – terdon
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 14:08
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    Why do you keep adding @Neil_UK at the end of your comments to me? That won't notify Neil since Neil hasn't interacted with this answer in any way. And you seem to be asking a very different question now to what you asked originally. That said, recast seems to be what you want for this new question. But please post new questions separately.
    – terdon
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 15:52
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    OK, but when you use @username it only notifies people who have interacted with the post directly (so whoever wrote the post, others who have commented, those who have edited it). Neil hasn't interacted so he won't be notified. You can instead leave him a comment under his answer or under your question and ask him to have a look.
    – terdon
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 16:32
  • 1
    @Sasan With your new examples, I'm not sure puzzle is the right word. Maybe riddle would be better.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 17:04

The word present is frequently used with puzzles

A few ideas:

  • perhaps "present puzzles", or
  • "present puzzling questions to" (although "puzzling question" is less optimal without additional context as a "puzzling question" frequently means an ill-formed question, but perhaps less so if words like "solve" are used along with it (see below)),
  • "present puzzle challenges"

or maybe

  • "challenge participants with puzzles to solve" (challenge could be an alternative to present if used this way.

Usually you would couple "present" with "to" or "with":

  • "present puzzles to participants for them to solve" or

  • "present participants with puzzles"

  • 4
    "Present a puzzle" often carries connotations that the subject (of the verb "present") is also the source or subject of the puzzle itself. For example, "these data present [us with] a puzzle". If the subject of "present" is a person, it might suggest that the person is themself an enigma. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 10:54
  • 1
    Or more generally, "present" implies that the presented is not the author/inventor of the puzzle. Which could be true for the TV show host, but not for the TV show considered as a whole. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 14:01
  • What about an example like this: "Our life in this world is somehow like a puzzle. One way to ... such a puzzle is to ask whether it has a purpose at all." I mean examples where we see something as a puzzle in the most general way and then we want to give a more particular form to such a puzzle. The first verb that comes to my mind is "cast". @Hellion
    – Sasan
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 14:06
  • @RobinSaunders I agree, especially with "puzzling questions" which could mean "ill-formed" questions. I think less so if it is simply "present puzzles to contestants for them to solve"
    – Tom22
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 14:24
  • My first thought was show but I like present even better.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 20:07

We set puzzles.

In this reality show, they set puzzles and participants try to solve them.

This refers strictly to the puzzles. The puzzles are set. Set here has the meaning of 'being constructed or devised', some work has gone in to preparing the puzzle. This is correct using the exact form of the OP's test sentence.

That the participants are expected to solve those puzzles is spelt out explicitly. We do not 'set puzzles to the contestants', though they might be given or presented to them. But that would not use the form of words in the OP.

Amongst the many subtly different meanings of the word 'set' in the OED are 'to prepare', 'to set a trap', and 'to set down on paper', most or all of which are appropriate for a puzzle.

  • 2
    This is correct. You 'set a puzzle' and 'pose a problem'. And 'propose a solution' (or 'present the correct solution' :).
    – andrewf
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 8:19
  • I would say that puzzles are "set" in a formal context where participants are required (or expected) to attempt the puzzle, but "posed" when it's an informal invitation to those who might be interested. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 10:49
  • I've just noticed that terdon beat me to this observation (by a matter of minutes!) - and also the observation about "present" - in their answer, which in my opinion is the most comprehensive and should be accepted. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 10:59
  • 4
    Hmm. I don't think this is idiomatic in American English, at least not in the Midwest or New England.
    – mattdm
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 13:04
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    I'd say that (on a show like Only Connect, for example), the puzzles are set by question editors working behind the scenes, and are posed by the presenter (Victoria Coren Mitchell, in this case).
    – TRiG
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 14:43

I think present fits the bill for normal usage:

6a : to offer to view : show
b : to bring to one's attention
from m-w.com

The hosts present the puzzles and the contestants try to solve them.

If you give someone a puzzle, it implies that the puzzle is a physical object to be examined or manipulated.

(Cast is normally associated with a magic spell, not with everyday speech.)

  • But "The die/dice is/are cast"
    – legrojan
    Commented Jun 27, 2017 at 11:34

My first thought is that you construct a puzzle. I think this is most often used with written puzzles like crosswords, but I think it is used for other kinds of puzzles as well.

Here are a few citations from a quick search around the Internet:

Douglas Adams:

So I thought that just for a change I would actually construct a puzzle and see how many people solved.

From a Mental Floss article on How Crossword Puzzles Are Made:

Follow along as I construct a crossword puzzle from start to finish

From a book title:

Puzzlecraft: The Ultimate Guide on How to Construct Every Kind of Puzzle

Another option that came to mind would be that you write a puzzle (particularly one that's in a textual form).

See that same Mental Floss article:

When I tell people at parties that I write crossword puzzles for a living…

From a puzzle author's web site:

There are a few resources out there about writing puzzles. There are very few books out there on how to actually go about writing crosswords, creating find-a-words, drawing mazes and so on. Mostly you have to ‘pull apart’ puzzles and figure out the logic of how they’re done for yourself. The puzzle of how to write puzzles is part of the challenge I enjoy!

Note that that last one also uses the term "creating" and "drawing" for specific kinds of puzzles, but uses "writing" as the general term including them all. If the puzzle isn't presented in a written format, though, then it may not work as well.

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