I have talked about a puzzle in a more general way. Now I want to identify a more precise and specific formulation of that puzzle. What verb should I use?


Life in this world seem to be a puzzle. One way to ... that puzzle is to ask whether life has any purpose at all.

I had "cast" in mind, but @terdon in a comment on another page suggested "recast". Since the puzzle has not been cast yet, I think "re-cast" might not be the best choice. The puzzle is "cast" for the first time, isn't it?

  • Use the answer box for answers please.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jun 26, 2017 at 16:30
  • I thought I had posted a comment but it seems to be gone, so perhaps @KitZ.Fox 's comment was directed at me? I've been chastised for posting simple/obvious answers as actual answers, so I thought I'd avoid that and simply provide a comment. I guess I'll post an answer. Jun 26, 2017 at 17:04
  • 2
    Asking about the meaning (purpose) of life, and why we are where we are is not about puzzles. It is a philosophical question, an existential question, one which has puzzled thinkers, artists, mathematicians and philosophers alike.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 26, 2017 at 17:51
  • @Mari-LouA The answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything... it's 42.
    – NVZ
    Jun 26, 2017 at 18:30
  • @NVZ that old chestnut....*groan*
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 26, 2017 at 18:32

5 Answers 5


I would suggest either view or think about:

One way to view that puzzle is to ask whether life has any purpose at all.

as in:



  1. [with object and adverbial] Regard in a particular light or with a particular attitude.
    ‘farmers are viewing the rise in rabbit numbers with concern’


One way to think about that puzzle is to ask whether life has any purpose at all.

as in:



2.4 (think of/about) Consider the possibility or advantages of (a course of action)
‘he was thinking of becoming a zoologist’

There's also consider:




  1. Look attentively at.
    ‘the old man considered his granddaughter thoughtfully’

Hope this helps.


In the context of your sentence the word "consider" would work well. In your example the you have already 'presented' a puzzle, (or 'framed a complex question' perhaps? )

Your circumstance suggests that the 'puzzle' is one that might not have a clear resolution however one which other truths/concepts might be made clear in it's contemplation

One way to consider that puzzle is to ask whether life has any purpose at all

address is another possibility.

One way to address that puzzle is to ask whether life has any purpose at all


https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/consider (consider) Think carefully about (something), typically before making a decision.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/contemplate (contemplate) Think carefully about (something), typically before making a decision.

or the third definition of the verb form of "address"

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/address 3)Think about and begin to deal with (an issue or problem)

Note: With a different example question, common terms used with puzzle are "unravel" and "solve" . I don't think one can truly "unravel" the question of whether life has any purpose, and given it's age-old and philosophical nature, it is unlikely to be 'solved'. In some ways this is a less typical way of using the word 'puzzle' however the alternative words to 'puzzle' might seem 'stuffy' or overly formal for your target audience.

  • 1
    This answer is a great example of how to answer a single word request. You include definitions and some information to help understand the difference in context for your suggestions. Thank you for posting it.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jun 26, 2017 at 17:08

How about approach?

Life in this world seem to be a puzzle. One way to approach that puzzle is to ask whether life has any purpose at all.

Here, it means you ask the question to get a bit closer towards the puzzle and its solution.



a : to draw closer to : approach a destination

b : to come very near to : to be almost the same as

"… its mathematics approaches mysticism. — Theodore Sturgeon"

"...as the quantity x approaches zero..."


a : to make advances to especially in order to create a desired result

"...was approached by several Broadway producers"

b : to take preliminary steps toward accomplishment or full knowledge or experience of

"Try to approach the subject with an open mind."


One way to elucidate/unravel/decipher/crack that puzzle is to ask whether life has any purpose at all.


elucidate VERB

Make (something) clear; explain. ‘work such as theirs will help to elucidate this matter’

‘But this same light is a photographer's gift, elucidating the complexities and contrasts of the country.’

unravel VERB

2 Investigate and solve or explain (something complicated or puzzling)

‘It's got structure, but it's like unravelling a puzzle.’

decipher VERB

1.1 Succeed in understanding, interpreting, or identifying (something)

‘Have you ever tried deciphering a doctor's prescription that looks like some sort of secret code out of World War II?’

crack VERB

3 informal [with object] Find a solution to; decipher or interpret.

‘We've now discovered another challenge that may be harder to crack.’


The example in your question suggests you're trying to describe the act of beginning or preparing to make an attempt to solve the puzzle. One good word for this is approach:

One way to approach that puzzle is to ask whether life has any purpose at all.

Another phrase with similar meaning is crack into, alluding to the process of cracking open the shell of a nut (the puzzle) in order to reach its contents (the solution). Note this is a different term from the usage of crack suggested in alwayslearning's answer - by cracking into a puzzle you're beginning the attempt to solve it, while cracking the puzzle is the act of completing a solution.

Your example also demonstrates solving a puzzle by breaking it (down) into smaller, more specific puzzles. With some slight rewording, this term fits the example pretty well:

One way to break that puzzle down is to ask whether life has any purpose at all.

The word simplify offers a similar fit in this sense, though in this particular case such grand puzzles are hardly "simple".

Along the same line of thought, you might consider digest, as you're describing the act of converting a large object into more basic components for easier manipulation. Digest is often used to describe the act of thinking about something thoroughly in order to understand it, especially if it's not easy to do so. The metaphor, of course, is the chemical processes of the stomach and intestines as they break food (complex problems) down into easily-absorbed nutrients (simple constituent problems) and then absorb (solve) them.

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