These three poems by Nick Montfort take an ancient literary and cultural tradition, the riddle, and brings them into the digital age by using CGI scripting to allow readers to guess the response without the riddler needing to be present. The poems provide a simple input cue: a text box where the reader can type in their guess and a button that submits that response to a script, which checks the answer for a match and sends a response, whether it was correct or not. This script was probably written in Perl, a programming language Montfort uses extensively, particularly in his “ppg256” series of poem generators. Part of the interest in this choice of scripting language is that he is able to keep the answer hidden from readers, even from those who like to take a peek at the source code (like me). It also means that he could design a riddle without a correct answer, enacting what Philippe Bootz calls “the Aesthetics of Frustration.”
But what is the point of a riddle? Is the pleasure in the answer in puzzling over the question?