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October 28, 2005

My Sudoku Tips

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Are you a Sudoku addict? I am. Which is really something, considering that I have no brain whatsoever for puzzle-solving. Still, I manage to have a very good time solving easy -- and even moderate -- Sudoku puzzles. What a lovely state of mind I spend my Sudoku-solving minutes and hours in: engaged yet anxiety-free ... Blissed-out yet bearing-down ... And what a satisfying sense of accomplishment solving a Sudoku puzzle delivers. Ahhhh ... I wonder what brain scans will one day reveal about the brains of Sudoku addicts.

Assuming there are a few visitors who might be interested in what a very low-end Sudoku freak has to say, I'm going to volunteer some tips about how to get started.

1) If you've stared at a few Sudoku puzzles and have given up in confusion, don't despair. There are four or five strategies -- OK, call them tricks -- that will get you through all the easy ones. Don't even bother trying to solve a Sudoku until you find out what these tricks are.

2) Most of the Sudoku books I've looked at offer a ton of good puzzles, but few of them offer much in the way of useful guidance. This book does. It's British -- which means that it has the virtues of being well-organized and cheerily-written. Best of all, it lays out the main Sudoku-solving strategies clearly and succinctly, and then it drills you in them. Make your way through this book and you'll be a confident and forward-looking Sudoku-solving beast.

3) As far as replenishing your supply of puzzles goes: If you're feeling cheap, or you'd rather use the web than buy a book, try this site. The puzzles are numerous, they're free, and they print out at an ideal size.

Best, and heading back for a refreshing hour -- or two -- of Sudoku-solving,


posted by Michael at October 28, 2005


I had no idea what a Sudoku puzzle was, so I made use of your handy-dandy link to the web-based version.

Rather than soothing my brain, I'm pretty sure Sudokus would rapidly have the exact opposite effect on me. Whereas my sainted mother for many years worked through a daily crossword puzzle, I kept far, far away from them. (My quick take is that the two kinds of puzzles have at least a superficial resemblence.)

My problem is than I have zero patience for puzzles or tedious logical work -- my mind just doesn't work well at such tasks. That's probably why I was never more than average at math.

Yet I design and program software systems: Isn't that tedious, logical work? Well, it can get tedious and you need logical thought. But I regard the thing more as an art-form where you balance data storage and computer speed and the coherence of your code to yield a result that works and works well.

Funny how different minds operate.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on October 28, 2005 10:22 PM

Like Donald, I feel that this would drive me nuts, like a Rubik's cube. However, I was good at getting out of mazes, and good at Scrabble!

Posted by: winifer skattebol on October 28, 2005 11:53 PM

This is probably the kind of thing they should make kids do in school in order to make them smarter (along with playing GO and chess).

Posted by: lindenen on October 29, 2005 2:39 AM

This is probably just a personal quirk. But the funny thing about Sudoku (and crossword puzzles) for me has been that I get 'em and I enjoy 'em at all. I really-truly don't have a game-playing, puzzle-solving mind. Not good with cards, dislike braintwisters, shy from chess, etc. They all make me feel tense and inadequate, and I've spent the time I've spent on them wondering where the pleasure and joy are to be found. With crosswords and Sudokus, I started enjoying them very quickly. I'm not any good, but I've gotten good enough to relax into them, and enter that kind of blissed-out state people who are enjoying mental games seem to enter into. Maybe it's because they're easier than some games? Although hard Sudokus are really hard, and I can't begin to get anywhere with a tough crossword. Maybe I've just been smart enough to stay in the shallow end and not push myself too hard? Dunno. But maybe it's in the nature of the games. Maybe a few people who've been frustrated by mental games might find to their surprise that they enjoy Sudokus too.

My good deed for the day ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on October 29, 2005 12:09 PM

Damn you, Michael! It's not as if I had time to spare. Sudoku is going to be the worst thing to happen to me since Yahoo! Chess. Try, next time, to think of the effect your recommendations will have on us weak-willed types.

Posted by: Peter on October 31, 2005 12:32 AM

Well, I just spent three hours, in the middle of the night, figuring out many of those tricks and solving a puzzle at "evil" difficulty. My scratch paper seems like the output of a madman, as I'm pretty sure my verbalizations did. No work tomorrow, thank God.

Posted by: J. Goard on October 31, 2005 6:10 AM

I heard on the news that British Airways flight attendants were forbidden from doing Sudoku during landing and takeoff because they became so absorbed they neglected their duties.

Posted by: winifer skattebol on October 31, 2005 7:19 PM

Checkout It's a new website where you can find lots of sudokus in pdf format, and also you can play online. There is also Magic Sudokus. This site rocks!

Posted by: meji on November 11, 2005 12:53 PM

I love Sudoku...I find it calms me down. I use puzzles in a big format book. This makes it easier to write in each little box. When I need a lift, I do an easy one. When I feel like takingon the world, I do a 'fiendish' one. Other times I do a medium or hard one.
I learned by doing tons of them at the beach last summer. Now I try to limit myself to one a day -- I get compulsive. But I did 25 yesterday while taking a 22-hr. journey, waiting in airports and sitting on planes.

There are probably some tricks I don't know yet, and wish I could learn them without buying a darn book.


Posted by: Patricia on November 13, 2005 4:33 PM

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