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Might I Suggest Learning About: Sudoku

Colin Wright
Colin Wright
Note: This is a post-format I’m experimenting with for AG—the idea is to introduce a concept or body of knowledge or skill with a succinct pitch about why it’s worth looking into and where you might get started if you choose to do so.

Might I Suggest Learning About: Sudoku
Quick Summary:
Sudoku is a grid-based puzzle game with a 9x9 board. Some squares are pre-filled with numbers and others are left blank. Like this:
Higher-difficulty puzzles tend to leave more squares blank.
Higher-difficulty puzzles tend to leave more squares blank.
The goal is to fill in all the grid squares with numbers, and each column, row, and 3x3 box contains the numbers 1 through 9 just one time. Here’s what that puzzle looks like when it’s been completely filled in:
Note that each 3x3 block, each row, and each column all contain the numbers 1 through 9, once apiece.
Note that each 3x3 block, each row, and each column all contain the numbers 1 through 9, once apiece.
Solving a Soduku puzzle requires using logic (not math, despite there being numbers involved) and as you grow more proficient, there are logical techniques (with names like Naked Pairs and X-Wing) you can use to figure out even the most impossible-seeming puzzles.
Most players jot small notes (I use dots) to show what numbers are logical possibilities in a puzzle's empty squares before they start figuring out the rest of the puzzle.
Most players jot small notes (I use dots) to show what numbers are logical possibilities in a puzzle's empty squares before they start figuring out the rest of the puzzle.
Historical Nugget:
The modern iteration of Sudoku puzzles were introduced in Japan in 1986, but variations of the concept have been published in newspapers and books since the 19th century.
Why I’m Suggesting This:
I finally tried my hand at Sudoku after not fully understanding the concept or appeal for years, and have found it to be a calming, satisfying way to pass the time (on a bus, in a waiting room), or in between other tasks. The focus required to solve more advanced puzzles in particular tends to pull me out of whatever headspace I was in and helps me shift into other mindsets more easily, post-puzzle.
To get started, I bought a 500-puzzle book (with puzzles of increasing difficulty) and downloaded a few Sudoku apps on my phone. After a few weeks of periodic puzzle-playing, I’d graduated from complete newbie to solving expert-level puzzles (as defined by the apps, anyway) in somewhere between 15-20 minutes, on average.
Resources For Getting Started:
  • Here’s the book I bought, which is really nice to have (alongside a pencil with an eraser) in your day bag: Big Book of Sudoku
  • This app allows you to play Sudoku, but I found it to be most valuable for the advanced techniques it teaches (iOS only at the moment): Good Sudoku
  • This is my favorite app for playing the game (the ads are a little annoying, but it’s free, intuitive, and available on iOS, Android, and the web): Sudoku.com
  • There are many YouTube videos of Sudoku experts solving seemingly impossible puzzles relatively quickly, and (importantly) explaining their reasoning along the way. This is one such video (he gets started on the puzzle at around the 5:10 mark): How Do Grandmasters Solve Sudoku So Fast?
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Colin Wright
Colin Wright @colinismyname

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