The best Japanese import since…. ummm…. my DVD player?

So recently (maybe a month ago?), the Morning Call let us all in on a supposedly huge new puzzle game trend that’s popping up everywhere. Called Sudoku, it’s a Japanese puzzle game in which a nine by nine grid is presented (sub-divided up into nine three-by-three square groups), with a select few of the squares filled with numbers from one to nine. The object is to fill in the entire grid with numbers from one to nine, so that no number is repeated in the same row, column, or sub-grid. The puzzles really don’t have much to do with numbers at all; they just serve as symbolic place-holders. You could use anything from letters, to roman numerals, to colors, to chinese symbols, it’s just that numbers 1 to 9 are a lot easier to recognize and see which ones are missing, etc.

Rather than going into great detail on methods to solve the puzzles ( I usually use the process of elimination to determine which squares in a subgrid could possibly contain a certain number, or if there’s enough numbers filled in in a row or column, i’ll look into which numbers are missing from them and where each could go), i’ll just say that the wikipedia site on Sudoku has more than you’ll ever want to know on possible methods for solutions.

Anyway, it is important to know how addictive these puzzles are… if you’re into logic puzzles. Considering that simpler (probably story problem style) versions of this basic premise were the main subject of the logic problems that I had done in (say it with me) El’-e-men-AR”-y school, this is the sort of thing that I just can’t stop doing. Weekly you can find them in the Sunday comics section of the paper, or on Fridays in the little “Life” magazine inset (those puzzles tend to be easier, but the boxes are generally too small to make markings in, other than final answers). Also, occasionally you can come across an advertisement for the Sunday puzzle on a weekday. Those ads usually contain a full-size puzzle, but unfortunately don’t come with a solution. is probably the best for online Sudoku “puzzling”, and it keeps your time and tells you how good you are compared to other people, provided you don’t make a mistake. There are difficulty levels ranging from easy to evil, although they don’t have any of the super-puzzles pictured on the wikipedia site, which I would like to try sometime.

I used to have crossword puzzle thing, but I got to the point where I realized the same clues were being used over and over again. Not only that but you can get to a point in a crossword puzzle where you have no leads on where to go next, and you’re completely stumped, possibly because you’ve never heard of a word they’re using, and you don’t really feel like picking up a dictionary to look something up if you have the first letter. The thing about the puzzles is that there’s always a next step, it’s just a matter of figuring out where it is. Usually, that one breakthrough will create a sort of chain reaction that should lead to the end of the puzzle, and even if takes an hour, it feels extremely good to know that you just tackled something this challenging, even though you just wasted an hour that you could be spending eating, sleeping, or sitting at the computer.


Sudoku gets four stars for being a rather addictive and rewarding waste of time. It is much more interesting and challenging than a game of Carmen Sandiego would ever be, and it’s portable. You can get stuck, but there’s always a way out, and even if it takes walking away from it for fifteen minutes and coming back to it, it’s worth it.

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