Saturday, March 1, 2008

Sudoku - brain exercise!!

"Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end." - Cmdr. Spock

If you've thought about weeding the garden a bit, here's some fertilizer that exercises the brain: sudoku puzzles. Sudoku is a test of not only logistical problem solving and adherance to a strategy, but also patience. The puzzles are both simple and complex...and will test your mind to its fullest. By simple, I mean the rules are few: only one digit 1 through 9 in each row, column, and 3x3 sector. By complex, I mean the solving strategies are many: elimination, cross-hatching, and contingency-recognition are but a few.
There is definately a method to the madness. Before tackling a sudoku puzzle for the first time, be sure you find one with an easy or beginner difficulty rating. If you jump right into an advanced puzzle, your frustration will likely get the best of you. The simple logical strategies work best on the beginner puzzles. As they get more challenging, strategies must be "layered" together at the same time to determine placement (or elimination) of numbers.
Here are some basic solving strategies that should get you started on your first sudoku puzzle: Think of each 3x3 sector as being lettered. The top row from left to right is A,B,C; the middle is D,E,F; the bottom is G,H,I. First analyze only ABC and see if any placement deductions can be made. Remeber that answers have to be 100% before placing. Start with number 1 and continue through 9. After you're finished with any answers put into sectors ABC, try these 3-sector combinations: DEF, GHI, ADG, BEH, and CFI. Then go back to ABC. Now along the way, when any 3x3 sector is found with only one, two , or three blanks, see if you can deduce any answers within that sector. The same goes for any row or column with only a few blanks. Repeat each of these strategies until all blanks are filled. The steps are methodical. Do not skip around. Stay focused.

I recognize that writing about this does not do justice to actually step-by-stepping it with images. If you can't mentally picture this, check out the internet for sudoku strategies. You'll find a couple sites that outline the logic better that I ever could in this written blog!
Sudoku is a test of patience. You must begin and end with a method. If you break the method, you're asking for frustration....and will likely get it! Take the puzzle one number at a time. Stick with and repeat your strategies. Begin with easy puzzles and advance up to difficult ones. If your head hurts, that the feeling of getting smarter ;) Your brain will thank you for the time you've given it to grow!

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