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Confession of a Sudoku Addict

April 24, 2008

Today’s discussion on mathematical logic becomes exchanging ideas about solving sudokus. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about it, even though I am a self-claimed “sudoku addict”. Yes, there are gamblers who don’t really know how to gamble correctly — by which we mean knowing the winning strategy, as if that existed — and as addicted to sudoku as I am, solving a hard sudoku without using marks may take for ever, or that I just give it up. I do suspect it is being a bad sudoku solver that makes me addicted to this game, or at least there are some connections between these two facts.

Rumor has it that there are relations between sudoku and mathematics. Believing it was true, it sounded to us a good idea to use this topic in our summer workshop, more explicitly, to talk about sudoku solving as a means to teach mathematical logic. I love this game, and at the same time, I doubt how much amount of “real math” is contained in it. Yes I have a math friend who plays sudoku very well, solving hardest on unisudoku within 2 and a half minutes. There is even this latex package called sudoku, making it easy to draw sudoku diagrams without using messy environments such as array or tabular. It is undoubtful that sudoku makes a good topic in blogging or math education or daily chat…

OK, come back to today’s discussion. It is interesting since it let me start to summarize my sudoku play, which is good, especially at this point when I am desperately addicted and really bad at it. As soon as I claimed that I was a sudoku addict, my boss asked me in which way I played, by which he meant using or not using marks. I did not admit that I could not play without marks, so I said it depended, blahblah.. As a matter of fact, even when using marks my best time ever on a hard sudoku was something more than 7 minutes, with a lot of luck and the use of a mouse. Without marks my average time would be above 20 minutes for sure… We then talked about sudoku strategies, catogorized by my boss into two general sorts: finding-the-missing-part sort and eliminating sort. I regard the first sort much harder than the latter. We also talked about systems we used in playing sudokus. My system is to go through 1 to 9 and to come back to 1 again. His system is a random one, finding whatever block that can be filled with some number. It is my opinion that to play randomly might be relatively more advantageous to non-mark players, while going in order is important for marking, that is, for not missing any possible marks.

There are a lot of papers on sudoku now, which I generally found it boring to read. Some while ago when I complained to my friend what a bad player I was, he asked me how long I had been playing. Well, for me it was a couple of days back then, but he had played for years. A couple of weeks have passed since then, and I haven’t improved into any comfortable level. Sooner or later, I’d have to make a choice between two things: one is to keep being addicted for a couple of years and become a sudoku expert, the other is to forget about this game and set myself free. It is a hard one.

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