We all have our guilty pleasures. Those that have met me know most of mine involve food that you won’t find in the produce section of your local grocery. Another is watching professional wrestling which has led to my following every show on the USA Network. Burn Notice, White Collar, Suits, Psych and NCIS reruns are my favorites. I have also listened to every Bob and Tom podcast since 2003 when a local radio station stopped broadcasting their syndicated morning show. Being a fan of Bob and Tom has introduced me to a plethora of comedians and their podcasts along with the incredible funk group, Here Come the Mummies.
But there’s one more – Sudoku. Mother f*(#!$g Sudoku.
When I first started solving the puzzles, I assumed it would be a bit like the Rubik’s Cube – the challenge was to learn all the tricks then the desire to continue would wane.
So I downloaded an on-line Sudoku game and would mess around when I needed a break from baseball or when USA Network was showing a movie instead of an NCIS marathon. I’d do the newspaper versions during breaks at work, when I was fortunate enough to be working. I’d do the one in the magazine on airplanes. I got pretty good, figured out a ton of logical tricks, but still relied on trial and error to finish the occasional puzzle. I saved those from my on-line game that required trial and error, hoping one day to discover the missing trick.
Over the years, I’ve had friends tell me there are a ton of Internet sites that I could go to and learn how to solve the puzzles. These are the same people that use cheat codes to play video games, which fortunately is NOT a guilty pleasure for me. Not the cheat code part, but playing video games in the first place. I know how addictive I am and if I got into playing video games, I would like them too much and I’d never get anything else done. This is pretty much the same reason I never tried cocaine. Though, I did experiment with pot way back when but honestly just did not enjoy the buzz. Besides, trust me, the last thing you want is for me to be more mellow.
Anyway, I finally caved and checked out a couple of the on-line Sudoku sites and discovered I had actually learned most of the tricks they described. I didn’t give them the same cute names, but I had deciphered the majority of the logic. There were a couple of tricks that escaped me, so I studied them until I understood the logic and went back to the unsolved folder and knocked most of them off – MOST.
My repertoire was still devoid a trick or two. I’ve already come over to the dark side to seek help, so I figured why not go all the way and see if there is a site where you can input the unsolved puzzle and it will solve it, explaining the moves along the way. And sure enough, there is.
Now I’m pissed. Not because I missed some tricks, but rather because the tricks I missed are really trial and error with a supposed smart sounding name. Alternate Inference Chains? Grouped X-Cycles? Unit Forcing Chains? Really?
I'm more than willing to admit there may be some of you whose synapses and neurons are wired differently, enabling the identification of these patterns by inspection as opposed to trial and error. I also admit to being a bit envious.
At least now, I can go to bed at night not racking my brain, searching for the Holy Grail Sudoku epiphany. And when I do finally sleep, the dreams filled with numbers in boxes will cease.
Just like this is my last “fat guy” day before I go to the gym, replacing grease and ketchup with fruits and vegetables.