Sudoku Tips

Have you ever wondered how to solve Sudoku puzzles that just seem impossible? Here are some tips and tricks that can help you if you’re stuck with a challenging Sudoku puzzle, especially if you’re attempting to solve a nine-box Sudoku puzzle. Make sure you have a pencil with an eraser on it. If every column and row has numbers one through nine then we must a combination of logic, cross-referencing, and record-keeping to solve the puzzle presented to us.

The first thing to do is to look for a pair of numbers. The numbers should come in any particular box, row, or column. Work up from one through to nine. Write down the pairs of numbers in little circles that you can erase that denote logically what can be put down. So therefore you would pair of numbers in neighboring boxes that must logically fit. If there isn’t enough information to move forward with this process then you should move along to the next numbered pair in the sequence.

Secondly, you should use the process of elimination to eliminate all numbers which can’t logically fit in the boxes. This should be obvious. You should be in the habit of writing all the numbers in each column that has yet to be written down in the boxes at the top of each column. Repeat for each column and then do the same for each row as well. Remember, the process of elimination is your friend. There will be times when you will have to skip certain rows and columns because you don’t have information to proceed forward at a specific stage. That’s O.K. That is part of the challenge and you can always fill in a box at a later after you have gathered enough evidence to fill in the neighboring boxes.

Let’s go through this in a real situation. You should work your way vertically going through numbers one through nine and then across using the same process. You should be writing little notes to denote what numbers each box number must be according to the process of elimination. The further you go forward solving the puzzle the easier it will become. You should learn to become opportunistic when solving Sudoku puzzles as this will help solve the puzzle in a much more faster and efficient manner.

The third point to remember is to keep cross-checking and to allow the clues to accumulate, all the while compiling little notes in pairs or at the sides of the boxes. Little pieces of information can in the end bring a big result. If the bottom column is already occupied by all the numbers except six and eight then what I would is write down the number six and eight in little circles where they must logically fit in. Proceed forward and you will eventually fill in one of the other boxes. Then by process of elimination, you will be able to fill the empty box with the only number that is left in the entire column. I can’t stress enough the importance of cross-checking which after all is easy enough to do once you get in the habit of doing so in a sequential manner.

It’s also helpful to jump back to a particular box and repeat the process for that particular box only. This will also have the effect of eliminating other numbers from the specific columns and rows which you’ve filled in. Keep working through columns, rows, and boxes and the results will quickly mount up to your advantage.

There seems to be a point in each Sudoku puzzle when a puzzle goes from being difficult to be easy. This is the point where using the logical approach that I’ve outlined will pay off. It’s important to keep cross-referencing each column, row, and box all the way through from numbers one through to nine each and every time that you do so. The key point is to write the numbers down in pairs otherwise you’ll have too much information to deal and you’ll be faced with a situation that is called paralysis by analysis. The real trick is to have the right information presented to you at the right place at the right time. It also helps if you count through the entire number sequence one through to nine just to double-check. Better to measure twice and then cut once.

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So writing down as much information in pairs is your best friend in solving these puzzles. It’s easy to be discouraged at the start of the process but the numbers will quickly be added to the boxes with just a bit of persistence. Remember to look for information that pops out at you otherwise the puzzle will take too long if you work in a rigid and overly methodical way. With a little bit of practice, you’ll soon become an expert at solving even the most difficult Sudoku puzzles because you are using the process of elimination, cross-checking, and writing little notes either in circled pairs or at the side of the columns or rows.

I would also suggest having a look at this video to help you along. Good luck!

Nick Hanlon

I'm an Aussie interested in topical issues.

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