Expand Sudoku
Oct 15th, 2010 1:12 PM, 0 comments
In the middle of 2009, back when Google Wave was first released, the only thing to really do on it (besides watching your friends type) was play Sudoku. At that point, I had never played the game, so I really had no idea what I was doing and could only employ the very basic of techniques. The particular version on Google Wave was extremely primitive as well in that didn't let you "pencil in" potential candidates. It was also sort of silly in that it would tell you that you had a wrong number as soon as you typed it in, so you could end up guessing if you got stuck, and all you would lose were virtual points that reset to zero the next time you logged in.

I played on and off for a number of weeks and then forgot all about the game until I went sailing earlier this year in May. My dad's friend brought a Sudoku book with him and let me do some of the puzzles. I really enjoyed them at the time, even though I still barely knew how to play.

In late August, I picked up Carol Voderman's Sudoku for PSP and began playing it almost every day. The game served as an incredible teaching tool, because of Career Mode and a variety of tutorial videos explaining beginner, intermediate, and advanced techniques for solving puzzles. Career Mode treats Sudoku like karate, where you advance through a variety of puzzles that become increasingly more difficult, earning belts along the way (White through Black). You could even replay the same puzzles and get a different challenge every time, because they were randomly generated while keeping difficulty consistent.

I reached Black Belt, which consists of 10 puzzles, in a matter of a few weeks, but got stuck on the 2nd to last in the set. I was determined to finish all the puzzles, and felt I had exhausted what the tutorial videos could teach me. I took to the internet and learned a few techniques, but it still wasn't enough to take on that 2nd to last puzzle. Two weeks ago I found Sudoku Savant, which is really the best digital version of Sudoku I've found yet. Every day they give you 4 new puzzles to take on (easy, medium, hard, and expert), so I decided to solve 3 every day, using their hint system when I got stuck for too long in an attempt to figure out what I was missing. For the last few days, I've been able to solve all 3 without hints, so last night I decided to give that 2nd to last Black Belt puzzle a go again, and finally solved it!

I can recognize all kinds of patterns for solving Sudoku puzzles, like X-Wing, which I haven't actually used yet, but do know how to detect. I plan on attempting the final Black Belt puzzle some time this weekend and moving on to the Expert puzzles eventually.
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