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In Japan, they don't do many crosswords. They do Su Doku instead. Thousands of puzzles are devoured in train carriages and waiting rooms every day. Yet, although the name is Japanese -- roughly translating as 'Number Place' -- the puzzle itself, originally, may not be. A simpler version was created by Euler, the 18th-century Swiss mathematician, and today's Su Doku puzzle is thought to have evolved from that. All puzzles in this book were created by Wayne Gould, a puzzle enthusiast and former Hong Kong judge. He came across Su Doku in a Tokyo bookshop, began making puzzles himself, and brought them to The Times.
Since the first puzzle appeared on the front cover of T2 on 12 November, 2004, the daily back page Su Doku puzzle has become a phenomenon. Thousands enter the newspaper's competition each day and many readers have written in to say how much they enjoy the puzzles -- including former Bletchley Park codebreakers who never miss a day, and computer enthusiasts who have created programmes to solve puzzles that they cannot.
Some readers, it is true, have been less delighted. Family feuds over who gets the back page at breakfast appear to have become commonplace. A few readers have complained that puzzles have been unsolvable (only to see the solutions published the following day), while others have been equally disgruntled to have solved them in minutes. One man even wrote to the editor to plead that no more puzzles appear. Apparently, he couldn't resist doing them on his daily tube journey, and kept missing his stop.
Unlike a crossword, you don't need to speak any particular language to get sucked into a Su Doku puzzle. Indeed, technically speaking, you don't even need to know how to count. You simply have to fit every digit from 1-9, in any order, into each row (left to right), each column (top to bottom) and each box (of nine squares).
A good tip is to think initially in boxes, or better still, bands of boxes. Look for pairs of numbers, from which you can infer a third. If the top left box has a 7 in it, say, and the bottom left box also does, then it shouldn't be too hard to figure out where to put the 7 in the middle left box. Try working this way horizontally, too.
If there seem to be two possibilities, just make a note, and move on. Every puzzle can be solved from the clues provided, by logical steps from beginning to end. Done properly, a puzzle shouldn't require you to guess. Do remember -- there is only one solution for each puzzle. If yours doesn't match the solution provided, look again because, somewhere, you've gone wrong. Good luck in there. And try to stay calm.
Excerpted from New York Post Su Doku 2 by Wayne Gould Copyright © 2005 by Wayne Gould.
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