Gary Gygax died this past Tuesday, March 4. He was 69.
If you’re a geek, you already know this. If you’re not a geek, you have no idea who he is, nor why he’s such a big deal.
For those of you who are curious, Mr. Gygax was the co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons and, by extension, the progenitor of all the role playing games that followed.
I discovered D&D when I was fourteen or so. (The subject of a future post.) I played it for years, up to and including the 2nd Edition. I “graduated” to other RPGs, and then became too busy with life to stay with it, but those early years will always be special.
Hell, my friends and I still quote some of our favorite bits from our gaming sessions.
“Nothing seems to happen.”
“I listen to the door.” “The door doesn’t say anything.”
“The monster likes (dice roll) you best.”
I do miss it sometimes.
I know no one lives forever, but as each icon from my childhood falls, it only serves to remind me how far removed I am from my youth.
So I’ve had this book of Sudoku puzzles for about a year, I guess. There were 100 grids in it, rated in difficulty from “Easy” to “Fiendish”. My Sudoku addiction had eased for the last few months (mostly because I was sleeping on the train instead of doing Sudoku), so my rate of solving slowed to a crawl.
The other day I completed puzzle 100. The book is done.
I feel a little empty. What should I do? I could erase all the puzzles and do them again. Of course, I have another book that I haven’t even started that’s sitting idle. I guess I should do that one next.
But, does that mean I should throw this one away?
That seems so wasteful.
But, if I keep it, what good is it doing me? It’s just taking up space.
Do you keep your old puzzle books?
Instructables.com has an illustrated article for solving Sudoku. Essentially, the technique involves penciling every possible number in empty spaces, then erasing numbers in rows, columns, and regions eliminated by givens and solved numbers. The key to this technique is a notation used on givens and solved numbers to allow you to know if you’ve eliminated everything you can.
The selling point is that you can walk away from a Sudoku puzzle and come back to it without having to backtrack over any work.
I personally haven’t had any trouble coming back to a half-solved Sudoku grid. Also, this technique doesn’t really add anything new, just a different way of making notes of it. It also involves a lot of erasing which, to me, seems unnecessary, and if your grid isn’t that large or it’s on cheap paper or, worse, you use software which doesn’t allow customized notation, it won’t be worth the trouble. And, of course, this technique still doesn’t help much when you can’t reliably put a number in a grid. (In other words, you know 6 belongs in one of two spaces in a region. If they’re in a row or column together you can eliminate 6 in spaces in other regions.)
For someone just getting into Sudoku it might be helpful.
Sudoku.com has a new tutorial on solving Sudoku grids. This little “how-to” is nice in that it follows along in solving an actual medium difficulty puzzle, offering the reader the ability to mouseover the diagrams in order to see each part of the solution as it is described.
Sudoku’s been a bit of an obsession of mine for a while, although that initial, heady, infatuation has faded a bit. I still find it a great way to occupy my mind and keep my logic muscles toned.
Sudoku is a logic puzzle. You are presented with a grid of squares, 9×9, divided into 9 “regions” of 9 squares each.
The numbers 1 through 9 need to appear once in each row, column, and region. A certain number of squares are already filled in (called “givens”) and it is from these clues that you must derive the values for the rest of the grid.
It uses numbers, but purely as a convenience; there is no math involved. It takes simple deductive and inductive reasoning. There is no need to guess.
It was invented in the seventies, became a huge fad in Japan in the nineties, and took off like a shot in the UK and the US in 2005. Most of your major newspapers have a daily Sudoku grid and there are websites all over the place.
Hooked enough that the wife bought me a book of Sudoku grids. It takes me a little less than an hour to do one of the “Fiendish” difficulty puzzles. I usually do one on the commute home.
I’ve got a Sudoku application for my Palm PDA (after having tried several) and even went so far as to buy a game for my cell phone that allows me to download the Sudoku grid from USA Today. I have another book with even more puzzles waiting for me to finish this one. I use Bloglines to read newsfeeds and blogs and one of my subscriptions is to The Daily SuDoku.
Okay, it’s a little over-the-top, but most of those resources are of the “break here in case of emergency” variety. Just in case I don’t have a Sudoku grid to hand I’ll be able to get one easily.
One of the things I like about it is that while I’m working on a grid, my mind is quiet. The thousands of day-to-day distractions are forgotten for a while as I fill little numbers into a grid. It’s actually very calming. It also has the added benefit of stimulating my brain, helping stave off Alzheimer’s for a little while longer.
Won’t you join me?