Clear and present danger

Warning! Do not read this post if you’re prone to getting addicted to puzzles.

Reading today’s comment in The Observer, I thought Euan Ferguson was just having us on about a game that’s been recently syndicated by some British papers. Not being much of a Times reader (I only go there when directed to by The Wrap), I have been spared the daily addictive need to fill those empty squares. Until today.

To check the veracity of his article, I went to Times Online, and lo and behold, there really is a game called Su Doku, and it really is addictive. Not having a printer at home, I’ve had to sketch the grids and fill in the numbers myself. I’ve managed to entertain myself between the odd decent moment of the FA Cup Semi-Final with puzzle after puzzle! It’s a very satisfying feeling when you fill the final square, akin to working out a really convoluted crossword clue.

And there the similarity ends. To complete a particularly fiendish cryptic crossword, one needs to have a fairly large vocabulary, an education including the “Classics”, and in-depth knowledge of the culture of the setter (in this case, the British). It can be very frustrating for someone who wasn’t educated in the pre-dumbing down era of ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels. We didn’t have Latin or Classics at my school. It just wasn’t an option. One went to class, did the sums, memorised the facts, and was taught very little about anything other than getting good grades. This puts me at a bit of a disadvantage when trying to solve cryptics set by an older generation of setters, and is also why Su Doku is satisfying.

To solve a moderately easy Su Doku puzzle, all that is required is logic and patience. The puzzle was brought to the attention of the English-speaking world by Wayne Gould, who came across it in a Japanese puzzle book. They in turn had borrowed it from American puzzle books, and named it Su (number) Doku (placement). The Times has a nice wee article about the background of Su Doku as we now know it. Gotta go now. More puzzles than time…

Some other useful links:

NB: I canne be held liable for causing your addiction to Su Doku. I’m considering writing a rather stern letter of complaint to the Observer for introducing it to me in the first place!

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