The mathematics of Sudoku

Sheryl gave me a stack of printouts from Web Sudoku for my flight to the West Coast, which was my first exposure to the puzzle. (She buys the Post [feh!] for its Sudoku, which is probably the source of more contention in our relationship than anything else.) I spent an hour or so doing one (carefully, in pen) and then that was about enough for me. They remind me of these puzzles we'd do in elementary school during our Critical Thinking preps, which would involve a series of written clues that would be enough information to eliminate certain options and solve a puzzle through deductive reasoning. Those were a lot of fun, though it was somewhat suspect that the prep teacher, Mr. Darvick, got paid for just coming around and handing out puzzles, and doing little else.

Sheryl's friend Gerry Canavan has a literary blog (and journal) called the Backwards City Review. Courtesy of the BCR (not that they published it, but rather they linked to it, here's an article explaining some of the math behind Sudoku. This is the kind of analysis that people do when they go and get graduate degrees in Computer Science, which is why I'll be happy never to go to graduate school. That, and everyone I know in graduate school seems to be knee-deep in finals right now, while I'm practically on vacation. Suckas.


  1. Sudoku hit the big time this summer while I was working at the Harvard Coop (you know, the giant bookstore right next to the T in Harvard Square), and we sold zillions and zillions of the Sudoku book by Will Shortz. I personally sold a copy to Larry Summers, who was there with his then-girlfriend-now-wife. I resisted the urge to yell something like, "I wanted to be a scientist, but since I'm a girl I had to work at the Coop instead!" because I figured he is theoretically my ultimate boss, seeing as I am employed by the big H. Regardless, it makes for a good story.

  2. Some would say there are better measures of fulfillment than how closely ones typical day resembles a vacation. But what do I know.

  3. I'm not talking about my typical day, Bananasnark. I happen to have vacation days left and everyone else in the office does too, so people are taking them here and there before New Year's and nothing much gets done.

    That's all I'm saying.

  4. I just want to make something clear -- I do NOT read the Post for anything other than my daily crossword (I only like doing crosswords that are challenging enough to take a little time, but that I can eventually finish...the Post's is perfect) and Su Doku. Okay, and sometimes when I'm sick of teasing my brain, I'll flip to Page Six.

    And whatever, Jeff gives me shit for spending money on the Post, but does he give a goddamn dime to the NYT? No, no he does not.

  5. You should give all of your money to newspapers. And the Post is good for a laugh pretty much all the time.

  6. I guess you were asleep when I taught the lesson on how to think critically and solve the problems or when we discussed, at the end, what steps were taken by the student who solved it. --- Mr. Darvick (

  7. Don't get me wrong, I think the deductive reasoning puzzles were of real educational value.

    The Twilight Zone episodes, though...?


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