Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My Sudoku

After putting off familiarizing myself with Sudoku for months I finally tried my hand at solving a few puzzles last weekend and just reconfirmed my initial suspicions regarding the puzzle that has taken over the civilized world lately. It's way too trivial to be worth my while. I tried a couple of the so called "hard" ones and went through the numbers like a flash. It just seemed too obvious and easy for me. If that is the best this puzzle can offer I dread to think what the easy ones must be like.

I've watched hundreds and thousands of men and women on the train pouring over the daily Sudoku in the newspaper having fun solving it. And Sudoku was everywhere. They had it in the newspaper, they had books dedicated entirely to these puzzles, you could download it on your laptop, you could print it out from the internet....people commute with sheafs of Sudoku in their bags, they go over it while they are waiting for their train, they go over it while they are in the train, even when they are standing. And I am convinced they do Sudoku even when they are in bed! And I've always wondered what is it about Sudoku that is so addictive, so gratifying, so unputdownable (my apologies to The Telegraph).

And now I know. It is the relative ease of the puzzle, the challenge that can be overcome that brings these poor souls to Sudoku. I mean how many people do you know who can solve crossword puzzles with ease? Not that many. Because you need to have some kind of knowledge base to be able to succeed in that. But not with Sudoku. It is the perfect ego-satisfying game. One where you think you are being challenged and one where you can meet the challenge and emerge victorious. And that makes people feel good. And it doesn't take that long to solve the puzzle either. It is a perfect time-pass for the short commute on the train. It keeps one busy, it gives one a challenge and it rewards with gratification.

And that is something that I do not find stimulating. If everyone on God's green earth can Sudoku then it is an insult to my intelligence to spend time doing something that trivial. Give me something else......give me the Mensa challenge. I know I sound like some egoistical bastard. But I have a problem boosting my ego solving a problem that can be done by anyone and everyone. That to me ceases to be a challenge. The only ego boost that I get is when I see myself doing something that most people fail to do, something different, something difficult, something that sets me apart. There was something that Rabindranath Tagore wrote in Shesher Kobita that echoes what I am trying to say here. I do not want to be someone in a crowd, I want to be the one, separate and different than the rest. That is my Sudoku.

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Blogger Sagnik Nandy said...

a lot of people have written fairly successful automated sudoku solvers and that means that it is easy to program the rationale behind the game and that's not a good thing - counter example would be chess which they still have difficulty formalizing

11:31 AM  
Blogger musicbox said...

But how does ego come in in solving puzzles? I mean somebody can just solve trivial puzzles to feel relaxed. We know so many people who are absolutely 'different' but enjoy Sudoku-ing and cannot finish Sudokus in a flash. Many of them have the finest brains in their respective fields of specialization, or human hearts, I think, if my view of intellectual capabilities or humanity has any relevance. Why take your wrath out on 'simple' people or harmless puzzles? Is everything to be taken as a challenge in life?

11:44 AM  
Blogger Brown Magic said...

i totally understand what you are saying- i love word games - but there aren't any online that i havent gotten the hang of. it ruins the fun. mind teasers and puzzles are fun only when they actually are hard, when some days you don't figure them out and then can't sleep. the mensa challenge is fun - btw. i recommend it.
and to musicbox - yeah challenge is good - its what makes us better.

12:18 PM  
Blogger Seashells said...

I'd say about 2 or 3 weeks back i took my first look at sudoku... I've known family, friends and peers all join the sudoku wave but always thought it's way too easy to waste my time on... And then after a long phase of denial, i actually decided to give it a shot... Take a look at this website...


After you finish, it gives you the distribution of times people have taken to solve sudoku puzzles of similar complexity... I started off with the "evil" and now after 2 weeks of solving a puzzle every 2-3 days, am doing better than the mean (average time at the hump)... ofcourse you might be much smarter than i am and finish it off in a jiffy...

5:53 PM  
Blogger Point 5 said...

With so much hype abt it, I finally decided to check out Sudoku recently....but I didnt think the "hard" ones were that easy....With a few practices they were easy, but it was interesting....But the sheen wore of in a couple of weeks...and I stopped solving it

U found even the hard one very easy....u must be really brainy..or probably my brain cells havent developed adequately :))

Having said that, I still dont know why people r addicted to it ?

8:06 PM  
Blogger Jinguchakka said...

I found that you have to think a bit to solve Sudokus and so stopped doing it.

8:41 PM  
Blogger DD said...

arrey indians are way ahead in math, puzzles and CS :D. tai obak hobar ki achhe?

11:44 PM  
Blogger Casablanca said...

I do solve Sudoku quite often, and dont really find the hard ones easy. But it sure is addictive. I think long-haul flights or short commutes to work... neither deserve too much brain power. So I'd rather do something 'timepass' yet not mind-numbing.

12:56 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ all I knew I'd ruffle some feathers with the bragging of my exceptional intellectual capabilities with this one :))) No offense meant guys!

@ sagnik just proves my whole point.
@ musicbox your first time here and we start off on the worng foot! Well may be not everything in life needs to be a challenge but isn't that how you compare and judge yourself and aspire to abetter you? And for the record I wasn't taking out my "wrath" on anyone with "fine brains"....just a personal observation about my reason not to spend time on Sudoku. But what did it have to do with "humanity" or "human heart"??? That really challeneged my understanding :))
@ brown magic thanks for taking my stand and also understanding what I was trying to say here.
@ seashells I wasn't trying to be mean to anyone who does Sudoku. Like I said it is addictive because of the fun challenge. I'm glad you're having fun.
@ point 5 like you say yourself with practice even the hard ones seem easy. And why is it addictive? Because it is easy and can be done.
@ jinguchakka I like your reasoning :)))
@ dd may be you're right....may be it's the math or the analytical skills that we've developed over the years. I remember trying in vain to explain to a couple of american senior undergrads unitary method and all they could think of was "railroad" method which to me seemed like a ridiculous way to solve a problem.
@ casablanca as long as you enjoy doing your "timepass" ....that is what counts.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Sanity Starved said...

True... True! :D

*won't attempt Sudokus either*
Thanks! :D

9:33 AM  
Blogger sinusoidally said...

Will I be sent to jail if I said I had no idea what Sudoku is?!

12:09 PM  
Blogger Seashells said...

You seem to have gotten me wrong... I was talking about the other website because they show a distribution of times taken to complete the sudoku puzzle... It seems like a whole lot of people are much smarter than i am and that to me is a kick in the balls... It is the ONLY motivation for me to keep trying...

3:01 PM  
Blogger A.G.Sudarshan said...

Ugggh! Puzzles!!! :D...

GIve me a book anyday... Puzzles tht too math? No thanks!

With Sudoku gave the same reason to myself... too easy! :)

12:42 AM  
Blogger True Blue Guy said...

If its no challenge then its no fun - For me if I do something it has to challenge and make me wanna do better at it

I compare it to a job where it can either be challenging or dead boring like say flipping burgers at BK !

Although I must say I have never tried Sudoku, but know what it is

1:33 AM  
Blogger Drops Of Jupiter said...

Ya Sudoko is too banal.. and besides the whole numbers in squares has been around for so long, but hey give it a new name and its a global addiction.

Crossword for me..anyday..

3:27 AM  
Blogger ubergeek said...

I gave it a shot exactly twice. Didn't find it interesting. Not a cake walk, but fairly easy. And I guess this is the sort of thing that you'd do if you are looking for ways to kill time. I've got my days so full that I'm dying to find more time!!! With a growing pile of reports and books in the to-be-read-asap pile by my bed, I wonder how/why people go for puzzles!!! And during my commute, I think about my life and about decisions and about how I'm ever gonna manage my finances ;-)

9:00 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ pidus ghosh okay :)
@ sines no you won't :)) I guess you have better things to do. It's only a game.
@ seashells may be they aren't better or smarter but just have the hang of things. Some things come naturally to certain people. But the drive to do better is a source of motivation in life. You are your own competition, right?
@ a.g. sudarshan you know what I adore puzzles. Ones that are actually a puzzle to me. Not pseudo ones.
@ true blue guy agreed. It is not fun unless it is challenging.
@ drops of jupiter thanks for stopping by and crosswords for me too.
@ ubergeek I so agree with the not finding time bit. My days are full without having to find things for time-pass. And once you figure out how to manage your finances may be you can give me a few pointers :)

9:28 AM  
Blogger vAgue said...

ok. i still havent bothered to shcek out sudoku.

12:44 AM  
Blogger Ashmi said...

hey,like the fact that you want to be different,unique in your own capacity....that seems to be an interesting facet of yourself...and ofcourse i remember Rabindranath tagore's "shesher kobita"(read it so many times)....and i can well understand what you're trying to convey through this post....you don't desire to be lost in the crowd,love to live and face the challenges that come your way...oh! i was always very bad at solving those puzzles....perhaps i don't fall into that "ego satisfying group"....whatever hope you find your soduku that'll keep you ego boosted up :-)

4:37 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ vague well can't say you are really missing a whole lot.
@ ashmi glad you understand where this post was coming from :))

9:10 AM  
Blogger Wrong number said...

I apologise for ruffling a few feathers, but if you think you are smart because you can crack a very-hard sudoku in 3 minutes flat, then you are missing a trick.
Ever tried doing a su-do-ku LOGICALLY? Without using trial-and-error. Have you figured out what happens if you have a number that can occupy (in three given rows) any one of three columns, even if in these columns there are other rows where that number can exist? Have you figured out the LOGIC? For the record, yes, I have figured out the rules that are sufficient to solve a standard sudoku puzzle, and I did make my own code that can identify if the numbers keyed into the su-do-ku table form a valid su-do-ku and if they do, give the solution.
Incidentally, here's a little challenge for those people who think su-do-ku is too trivial a game. Have you figured out how to build a so-du-ku puzzle? Do you start from an empty table and add fill in numbers until you reach aposition where you know it can be completed logically to form a unique solution? Do you start with a completed su-do-ku and remove numbers until you finally reach a position from where, removing one more number would lead to non-unique solutions? What is the minimum number of numbers you need to form a solvable su-do-ku puzzle?
Create OPE puzzle from scratch that is at the level of a "hard".
If the su-do-ku doesnt challenge you, it is because YOU choose NOT to give yourself a challenge! You limit yourself most when you say, "I've done it." There is always a challenge when you say, "What else can I do with this?"
@~m I thought you said you love challenges, so will you be taking the ones I threw open?

Saale :) (huge evil grin)
p.s. If you need other games / puzzles to challenge you, here are two more.
Minesweeper (The windows game) 25 seconds for the intermediate level.
SNAKE-2 (Nokia mobile phone game). 7296 on the standard version of the game. (played on the highest difficulty level, +9 for every worm eaten and +90 (maximum) for every bonus food item)
The first one is definitely beatable, the second one is pretty close to the maximum possible. Both incidentally are personal bests. Incidentally, what is the maximum possible score on the NOKIA snake game (assuming you maximise your 'luck' element)?

The greatest challenge is not solving a puzzle - The greatest challenge is creating one. Be modest people, you aren't smart enough to deserve arrogance!

11:47 AM  
Blogger M (tread softly upon) said...

@ saale touche....i adore challenges and appreciate one when it is thrown at me. I esp enjoyed reading this comment. For one it reflected upon my arrogance which I dare say was exactly what I was aiming to portray. And I loved it. I absolutely adored your last line "you aren't smart enough to deserve arrogance!". Brilliantly said. Agreed. I'm not smart enough for that. But only I know that. How'd you find out?
I am not familiar with all those games that you are talking about but considering the issue here (my innate smartness) I'm tempted to give them a try. I'm totally swamped at the moment but if you're kind enough to grant me a couple of months I promise I will try them out and tell you how I fared.

I don't know you or any of the other guys who commented here. I have no clue how smart or bright anyone is. The only one i can talk about is myself. And yes, I found the challenge of Sudoku intuitive and not worth my time. That is not to say that a lot of thought and effort isn't going into making of the puzzle. After all it is big business. And it takes a smart one to come up with one. But when I talked about "my sudoku" I totally mean some kind of challenge that cannot be solved in 3 mins flat by any Tom Dick or harry. Yes i am being arrogant and i am being presumptuous. I want to give my intellect a little more credit than being trumped by a puzzle that is being conjured up for the masses.Do you get it? If you do, then you'll realize that I deserve that much arrogance.

2:37 PM  
Blogger erebus said...

I gave a digital Sudoku game to a friend on her birthday... completely threw her life off the rails.. Miss High Distinction just didn't hand in 3 assignments..
Best $7 I ever spent...

10:06 AM  

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