The puzzle itself doesn’t initially look as if it could be very difficult. It’s a 9x9 grid of boxes. To complete the puzzle, you have to put one of the digits 1-9 into each box according to a simple set of guidelines that I won’t describe here. Some of the boxes are already filled in to get you pointed in the right direction. Even though you are filling in numbers, there is absolutely no math involved in solving the puzzle; you could easily substitute nine different letters or nine different pictures for the digits.
So anyway, I have become quite the Sudoku addict, and so has much of America, judging by the impressive array of Sudoku books and magazines you may find in any bookstore nowadays. And I’m fine with that – I pride myself on my tasteful choice of addictions. The problem is that I’ve gotten a little too good at it. I rarely do the newspaper ones anymore because they’re usually too simple to be of interest, except for the Saturday and Sunday puzzles, which are always more difficult. Buying Sudoku books tends to be unsatisfying, because most of them are either comprised entirely of simple puzzles or, more commonly, divided into several sections of varying difficulty, with only the last section offering any meaningful challenge. What’s been needed here is a book consisting entirely of difficult puzzles.
* * *
They say be careful what you wish for, and I’ve begun to see the truth of that old saw. On the table to my left as I type these words is a little volume titled Extreme Sudoku by Matt Gaffney (Alpha Books, 2006). Section 1 (the easiest section) is called “Tough Sudoku,” and they ain’t kiddin’ folks. The few I’ve completed thus far are tougher than the toughest Sunday newspaper puzzles I’ve seen to date. I feel as if my brain has been stretched to the limit to complete any of them. The section after this one is called “Very Tough Sudoku,” followed by “Tough Sudoku Variants” and “Very Tough Sudoku Variants.” For the first time in my Sudoku life, I may be approaching The Wall. We shall see. That which does not kill me makes me stronger…
If that’s true, this book may turn me into friggin’ Einstein.