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Numbers in boxes May 16

Sudoku has been a craze for a fortnight and already the backlash has begun. And quite rightly too.

The Independent has been printing several puzzles a day. More than one paper is shouting about big prize Sudoku competitions. The Guardian showed its commitmnet by printing one of its “original, hand-crafted” (as if that makes any difference) puzzles on every page of the G2 one day last week. We’re told that the puzzles are elegant, with hidden humour. “And then you realise with joy that there is a 9 in every corner.” Now I was as mathmetically menky as the next top-set geek at school, but oddly enough I still don’t find that particularly amusing.

In the last week, I must have completed nearly a dozen of these Japanese (or American, if you believe the Observer‘s expose) puzzles. The selection of starting numbers can vary the difficulty, but that aside once you’ve done one you’ve done them all. I hope it doesn’t sound immodest to shout that I polished off today’s Guardian Sudoku in around seven minutes this morning. That’s about the same length of time as it takes to tackle the quick crossword.

On Friday night, I sat in a bar in London with two friends working through that day’s Guardian cryptic crossword by Bunthorne, and after a few hours (and a little bit of mobile phone googling) completed it. The puzzle was built of a variety of clues, from anagrams to general knowledge to plays on words. Simon Hoggart chose this same puzzle as a comparison point in Saturday’s Guardian when he derided Sudoku:

When you’ve finished a Sudoku puzzle, you’ve got a box full of numbers. When you finish a good crossword, say by Araucaria, Paul, or Shed, you’ve got something of lasting beauty. Take Bunthorne’s clue yesterday (“can areas of study define a wit?” 1,1,6) that led to WC Fields, and a superb anagram (“I died, RIP: Hell hath no bar open the while, a disaster”), not only appropriate to Fields’s name, but containing his epitaph, “On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.” Which is why Sudoku will be forgotten by the end of the year.

I’ll carry on doing the Guardian‘s daily Sudoku: it’s on page 2 so I do it on my way past. I may even be tempted to try a prize puzzle. But I’d always rather solve a handful of clues of in Araucaria crossword than successfully fill 81 squares with numbers.

4 Responses

  1. 1

    I like sudoku, because I can do it. I think in my entire life I’ve only managed to solve about 5 cryptic crossword clues. Most of the time even when I know the answer I can’t understand the question. Guess my mind just isn’t built the right way.

  2. I wonder what the craze is too. Very, very easy. Maybe that is why they are so popular?

  3. 3

    Seems to be. The Sun’s boasts about how easy its puzzle “Sundoku” is.

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