Humans often face a situation in life when everything seems uncertain or bereft of any sense and meaning. The poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz expressed this feeling lucidly in this verse:
Jab koi baat banai na banay
Jab na koi baat challay
When it is not possible to make sense
When nothing is understood
Confronted with such a dilemma, one seeks something that will restore their belief in the logic and order of this world. Not easy.
Fear not, troubled brothers and sisters: help is right there, actually staring in your face. No, it is not an appeal to the divine or a bottle of wine, rather something that involves no more than buying a newspaper. Heck, you can even find it on your cell phone or laptop – in three seconds flat!
This magic healer is called Sudoku and it appears in English language dailies. Of course, if you are more of a tech jockey you can find it on your cell phone or computer.
It is a cure for the blues, a tonic for the brain, and a balm for frayed nerves. Above all, it is proof positive that there are some things in this Gordian knot of a world that follow the rules of logic and reason, and that have one unique solution. Whether you are able to find that unique solution depends on your ingenuity and persistence, but it is guaranteed that the solution exists.
Some patriotic Pakistani historians have claimed that Sudoku is a distortion of Siddiki. They say that our forefathers invented this game but like all good things it was expropriated by foreigners, in this case the Japanese. Since the same type of historians claim that Shakespeare’s real name was Sheikh Pir and he was born in Sheikhupura, it is difficult to accept their position on the origins of Sudoku.
While there are a number of versions of Sudoku, the most popular and elegant one is illustrated above. The problem is beguilingly simple. Fill up the empty squares with numbers from 1 to 9 so that the larger squares, each comprising of 9 smaller squares, contains the numbers from 1 to 9 with no number repeated. But there is a second condition also. Each of the 9 rows and 9 columns of the largest square should also contain numbers from 1 to 9 with no number repeated.
That is it.Simple, right?
The answer depends entirely on how easy or how difficult the problem is. It could be simple or as diabolically difficult.
Arto Inkala, a Finnish mathematician, created one problem of the latter category. It is recommended to take a day off from work and keep the contact number of a suicide help-line close, if you intend trying to solve it.
For ordinary humans,Sudoku problems are typically classified as Simple, Medium, Hard, and Diabolical. Finally, there are the ones that are unsolvable by most of the human race. The problem created by the aforementioned Mr. Inkala, alias the Fiendish Finn, belongs to this exalted category.
The basic strategies for solving the puzzles have rather primitive names like Naked Pairs, Naked Triples and Naked Quads. Scandalous as these may sound, there is no choice but to understand these if you are going to get the pleasure that comes from solving a puzzle of at least medium difficulty.
Advanced techniques are required once you get into the hard stuff. These methods have esoteric names like X-Wing, Y-Wing, XY-Wing, Colouring, Swordfish and Jellyfish
While the ‘easy’ level puzzles can be done by simple logic, advanced techniques are required once you get into the hard stuff. These methods have esoteric names like X-Wing, Y-Wing, XY-Wing, Colouring, Swordfish, and Jellyfish. As things get tougher techniques like Cycles, Chains, and Finned Swordfish have to be understood.
The beauty of Sudoku is that except for the diabolically difficult problems, they can be solved by pure logic; meaning that there is no need for hit and trial.
Here are some tips for the newbies:
1.) Take baby steps. Start with the easy ones. If you are unable to do these starter puzzles after a dozen or so attempts, read up on methods for solving Sudoku on the Internet. If you are still unable to achieve positive results, then give up and never set your eyes on these vile puzzles again. Erase this failure from your mind so that you do not suffer from extreme loss of self-esteem. Try yoga instead.
2.) Do not use a pen; use a pencil and eraser so that you can erase and start over if you make a mistake.
3.) Real Sudoku-wallahs never do it on a computer or a hand held device. It is paper or bust.
4.) Never try hit and trial until you are an advanced Sudoku junkie who has tried all the logical solving techniques.
Beware that Sudoku can be addictive, like most things that get you involved deeply. From morning commuters to office workers many people are busy tackling this puzzle, blissfully oblivious of their surroundings. Some commuters miss their stops and some office workers sneakily poring over their Sudoku are caught by their bosses. The more careful ones head out to the toilet with the puzzle torn off from the newspaper.
For diehard Sudoku spouses the puzzle can cause serious marital problems. If one of the spouses completes the partners’ puzzle without permission, all hell can break loose. And God help a house guest who is an early riser and completes the puzzle in the newspaper that is the host’s relaxant before attending to the morning washroom rituals.
Other than the above-mentioned hazards, Sudoku is a safe therapy for constipation, depression, anxiety, anger, ontological insecurity, existential emptiness and an overdose of TV talk shows.