The Ineffable Tide of Logic

December 2nd, 2005  |  Published in old and busted  |  1 Comment

I was in a bookstore a few weeks ago and noticed a whole table devoted to stacks and stacks and stacks of Sudoku books. As a microcosm of the publishing industry at large, it was sort of entertaining.

There was “Sudoku for Dummies,” “Easy Sudoku Presented by Will Shortz,”* some generic collections of puzzles rated by difficulty from lesser publishers, and a sudoku book with an attractive lady on the cover. I don’t know who the lady is, but I’m guessing she’s to the sudoku world much as that blonde violinist with great gams is to the classical music word.

I didn’t see a “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Sudoku,” which made me wonder if I should write Phil and ask if the flight of some mutual acquaintances might not have caused Alpha to be slow on the draw on what is clearly an explosive trend. Coz I knew that he’d know that they’re both totally doing sudokus and acting all worldly about it.

So anyhow … sudoku.

I’m not usually one for puzzles and such, but I’ve been making efforts to stretch my boundaries a little, so I ordered a copy of Will Shortz’s “Easy Sudoku Presented by Will Shortz,” because he’s the NPR puzzle master and so has some brand recognition. I can kind of hear him whispering encouragement in my ear.

Before my ordered copy arrived, though, I stumbled on a copy of “Super Su•Do•Ku! Magazine” (The Puzzle Craze That’s Sweeping the USA!) at the local Safeway, and figured it might be worth a look just to prep myself for the Shortz tome.

What “Super Su•Do•Ku!” is missing in pedigree, it’s got in exuberance. There are over 300 puzzles, including the special Su•Do•Ku Zoo (featuring AlphaDoku, Quadradoku and Diamondoku). The tutorial is a satisfying 20 pages long. The backgrounds of the puzzles are decorated with “exotic” koi, chopsticks and Japanese lanterns (“Over a dozen beautiful visual styles!”).

I did a few of the puzzles over lunch, but stopped after getting spooked over the possibility that, as some Sudoku purist had noted elsewhere on the Web, they might well be computer generated, meaning my first experiences with a new thing would be somehow inferior to what would surely be a masterpiece from Mr. Shortz.

Unfortunately, the Shortz book might well be a masterful collection, and it is definitely more tastefully presented, but the introduction is a perfunctory two pages long (including a pair of puzzle grids that eat a third of a page each) and then you’re ejected into the puzzles. If you want to hear Mr. Shortz murmuring encouragement in your ear, make sure to have the radio on on Saturday morning, because the book doesn’t do much unless you’re enough of a puzzle maven that you might insist you can hear Mr. Shortz’s voice in the puzzles themselves, which I cannot.

I guess I don’t know if you really need the 20 page tutorial provided by “Super Su•Do•Ku! Magazine,” depending on what kind of learner you are. So-called learning “stalkers” might like to be taught all the many ways you can reason out a puzzle. “Pouncers” are going to be more likely to just get the gist of the rules and dive in, learning as they go. I didn’t really spend a lot of time on the tutorials, myself, preferring to just start doing the puzzles.

They’ve been a fun diversion. I still don’t think of myself as a “puzzle person,” but I like the way the ones I’ve done so far slowly yield, piece by piece, to reason. I think I still like Mario Kart better, though. I unlocked R.O.B. just last night, and I’m working my way through the 150cc Mirror courses. It’s almost time to return online and triumph.

* Gah! Nate used “ineffable” in that entry. Fuck it. I picked my title before going back to read that entry, so I’m keeping it.

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