i love Sudoku. i taught myself to solve them in the early 2000s, when they suddenly appeared everywhere carrying the promise of improved logical thinking without any math.
ever the purist, i only work on print versions from newspapers and magazines. my mom is in the habit of clipping them from the newspaper and bringing them when she visits. this time she even grabbed the ones from the in-flight magazine!
although i hadn’t noticed, over the years i’d developed a couple strict habits, Sudoku-wise: i only added numbers once i was sure they worked and never used pencil.
why was i anti-pencil and thus, anti-trial-and-error? i guess my thinking was, ‘why would i write something i wasn’t sure of?’ because you’re human and allowed to make mistakes? nah.
i started using pink ink on each puzzle, then got really stuck. ordinarily when the going gets tough i move on to easier ones.
but these were my last two! and i was procrastinating a little, so i wanted to keep playing. my options were to risk making a mistake in bright pink ink, rendering the puzzle unsolvable, or quit. but then an undesirable third choice came to mind. i could use pencil.
my response to that idea went something like,
‘nooooooo. erasing is lame. i don’t want to. i want to be sure the number is right before i write it. if i add numbers by guessing and it fails, how will i know which one was wrong? not only will i have to erase, but i’ll need to start over, too. nooooooo.’
but the alternative was going back to work and abandoning my last two Sudoku, so i grudgingly grabbed a pencil and began solving.
as i plowed through the second puzzle, i thought, ‘this is what uncertainty looks like!’ it’s sporadic, here-and-there answers with a lot of slogging. some rows and squares were almost entirely guesses.