Home
How-toBasics

# Solve Sudoku Puzzles with Ease Using These Tricks

By Graham Hall

Sudoku, a captivating logic puzzle, soared to mainstream popularity in the 1980s and continues to be a favorite brain teaser worldwide. At its core, Sudoku is elegantly simple yet intellectually stimulating. Players are presented with a grid, partially filled with numbers. The challenge? Use logic and reasoning to complete the puzzle by filling in the remaining blank spaces. This task, while straightforward, requires a keen sense of strategy and mental agility.

What sets Sudoku apart is its inclusive appeal, offering varying levels of difficulty to suit everyone from beginners to puzzle aficionados. For newcomers, easier puzzles provide a welcoming introduction, featuring fewer blanks to fill. These puzzles allow beginners to develop their skills and understand the basic tactics of the game without feeling overwhelmed. Conversely, more complex puzzles, with significantly more blank spaces, await those craving a tougher challenge. These demand a deeper level of thought and strategic planning, perfect for those who relish a rigorous mental workout.

Sudoku's adaptability to different skill levels ensures it remains an engaging and rewarding pastime for all. Whether you're a first-timer keen to learn the basics or a seasoned pro seeking to push your limits, Sudoku offers a delightful balance of challenge and enjoyment. As we delve into the world of Sudoku, we'll uncover how anyone can master this intriguing puzzle through a series of simple, yet effective steps. Join us on this journey of logic, strategy, and mental dexterity.

01

## Board and Basics

The most common Sudoku board is a 9x9 grid with 3x3 regions. This creates nine large squares, which also contain nine squares. To solve a Sudoku puzzle, the player must make sure that each row, column, and region have a complete set of the numbers one through nine. Additionally, a number can’t exist twice in a row, column, or region. Numbers that are already present at the beginning of the puzzle are “givens.” These numbers are static and help you solve the puzzle.

olyniteowl / Getty Images

02

## Preparing to Play

When playing Sudoku, most people recommend using a pencil. Because it is incredibly difficult to fill a Sudoku grid the first time through flawlessly, it’s better to be able to erase your markings. Alternatively, some players like to keep a blank Sudoku grid where each box lists the number candidates. This allows them to more easily remember their possible answers and mark them off as they go. Additionally, these grids make it significantly easier to see numbers that are absolutely correct. There are mobile and computer versions of Sudoku that include these features as well.

LeventKonuk / Getty Images

03

## Pencil in Possibilities

Very few people will pencil in their answer as a full-sized number. Instead, they will place possibilities along the edges of the box they’re solving. This allows them to visit other boxes while remembering what their answers could be. It also enables many of the more complex Sudoku techniques. However, using a pen or penciling in a full-sized number is a fun and interesting way to challenge yourself as you progress through the Sudoku difficulty levels.

lucentius / Getty Images

04

## Find the Easy Play

One of the best things to do when sitting down to play Sudoku is to look for the easy answers. Especially in beginner level Sudoku puzzles, there are often rows, columns, or regions that have all but one or two numbers as givens. By filling these in first, you’ll have a much easier time filling in the missing numbers. If a section has only a couple of missing numbers, you can often guess which number goes where with a simple glance along the rows or columns that feed into it.

Urilux / Getty Images

05

## Scanning the Board

There are many different techniques for solving Sudoku. The most beginner-friendly and the one most people use naturally is scanning the board. All it takes is looking across each row and each column and determine if any missing numbers are obvious or easy to answer. One of the best ways to start this is by looking at which given numbers are the most prevalent. For example, if there are more fours than any other number, filling in the remaining fours is significantly easier.

Cineberg / Getty Images

06

## Naked and Hidden Pairs

Eventually, the scanning methods won’t be enough. This is where the other techniques come into play. Expert Sudoku solvers will look for “naked pairs.” These are two identical candidates in two boxes of a particular row, column, or region. If those numbers appear in any other competing box, you can eliminate them as possibilities from those competing boxes. For example, if a region has two boxes that both have four and seven as candidates, no connecting row or column can have those answers. This is because of the rules where each row, column, and region must have a full set of numbers. That region needs the four or seven. In some cases, the boxes with the naked pairs have other candidates as well. These are “hidden pairs.”

Maxfocus / Getty Images

07

## Naked and Hidden Triples

An extension of the naked and hidden pairs rule is looking for naked and hidden triples. These follow the same concept as the pairs rule, but with three boxes and numbers instead. However, unlike the pairs rule, all three numbers don’t need to be in all three boxes. For example, there are three boxes in a row. One box has a possibility of five and nine, one could be six or nine, and the last could be five or nine. Because of this, you can remove five, six, and nine as possibilities from each other box in this row. This will create naked pairs in those boxes.

IPGGutenbergUKLtd / Getty Images

08

Beyond the triples rule is the quads rule. This is a much more complex rule but is usually necessary for harder Sudoku puzzles. Naked quads are similar to naked triples, but with four boxes that have four candidates in a row, column, or region. As an example:

• One box could be five, six, or eight
• One box could be six or eight
• One box could be three or five
• One box could be three, five, or six

The four candidates are three, five, six, and eight. Because of this, you’re able to eliminate those numbers as candidates from every other box in the column. Hidden quads are rare and occur exclusively in the most difficult puzzles.

Nikodash / Getty Images

09

## Keep Moving

One of the mistakes that most people make when they are solving a Sudoku puzzle is that they get stuck on answering one particular box. It’s important to constantly move on. If you’re having difficulty figuring out a box, it’s probably because you haven’t solved enough of the other boxes. Additionally, by constantly switching targets, you’re keeping your mind fresh and focused. This will allow you to avoid easy mistakes.

northlightimages / Getty Images

10

## Constantly Evaluate and Correct

Every time you place a number in a box, evaluate yourself. Ask yourself some questions.

• Did you do that correctly?
• What changed in that box’s row, column, or region?
• How does that number affect the neighboring boxes?

Placing a number always opens opportunities for placing other numbers. Towards the end of a puzzle, you’ll notice yourself being able to fill in several boxes at a time. This is one of the most satisfying parts of Sudoku, and it keeps people coming back.

Garrett Aitken / Getty Images

11

## Know where to start

Every Sudoku grid offers a unique challenge, but where should you begin? The secret lies in spotting areas with ample numbers. These regions narrow down possibilities for adjacent cells and, with a little practice, you'll develop a natural talent for identifying these starting zones. Remember, initial numbers aren't just random placements. They are your first clues and guide your journey through a puzzle's intricate maze.

12

## Use the pointing pair technique

Imagine two cells in a row or column, both potential "homes" for the same two numbers. This duo forms a pointing pair, meaning these numbers can't reside elsewhere in that line or block. Harnessing this technique can make it easier to solve complex puzzles quickly. It's like having a compass in a dense forest that guides your next steps.

13

## Elevate your game with box/line reduction

Picture this: all instances of a specific number in a row or column are confined to one block. This pattern allows you to eliminate that number from the rest of that block. It's the ultimate game of deduction! Embracing this method means not just seeing numbers but understanding their relationships across the grid.

14

## Realize the importance of momentum

Sudoku isn't just a static puzzle. It's a dynamic game of logic. As you place numbers in boxes, a domino effect often occurs, with one solution paving the way for another. This momentum is your ally. Each digit you write down not only edges you closer to the puzzle's completion but also unveils fresh clues. Let this rhythm guide you as you complete your grid.

15