Ask Dr. Sudoku #17: Thoughts on digital solving options and

[Update: As of 2021, we are now routinely using penpa-edit and more info is here.]

While I am mainly a pencil-and-paper puzzle solver, I always thought GMPuzzles would eventually find some digital outlets. Not necessarily one outlet — our different styles have different needs and a good app for Sudoku/TomTom is probably quite different from a good app for Tapa/Nurikabe — but at least some outlets where we would be content providers. While I will soon have some of my TomTom puzzles as part of one app-based release, this is the exception and not the rule after 7.5 years.


Ask Dr. Sudoku #16 – V for Victory?

Q: Are you going to write about your experiences in Prague this year? Did you expect you would ever win the World Puzzle Championship?

Several people have asked if I would write a report on my experiences this year as I finally became World Puzzle Champion. Long ago, before I started this site, I would frequently write live blogs during or shortly after puzzle events, capturing the “heat” of competition. Some wanted to see me write an epilogue, after so many close runner-ups, to conclude a chapter in my life. Many of these championship stories (when posted in the late aughts) were the first ways people learned about me. I now prefer to let my own volume of written and edited puzzles speak more for me.

The live blogs capture my moments of great success and also great failure, as someone writing with full transparency and passion about what it is like to compete. I shared photos of “dirty laundry” — the stupid mistakes a competitor can make. I gave complaints earned and unearned against event organizers (the “So yeah, [insert event] happened” posts). I wrote an open letter that led to disqualifying a cheater and another that unfortunately did not lead to any WSC competition changes and continuing questions about what a Sudoku is almost 10 years later, ….

I stopped posting on that blog in 2013, with a primary focus on my own scientific career and a secondary focus on growing GMPuzzles. The reconnecting with science jobs was a major reason I stopped going to competitions from 2014 until 2017, “retired” from competitive puzzling in a sense. I never fully explained that choice, and I’ve never explained a few things that have had the most impact on my adult life. I’ve separated my very public “puzzle life” from my private life.

This time it is hard for me to answer questions like “did you expect you could win this year?” or “how does it feel?” without starting from a more private angle.

For the very private and introspective angle, continue here (note: some sadness/personal loss covered).

To go straight to the competition report, click here.

The Playoff story and video annotation is here.

More Solving Tips and Tricks

The “Ask Dr. Sudoku” series is on indefinite hiatus. If you want to know how to solve our puzzles better, including tips on notations and good heuristics, we encourage you to become a supporter of the website. Since February 2014, we’ve been posting a written/video walkthrough of our puzzles to our high-level supporters.

Ask Dr. Sudoku #14 – Thinking in Groups

I knew when constructing puzzles for this past week that it would end up pretty tough across the board. I had certain themes in mind and when constructing for a particular goal you cannot always tailor the timing precisely. I believe — except for Monday’s puzzle — everything was rated for at least 5 minutes. It is probably asking too much to expect a full week to “feel perfectly balanced” when there are six different styles being presented.

So, while it may be impossible to avoid “hard” weeks in the future, this did seem an apt time to return to discussing some of these puzzles. I got a specific request to describe Saturday’s Battleships in logical terms, so that is what I’ll cover today.


Ask Dr. Sudoku #13 – Puzzle Hunting

A few weeks ago Giovanni P. asked what our visitors might think about “other puzzles.” His question was specific to word puzzles, but this week I put the question to the test when I posted our first “Puzzle Hunt” puzzle. The Monday puzzle was not announced as such. Instead it was meant to just look like an April Fools joke. But it already has the most FAVEs of any puzzle on the site. So what are “Puzzle Hunt” puzzles and what was really going on with that word search?


Ask Dr. Sudoku #12 – The line must be drawn here

To [guess], or not to [guess], that is the question:

Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer

The [Twists] and [the Turns] of outrageous [Logic],

Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

And by [guessing] end them….

We’ve had a fair number of lively discussions in the last week, and if nothing else has come out of them at least the comment threading on the site is now noticeably improved. One question that has come up a lot has been around which puzzles need guesswork, here and elsewhere. A lot of solvers, for the sake of speed perhaps, will say they “had to bifurcate” during a solve here, but that has never been required for our puzzles. This week I wanted to (briefly) state my opinions on what I consider to be “logical” puzzles, since I mention frequently that all puzzles will have a single solution that can be reached by logic alone and it is worth contributors and solvers knowing what I mean by that.


Ask Dr. Sudoku #11 – About that hidden contest…?

For the last couple weeks Sunday has been a day where we’ve seen a huge increase in page views, strictly because a new hint was released for the site’s first Hidden Contest. This led a few dedicated solvers to scour the site again looking for something out of place.

This Hidden Contest was an experiment in having “other” puzzle styles here; I’m a huge fan of puzzle hunts and secret codes and the like and was curious to see if my more observant solvers would catch onto something odd.