Mythbuster: Do You Have to Be a Genius to Solve Sudoku?

This was recorded during Sudoku Week 2020 on October 6th. Transcript below.

Hey everybody. Welcome back. It is time now to do another myth busters about “Do you have to be a genius or to be really smart in order to solve Sudoku?” This is going to continue on our last myth busters before.

But before we get into this, what are we doing here? This is Sudoku week. We are celebrating all things Sudoku. So we have all these things going on all week long. And what I would encourage you to do, if you want to be notified of these things, if you’re seeing this and you would like to be notified of these live broadcasts and other things as we go along this week, the easiest way is actually to sign up for our giveaway. So if you go to, you will actually be able at that point in time to sign up, you can win prizes. We’re giving away a total of over $16,000 in prizes.

We’ll be doing the giveaway, this drawing on Saturday, but if you go there and you sign up for that giveaway, not only will you be registered to win, but you’ll also start getting the emails for these live sessions and other things that we’re doing this week to help you learn Sudoku, Become better at Sudoku, solve more Sudoku, solve it faster, solve harder Sudoku, solve it with fewer mistakes and fewer frustrations and solve faster as you’re doing it. Okay. So head on over to and sign up.

So again, do you have to be really smart? Well, it’s interesting. Richard McGlocklin, he commented on our last video about something that’s been going on in YouTube. There’s a video that’s got out there about a British guy that’s solving a Sudoku puzzle that has one number given on it. I mean, there’s just one number on it and how do you solve the rest of the puzzle?

I think we saw another video the other day. You know, “I can solve this puzzle with only four numbers given on it”. And Richard’s comment here was he says, “but the rules that the guy used involved combining Sudoku and chess and other nonsense rules, it wasn’t at all Sudoku.”

The fact of the matter is that these people might put this out there as though they’re smart, they’re really smart. And I’m not saying that they’re not really smart. I’m not saying that they’re stupid at all. But what I am saying is that they put it out there, like I’m a genius, I can solve this Sudoku with only one given. But it’s been long proven that in order for you to be able to solve a Sudoku, you have to have at least 17 numbers given on a puzzle.

So how can they solve one that has only one given or four givens or anything less than 17? Well, the key is that in order to come up with a solution that is unique, so that there is not another solution from the same starting point, you have to have at least 17 givens. So what happens is if you start with less than 17?

At some point in time, the bottom line is you don’t have enough information to really make logical decisions throughout the whole thing. And so you’re coming up with a point where you essentially have to guess, or make an assumption or jump to some conclusion that you could actually make a different guess, a different conclusion or whatever, and you would come up with you would actually, you could come up with two different ending solutions.

I would suppose that the fewer givens that you have, you might end up with more and more possible solutions that you could come up with. In other words, the way that the puzzle looks at the end with the numbers filled out could be vastly different depending on the approach that you took, because you’re not actually solving with logic, but we’ll get into that later.

So back to the topic at hand here is “do you have to be a genius or really smart to solve Sudoku?” And the truth of the matter is that you do not need to be, what I call, “book-smart” in order to be great at Sudoku.

Now at the same time, no one becomes great at Sudoku overnight, okay? I was not born this way. It wasn’t like some sort of child prodigy at all, you know, you don’t graduate in the middle of your high school class and be considered a prodigy under any circumstances whatsoever.

But let’s think about this in terms of being “Book-smart”. Most people, associate genius level, or people being really smart…It’s really about whether or not they’re book-smart. In other words, you go to school, whether you did well in school or something like that.

So let’s talk about that. Let’s think about the subjects, let’s go through the different subjects that you would learn at school, and let’s see how that applies to Sudoku.

Okay. Well, in the last session we talked about math. Well, math is a subject you take at school, but there’s no math involved in Sudoku. Alright, well, what about something like, say English or composition?

All right. Literature while there’s no words in Sudoku. So we don’t have to worry about that one.

How about history? You know, whether it was Moses or Noah that was in the Ark, or whether George Washington crossed the Delaware or the Potomac, honestly, it doesn’t matter. I mean, we actually went over some history, if you didn’t see that we did the whole history of Sudoku. It’s interesting, but it’s not necessary in order for you to play Sudoku.

Science! How about that? You don’t need to know chemistry, biology, physics to solve Sudoku. You don’t need to know any of that stuff. The only geography skills that you need to know, are “where did I leave that pencil?”

It doesn’t require any artistic skills. There’s no vocational skills. I mean, if you’re great at fixing automobiles or something like that, and you can still solve Sudoku, but that skill does not play into Sudoku.

Then I could go on and on with all these different subjects that you could learn bottom line here is that you don’t have to be a genius in all those subjects or any of those subjects at all. You don’t have to be genius whatsoever. You don’t have to consider yourself a genius.

But you know, it does point to one interesting thing, because we’re talking about logic. That’s all you have to do, is develop your sense of logic. That’s what we talked about in the last session, but notice how logic was not one of the subjects that’s typically taught in school, right. Did you take a course in logic? I mean, I did, but it was one semester and it was because it was required, as I mentioned, in my computer science.

But did you take a logic course? I kind of doubt that you did, logic is sorely missing. So it’s actually an area that you could develop. So to be successful at Sudoku, you need to learn to think logically. Okay. if you’re already a fairly good logic thinker, even if you flunked out of everything else you’re going to do great at Sudoku.

If you’re a poor logic thinker, maybe you think, “I don’t think very logically”, well, what better way to improve that and improve your life? You are, as I mentioned before, gaining problem solving skills. And when you can think more rationally and logically on any subject, rather than emotionally, your life’s going to improve.

I mean, think about it. I bet you know somebody, especially in the atmosphere that we’ve been in, in the past year or four years or whatever, I bet you can think of people who cannot think or discuss any issue or major issues logically or calmly. You might try to discuss something with them, logically, you know, politically or whatever the case may be. And you quickly find out that their side of the discussion devolves into some sort of emotional basket case situation where they’re angry and they’re shouting, or they’re crying, or they have hurt feelings or whatever. They can’t think logically.

Well, you can, you can start and you can learn to think logically. We can all learn to think logically, and guess what’s going to happen? We’re going to make the world a better place, because we are thinking logically, we’re gonna make our lives better and we’re thinking logically we’re talking logically and everything like that. And that’s what Sudoku gives us.

And for that reason, if you know somebody who isn’t thinking very logically in your life, maybe they need to get into Sudoku so you can spread the word. And the best way to spread the word is to actually sign up for the giveaway and then encourage them to do the same thing. Because if you encourage them to sign up for the giveaway, again, going to, you encourage them to get into Sudoku.

They might start thinking logically, they’ll learn the skills and you can have normal discussions with them. How about that? And along the way, if you were recommending them and they sign up for the giveaway as well you get extra entries and you can both be a winner.

Alright, so thanks a lot for joining me on this one. We’re going to be back next in a few minutes. We’re going to be talking about another topic again, I’m going to be a little bit surprised about which topic I’m doing. I’m trying to figure out which one I’m going to do next. I might start answering specific questions that people have sent in here. I think I will do that one next. Thanks for joining!


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Robert Barker