Picking the Right Number to Solve Your Sudoku

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

Hey there everybody. It is Sudoku week here with Sudoku Professor and we are celebrating all things Sudoku all week long, doing all these videos to help you become better at Sudoku, solve more Sudoku and just have a lot more fun solving Sudoku today.

We’re going to talk about how to pick the right number to solve your Sudoku. And that is something that essentially three viewers have written in and have asked that question, how do you pick the right number to solve your Sudoku? They’re stuck. What do you do next? We talked a little bit about this last time.

But before we get into this, I want to talk about the fact that we have a giveaway running this week. That’s our big promotion that we have going on. If you go to giveaway.Sudokuprofessor.com, you can sign up and claim your part. If you’re the lucky winner, you can claim your part of over $16,000 in prizes at our Sudoku player’s dream giveaway sweepstakes.

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Alright. Back to today’s topic. How do you pick the right number to solve your Sudoku? Okay. Now this is, this is very important.

So this one, Metallicaddict#1, I assume that he is a big fan of the rock group, Metallica, I don’t really know for sure, but anyway we answered part of his question in the last video, but we’re going to answer the rest of his question. The full question was he’d been through the one-thru-nines, you know, like 10 times he has only doubles on the board. He says, “how do you decide what number to continue with the puzzle? How do you pick the right number?”

So then I also got a comment from Jerry. He says, “hi professor, thanks so much for the continuing Sudoku education. I just finished a puzzle that had three double-doubles and no other help. I chose a number and went from there to finish it. Now, the question is, is there another way, or is this the only incorrect way to finish?”

Okay. So we’re going to talk about that. It’s basically the same thing. He chose a number and he went from there to finish. Did he choose the right number? Was there a better way to do it?

Then we have Peter who says, who states emphatically, I must say, “I have no qualms about making a guess when a space or a square has only two given answers, and it’s a double-double, and I seem to be deadlocked everywhere. It’s a 50/50 chance,” he says, “and changing it takes less than five seconds.” So he’s picking numbers to solve a Sudoku. 50/50 chance, right? It seems pretty good.

Well, let’s call the spade a spade and let’s talk about what everybody is doing here. I don’t mean to be rude, but, well, I’ll just be rude, honestly, guys Peter, Jerry, Metallicaddict, you’re just guessing, okay? You’re just doing trial and error. And the thing about it is, is that again, we’ve talked about this in prior session. If the puzzle is a good puzzle, there is a logic solution.

Now I want to ask you this: Would you like to know what that logical solution is? I mean, would you like to know how to solve it logically? And I want you to imagine for just a minute, think about these puzzles that you have guessed on that you’ve picked a number. You didn’t know what else to do. So you saw a space that had only two possibilities. You picked one and it worked okay. How would you feel if instead, you actually saw the precise logic that was the right thing to do. You decoded it and you use that and you solve the whole puzzle. So how would that make you feel differently about the solution, about what you did, if you actually figured out the true logic behind it?

You can sort of equate this, if you will, with bowling with the little gutter guards up. Now, when I was bowling back years ago, you know, we didn’t have those. I don’t know if you’ve been bowling lately, but it’s like participation trophies, okay? It’s the same sort of thing.

When I was bowling, if you threw a gutter, it went in the gutter. I mean that’s where the ball went: in the gutter. Now you can push a button and these gutter guards come up and they keep the ball in the lane and somebody’s ball that’s heading for the gutter could bounce off the gutter guard and you could get a strike.

I mean, that does nothing to help you become a better bowler. Guessing does not help you become a better Sudoku player. Flipping a coin does not help you, you know choosing 50/50, it does not help you become a better Sudoku player. It does not improve your logic thinking. Guessing is just guessing.

I mean, what did you learn from that? I imagine you learned zero, except that you got lucky because half the time, if you’re guessing, if you’re doing the flip a coin, again, whether it’s Metallicaddict saying “what number to try” or whether it’s Jerry asking, “I chose a number and went there to finish it”, or whether it’s Peter says “I had a 50/50 chance”, you’re guessing, basically, you have two choices, you pick one, half the time you’re wrong, right? And the other half the time you’re right. Only because you got lucky.

So let me give you another analogy if you will, okay. So kind of bear with me here.

Here in the United States, I know that some of you watching may not be in the United States, we have viewers and members all over the world. But you may remember the show, the New Yankee Workshop which starred this guy, Norm Abram, it came on our public broadcasting network (PBS), and he would make all of this great furniture. But one of the interesting things is that he would do it with these amazing power tools. He always had the right power tool to do this.

He hardly did anything by hand. You know, you hardly saw him pick out, I mean, unless he had something really, really delicate that he’s working on, he hardly ever got out a hand tool. Everything was a power tool. And it was cool because I mean, I wanted to own all of those power tools. I wanted to have a shop. I wanted to build the furniture like he built it.

But even if I went out and got all of that, all of that stuff and all those things and built a shop and had all that things, do you think that I could make anything that looked like what he did? No. I mean, cause it takes practice, okay? It takes a lot of practice to use, to learn, to use the tools, to make the furniture and the things that he did and to make them as well as he did, right. He spent years perfecting all of this stuff.

And of course we didn’t see all of the things that he edited out because he built this amazing piece of furniture in 30 minutes on a show, which, you know, it took a lot longer than that to solve, to finish the whole thing. So all of that was all the bad mistakes and everything. And they were edited out, but still it took him practice and it, and I want to encourage you because you know, guessing interrupts your ability to learn, guessing and picking 50/50, it interrupts all of that.

And so that you don’t learn, you don’t actually practice any new techniques and you don’t actually get better. It’s like calling your neighbor; You’re doing your woodworking, right, and you call your neighbor over to help you do the hard part and you let him do all the work and you actually never learn how to do the hard cuts and whatever that you would have to do. I’m not a woodworker, I’m only a wannabe Norm Abram.

So you want to think about your sudoku skills as a toolbox. Since we’re building on the Norm Abram thing. Right now, let’s suppose you have a simple toolbox, you have a hammer, you have a screwdriver, you have a pair of pliers, you know, that’s about it. You got the basic tools, you can handle the basic jobs, but you maybe you’ve mastered those things as well.

But there’s more out there. I mean, if you’re guessing, what that tells me is, if you’re flipping a coin, you are ready to expand your toolbox. You’re ready to learn more. You’re ready to get the power drill. You’re ready to get that circular saw. You’re ready to get the router and learn how to use that and expand your toolbox.

I mean, maybe you need something even simpler than that in between. Maybe you need a socket wrench or something like that. But the point of it is, is that you have a limited toolbox and you’re ready, since you’re guessing you’re doing puzzles that you don’t know how to do next. You need to realize that you are ready to move on and you need to go and get the tools and learn how to use them.

There’s a lot of places that you can do it. But when you start learning those things, you could take our lessons at Sudokuprofessor.com, and you can start learning more and more techniques and understand how to do these things better. You will have that feeling, that fantastic feeling of having solved that really hard puzzle using maybe fairly complex logic all on your own. You didn’t have to guess at all.

Now again, imagine how that will feel. And you could probably imagine it because you have already learned techniques. You have you think back. Think back when you were just beginning and as you picked up more logic, you know, you actually were able to do this. You were actually able to learn more and more.

So get out there and find more tools and expand your toolbox, learn how to use them, practice it and refuse to guess if you refuse to guess, if you refuse to do it and instead insist that you learn the techniques, you’re going to become better and you’re going to get, you’re going to feel better about yourself. You’re going to feel better about the game. You’re going to enjoy the game more. You’re gonna have more fun and anyway, it’s great.

So thanks a lot for joining. Let me see here, Marianne, you have commented. Appreciate that. I understand it does take some time, Marianne, precisely, just practicing to master the techniques. That’s absolutely right. It does take some time to learn things. But what doesn’t? What skill have you ever acquired that doesn’t take practice.

And Marianne, I know you’re committed. You’ve been committed for a long time to it and you’re taking your time. And you found the linked double doubles technique. That’s our Master’s level technique and you followed that and you’re, you’re starting to implement that. That’s great Marianne, and do keep doing that.

So for everybody, again, for you, whoever you are, if you’re struggling, if you’re reaching stuck points, if you’re frustrated and you can’t figure out what to do next, and you’re on the verge of guessing, I know it’s an easy way to get the solution, but you know, let’s put the gutter guards down and let’s learn how to bowl the strikes without the extra help. On your own. I mean, imagine how that feels, you know, when you actually bowl the strike and the ball stays out of the gutter all the time, or most of the time as the case may be.

So learn your Sudoku, learn your techniques, head on over to Sudoku Professor, and you can get started today. But what I actually would, rather you do right now is head to giveaway.SudokuProfessor.com and sign up for our giveaway and you’ll get more emails and you’ll learn more about how you can win all of our courses. Now, imagine that you’re ready to learn. Okay, Metallicaddict? Alright, Jerry, Peter, you’re ready. You want to learn more? Sounds like you need more of our courses.0

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I will see you in the next video we’re going to talk about the difference between puzzles that are hand created, crafted by hand, versus puzzles that are computer generated. Is there a difference? I’ll see you in that one.


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Robert Barker