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Urban Junkie

Saturday, February 25, 2006

9x9 misery

If I haven’t been posting of late it is because I have lost my soul to Sudoku. Also most of my time, my peace of mind and whatever little I have that can reasonably be called a brain. I know, I know – I have nothing to say in my defense. I am a Sudoku Slave and it is time to freely and frankly own up to it.

But really … you have to try it yourself before you judge me. It has something evil about it, this vile, fiendish, diabolical, infuriating 9x9 numeric configuration, that won’t let you go once it’s got its talons into you. You will only know once you have taken the plunge.

It began innocently enough one morning when I found myself on a longish flight without a book, and nothing other than The Times of India and Jetwings as literary stimulation (a condition deserving of sympathy, you will agree, and one that left me understandably vulnerable to what followed next). What followed next was my First Encounter with Sudoku. Having avoided it thus far out of (a perfectly natural and healthy) distaste for anything numerical, I was pushed into a tentative experiment with it after having finished with the crossword, the Spellathon, the Scramble, the Mindbender and other similar distractions offered by the TOI. And sure enough, my first encounter reinforced the wisdom of staying away from all things numeric. I filled in several wrong numbers in several wrong boxes, scratched them out, filled in some more wrong numbers, and 45 minutes later pronounced it a silly puzzle and stuffed the paper back into the seat pocket.

That, in all honesty, should have been that. But then the Brat next to me picked it up. A child who could not have been more than 7, who asked to borrow my paper, then asked to borrow my pen, and then, with my pen and my paper, over my crossed out wrong numbers, proceeded to fill in the right numbers in less than ten minutes. I saw him smirk as he returned the pen. Really, I would have been ok but for that smirk.


Gentle reader, it was a crushed and despondent me that walked into my house that morning. I eyed the newspaper for a long time before giving in. The smirky child needed to be Put In His Place, even if only in my mind. And so I picked up a fresh clean Sudoku, with a pencil this time.

Five and a half hours later, I emerged triumphant. Aaaah, I cannot describe the elation of that moment. The joy of a filled-in Sudoku, with each row, each column, each cluster of 3x3 boxes perfectly fitting into each other. Nine beautiful numbers, nine times over, blending into each other in 27 different patterns. Magic!

And now, of course, the TOI Sudoku no longer provides the same kick. Nor the one in The Hindu. They are gone in less than 9 minutes. Everyday, I need something stronger. I prowl Sudoku websites for more and more challenging puzzles. I am told it is possible to download one on my phone. Ah, it is a curse, this thing. A curse if you solve it too quickly. A curse if you cannot solve it quickly enough.

Unsuspecting reader who has not yet discovered this self-inflicted torture, I implore you to stay away.

But then again, what a pity that would be.

27 Comments:

  • Welcome back Anjali. Long break?

    I soooo empathize with this post. I used to fall sleep to the soothing strains of Ghulam Ali Khan or over a tautly written Agatha Christie. Alas! Since the last couple of months, i am only able to fall asleep if i have FINISHED a Su Doku. Even if it means coming back from work late in the night and then staying up all night! Sometimes i have nightmares about incomplete Suu Dokus.

    By Anonymous tara, at 5:40 AM, February 25, 2006  

  • Oops! That should have been 'Su'Dokus in the last line.

    I think the extra 'u' happened coz i involuntarily shuddered at the thought of an incomplete Su Doku ;)

    By Anonymous tara, at 5:42 AM, February 25, 2006  

  • hmmm...i've never enjoyed the sudoku all that much...the funda's kinda repetitive, I felt....i find the crossword to be more fun...there are sudoku nuts here though...

    By Blogger the Monk, at 10:38 AM, February 25, 2006  

  • LOl...came here via the Monk...I, thy gently reader, have watched Sudoku cast its evil spell over my colleagues - one by one, even the dumbest ones fall for this and drive me bonkers with theri chai break discussions on how the mornings Hindu was a cakewalk...so far I havent gone near any one those chequered thingys, but I being me, cannot resist a challenge,so lets see...

    By Blogger Ganja Turtle, at 10:10 PM, February 25, 2006  

  • Well, I'll be quite honest. I did try my hand at this evil challenge and because of my very OWN distaste for anything numerical, I laid it back down in 15 minutes, never returning. (perhaps this is more than willpower though - I have a nasty habit of doing away with anything that pisses me off to no end)

    However, since the moment my darling husband first discovered this puzzle-game, I haven't seen hide nor hair of him! (slight exaggeration)

    He is enrapt with this silly puzzle. For Christmas I got him two cheap books filled with it, and my daughter got him 2 more. I also got him a handheld Sudoku device. He's hopeless now.

    So as you can see, I do feel your pain. I only hope your withdrawal will be bearable. :)

    By Blogger Weary Hag, at 4:30 AM, February 26, 2006  

  • Hmm weird. The first time I ever saw one was when my sister was struggling with it. I meekly peeked in and offered to help. She didn't want me to. I asked her how it worked. She explained. And in less than five minutes, The Hindu's sudoku was solved. She gaped at me. I said, "Oh these numerical puzzles are a cake-walk. Really!" And she stood there confounded while I trudged away cursing simple puzzles and undeveloped brains. And till this day, I haven't touched one Sudoku. Maybe because I thought Sudoku was just that. The Hindu Sudoku. And that easy. Ahem. I seem to have thought wrong. Doesn't matter. Am glad anyway. :p

    By Blogger The Individualist, at 1:44 PM, February 26, 2006  

  • tara: perfectly understandable. A shuuudder ran through me just now just reading about your thought of an incomplete sudoku.

    monk: ah, but that is because of your self-confessed passion for mathematics. For someone who has always kept numbers at a safe distance, however, the sudoku is high adventure!

    ganja turtle (where does that name originate, i wonder): I know not whether to caution you or cheer you on. It is a risky path you contemplate venturing on. But if, like the monk, you have a love for numbers, you need have no fear.

    weary hag: My sympathies. If you can't beat them, perhaps you should try joining them?
    As for my withdrawal - alas, i think I am beyond hope now :)

    the individualist: you, clearly are a close relative of the Brat who got me into this mess to begin with. Immediately go to a Sudoku website and download a puzzle classified as 'evil'. Perhaps that will change your mind :)

    By Blogger Anjali, at 9:07 PM, February 26, 2006  

  • Hehe... another one bites the dust :)

    I had stayed away from it, till my colleague gifted me a Sudoku book before my trip to NY, and told me with a mischevious smile, "this will make sure you wont crib about the long flight alone". And sure enough, I finished the book, cover to cover, during that one flight. But in my defense, it was one LONG flight!

    By Blogger Casablanca, at 2:34 AM, February 27, 2006  

  • I've tried to resist, but in vain. Now I'm slowly onto sudokus on the web,and its addictive if you keep trying to improve your timing, its boring otherwise..but I would still prefer clinical finishes on The Hindu crossword to a sudoku.

    By Blogger Srihari, at 8:56 AM, February 27, 2006  

  • casablanca: the long flight will be the undoing of us all, won't it ...? But a full book on one flight? That surpasses all records.

    srihari: I do like the image of a 'clinical finish' on The Hindu crossword!

    By Blogger Anjali, at 9:56 PM, February 27, 2006  

  • et tu anjali? Allow me to gently guide you to the wonder that is the cryptic crossword. Sudoku? SUDOKU? It sounds like Japanese kurkure. (Which reminds me there is another puzzle called Karkuro or something.)

    By Blogger The ramblings of a shoe fiend, at 4:46 AM, February 28, 2006  

  • Just solved one Sudoku till date and that too took me 1 hour! Maybe I just dont have a head for numbers, gimme a propah english crossword anyday!

    By Blogger ichatteralot, at 5:25 AM, February 28, 2006  

  • Shoefiend:
    *skulks shamefacedly into dark corner*
    yes, it has got to me ... what can I say? Perhaps salvation does lie in the cryptic crossword. At least going by the multiple pointers in this commentspace.
    Yes, I think I will immediately immerse myself in one.

    ichatteralot: yup, a crossword seems to be the way to go. I am embarking on my rehabilitation now.

    By Blogger Anjali, at 8:29 PM, February 28, 2006  

  • I too started out with sudoku on a plane. the reason being a xxl gentleman, some of whose bulk was dangerously poised to occupy my seat as well. It was a Lufthansa flight on which he was snoring, music blasting from his radio channel and had his earphones dangling in a way that i could hear the sounds jarring in my head. Sudoku was just a diversion that i created but it has succeeded in diverting me from most of my sunday morning chores.

    By Blogger Siri, at 1:13 AM, March 01, 2006  

  • Hi
    Nice blog you have here. Was smiling all the way reading your 'Grrr...' post. And yes, I did try doing the 'tsk', 'pshaw' and the 'harrumph' :)

    By Blogger dazedandconfused, at 10:47 PM, March 01, 2006  

  • siri: the long flight strikes yet again, huh? Next time, go armed with your own music ... or, better, several cryptic crosswords.

    dazedandconfused: thanks :)

    By Blogger Anjali, at 4:56 AM, March 02, 2006  

  • Hi Anjali,

    I tried it when it first started appearing in the newspapers, and, ahem, was able to solve them easily and then lost interest.:( The thing is, you know there's an answer and you know you're not going to learn anything new, unlike in a crossword.

    By Blogger Sujatha, at 12:54 AM, March 03, 2006  

  • SUDOKU is addictive but only initially.Thats because you are required to employ trial and error method more often than logical derivation.Have been there,done that.As far as your your misery is concerned,this too shall pass.

    By Anonymous csk, at 4:44 AM, March 03, 2006  

  • sudoko..brain not works for that..but i like mark knopfler. unrelated i know. just scratching the door

    By Blogger The Comic Project, at 10:08 AM, March 03, 2006  

  • ah, another su doku nut. I stayed away from it for the same reason - I mean, imagine taking up something filled with numbers out of your own volition (memories of advanced statistics classes pushed aside) - and then i figured out the sudoku was not about numbers - i think it was DNA (or HT?) that first published a sudoku puzzsle with aplhabets! A to I and voila! one convert :)

    By Anonymous Charu, at 7:18 PM, March 03, 2006  

  • Sudoku. I discovered it in Heathrow Airport. It's MADE for sitting in airports. :)

    By Blogger Spider Girl, at 1:36 PM, March 04, 2006  

  • Just for variety, you might try substituting numbers with different onomatopoeic sounds, or with thumbnails of Abhishek wallpapers. One has figured out, with characteristic insight, that the numbers themselves have very little to do with it.

    Imagine the fun we'd have: "okay, let's see .. grr is already on this horizontal line, tsk is already on this vertical line, pshaw square mein ek baar already aa gaya, that leaves gah, pfft, harrumph .."

    P.S. One has solved one Sudoku puzzle in one's entire life (after hours of trying) and, ever since then, one has considered oneself to be the ultimate authority on the subject.

    By Blogger One in a Billion, at 6:59 PM, March 04, 2006  

  • happy addiction!! :)

    By Blogger manuscrypts, at 11:38 PM, March 06, 2006  

  • sujatha: *sigh* ... yet another person who cracked it the first time. My self esteem takes another beating :(

    csk: trial and error? Surely not? There goes my image of myself using my wonderfully logical brain to arrive at brilliant solutions.
    That absolutely does it. I think this too has passed!

    the comic project: hi ... welcome!

    charu: an alphabet sudoku? Wow, that's a puzzle after my own heart. Bangalore papers have no such temptations, sadly enough.

    spider girl: yes, it is, isn't it? And in airplanes ...

    the one: ah yes, that insight has already been pointed out by charu above. I think the Abhishek wallpapers are an even better idea than alphabets. (What say, charu?)The grrrs and the pfffts however are likely to have a deleterious effect on my well being if I need to gaze at them nine times over. These are words that have no right to be in the dictionary, let alone sudoku. Hmph.

    manuscrypts: thanks ... though I do hope it will not last very long :(

    By Blogger Anjali, at 6:42 AM, March 07, 2006  

  • i havent yt succumbed :) I stand tall still heh heh

    By Blogger apu, at 10:51 PM, March 08, 2006  

  • Hi Anjali, I have tagged you :) hopefully you should take time out from sodoku and write up something - look forward to reading your post.

    By Blogger Reshma Anand, at 9:55 AM, March 10, 2006  

  • hey apu, welcome back to blogging!

    reshma: I have only viewed tags from a safe distance thus far, and it is alarming to suddenly find myself face to face with one. I just went over and had a look at the subject of your tag ... and well, seeing as I have at least the toes of one foot in the grave if not the entire foot, the concept of an ideal partner is academic at the moment. However I shall do my best - give me some time.

    By Blogger Anjali, at 7:18 PM, March 11, 2006  

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