Foreword By William F. Bultas, President of Puzz.com, LLC
If you have never seen a sudoku puzzle, click here to try an online version.
Below is the original Foreword that I wrote for Terry's sudoku puzzle book. The edited version appears in the book itself (the book version is better in that it provides clearer examples with illustrations).
Terry Stickels asked me to write this brief introduction to his book of Sudoku puzzles, and I am happy to oblige him. I thought I’d give you the basics on Sudoku puzzles and how they work in this book, and then tell you a bit about Terry Stickels, myself, and puzzles in general.
When Terry introduced me to Sudokus, it was through a phone call and an e-mail of one puzzle. “You’ll understand how they work in 30 seconds,” he assured me. In fact I don’t think it even took that long. Simply put: you have a 9x9 grid, which is clearly partitioned into 9 smaller 3x3 grids. Each row and column of the 9x9 grid must use the numbers 1 through 9 exactly once each, and each 3x3 grid (so 9 spaces) must also use the numbers 1 through 9 exactly once each. Your task is to place the missing numbers in the blank spaces. If you take a look at some of the puzzles in this book, you’ll quickly see what I mean. The rules of how they work are so easy, that the puzzles must also be quite easy, right? WRONG!
This book uses only numbers, while Terry has indicated that he has seen some that use other symbols. The key thing to remember is that these are LOGICAL puzzles, and NOT mathematical puzzles. The numbers are indeed just symbols – they could just as well be letters, hearts, diamonds, or virtually anything else. However, I believe 9 numbers are the easiest to keep track of mentally while solving the Sudokus. But the number of blank spaces you are given and the placement of the numbers can produce radically different difficulty levels. The 160 puzzles in this book are therefore broken down into 5 difficulty levels of 32 puzzles each. Unless you have experience with Sudokus, or are a genius, I highly recommend that you start with the easiest puzzles, and then gradually build up to the tougher ones.
These Sudokus can keep you busy until late at night, and if you’re not careful, into the next morning… unlike crossword puzzles, for example, you don’t need to know the nicknames of obscure pitchers of early 20th Century baseball, the name of the individual who invented the can opener, which god or goddess changed Io of Greek Mythology into a heifer, the name of the primary currency of Botswana, etc. etc. etc. And once again, you do not have to be skilled in mathematics.
Bring this book with you on summer vacation, or to pass the time while you wait for your dentist appointment (ouch!). Puzzles like these can be great “time killers.” You may find you enjoy them so much that you actually go out of your way to find time to work on them. They can indeed be maddening, but the satisfaction of solving them far outweighs the frustration factor. Also, you are truly exercising your brain; studies have shown that new “pathways” can be created with activity like this, and people who keep their minds active are less susceptible to Alzheimer's disease and similar problems. Think of yourself doing mental pushups with each Sudoku puzzle you tackle.
As I mentioned, I wanted to tell you a bit about Terry Stickels and myself, and fit the Sudoku puzzles into an ongoing “puzzle evolution.” Terry’s “base” in the puzzle universe is mathematical and logical puzzles. He was intensely interested in mathematical and scientific puzzles beginning in his childhood, and was greatly influenced by Martin Gardner, the former Mathematical Games columnist for Scientific American. Terry says that he once had a grocery sack in which he would deposit slips of paper on which he had sketched his puzzles. He kept that sack for over 20 years, filling the sack quite nicely in the process.
In 1991 he presented his puzzles to a newspaper, and landed a regular column showcasing his mathematical and logical puzzles. Less than a year later he was approached by a publisher who had noticed his column, and soon after his first book of puzzles was published. That book, Mindstretching Puzzles, sold 15,000 copies the first month that it came out.
I first came across this book in 1996; I had worked through portions of a few books by other authors at that time, but it was this book by Terry that really captured my attention. I jumped around in the book off and on for months, marking puzzles I had solved with a “+” sign, and those that I had missed with a “-“, often leaving notes by those I had missed for later reflection.
While I have been influenced by other authors, Terry was the primary impetus for my entering the puzzle world in a professional sense. In 1997 I launched a site focusing on puzzles I had designed myself, and this site would later become Puzz.com. Although marketing efforts are the main reason I have been successful on the internet, my company continues to share a name with this site, as my base will always be in the puzzle world; thusly, my company is now Puzz.com, LLC, and Puzz.com continues to be visited by thousands of people around the world every day. In 1996 I was working a “dead end” job that I disliked greatly, but through my intense interest in puzzles an entirely new world opened up to me, and eventually an excellent career. While I cannot promise that working through puzzle books will be this rewarding for you, I do believe that they can greatly enhance your ability to think creatively and logically. These skills can benefit you in many ways throughout life.
Terry in recent years has become increasingly famous by publishing many books, calendars, and even card decks of puzzles; his material has appeared in numerous magazines, and his Frame Game puzzles are a very popular feature in USA Weekend; he also writes a syndicated puzzle column for King Features.
If you are new to the puzzle world, Sudokus are an excellent “jumping in” point. Work through this book, and in time you may find yourself also trying crosswords, Terry’s Frame Games, and possibly move on to other textual and graphical puzzles that Terry has created. The puzzle universe has many dimensions, some of them mathematical and logical, others based in word play and trivia, and still others that are spatial and visual. Also, these dimensions overlap in a number of places; for example, Sudoku puzzles are primarily logical, but also contain spatial/visual elements. There are many thousands if not millions of different puzzle types, and unlike Sudokus, most do not have specific names.