Dec 29, 2009

Sudoku comes to IIT-B

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, December 30, 2009

The Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B) will host the Indian Sudoku Championship in January next year.

The winner of the competition will represent India in the world Sudoku finals in Philadelphia in April 2010.
The Sudoku championship will be part of the IIT Techfest from January 22 to 24.
The techfest is the largest science and technology festival in Asia with a footfall of over 60,000 people. This is the first time that IIT-B will be hosting such a competition.
“Sudoku is quite a craze, even on campus, so we thought it would be interesting to host it. Also, this would add to the appeal of the Techfest,” said Nikhil Kashid, media manager, Techfest 2010. 
The competition will be the Indian leg of the 5th World Sudoku  Championship, which is conducted by the World Puzzle Federation, an international organisation dedicated to puzzles. It follows the Olympic standard and brings together puzzlers from around the world. 
The event will have two elimination rounds. The first will be done through online screening and spot screening during the festival. The online screening will be held on January 3 and 9. Indian nationals, irrespective of age, can register at the Techfest website.
The puzzle content and competition will be organised by Logic Masters, a group of puzzlers who have represented India at various world championships. The team had also organised the 3rd World Sudoku  Championship in Goa.
The first World Sudoku Championship was held in Lucca, Italy, from March 10-12, 2006.
“Usually only the working population participates in the competition. We wanted to expand the reach of the championship, especially to college students, and Techfest is the perfect platform because of its popularity,” said Amit Sovani, publicity head, of the Bangalore-based Logic Masters.

Nov 29, 2009

Eugene Varshavsky Disqualified Based on Investigation

PHILADELPHIA, November 23, 2009 – The Philadelphia Inquirer Sudoku National Championship today announced the final winners in the advanced solving division, held on October 24, 2009. First place was awarded to Tammy McLeod from Los Angeles, CA. She is awarded $10,000. Thomas Snyder from Palo Alto, CA, won second place and $4,000. Chris Narrikkattu was awarded third place and $3,000 as a result of the disqualification of Eugene Varshavsky. Mr. Narrikkattu had placed immediately behind Mr. Varshavsky in a qualifying round.

Mr. Varshavsky was disqualified by Championship Director Will Shortz after his visibly poor on-stage performance during the championship finals led to an investigation. After qualifying for the finals by solving three puzzles in 14 minutes, Mr. Varshavsky entered only three digits of the final round puzzle after eight minutes. The investigation was conducted by Championship Director Will Shortz and Director of Judging Nick Baxter.

“Over the last three years the Championship has established a reputation as the championship for everyone and has a strong following in the advanced, intermediate and beginner sudoku community,” said Philadelphia Inquirer Sudoku National Championship Director Will Shortz. “The integrity of this competition is our highest priority and therefore, when we observed the inconsistent results in the advanced finals we commenced an investigation.”

The investigation included a review of completed puzzle booklets, interviews with some solvers, including Mr. Varshavsky, as well as other steps. A puzzle-solving re-examination of Mr. Varshavsky was conducted in which he was given the opportunity to solve a number of advanced and intermediate puzzles. Two of these were the very same puzzles he fully completed during the competition. After 23 minutes, he could fill in only 11 digits combined for the two puzzles before indicating he could go no further. His performance on other puzzles in this session was similarly well below expectations.

“The re-examination results were very much consistent with Mr. Varshavsky’s on-stage performance,” said Mr. Shortz. “Based on his re-examination performance, we have concluded that Eugene Varshavsky alone could not have solved the Round 3 puzzles during the Championship and, therefore, based on the rules of the championship which prohibit ‘outside help’ and grant the right to disqualify, have decided to disqualify him from his third place Advanced Division prize.”

“We are very pleased that a very thorough and professional investigation has been conducted and that the final results of the advanced round for the 2009 Philadelphia Inquirer Sudoku National Championship can now be announced,” said Edward Mahlman, Chief Marketing Officer of Philadelphia Media Holdings. “We are extremely grateful to Will Shortz and Nick Baxter for their diligence and hard work, and we look forward to the 2010 championship.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer Sudoku National Championship is the world’s largest puzzle competition and attracts a national and international field of contestants from a wide range of ages and backgrounds. This year the oldest participant was 93 and the youngest was 8. The championship includes three main skill divisions – beginner, intermediate and advanced. In addition to the winners of those three categories, prizes were also awarded to 27 more players who competed in a variety of age groups ranging from under 10 years to greater than 81 years. There were a total of 646 contestants and 183 spectators.

Other winners included Natan Tsyrulnik of Shelton, Connecticut, in the beginner division and Davis Borucki of Columbia, South Carolina, in the intermediate division. Borucki took home $3,000 in prize money and Tsyrulnik took home a check for $1,000. For more information please visit

Nov 25, 2009

Try the Sudoku diet: How to burn 90 calories an hour without leaving your armchair


By David Wilkes
Last updated at 9:49 AM on 25th November 2009

Sitting in your favourite armchair doing a crossword or Sudoku does not sound like a particularly effective way to use up calories.
But if you are about to postpone that trip to the gym and turn to the Coffee Break section of your Daily Mail instead, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Tackling puzzles for an hour, it seems, can burn more calories than are contained in many biscuits.

That was the eyebrow-raising claim being made by mental agility experts yesterday in a bid to encourage more people to log on to their brain-training website.

Doing puzzles and quizzes burns an average of 90 calories every hour, they say - while a chocolate chip cookie contains an average 56 calories, a custard cream 57 calories and a jammy dodger 85 calories.

Researcher Tim Forrester, from, explained: 'Our brains require 0.1 calories every minute simply to survive.

'When we do something challenging such as a puzzle or a quiz we can burn through 1.5 calories every minute.'
The brain is made up of millions of nerve cells called neurons which transmit messages to the body, he explained.

Neurons produce chemicals called neurotransmitters to relay their signals.

These neurons extract three-quarters of sugar glucose, available calories and a fifth of oxygen from the blood to create neurotransmitters.

So doing difficult crosswords or challenging Sudokus means your brain will crave more glucose and more calories too, added Mr Forrester.

This means that if you spent two hours doing puzzles, you would have used 180 calories - which is more than are contained in a creme egg (173) or a bag of Hula Hoops (175), and only slightly less than in a pint of beer (182).

A British Dietetic Association spokesman said: 'When thinking hard, the brain needs to get its energy from somewhere. It can get this energy from burning calories.

'The brain is like any other body part - if you are working it hard, it will need more calories to work well.'
But it is clearly not possible to think yourself thinner. This is because although the brain uses a lot of energy, it does not use fat to do so.

Unlike sugars, fat molecules cannot be broken down into glucose.

The amount of energy used by thinking is a very small percentage of the total energy used in the brain, which is constantly using energy to function, experts warn.

So if you want to lose weight, you will still need to exercise and eat healthily.

Last year it emerged that millions of people use Sudoku to improve their maths skills after being turned off the subject by dumbed-down teaching at school.

Many gave up after GCSE because lessons were too unchallenging, a study showed.

This 'lost' generation discovered an interest and ability in the subject through logic puzzles.

Although you do not need to be good at maths to do Sudoku, the grids demand logical thinking which underpins maths, added researchers at Reform think tank.

Nov 18, 2009

Let's Talk: Hooked on Sudoku

Davis Borucki has a thing for numbers.

The 15-year-old Richland Northeast High School student recently won the Intermediate Division of the Philadelphia Inquirer National Sudoku Championship, topping more than 500 competitors. The competition included three rounds, each featuring three puzzles, and competitors were rated on accuracy and speed.
Borucki plans to compete in the advanced division in April and hopes to compete internationally next year.

lets talk sudoku davis borucki
Why Sudoku?

Borucki: "I do Sudoku in addition to doing other things like watch TV and play video games. However, I prefer doing Sudoku when I can, because it is something I can do anywhere as opposed to watching TV or playing video games, which I need a TV or a game console to do. Sudoku also helps keep my brain active."
How often do you do Sudoku?

Borucki: "I try to do one Sudoku puzzle a day at least. I'm usually busy with homework from school or extracurricular activities, but I try to squeeze in a puzzle at least once a day because it is something I enjoy doing and it gets rid of stress."

When did you start playing?

Borucki: "I started playing Sudoku in eighth grade around November, when my math teacher gave me one as an extra credit assignment. I caught on quickly and became hooked on them. My first Sudoku competition was the second annual National Sudoku Championship in October 2008."

How did it feel to win the Sudoku tournament in Philadelphia?

Borucki: "I was really happy when I won my award. I had been practicing Sudoku a lot and had improved a lot from last year, so I was hoping that I would make it to the final round. I knew a lot of good competition would be at the contest, so I didn't come 100 percent certain I would win. I had a bunch of friends back home supporting me, which helped inspire me to do my best."

Any tips for beginners?

Borucki: "I would recommend that beginners start out on easy puzzles. If they are having trouble on a puzzle, they should try writing in all the possible solutions in the square, and then eliminating from there. Once they get better, they can either try to come up with more advanced strategies to solve them, or they can look up strategies online. I personally prefer coming up with them myself, because coming up with a new solution myself helps me use it faster and recognize it easier while working the puzzle."

Do you have any Sudoku heroes?

Borucki: "My Sudoku hero is Will Shortz. His puzzle books were the first ones I used ... Sometimes I will find errors in books by other authors, where a puzzle is either impossible to solve or has more than one answer, but in his (Shortz) books, there is always one answer. He hosts the National Sudoku Championship, so I enjoy being able to compete in the contest and getting to see him."

By Kevin Walker, Special to The State

Nov 16, 2009

Competing by the numbers

By Marissa Lyman
November 09, 2009


DOWNTOWN — Tammy McLeod has always been a little competitive.

Just months after picking up ballroom dancing, McLeod, 32, was already training to compete. After a venture into scuba diving, McLeod took more and more classes until she became a certified rescue diver. And most recently? McLeod turned her interest in Sudoku — everyone's favorite time-passing numbers game — into a national championship title.

"I sometimes find it hard to do things just for the sake of doing," McLeod, who works for Google in Santa Monica, said. "If there's a competitive aspect involved, it makes it that much more exciting."

McLeod got serious about Sudoku less than three years ago while she was traveling on business. Though she had tried the game before, this time she really got hooked. Within a few months, McLeod had entered herself in the National Sudoku Championship.

"It's open to everybody, which is why I decided to just try it," McLeod said. "I said, 'Hey, why not.'"

A few qualifying rounds later, that "Hey, why not" turned into a second place win.

A year later in 2008, McLeod returned to the competition to place third, and this year, in Philadelphia, at the end of October, McLeod beat the two-time world Sudoku champion to snatch first.

"Surprise is really the biggest emotion I've been feeling," McLeod said of winning the title. "I was just happy to be in the finals."

Having completed her puzzle flawlessly in 7 minutes and 41 seconds, McLeod earned herself a $10,000 prize, an iPod, a trophy and a spot on the U.S. Sudoku team. She will compete in the World Sudoku Championship back in Philadelphia in April.

Despite having three major Sudoku competitions under her belt, McLeod still gets nervous.

"When I'm up there I have to focus to try to get all the nervousness out," McLeod, who has also participated in math and chess tournaments, said. "I just pay attention to nothing else but the paper in front of me, and that's how I get through it."

This focus is impressive, considering McLeod has two very important things on her mind: her husband of three years and her 14-month-old daughter who both traveled to Philadelphia to cheer her on.

"My husband is very supportive," McLeod said. "It's very difficult and a lot of work to travel with a young child."

Originally from Singapore, McLeod has done a fair amount of traveling herself.

The programmer for Google's Picasa Web Albums moved to the U.S. as a student to attend MIT. From there, she was drawn to the West Coast, where the winters weren't quite so harsh and the climate reminded her more of home.

"I go back every one or two years," McLeod said of Singapore. "In September, I brought the baby back to visit her grandparents. It's hard, but every time I move I have a good reason for it ... Moving is just something that needs to be done."

McLeod's has moved extensively around Southern California as well, having lived everywhere from San Diego to Orange County. Now working for Google, McLeod started her family just beyond the city's borders, living on Santa Monica Boulevard in West L.A.

"I'm comfortable there because there's so many people from all the world living in the area. I'm not out of place," McLeod said. "I guess cosmopolitan is good word for that. I can be part of this city even though I haven't been there all that long."

McLeod also feels it's good to have finally settled.

"I've lived in many, many places," McLeod said. "Staying in one place feels good."

Having been in the Santa Monica area for four years now, McLeod says she loves both the feeling of acceptance and the historic Santa Monica Pier. Though work and parenting don't give her much time on her own, McLeod enjoys focusing on the baby and family field trips on the weekends.

"We might bring her to one of the parks ... We might go to the zoo in L.A. [or] bring her to the Farmers' Market," McLeod said. "We bring her out and about to eat stuff, do things."

Keeping up with the busy life of a parent, McLeod is thankful that Sudoku is something she can pick up even while she's looking after her daughter. About a month or two before a competition, McLeod begins to practice Sudoku every day. Some of her other hobbies, however, will have to wait until the baby is a little older.

"To go on a trip to dive, I need 5 or 6 hours. For dancing, I need to practice and take lessons," McLeod said. "I can't right now, [but] I plan to go back in a few years."

Until then, McLeod will continue Sudoku. She says she never plans on starting another activity until she stumbles across something new that piques her interest. In this way, McLeod can feed her competitive appetite and watch herself improve.

"When I do puzzles, I like to time myself. I have a way of seeing my progress, of different ways to measure my own ability," McLeod said. "I think that I like being able to compare [myself] to other people or compare myself to myself to see my own improvement."

Nov 15, 2009

Brand New Puzzle, the OCTO, Challenges Sudoku

ARLINGTON, Va., Nov. 9, 2009 — Doug Gardner, a government computer security specialist from Arlington, Virginia, has invented a new mathematical logic puzzle intended to challenge Sudoku’s reign as America’s paper puzzle of choice. The new patent-pending puzzle, called the OCTO, expands on Sudoku by introducing several new elements, including an octagonal grid, diagonal lines of non-repeating numbers, and summed number clues. The OCTO puzzle’s unique structure and additional clues increase the variety of techniques available to the solver, making an OCTO puzzle a richer puzzle experience relative to Sudoku. OCTO puzzles can also be created with variable difficulty, depending on how many numbers are initially provided as clues.

OCTO puzzles are available regularly in a half-dozen major university newspapers, with a total weekly circulation of over 100,000. Three books of OCTO puzzles have been published and are available online. The first two books, “OCTO Unleashed” and “OCTO Reloaded,” include OCTO puzzles in the full range of difficulty, from Easy to Very Hard. The latest book, “OCTO Genesis,” includes only Easy and Medium OCTO puzzles.

Doug Gardner, the inventor of the OCTO puzzle, is a self-proclaimed life-long puzzle fanatic. He developed the OCTO puzzle in a deliberate attempt to combine and improve on two different puzzles he enjoys. “I was getting bored with Sudoku puzzles and I really enjoy the crossword puzzle-like number game called Kakuro. I thought it would be great if I could combine the two puzzles into a single puzzle that required techniques from both. It turns out, octagons were the key.”

OCTO Puzzle Home Page

Nov 13, 2009

World's great puzzlers convene in Antalya

The 18th edition of the World Puzzle Championship (WPC) kicked off yesterday (3 November 2009) no in Antalya with an opening ceremony held at the Delphin Diva Premiere Hotel. Gathering “bright minds and free souls from around the globe,” the championship will pit puzzle-solving teams and individuals against each other in language and culture-neutral games including balance puzzles, Battleship, nonograms and Sudoku.

The championship includes many fun activities and side events such as a WPC soccer game, visits to historical and natural sites and parties.

Turkey’s Mehmet Murat Sevim took second place in individual scores at last year’s championship, which was held in Minsk. This year he will aim to win the championship on home turf. The Turkish team is rounded out by captain Salih Alan, Murat Koz, Taner Karabulut and Aziz Ateş. Japan’s Sudoku master Tetsuya Nishio, German six-time individual WPC champion at the Ulrich Voigt, and the world’s only female and first-ever international Sudoku champion Czech Jana Tylova are among those expected to compete at the event.

Famous American puzzlemaster Will Shortz, who was the organizer of the first WPC and is a board member of the World Puzzle Federation, is expected to observe the festivities.

The championship -- supported by the Mediterranean Tourist Hoteliers Union (AKTOB), TUI Travel, the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality, dried fruit and nut company Tadım, T-Box and Keypad Sistem -- will host around 200 competitors from 27 countries, including puzzlers from Greece, Israel and Luxembourg, who will be competing at the WPC for the first time. The championship will run through Nov. 8.

04 November 2009, Wednesday

Officials unfreeze some Sudoku Championship prizes

Officials of the 2009 Philadelphia Inquirer National Sudoku Championship have decided to unfreeze the top awards in the beginning and intermediate categories of last weekend's competition.But awards in the advanced category, frozen since Monday, stay frozen, pending investigation of irregularities.
Jay Devine, tournament spokesperson, said that director Will Shortz and judging director Nick Baxter had "decided to release the checks to the winners in the beginner and intermediate categories based on the review" but that they are "still examining some of the information and facts" regarding the advanced results.
The mystery of third-place finisher Eugene Varshavsky deepens, as a trail of bogus information and dead ends gets longer. Calls proliferate from the Sudoku community for changes to the rules and regulations for next year.
Tammy McLeod, first-place winner, said the $10,000 prize "wasn't the most important issue - the title is the real prize."
Speaking by phone from her job with Google in Santa Monica, Calif., she said she was shocked at reports of cheating: "It may seem naïve, but in the Sudoku community, there's a belief that, in such an intellectual community, people are more likely to be honorable. . . . And why would someone cheat - wouldn't that undermine the intellectual achievement of it?"
She said organizers have informed her only that the top prizes were being held. She had been unaware of Varshavsky in the final round, she said, although she was sharing a stage with him and second-place finisher Thomas Snyder: "I didn't know about all the confusion until my husband told me [Varshavsky] had hardly touched the board" in the final round.
No charges have been filed, and the word cheating has not appeared in any official announcements. But interest stays focused squarely on Varshavsky, whose dress, demeanor and performance were subjects of discussion later among both players and organizers.
Varshavsky walked in on Saturday, in the middle of the competition, did well enough to place among the top three advanced solvers - and then unaccountably did almost nothing in the final, championship round. He gave his residence as Lawrenceville, N.J., but no one by that name is listed in the town, and efforts to discover his actual residence have turned up a trail of dead ends.
A LexisNexis search revealed that a Eugene Varshavsky in 2007 had given his residence as an address in Ewing, not far from Lawrenceville. But that address leads only to HB Machines, where proprietors said they knew of no such person.
Sign-up sheets at the tourney asked applicants for name, street address, phone and e-mail. A W-9 tax form was required in the case of larger cash winnings, including name, Social Security number, and citizenship. The last is relevant because top winners who are U.S. citizens join the U.S. team for the 2010 World Championships, to be held in Philadelphia in April.
A person by the name of Eugene Varshavsky was questioned by officials about possible irregularities at the 2006 World Open of chess, also held in Philadelphia. There is a history of electronic cheating in chess tournaments, but tournament director Will Shortz says that cheating is unknown in Sudoku tourneys.
McLeod said that Snyder's blog "The Art of Puzzles" was instrumental in alerting the Sudoku community to Saturday's incident. "A lot of the top solvers know one another around the world," she said. "That communuity is very close. Once he published it there, the top solvers were well aware of it."
Snyder writes in his blog that organizers should have considered banning "cell phones or electronic devices." Unlike at some other tournaments, competitors were allowed to use such devices at the Inquirer event.
Snyder also writes that "it's certainly worth reviewing everything because this championship's integrity, and this host's integrity for next year's [World Sudoku Championships] is really at stake to me. [The investigation] at least shows the organizers are taking things seriously." Snyder writes further that "not rewarding someone who gamed the system is a good start."

Oct 28, 2009

First In Chess, Now Sudoku; 'Eugene Varshavsky' Focus Of Cheating Allegations

By Mark Memmott

Any chess or sudoku players out there know a Eugene Varshavsky, who may or may not be from Lawrenceville, N.J.?

We ask because, as the Philadelphia Inquirer reports today, somebody by that name is being investigated for possible cheating at Saturday's Philadelphia Inquirer National Sudoku Championship. "Varshavsky" came in third, winning $3,000. The winner, Tammy McLeod, took home $10,000.

Too coincidentally, back in 2006 a "Eugene Varshavsky" drew officials' suspicions at the World Open chess championship in Philadelphia, as The New York Times reported at the time.

In both cases, there's a fear that the person might have had some sort of electronic device through which he was getting help:

At the chess tournament, "Varshavsky" defeated a far higher-rated opponent with moves that matched those that a computer program would have suggested. Before he could be searched, he disappeared into a bathroom stall for about 10 minutes.

At this past weekend's sudoku tournament, "Varshavsky" "blazed through the second round in world-class time," the Inquirer says, but then couldn't figure out the "easy first steps in the championship puzzle." He's described in the Inquirer, by the way, only as "playing in a hooded sweatshirt."

Among those who will be leading the investigation is Weekend Edition puzzle master Will Shortz. He and other tournament officials will be looking at videos, photos and "Varshavsky"'s completed puzzles.

We've added the quotation marks around the name because it's not entirely clear the person is who he says he is -- or even that it was the same person in both cases.

By the way, we contacted the only Eugene Varshavsky with a Philadelphia-area phone listing. The man who answered said he is a Eugene Varshavsky, but not the sudoku-chess mystery man. "I don't know who this guy is," he added.

So, with these clues -- anybody out there able to help figure out who this is?

Oct 26, 2009

Google programmer wins Sudoku title, after champ stumbles

For more than three whole minutes, Thomas Snyder - twice a world Sudoku champion - sat contentedly on the floor of a Convention Center stage today after he'd finished the final puzzle at the Philadelphia Inquirer National Sudoku Championship. It was the high-voltage $10,000 final round.
Behind him stood a large board with a tough advanced Sudoku puzzle he'd completed in a breakneck 4 minutes, 14 seconds. He looked relieved as his two competitors still worked to complete their boards, with the same puzzle. The next to finish was Tammy McLeod.
And that was when the numbers came crashing down, you could say, on Thomas Snyder.
He'd begun to walk over to congratulate McLeod on coming in second - a $4,000 award - when his board caught his eye. And there it was.
Two sixes in one column. You can't have two sixes in a column in Sudoku, a logic game you complete by filling numbers into blank squares. In a column, you can have the numbers one through nine.
And once.
Instead of congratulating McLeod for placing second, Snyder motioned to his Sudoku board to show that her (also impressive) speed of 7:41 made her this year's national Sudoku champion. In all, three boxes - or cells, as players call them - of his puzzle were incorrect.
McLeod was flabbergasted. Even through the soundproofing earphones the finalists wore as they worked, she'd heard the audience applaud Snyder. She was shooting for second - the position she'd won in the advanced-player final here two years ago. Last year, she came in third.
"I'm a little stunned," said McLeod, 32, a programmer for Google in Los Angeles.
Unlike several competitors today, McLeod does not travel the world playing Sudoku for pots of puzzle gold. "The only competition I've ever done is this competition," she said. Today's was the third annual championship sponsored by The Inquirer.
She'll receive $10,000, an iPod, and a seat on the United States team at the World Sudoku Championship, which will convene in April for the first time in its five-year history in the United States - in Philadelphia.
McLeod's generally high-flight performance slowed at one point, until she noticed empty cells she could fill instantly with the right numbers.
"When you play on a big board, it's hard to see the entire board when you're standing in front of it," said the diminutive McLeod, whose husband and 18-month-old daughter were watching from the audience. "But I wasn't stressed by it."
Indeed, not. Once she dispatched those little boxes, McLeod ripped through the puzzle. (Sharpen your pencils. The final-round Sudoku puzzles in the advanced, intermediate, and beginner categories will be published in the Nov. 1 Sunday Inquirer.)
As for Snyder: "I admit I had three minutes to check all the cells. What I checked was just whether all the cells were filled in. It was a mark of hubris."
Coming in third was Eugene Varshavsky of Lawrenceville, N.J., who registered as a walk-up contestant this morning. He received $3,000.
In cavernous Hall B of the Convention Center, 646 contestants went after $25,000 in prizes, and 183 spectators solved the puzzles for fun. The event is billed as America's largest puzzle championship because of the number of players it draws in daylong timed competitions.
At the end of all the puzzle-solving, Brian P. Tierney, chief executive officer of Philadelphia Media Holdings, owner of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and, unveiled a sign heralding the world competition here next year - an event he had sought along with Will Shortz, the New York Times puzzle editor and National Public Radio puzzle master. Shortz hosts the National Sudoku Championship.
Contestants sat at long tables for the different skills divisions. The largest number competed in the beginner category - 323 at red-clothed tables. White-clothed tables were for 254 intermediate players, and black for 69 advanced contestants. The spectators sat to the rear and sides, just at the outside of the contestant tables.
In each of three elimination rounds, the contestants were asked to complete three puzzles at their levels within a half-hour. After a lunch break they vied in age categories and by the towns of residence.
Most were from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and the farthest one traveled was from British Columbia. Many were repeats from the last two years.
All were attempting to fill in the boxes of the numbers puzzle that, according to an Inquirer survey, is the nation's most popular. Upward of 170 million Americans have played it.
The object of the game, which employs logic but requires no math skill other than the ability to count from one through nine, is to fill in all 81 squares in a grid divided into nine three-by-three boxes.
Each row, column, and box must contain every digit from one through nine. Between 17 and 33 squares are already filled with a number in each puzzle, and players determine what to place in the rest of the cells to complete it.
"I was in the intermediate level last year, and I was totally skunked, so I am in the beginner this year," said Richard Weishaupt, a lawyer from Chestnut Hill, who noted that the puzzles were different when your play is timed.
"Welcome to my world," agreed Patricia Schmieg, a Council Rock High School South math teacher who'd overheard him as the competition began. "I'm methodical. The clock was ticking and I felt the pressure, and it blew my process." She was back, though, for more.
The youngest player was Jack Neumann, 8, of Chalfont. (He was the youngest last year, too.) The oldest was Edward Radbill, 93, a Philadelphian who's been playing two years.
Twelve-year-old Kevin Cunningham's entire family, from Havertown - a twin sister, a younger one, and his parents - were there to cheer him on with signs. Robert Borucki, a physician from South Carolina, competed, and so did his 15-year-old son, Davis, who walked off with a first-place $3,000 in the intermediate finals.
"I learned first," the elder Borucki said. "But he learned fast."

National Sudoku Championship 2009

Oct 23, 2009


Join us Saturday for the competition!
The 2009 Philadelphia Inquirer Sudoku National Championship will take place this Saturday, Oct. 24th, 2009 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pa. The largest puzzle championship in the U.S. returns for its third year with even more chances to win! $25,000 in cash prizes will be awarded, and an opportunity to represent the United States at the 2010 World Sudoku Championship in Philadelphia. The championship is open to all ages and all skill levels, so join us and puzzle master, Will Shortz, for this exciting competition!

The Prizes
  • $25,000 in total cash prizes.
  • Top winner of each level will receive an iPod Touch, courtesy of Hudson Entertainment!
  • First place - $10,000
  • Second place - $4,000
  • Third place - $3,000
  • First place - $3,000
  • Second place - $2,000
  • Third place - $1,500
  • First place - $1,000
  • Second place - $500
  • Third place - $300
Age Categories - $50
 10 years and under, 11-12 years, 13-14, 15-16, 17-18, 19-20, 21-23, 24-26, 27-29, 30-32, 33-35, 36-38, 39-41, 42-44, 45-47, 48-50, 51-53, 54-56, 57-59, 60-62, 63-65, 66-68, 69-71, 72-74, 75-77, 78-80, and 81 and older.

Oct 22, 2009

Video shows bus driver working puzzle

VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- A Canadian bus driver faced possible discipline Wednesday after a passenger took a video of him allegedly doing a Sudoku puzzle while driving.
The unidentified employee of the Coast Mountain Bus Co., which operates municipal routes in Surrey was driving a bus Monday afternoon when passenger Gordon McDonald allegedly used his cell phone to record his actions.
"I can understand if you're driving and eating something, but we're talking about someone doing a complex numerical puzzle and trying to drive," McDonald told CTV News.
McDonald said he rides that route once a week and claims he saw the same driver reading last week as he drove through a heavy rain storm.
He said he posted his concerns on the regional transit authority's Web site and also uploaded the video to the YouTube online video sharing site.
Coast Mountain spokesman Derek Zabel told CTV he couldn't comment on what the company's plans were for the driver involved.

Oct 15, 2009

Think About The History Of Sudoku

Hailed as the Rubiks Cube of the 21st century, Sudoku is the current rage among number puzzles. It may sound surreal but at an age where bubblegum pop music has successfully reinvented itself as punk rock through the likes of Avril Lavigne and Simple Plan, a puzzle and a number puzzle at that is able to establish itself as a global phenomenon. Sudoku, which is sometimes spelled as Su Doku, is pronounced as soo-doe-koo. It is an abbreviation of the Japanese phrase suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru which means the digits must remain single. Most people are under the wrong impression that sudoku is of Japanese origin when the only thing Japanese about sudoku is the word sudoku.

Nikoli Publishing House Nikoli is the publisher of the leading Japanese puzzle publication Monthly Nikolist. The think tanks of Nikoli noticed an interesting number puzzle called The Number Place published by their American counterparts, Dell Puzzle Magazines. Sudoku made its debut on the pages of Monthly Nikolist in April of the year 1984. It was initially christened Suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru by Kaji Maki, Nikolis incumbent president at that time. The maiden issue of Sudoku enjoyed modest success. Its success is due in large part to the fact that the Japanese people are inherently puzzle-crazy.

It was not until two significant developments occurred that the puzzle began to really catch fire. First, the name suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru was shortened to sudoku which was easier to remember and to market. Second, Nikoli modified the game by introducing two new rules in 1986: the digits of are to be arranged symmetrically; and the given numbers are not to exceed 30 digits. As of today, there are at least five publishing companies that print monthly magazines solely devoted to the game in Japan. Sudoku is, for all intents and purposes, a brand name; it is not the generic name of the game. It is a lawfully registered mark of the Nikoli Company in Japan. This means that the other publishers of the game in Japan are legally obligated to provide their own brand names for their versions of the popular number puzzle.

Made in Manhattan According to urban legends, sudoku was created by a team of puzzle creators from New York. Another version of the story credits a certain Howard Gerns, a retired architect and puzzle enthusiast, as the true father of the modern sudoku. Although the legends conflict and give credit to different inventors, they coincide on two important details:
Sudoku was first published in 1979 by Dell Puzzle Magazines under the title The Number Place; and
Gerns and the team of puzzle creators were both inspired by the Latin Square of Leonhard Euler. Sudoku: The Old Testament Leonhard Euler, a Swiss mathematician, presented a paper entitled De Quadratis Magicis before the St. Petersburg Academy in 1776. Euler demonstrated that a magic square can be created through the use of 9, 16, 25 or 36 cells. He imposed conditions on the value of his number variables to bring about the creation of his magic square. His magic square evolved into the Latin square in his later papers.

The versions of Gerns and the team of puzzlers differ from Euler in two ways: First, Eulers Latin square does not have a regional restriction; and Second, Euler neither created nor did he intend to create a puzzle. On the other hand, Gerns and the team saw the potential of a hit puzzle in Eulers works and proceeded to create the grandfather of modern day sudoki with this specific frame of mind. No Fools Gould Wayne Gould, a retired judge based in Hong Kong, chanced upon a sudoku puzzle in a Tokyo bookstore in 1997; Gould could not help but gravitate towards the blank squares of the puzzle. He felt compelled to create a digital version of the puzzle and worked on the sudoku computer program from 1997 to 2003.

In 2004, he found himself pitching an unknown puzzle called Su Doku to The Times of Britain. The results were overwhelming; within a few days, other newspapers began printing their own versions of the game. The popularity of the game snowballed and spilled over to Australia and New Zealand. By 2005, it had earned the moniker the fastest growing puzzle in the world. What Goes Around, Comes Around American newspapers caught wind of the sensation created by sudoku in Britain and the rest of the world, and found themselves jumping on the sudoku bandwagon. The New York Post published its own version of sudoku in April of 2005; this marked the homecoming and belated public acceptance of a New York native who went unnoticed in its own backyard since its birth for more than 20 years.

Within a few days sudoku made its presence felt throughout the country when major dailies such as USA Today and The Daily News began replacing their usual crosswords with the number game. The appeal of modern sudoku appears to be infinite and without boundaries. As a number puzzle, it does not make use of letters from any particular language; thus easily dispensing with the language barrier factor. Publications numbering in hundreds of thousands, from magazines to newspapers and digests, solely devoted to the game are testaments to the puzzles popularity and profitability. The numerous websites that offer digital versions of the game, for free or for fee, guarantees the games continuous development and improvement; it also provides a platform most accessible to the younger population.

Sudoku has even gone mobile as companies race to create sudoku games specifically for mobile phone users. Sudoku is a game of logic that challenges the young and old alike. In fact, studies on the mental benefits of regularly playing sudoku have been conducted; and the results have been positive so far. From the fastest growing puzzle in the world, sudoku has evolved into the most contagious puzzle virus the world has seen in years. Go and play sudoku.
 trinity services009

Oct 14, 2009

Kitty Spangles Sudoku puzzle game debuts for Mac

Swoop Software has announced Kitty Spangles Sudoku, a new game for Mac OS X that adds a unique style to the standard Sudoku puzzle game. It features a variety of animated themes that users can switch through, four different difficulty settings to try, and an endless amount of different Sudoku puzzles. The game comes with a built-in puzzle editor which enables players to design and create their own Sudoku board, or to copy a puzzle into the game from either a newspaper, book or website.
To help users deal with the increasing difficultly levels, the game also provides a series of tools such as undo and redo functions, pencil marks, in-game instructions and a few ways to cheat. When playing through the puzzles, the game keeps track of statistics including how many games were played, how many were won, and the length of winning streaks. All scores can be compared with other players, and each puzzle can be printed off or saved as a PDF file for sharing.

Kitty Spangles Sudoku requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher and can be purchased for $20. A bundle pack combining the new Sudoku game with Kitty Spangles Solitaire is also available for $35.


Oct 12, 2009

4th Philippine Sudoku Super Challenge regional eliminations at SM Supermalls

BALIUAG, Bulacan—The country’s Sudoku pros, otherwise known as masters, can now a have a chance to compete with the reigning champion, John Robert Valcos, by joining the regional eliminations of the 4th Sudoku Super Challenge scheduled on October 17.
Valcos, a college student at the Saint Mary’s College in Baliuag, was declared winner at the 3rd Brands Sudoku Thailand International Open 2009 held at the Central World, Bangkok, Thailand, on April 18 and 19 this year, three months after winning the national finals.
Marilene Ramos, a math coordinator of the Mathematics Trainers’ Guild Philippines (MTG-Phil) in Bulacan, acted as Valcos’s coach and trainer at the Sudoku competition.
Valcos earlier won the National Sudoku Challenge, organized by MTG-Phil with the BusinessMirror, in cooperation with SM Supermalls, in January this year.
The first runner-up to Valcos was Pangasinan high-school student Sara Jane Cua, who won last year’s First Brands Asia-Pacific Sudoku Challenge.
Regionals in 10 SM malls
Meanwhile, Bev Cruz, information officer of SM City Baliwag, explained that the 4th  Sudoku Super Challenge regional eliminations is set to take place in 10 SM Supermall branches on October 17.
The event will bring together Sudoku enthusiasts from different regions across the country. 
Cruz said the contest will simultaneously take place in SM Baliwag, SM Batangas City, SM Baguio, SM Pampanga, SM Dasmariñas, SM Lucena, SM Cagayan de Oro, SM Iloilo, SM Bacolod and SM Cebu.
Cruz added that the three-part elimination stage includes the Sudoku Whiz Kid for elementary level, Sudoku Wizard for secondary level and the Sudoku Grand Master tertiary and professional level.
Regional qualifiers will then compete in the Sudoku National Finals to be held at the Skydome of SM City North Edsa on January 30, 2010.
Cruz said at least 20 original Sudoku Puzzles answered correctly and published from the BusinessMirror’s July 14 issue onwards are needed to qualify for the regional eliminations.
Deadline of entries is on October 12. Interested parties may contact MTG’s Joyette Perez at 0928-6312146; interested Bulacan Sudoku enthusiasts may contact Marilene Ramos at (044) 766-2265 and at 0917-8659499. 

Oct 8, 2009

Made Up Phenomenon: Does sudoku make you fat?

Recent headlines claimed that doing puzzles such as sudoku and crosswords can make you fat - but Radio 5 live's Donal MacIntyre programme smelled a rat.
Donal MacIntyre and Hannah Barnes asked the Canadian academic who led the reported research, Dr Kathleen Martin Ginis, whether the unexpected link between brain teasers and weight was genuine, or was it just another Made Up Phenomenon?
Donal MacIntyre was broadcast on BBC Radio 5 live on Sunday 4 October 2009 at 1930 BST. Or download the free podcast.

Oct 6, 2009

Health Watch: Essential tips for keeping your mind sharp

Most people focus on the physical changes that happen as you age - muscles don't bounce back the way they used to, hair becomes gray, and skin begins to wrinkle. But we often pass over one area that really deserves our attention: the brain. Not only can a healthy and active brain help you ward off disease, it can also help you live a more satisfying life.

There are many ways to keep your mind active and sharp at any age:

1. Brain workouts: Engage your brain daily. Working with numbers is a great option. Try Sudoku, a numbers game using grids that has become very popular in the United States. If numbers don't appeal to you, quiz yourself about historical events and check your accuracy. Crossword puzzles and word finds are practical and affordable options as well.

2. Travel and explore: Stimulating your mind with travel and learning experiences is a great brain-health activity. Travel agencies devise all-inclusive programs that can give you behind-the-scenes access to interesting places.

3. Read whatever you can: Books, newspapers and magazines -- reading is a great way to keep your brain active and mind sharp. Plus, depending on what interests you, you might be able to learn something new. Visit your local library for a free resource to just about any literary work you're interested in.

4. Have quality conversation daily: Engaging in social activity is a great way to keep your brain active, plus it increases quality of life. See if there is a community group of your peers that you could join - card club, book club, Rotary. Or, start volunteering for a cause that interests you.

5. Learn something new: You're never too old or too young to learn something new. Try taking an affordable community education class or look for free opportunities in your neighborhood. Learn to play an instrument, speak a new language, plant a garden or start a new hobby. You might be surprised with how much fun you have.

6. Switch up your routine: A good way to keep your mind sharp is to change up your routine. Try opposite-hand exercises like brushing your hair or teeth with the hand you don't usually use or opening the door with your left hand instead of your right.

7. Get physically active: Moving your body and staying physically active can help with cognitive health. Physical movement increases blood flow to the brain and the act of walking, swimming, biking, etc., helps work the brain as it communicates with the body to move.

-- ARA
Norwich Bulletin

Oct 2, 2009

Puzzled on the R3

Some morning commuters on SEPTA's R3 train had a "puzzling" start to their daily trip today beyond the regular challenge of guessing where everyone would sit.

At Elwyn station, Will Shortz, puzzle editor of the New York Times, boarded what was billed the Puzzle Car and passengers were given Sudoku puzzles and pencils.

Then the challenge was on with Shortz helping first time Sudoku solvers, explaining the rules and offering tips.

The event promoted the third annual Sudoku National Championship, sponsored by the Inquirer, and hosted by Shortz.

The championship will take place Oct. 24 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, and offers a wide variety of categories so nearly anyone can enter the competition. The grand prize for the winner in the advanced category is $10,000.

On the R3, many passengers quietly solved Sudoku puzzles to pass time during their regular morning commute. Some were first-time solvers.

"I've never been a fan of numbers, but I'll give it a try," said Anne Marciano, a regular R3 commuter.
"It's something different to do on the train," said Diane Byre, another R3 regular. "Our usual game is guessing where people are going to sit."

In addition to R3 riders, SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey was on board. He participated in a Sudoku challenge - a giant, one-star level puzzle he quickly completed in a few minutes. A passenger then challenged Casey to a three-star puzzle, which he also completed.

The puzzling trip ended at Suburban Station, where Casey, Shortz and Inquirer and Daily News publisher Brian Tierney addressed members of the media and SEPTA commuters.

Tierney expressed his excitement about the national tournament, stating that over 700 people have already pre-registered. Currently, the oldest entrant is 94-years-old. The youngest? Only four.
For more information on the Sudoku National Championship or to learn how to register, visit

Sep 30, 2009

Youth triumphs over experience at the Times' National Su Doku Championship

The ballpoint pens were ready, the clock carefully set and the desks manouevred into lines as parallel as the puzzle grids upon them. Outside the hall, contestants sipped their tea nervously, picking at plates of custard creams.

But on Saturday, entrants of the Times 5th National Su Doku Championship were keen to emphasise that the only real squares in the building were the ones they were about to fill.

“I’m proud to be a geek,” said Andrew Hartley, 37, a first-time contestant. “I don’t mind the stereotype.”
More than 100 amateur logicians were shortlisted for this year’s championship, out of a record 770 entrants. To qualify for the final, competitors had to fill out four fiendish Su Doku grids in an hour’s session and were then ranked by speed. Once completed, sheets were held in the air, checked for accuracy and points deducted for errors. After two rounds, the final eight sat the afternoon’s grand finals at the Institute of Education in London.

Each had their own method — pencilling numbers in the corner, filling in lines, squares, or all of the above. King of the grids this year was Tom Collyer, 23, who stole the title, cup and £1,000 prize money from Nina Pell, 22, the reigning champion. They now share the distinction of being the only players to win the national championships twice. Their methods are polar opposite but their rivalry as fiendish as the puzzles — Su Doku can be a hare and tortoise race.

Mr Collyer, a maths PhD student from Coventry, admits that hubris has tripped him up more than once in a competition.

“More haste less speed,” said Mr Collyer, who can fill a grid a minute and is ranked 26th in the world.
Ms Pell, a Sheffield maths graduate, is known instead for her steady consistency and accuracy. “I’m not sure I even like it that much,” she said. “It’s just habit.”

An addiction, however, that means she can finish a super-fiendish Su Doku in 13 minutes. An easy one can be polished off “as quickly as it takes me to write the numbers”.

Mike Colloby, 51, a design engineer from Gunnislake, Cornwall, had been seeking to steal the trophy from the youngsters. Since returning from the World Championships in Slovakia in April, he had trained for three hours a day. “If you practise a lot you can do it subconsciously. The numbers just come to you,” said Mr Colloby. “The World Championships are held over three days,” he added. “But this is do-or-die.” Yet his determination was in vain. Thomas Drake, from Wokingham in Berkshire and the former youth runner-up, and Abigail Vallis, from Birmingham, both 18 years old, came in second and third respectively.

But the greatest controversy of the day was the accidentally conjoined puzzle sheets that caused Ms Pell to fill out one too many grids, costing her time and, at 28 minutes, landing her in fourth place.

Instead, the hare crossed the finish line first: Mr Collyer took 17 minutes to arrange 324 fiendish numbers into four Su Doku grids. The next-best time was barely 30 seconds behind.

“They were noticeably harder this year but that plays to me,” said Mr Collyer. “There was a point at which I was stuck but my guessing technique is shambolic. So I didn’t guess.”

He says he may spend the prize money on entering the US Championships in Philadelphia at the end of next month but in the meantime he is going to take a break.

But what will the Su Doku champion do without puzzles?

“Get things done,” said Mr Collyer.

Now the championship is over he can put the quiz books away and make a start on those chores.

Tmes Online

Sudoku is good for you, cancer patients learn

Anyone who has tried and succeeded at the popular number placement game of Sudoku also knows that it should come with a surgeon general's warning: Sudoku may be addictive, causing you to lose track of time and to become unaware of your problems as well as your surroundings.

Once you start a Sudoku puzzle, you want but one thing, and that is to get the numerals 1 through 9 in their proper places in that row, that column and that block.

And that's good news, according to Om Johari, a retired IIT scientist who recently presented the merits of Sudoku to a group gathered at the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center in Geneva. LivingWell provides non-medical support services at no charge for people living with cancer.

"Sudoku is popular because you need to know so little to enjoy it," Johari said. "It is not like a crossword puzzle where success might depend upon a strong vocabulary or knowledge of a particular topic. To do Sudoku you only need to know the numbers 1 through 9."

Puzzle workers use logic to place the numerals in the grid so that each appears only once in each column, row and small box. No math is involved.

Johari, of Elk Grove Village, ran an electron microscopy lab at the IIT Research Institute in Chicago, edited and published scientific journals, and is now a volunteer, teaching meditation, laughter and Sudoku strategies at north and west suburban senior centers, libraries, park districts and centers like LivingWell. He was enjoying Sudoku in puzzle books for many years before it appeared in the newspapers and remembers when his grown sons were small that they would do the puzzles as a family.

At the LivingWell center, he told a group about the mental health benefits of Sudoku for everyone, but particularly those living with an illness like cancer:

--It is great exercise for the brain, he said. Although the puzzles vary from easy to very hard, he believes the easy and medium puzzles provide enough of a mental workout. "If you stress yourself over the difficult puzzles, you are missing the relaxation benefits of Sudoku," he said, suggesting that fans try a difficult puzzle once a week. "When you can't do it, just leave it and come back."

--Sudoku teaches patience. "There's no guesswork in Sudoku," said Johari. "If you guess, you're sunk."

--Sudoku relieves stress. "You do Sudoku, and you forget arthritis pain. You forget you are confined to bed. You forget the daily stresses of life," Johari said. "Sudoku lets us put everything else away for those minutes we spend on the puzzle."

--Doing Sudoku helps relieve loneliness: "Sudoku puzzles are solved by oneself at one's own pace," he said. "These puzzles are particularly great when one is confined to bed, at home or at the hospital. All you need is a puzzle and a sharp pencil with a good eraser."

Cancer patient Ann Preuss of West Chicago listened to Johari's presentation and told the others why she likes the game.

"When I was in chemo and taking treatments, Sudoku seemed like the one thing that could make me focus," she said. "It helped me a lot in that way."

If your mind wanders too much during Sudoku it will take you long to complete the puzzle, Johari added. "Eventually you learn to focus, and that helps you to focus in other aspects of your life."

The name Sudoku comes from a Japanese phrase that means "the digits must occur only once." Although it can be simple, it can also be extremely difficult, as puzzle fans know. Johari also taught ways to approach the number puzzle.

"I'm not going home with you," he told the class. "Please feel free to ask a lot of questions."

Joni Mount of Elk Grove Village, facilitator of the Elk Grove Village Multiple Sclerosis Self Help Group, recently asked Johari to present his Sudoku program to her group.

"It is important to note that 50 percent of people with MS suffer from cognitive problems, so exercising our minds is very important," she said. "It is important that people realize they can attempt these puzzles and can learn them. Personally, I know I need to do them regularly because it is kind of a litmus test on how sharp I am."

Mount, who has MS and does about four Sudoku puzzles a week, said she loses her touch if she goes too long without doing them.

"Sudoku looks very intimidating and, to someone with cognitive issues, almost impossible. Om's mild manner and patience served the group well," she said. "He made it less intimidating and gave them confidence."
Chicago Tribune

Sep 28, 2009


THE number’s up for puzzle fans...filling in a Sudoku grid or doing a crossword can be fattening.
Anyone who taxes their brain on word games uses up energy needed to exercise, according to a study.
It explains why some people feel exhausted doing a puzzle even though they have not got out of their chair.
The reason is that willpower is like a muscle and when it is used a lot for one task it may be too tired for another, Canadian researchers reported in the journal Psychology and Health.
Two groups of volunteers were sent for evening gym exercises for eight weeks but one were set a series of mental tests needing ­concentration by day.
They did not exercise as hard, said Professor Kathleen Martin Ginis. She added: “They were more likely to skip their exercise ­sessions. You only have so much willpower.”
But the good news is that you can build it up, such as by listening to music or taking a walk.
Sticking to tasks that require concentration also increases your stamina. The professor said: “Willpower is like a muscle. It needs to be ­challenged to build itself.”

Sep 25, 2009

Fish to pick winner of £675,000 house

A businessman is letting his pet fish choose who will become the new owners of his £675,000 house.
Dave Mackie is running an online Sudoku competition where his luxury home in Lancashire will be given away as a prize.

He has already received thousands of entries around the world, but will let his 'koi' pick the winner from the correct entries.

The insurance broker and puzzle fan plans to install a touch sensitive pad in the pond and when the fish touch it one of the 14,000 entries will be selected.

He hopes this will mean the fish select someone who will look after them when he moves out… though given it is random they are just as likely to end up with a cat lover.
275x250.jpgDave said: "As well as being beautiful and majestic creatures, koi have an aura about them and are very perceptive and sensitive to what is going on around them.

"They are the ideal symbols of love and friendship and I have no doubt they will pick the right winner – someone who will get on with the neighbours and someone who will look after the fish themselves."

275x250.jpgOnce they’ve paid a £50 entry fee, entrants complete an online Sudoku puzzle to receive a place in the prize competition to win the stylish detached home, complete with sauna and steamroom, on Lancashire’s picturesque Fylde coast.

Puzzle fanatic Dave, a director of an insurance broker, has proved that what he is doing complies with UK law as it is a prize competition relying on people’s skill to crack the Sudoku – and not gambling.

Dave, 49, explained: “I think a 14,000-1 chance of winning this house is a great opportunity for someone."

The contest will run up to Feb 1, 2010 – or until Dave has 14,000 entrants, more info is available at



Sep 24, 2009

Tokyo Game Show '09: EA showing off PSP Mini titles, Tetris and Sudoku

The official Playstation Blog has relaeased information that EA is making a big push for the casual market on Sony's PSP Go. The two titles they are showing off at TGS are Tetris and Sudoku, classic standards in mobile gaming fare.
The new PSP Minis collection has been established by Sony to branch out to casual players who desire bite-sized entertainment while on the go. The minis will be what games are on the iTunes app store. These games are small in size and their price will also be easy on the wallet. These games will have their own section in the Playstation Network Store and will launch on October 1, 2009 along with the PSP Go.

Corn maze offers a taste of history

The young and young-at-heart are invited to find their way out of the Fantozzi Farms Corn Maze during its grand opening celebration. In honor of Patterson’s 100th birthday, the first 100 visitors will be admitted free this weekend.

The corn maze, which this year features a Patterson Centennial theme, will be open until the end of October. The maze includes an image of the Center Building and the dates “1909-2009.”

MazePlay, a company that specializes in corn mazes, used a tractor with a global positioning system to get the maze just right — as it has since 2003, when the Fantozzi family first opened the maze.

“I sketched the design for this year’s maze on paper and then sent my sketch to MazePlay,” co-owner Denise Fantozzi said. “MazePlay took my idea and added the lines for the maze paths.

“The Patterson Centennial maze design was meant to incorporate some of the symbols of Patterson, such as the Center Building, the palm trees and the apricots.”

The corn mazes — a large one and a smaller one — cover about 12 acres and include more than 5 miles of paths for adventurers to tread.

A new addition this year is Maze Sudoku. The corn maze tickets are printed with a game grid on the back for customers who wish to play.

The game is similar to the mathematical version of Sudoku, but with shapes instead of numbers. Checkpoints throughout the maze will help customers fill in the grid, and small prizes will be awarded to those who solve the puzzle.

Besides the mazes, there’s a pumpkin patch, hay bale pyramid, hay bale labyrinth, corn seed box, petting zoo, educational displays and a new addition, weekend pig races.

Scary fun is also back this year with the haunted maze Friday and Saturday nights. Two Westley brothers, Jeremy Goubert, 14, and Jordan Goubert, 15, like to help provide spooks and chills in the haunted maze.

“We like it — it’s fun,” Jordan said. “Sometimes we help them out a little bit scaring on weekends. A lot of people go and scare (the customers).”

• Contact Maddy Houk at 892-6187 or
Patterson irrigator

Sep 20, 2009

Rossendale puzzle fan's fight to use home as a prize

A ROSSENDALE businessman and puzzle fanatic has spoken of his nightmare eight-month battle against red tape after finally securing the right to use his £675,000 luxury home as a Sudoku prize.
Dave Mackie, director of CBG Insurance Brokers, Bacup Road, Waterfoot, launched his online competition in January and his website received 50,000 hits from across the world in just two days as his story went around the globe.
However, Mr Mackie said that after 900 people got the Sudoku puzzle correct and paid the £50 entry fee, payment providers PayPal stopped supporting the competition.
The 49-year-old said he then set about an eight month fight to prove his competition complied with UK law as it is a prize competition relying on people’s skill to crack the Sudoku – and not gambling.
He has now re-launched the competition and said he was contacting the 700 prospective entrants who have been in touch with him since the competition was put on hold, as well as the 900 who have already entered, to re-assure them he has now got the green light.
Once they have paid a £50 entry fee, entrants are asked to complete an online Sudoku puzzle.
Mr Mackie said they would then receive a place in the prize competition to win the stylish detached home, complete with sauna and steamroom, in Hambleton on the Fylde coast.
“I thought Sudoku was a tough challenge but sorting all this out has been an even tougher challenge,” said Mr Mackie.
“When I launched the competition, I was inundated with entries and hits on the website but after two days everything just stopped.
“PayPal said they thought it was gambling, even though I told them it was a prize competition, relying on people’s skill to solve the Sudoku puzzle and had a solicitor’s letter confirming it complied with UK law.
“I now have a new payment provider, London-based Perpetual Payments, part of the Voice Commerce Group, and one of their directors is on the Gambling Commission, just to emphasise that everything is completely legal.
“I have been frustrated to the point of distraction but I said this competition would work, I went on TV to say I would use my house as a competition prize and there is no way I was going to let people down.
Mr Mackie said the maximum odds of winning his home are 14,000/1 and the competition would run until February 1 next year or until he had 14,000 entrants.

Sep 19, 2009

Memory prowess linked to gaming

Video war games could enhance a key element of intelligence that is vital to success in life, an expert has claimed.

Spending time on the Facebook networking site and solving Sudoku may have the same effect, according to psychologist Dr Tracy Alloway.

However, text messaging, micro-blogging on "Twitter" and watching YouTube were likely to weaken "working memory".

Working memory involves the ability to remember information and to use it.

Dr Alloway, from the University of Stirling, has extensively studied working memory and believes it to be far more important to success and happiness than IQ.

At a job interview, a candidate will employ working memory to match answers to questions in the most impressive way.

'Endless stream'

Her team has developed a working memory training programme that greatly increased the performance of slow-learning children aged 11 to 14 at a school in Durham.

After eight weeks of "Jungle Memory" training, the children saw 10 point improvements in IQ, literacy and numeracy tests.

Some who started off close to the bottom of the class ended up near the top.

"It was a massive effect", said Dr Alloway, who is discussing the issue at the start of the British Science Festival at the University of Surrey in Guildford later.

Video games that involve planning and strategy, such as those from the Total War series, may also train working memory, Dr Alloway believes.

"I'm not saying they're good for your socialisation skills, but they do make you use your working memory," she said.

"You're keeping track of past actions and mapping the actions you're going to take."

Sudoku also stretched the working memory, as did keeping up with friends on Facebook, she said.

But the "instant" nature of texting, Twitter and YouTube was not healthy for working memory.

"On Twitter you receive an endless stream of information, but it's also very succinct," said Dr Alloway. "You don't have to process that information.

"Your attention-span is being reduced and you're not engaging your brain and improving serve connections."

She said there was evidence linking TV viewing with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) while extensive texting was associated with lower IQ scores.

Sep 18, 2009

Lego robot solves Sudoku puzzles

Lego Mindstorms are futuristic toys for creative kids. But who knew these DIY robots can get creative themselves and solve puzzles?
Swedish programmer Hans Andersson bought a programmable Mindstorms NXT kit for his two daughters and then began tinkering with it himself. The result: a toy that can autonomously solve Sudoku puzzles in what looks like a matter of minutes.
The Sudoku Solver scans the entire puzzle with a light sensor before determining the missing digits in each square. Its computer performs image processing with a thresholding algorithm to make sense of the sensor data. Recognizing the existing numbers in the puzzle seems to be the most difficult part of the process.
Solving for missing numbers is easy with a backtracking algorithm, according to Andersson. "But since the Mindstorms processor is rather slow, and since it doesn't allow for recursive functions, it took some care to optimize it," he writes. The toy can still do Sudoku better than me.
Andersson has also created a Mindstorms robot called Tilted Twister that can autonomously solve a Rubik's Cube in about six minutes.
Gotta love robots. Now they're playing with our toys; next they'll be playing with us!

Sep 17, 2009

From one to nine in world record time

TWO years ago a 27-year-old American with a PhD in chemistry set the Guinness World Record for the fastest completion of a sudoku puzzle. His time was two minutes and 8 seconds.
Last week Lucus Yeo, an 11-year-old boy from Castle Hill with a passion for formula one racing, smashed that record.
It took 10 days for him to complete his first puzzle several years ago. "So from then on I was just trying to beat 10 days, and then it became a few minutes. Now here I am."
His time last week was one minute and 38 seconds.
"You have to break the world record for yourself to find out how it felt," he said.
His principal at Castle Hill Public School, Bryan Mullan, said his talent "came out of the blue".
"In terms of his personality, he comes across as quite disorganised in some ways," Mr Mullan said.
"His desk's always all over the place. He doesn't come across as an organised person."
There are 81 squares on a sudoku grid. Within the grid there are nine smaller grids, each with nine squares. To complete a game, a player has to fill in each row, each column and each smaller grid with the numbers one to nine. The grade of difficulty depends on how many numbers are already provided.
"To do it effectively he has to hold those 81 spaces in his head simultaneously," said Mr Mullan, who will shortly send witness statements, documentation and a video of Lucus's attempt to Guinness World Records.
Like Lucus, the American world record holder, Thomas Snyder, achieved his time playing an "easy" grade of the game. However, because each of them played games created by different people, it could be somewhat difficult to compare their times.
Dr Snyder said he has recently completed games in under one minute, but these times have not been sent to Guinness World Records.
"All that being said, the time of your young champion is tremendously impressive," he said.
"I'm sure he will continue to get better as he grows older and competes more."