Learn to play Sudoku

Sudoku, often misspelled as ‘sodoku' or ‘suduku', has been with us in its modern form since 1979. Before that, French newspapers in the early 1900's contained similar numeric logic puzzles. Sudoku puzzles have been popular in Japan for decades, but they have experienced a surge in worldwide popularity in recent years.

These days, it's hard to pick up a newspaper or magazine without finding a free Sudoku game tucked inside. You can even find several books devoted exclusively to Sudoku.

Sudoku is a number puzzle. It starts with a 9x9 grid containing a handful of numbers. The puzzle-solver has to fill in the blank boxes so that each column, row, and group of boxes contains all digits from 1 through 9 – but only once. Hence the meaning of the word Sudoku: "single number".

It's more difficult than it sounds. Those who sit down to play sudoku often take a while to complete the puzzles. They have also been known to gnash their teeth and make funny noises while they figure out which number goes where.

Folks with analytical minds might have an easier time with some of the more challenging puzzles. The numerically challenged among us might not make it past the basics.

Frustrating or fun, online Sudoku has become a favorite pastime for cyber gamers. A quick Internet search will turn up thousands of free Sudoku games for your enjoyment.

There are many theories about how you can best solve a sudoku puzzle. Some involve elaborate matrices and contingencies. Others, particularly those playing easier games, rely on simple trial and error.

In fact, when first beginning an easy puzzle, it's common to be able to discover some of the numbers just by scanning the grid and applying a simple process of elimination.