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Sudoku: 17 Myths / Misconceptions, Debunked (Math, Luck, Guessing,…)

Last Updated on January 7, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Elderly woman solving sudoku in public
VyacheslavOnishchenko / Shutterstock.com

Sudoku is a numbers puzzle game that has been popular for decades. It’s a game that involves a lot of logical thinking and challenging tasks. The grids can be solved quickly and provide a good workout for your brain. On top of that, it can be the perfect distraction while waiting for a flight or a doctor’s appointment or when you’re simply bored. Many myths keep people from playing this game because it is so intriguing.

Often people feel intimidated by Sudoku and wrongly believe that it requires math and that only brilliant people can play it. Sudoku may look complicated at first, but it’s really a simple game that anyone can play and quickly learn how to solve. Here’s why you shouldn’t be fooled by Sudoku’s misconceptions.

Discover the truth about 17 Sudoku myths and misconceptions:

1. It’s hard to play.

Many people look at Sudoku and get really puzzled (pun intended) by how to fill the grid. It might look hard at first, but it’s a pretty simple game once you understand the rules. There are only two rules in Sudoku: Arrange the numbers one through nine only once in each row, column and grid. If you follow these simple rules, you can solve any Sudoku. The more you play it, the more you realize these rules make sense.

2. You have to be really smart.

No, you don’t have to be a genius to play Sudoku. Sudoku challenges your logical side of the brain, which is why many people find it difficult. However, Sudoku welcomes all skill levels. Try a simpler puzzle if you’re just getting started, such as a 4×4 grid. Once you have mastered the skills, move on to more challenging puzzles until you become an expert.

3. You have to be a math whiz to solve the puzzle.

Although some people have come up with solutions that involve math, you won’t be doing any calculations while playing Sudoku. Even though Sudoku involves numbers, it isn’t a math problem. These numbers could be replaced with anything from letters to emojis, and the rules wouldn’t change. The only mandatory skill in Sudoku is logical thinking.

4. Sudoku can only be played with pencil and paper.

Thanks to technology, you can play any level of Sudoku on your phone, tablet, or computer. There are many apps that people can download or websites they can go to play. There are also special devices that are created explicitly for sudoku players. But, if you are a fan of the old-fashioned way, you can find Sudoku in newspapers, magazines, and activity books.

5. It is a game of guessing.

The number sequence is an exercise in logical reasoning. In fact, never deal with the numbers by guessing where they’ll go on the grid. They will always lead you to the next and the next until there are no empty spaces left. If you guess and arrange your numbers randomly, you will probably never solve your puzzle. Study the entire grid and place numbers strategically so that you can go down a successful path.

6. It is a game of luck.

Sudoku is a game of reasoning and deduction, so you know it can’t be a game of luck. Sudoku involves a thought process, scanning the grid, recognizing patterns, and deciding where the numbers belong. Having the proper number placement depends entirely on your mind and reasoning.

7. Some grids can’t be solved by humans.

There’s no puzzle too complex to handle. More challenging Sudoku levels give you a few hints at first, but they are never too hard to crack. A Sudoku grid has 81 spaces, and an expert puzzle will provide you with no less than 17 clues. It will take time, patience, and a lot of thinking, but you can solve any Sudoku grid out there.

8. The Japanese invented Sudoku.

Shinjuku district in Tokyo, Japan
Yulia Grigoryeva / Shutterstock.com

Although this number puzzle has a Japanese name, Sudoku was actually invented by an American architect. When he created the game, Howard Garns was 74 years old and a freelance puzzle constructor. It was first published in 1979 by Dell Magazines and called Number Place. The puzzle was then introduced to the Japanese by the puzzle company Nikoli, which improved the game and changed the name to Sudoku.

9. Sudoku is not fun.

Anyone who claims Sudoku isn’t fun has probably never played the game the right way. Sudoku provides hours of entertainment, relaxation, and brain stimulation. It’s a great distraction when you have extra time and are feeling bored. And even better, the game is more fun the harder it gets! You just won’t be able to stop thinking about it.

10. Sudoku puzzles have more than one solution.

Sudoku is built to have only one solution. There are, however, some knock-off puzzles that haven’t been adequately designed and may have more than one solution. 

11. Tackling the partially filled groups first makes it easier to solve the puzzle.

The clues in Sudoku are spread out over the grid, sometimes clustered. Some squares will have more prefilled numbers than others. It’s tempting to tackle those first and eliminate some candidates, but it is not always the best strategy. There’s actually a tip for solving empty squares. According to Sudoku Online, “if the clues are clustered around the empty group, it means it will be easier and more productive to cross the information between the rows and columns connected to it.”

12. It’s not helpful to take notes.

Notes are great to provide a visual aid when solving hard or expert-level Sudoku puzzles. A person may be fast in solving manageable levels and may not need to take notes. Still, the most challenging puzzles are almost impossible to solve relying only on memory because there are several candidates per cell. Through note-taking, you can track candidate numbers, let your brain analyze all the options, and make the correct decision when arranging the numbers.

13. There aren’t any techniques to help solve Sudoku.

In Sudoku, there are several techniques to help you solve the puzzle. Don’t worry if you make any mistakes as a beginner; the Sudoku community has many resources to help you. Some names include the jellyfish, swordfish, hidden triple, hidden pair, and unique rectangle. Improve your speed and become a better player by studying these techniques.

14. Sudoku is too hard for kids to play.

Some people may think Sudoku is too hard for kids, but it provides a great mental workout for the developing brain. Some of the benefits include improving memory and abstract reasoning, developing patience and focus, learning decision-making skills, encouraging healthy competition, boosting IQ levels, and more. 

girl solving sudoku puzzle at white table
Shutterstock.com

15. Sudoku doesn’t promote brain health.

Puzzles have been studied and proved by scientists to be an effective tool in improving mental and brain health. It can enhance your concentration because it requires careful thought and much analysis of the grid. It enhances memory because you have to know where the numbers are, the candidates for each cell, and how you will arrange them. And beyond that, it’s a great way to relax and take your mind off your daily worries.

Puzzles and crosswords can help promote brain and mental health. However, researchers from the University of Aberdeen in the UK found that these games do not prevent mental decline in the long run. Instead, they improve one’s intellectual abilities throughout life, providing a high cognitive point from which they will decline.

17. It’s always the same game.

The classic Sudoku grid is 9×9, but it has several variations categorized by classes, size, and different constraints. Some variations also include placement constraints, alternate symbols, clues, and compositions. Super Doku, for example, features grids larger than 9×9. Jigsaw Doku consists of the classic 9×9 Sudoku with jigsaw-shaped grids. Try different types of Sudoku and have fun with the one you like the most!

In closing

Many of these myths arise because of people trying Sudoku for the first time. They are scared of the numbers, but you can enjoy it if you look at them as simple pieces of a puzzle. Now that you know Sudoku is easy to learn and accommodating to all skill levels, how about giving your brain a little stimulation? Sudoku is available almost anywhere; in magazines, newspapers, and even your phone.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.