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Solving the puzzle of a Sudoku mismatch

July 10, 2008 |  6:50 pm

Reader Evelyn Skillington made her point plain. Her e-mail had only the subject line filled out.  It said simply, "Today's Sudoku? Try it."

The problem was spelled out in other e-mails from several Times readers who asked why the online version of their favorite puzzle doesn't match what's in print. It's a problem best handled by the Times staff at feedback@latimes.com -- the address to which readers send questions about technical issues at the website.

James Bigelow, one of the online producers who helps figure things out for readers, says the puzzle of why the online Suduko doesn't match what's in the paper should be solved soon. He explained in an e-mail, "We realize that many Sudoku players like to use games.latimes.com to find puzzle solutions on the same day that the puzzle appears in the paper. We are working with the Sudoku constructor [changed from "contractor," as this post had incorrectly said] to get the puzzles synced up as soon as possible."

The full note that Bigelow sent to readers is below.

We appreciate your feedback regarding the Sudoku site. The puzzles are usually in sync so that the online puzzle and solution are the same as what appears in the newspaper. We realize that many Sudoku players like to use games.latimes.com to find puzzle solutions on the same day that the puzzle appears in the paper. We are working with the Sudoku constructor to get the puzzles synced up as soon as possible.

The Sudoku puzzles in the Los Angeles Times are now made by Andrew Stuart of MM Multimedia Ltd (www.sudoku.org.uk) and there is a great deal of information about the puzzles there, including a discussion forum. Andrew guarantees 100% that not only is there a solution to every Sudoku puzzle, but there is only one solution and there is also a logical way of solving them -- although for the harder ones this might be obscure to say the least. There is even a $200 cash prize for anyone who can show a faulty Sudoku puzzle that does not meet that criteria (which has not been claimed since the offer was made more than two years ago).

If you would like to test a Sudoku you suspect of being faulty, you can use this step-by-step logical solver that Andrew built and is part of the suite of programs used to test and create the Sudokus found in The Times. The address for this is http://www.scanraid.com/sudoku.htm

There is a solution count for quickly checking the number of solutions as well as stepping through the logical solve route.

Andrew has also written a paper on the creation and grading of Sudoku puzzles which might also answer many of your questions. If you have Adobe reader you can download and read it from here:

http://www.scanraid.com/Sudoku_Creation_and_Grading.pdf

Andrew would be very happy to answer queries on particular Sudokus, but asks that you use the solver first and check the following:

1) That you are solving the Sudoku published in the newspaper -- mis-transposing a clue to a worksheet or missing a clue will often give you multiple solutions or none at all and is the most common mistake.

2) That the Sudoku published is one of ours -- we don't guarantee that anyone else's Sudoku has such strict criteria and sloppy publishers abound.

If you have done so you can use the e-mail button on the solver web page to grab the Sudoku puzzle you are working on and paste it into your e-mail program - it will have enough information for Andrew to quickly decide what the problem is. Then send the email to andrew@scanraid.com.

Please let Andrew know you read the Los Angeles Times and what date the puzzle ran. He'll be delighted to put your mind at ease.

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