Not so awesome

I have not taken part in any puzzle events lately; I guess it would not be far from the truth if I said that, following the online qualifier for this year’s German Puzzle Chamiponship, I took off from puzzles for a while. But the German Sudoku Championship 2022 lies ahead of us, which requires a small amount of preparation. Also, I recently began spending some time in the Portal again (mostly moderation). As you can imagine, it was quite a depressing experience once more.

Most of what I found there had rule sets along the following lines: “Standard Sudoku rules apply. Numbers in cages add up to prime numbers which must be determined by the solver. Numbers cannot repeat in cages. Blue lines are either palindromes (numbers read to same from both ends) or German whisper lines (adjacent numbers along the line must have a difference of at least 5). Furthermore, in boxes with an even index, numbers in circles indicate the total number of identical entries which can be found a knight’s move away. In boxes with an odd index, numbers in circles indicate the total number of identical entries which can be found a queen’s move away. All diamonds are given, except possibly in box 5 (for the purpose of this puzzle, 5 will count as both even and odd).

I may have made up some parts, but in the end they all sound like this. The respective diagrams look more like Dali paintings than actual logical puzzles. Plus, authors apparently enjoy adding graphicals elements “for aesthetic purposes only” (i.e. so that the grid resembles the map of Albania) these days.

Inevitably, the first few solvers will describe such puzzles as “AWESOME!!!” or similar. However, from the point of solving logic, they offer nothing out of the ordinary. Actually, that is my point; they are not really trashy, but they do not add anything innovative as far as solving steps are concerned either. (And by the way, in some cases the author has added a white dot between two cells because this awesome piece of puzzlework happens to have more than one solution otherwise.)

I solved a few puzzles – yes, contrary to popular belief I enjoy a good Sudoku every now and then. But in the end, it was just a blur. Hardly any of them stuck in my memory, except perhaps for those where the author forgot to define the solution code. And yet, people do not seem to get excited by anything less than what I described above.

We will probably have to live with the fact that awesome is the new normal. I am not saying that we are producing higher quality puzzles, it just turns out we are using only the top part of the scale these days (yes, I have said that before). Under normal circumstances, many of the puzzles I am referring to are so mundane they could be awarded an average rating without even knowing what the rest of the Portal looks like. These days, it would be a surprise if any of them had a rating below 90%.

The above assessments may sound harsh, especially since I am recognizing that my own creations are not exactly diamonds either. And again, that is my point: We are producing a basket full of apples, so we might as well stop pretending it is a basket full of jewels. I am not excluding myself in any of this.

In order to further explain my views anyway, I am determined to publish some Sudokus and variants in the near future. I will probably start doing so right after the Sudoku Championship. In particular, let me announce a new puzzle series – a Sudoku Compilation – on this blog, where I will present some of my favorite Sudoku variants (but, just to be clear, only one variant at a time).

This is not really going to be a beginners series; I am assuming you are already familiar with Sudokus. In the series I will share a couple of thoughts about the variants. However, there will be no fancy stuff. As an additional inspiration, I will use only 6×6 grids. The motto will be that, if something cannot be done in size 6×6, it is usually not worth doing it at all (there are exceptions, of course).

1 reply on “Not so awesome”

I’m amazed at how well you described my thoughts about the puzzles “these days”. At least happy I’m not the only one who experiences this the exact way I do haha. Thanks for writing it!

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