Sudoku 

The wordless crossword puzzle

Crossword samurais whip through dozens of obtuse clues in a matter of minutes, slaughtering the word game one box at a time and accumulating a noggin full of useless trivia in the process (I know because I am one). Often a puzzle's clues are so repetitive that with enough practice, a crossword regular will throw down a finished puzzle before a novice can think of a four letter word for "Hawaiian bird."

Whether you fall on the side of the fence where the crossword black belts congregate or you're one of those silly wordsmiths-in-training who pours over the puzzle for an hour only to fill in a handful of clues, Sudoku will shine loudly like the discovery of a whole new world.

One puzzle, nine large boxes containing nine small boxes each and not a word in sight. That's right, 81 boxes of nothing but numbers. The only rule is that each horizontal row, each vertical column and each 3x3 box must contain all the numbers one through nine without repetition. The only "clues" are the numbers provided in the grid, and each puzzle differs in that the provided numbers are placed in different boxes. Easier puzzles have more number clues while more difficult puzzles provide the minimal number of clues required for solving.

Like crosswords, you can find Sudoku puzzles in books, in newspaper syndication or online at www.sudoku.com.

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