Twelve Lessons Learned While Doing Sudoku

When I retired several years ago, I told myself I wouldn’t sit around doing crossword puzzles all day long. As a word person, I love crossword puzzles.

But many are too easy for me—it’s no fun to fill out the squares without even stopping. And some are too hard—namely, The New York Times puzzles on Friday and Saturday, which could take me all day if I let them. I soon discovered that both the easy and the hard puzzles were really a waste of time.

sudoku300So most weeks I limit myself to two crossword puzzles a week—those in the Friday Wall Street Journal and in the Sunday New York Times (which is published a week late in The Kansas City Star).

But although I limited my crosswords, I also knew that I should keep my mind active in retirement. I decided that learning to write novels wasn’t a sufficient mental challenge.

So I took up sudoku. I’m not a numbers person, but I’m a logical thinker. Surely, I thought, I could learn to do sudoku. And I did. Most mornings now, I do the sudoku puzzle in The Kansas City Star, from the easy one-star on Mondays to the challenging six-star on Saturday.

Here are some lessons I have learned from my pursuit of sudoku:

1. Start as a beginner and work up to being an expert.

2. One small error can mushroom into a mess.

3. No one is perfect.

4. Sometimes you have to start over.

5. There’s no shame in using a pencil. And the eraser.

6. Use whatever organizational methods work for you.

7. Trial and error works best after you have narrowed the options.

8. It’s an advantage to write small.

9. You have to look for both the forest and the trees.

10. The set theory I learned in the second grade works.

11. It’s important to think both about what must be true and what can’t be true.

12. Everything is interconnected.

These are all important life lessons. I knew them before undertaking sudoku, but the puzzles have reinforced my understanding.

There are other life lessons that sudoku doesn’t teach at all. These include

A. Not everything in life is logical.

B. Not all problems have a single unique answer.

C. Life doesn’t get magically easier each Monday morning.

These, and many other lessons, I have had to learn without the help of puzzles.

What games reinforce serious life lessons for you?

Posted in Philosophy and tagged , , , , , .


  1. My mother has been doing sudoku for years.I’ve never tried it since I can’t shake my jigsaw puzzle addiction.Working jigsaw puzzles have taught me patience and not to force things.

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