Sudokuholic Confession: Excerpt from the Minutes of a Sudokuholics Anonymous (SA) Meeting*

Sunday, April 1, 2007 Sudoku Twin

Hi, my name is Jim and I am a Sudokuholic. (Many in the audience respond, "Hi, Jim.") I'm up here today to warn you about the insidious Sudoku companion I have unleashed upon us.

I conceived it with no malice aforethought; my only purpose was to appease my habit with less fatigue. However, the companion both soothes the Sudoku beast, and nourishes it. I know not where it will find its next victim. However, I do know where and when I gave it birth.

It was a Saturday morning, just a few months ago (although it now seems like years). I opened the newspaper and noticed the strange 9x9 grid with numbers scattered about. I skipped over it thinking who needs a math problem while still half asleep? About a week later, after noticing it in magazines and other newspapers, I looked at the instructions and realized it was an Aristotelian logic puzzle; A is A. You can know when you are absolutely right and when you are not; just the bracer I needed to face a world dominated by "Maybe it's so ... ", "Who can be sure?", "Let"s not go to extremes.", "Everyone's opinion is as good as anyone else's.?

That first Sudoku was a 5-Star and, getting nowhere fast, I soon gave up; telling myself, of course, that I'd work on it later. But I didn't. However, I did decide to take a stab at Monday's which was a 1-Star. I was almost late for work but I solved it and thereby took my first step on the road to Sudoku perdition.

On Tuesday I got to work on time but needed most of my lunchtime to finish it. (Ahhh, I see from the nodding heads that many of you know what came next.) For the rest of the week my share of the home chores went undone, our dog whimpered at me repeatedly to be taken for his walk, and our cat deposited little reminders that the litter box needed cleaning.

The words of a very wise woman

Sudoku Twin B&W side

Sudoku Twin: B&W side

The solution, I told myself, is to approach this logic puzzle logically and devise a system to find the "for sures" and to identify the "probables". Another week went by before I knew I needed to do more than just identify a probable - - you know, "the eight can only go in this square or the one next to it" and "this square can only be a two or a seven". I was starting to find so many of these, I couldn't keep them straight in my head. Naturally, I took the next step and began jotting notes to myself in and around the grid. Then when I found a yes, I could immediately see where it converted an earlier probable into another yes. Both efficient and efficacious.

But did I revel in this newfound efficacy? NO, it was a mixed blessing. Now I was finding new, definite, indisputable "yeses " conflicting with earlier ones equally definite and indisputable. Trying to figure out how to erase my entries back to that previous one and then try to figure out why it was wrong grew so time consuming I would just quit and await the next day's offering.

Sudoku Twin color side

Sudoku Twin: color side

It didn't take me long to realize that my problem was mistaking a "probable" for a yes. So I started making smaller notations, but with my handwriting they resembled hieroglyphics or a doctors prescription. (I tried modifying my penmanship to no avail.) The "effort-in, reward-out" balance was tilting the wrong way and, now, when I found a "no you can't", I could feel the angst and agitation starting to creep along my veins. And who needs that to start the day?

I am positive that many Sudoku fans have reached this same point, decided enough is enough and quit cold turkey. I tried, probably like many of you, but I COULD NOT QUIT! I needed my daily Sudoku even though it meant beginning each and every day with the trepidation of finding a contradiction too far along to work my way back and having to surrender to the grid ... which was starting to grin at me!

Fortunately, I remembered the words of a very wise woman, Ayn Rand: the best way to get through an emotional conflict is to do nothing until you can put into words the conflicting value judgments and check your premises.The next day at breakfast, I was sipping my coffee,looking down at the newspaper. And as the uneasiness slowly crept up my back, I knew for sure that there was no right size for me to use for probables. If writ large enough to recognize quickly, I will mistake them for yeses, if too small, I will lose my train of thought figuring them out.But, ... hmmm ... what if ...

... I slowly put down my coffee mug, reached into the nearby catch-all drawer and felt around for a small rubber band.Maybe ...just maybe ... along with the rubber band I picked up a ball point pen.Placing the pen aside my pencil tips opposed, I bound them together with the rubber band.

EUREKA! Sudoku Nirvana!

Sudoku Twin ClipIt!

ClipIt!: out of the newspaper or magazine with this compact precision tool

One color for "yeses", another for "guesses"!No more eyestrain and repeatedly deciphering my scribbles.I thought I was in Sudoku Heaven until ...

...my wife showed me the proliferating pencil marks and ink stains on my shirts, pants and the furniture from switching ends ofthe first ever "Sudoku Twin,"I had to take the only logical next step (Thank you Aristotle and Ayn Rand.):I Yahooed and Googled sudoku and 2-colored pencils and/or pens.Guess what?I got over 2,000,000 hits on sudoku but not a one putting it together with any variation of double colored pens or pencils.So I kept digging on Google and Yahoo and finally I hit pay dirt.

I unearthed David Griffiths of Autopoint, Inc., who was to become my collaborator, It was David who seized on my concept and set to work modifying Autopoint's plant and machinery to devise a line of Sudoku-Twin pencils and pens.His Machiavellian mind saw the devilish delight which could come from "sudokuing" with TwinPoints different color combos; twin pens for the more accomplished solvers, a pocket size paper cutter2, the SudokuSaver, to clip out the newspaper's or magazine's Sudoku for under your desk blotter, the Executive with an added stylus to do Sudoku on your cell or PDA as well as on paper; and the Sudoku Marriage Saver, a pen-lite combo to do Sudoku while your loved one sleeps.

But you must beware!Using a Sudoku Twin means less eyestrain and fatigue.It means more time reveling in the climax of a successful solution.It means less time retracing old ground.It means more exhilarating pleasure from sudokuing.And it means your Sudoku craving will become insatiable!I, for example, now go without lunch one day a week to support my Sudoku magazine and book habit and my restroom visits are longer than ever before, my wife has hidden my Sudoku Pen-Lite.

Forewarned is forearmed. At your own peril go to sudokutwin.com and choose the TwinPoints best suited to your habit.

And, by the way, if you cannot be at the next Sudokuholics Anonymous meeting yet feel the need to confide, leave your testimony at our website. You will find the experiences of others like us uplifting and inspiring. I thank you for your kind attention.

* The full capacity meeting was held in a large room with small chairs. The hesitant speaker is one of the attendees.

About the author

Jim Smith, also known as Sudoku Jim, is originator of the Sudoku Twin pens and pencils and co-founder of Sudokuholics Anonymous.