Post-excavation #1

All the Sudoku Excavation pages at the menu have been taken down. You can still get the puzzles here:
Large 9×9 puzzles
Small 6×6 puzzles

Solvers were asked to guess the authors of the puzzles, scoring points by doing so. Here’s a rule of thumb: if the sudoku is of a math-related variant, contains little givens and is frustratingly difficult then you can sanely bet that Sinchai wrote it. The guy loves solving and making math-variant sudokus. Or he just likes mathematics. Did you know that he scored 100% in our country’s Mathematics National Entrance Examination? Well, you do now.

You can see the rule in effect since Sinchai was responsible for the murderous Killer, Fortress and Sum 100. Others include Thermometers, XV and Consecutive. I wrote all the small puzzles (except the Consecutive), Kropki, Even Odd, Arrow and the final Mammoth fur puzzle.

Speaking of the last puzzle, Mark Goodliffe says that it’s always so much more fun when a puzzle (hunt) builds towards a finish.
I agree!

A very diligent Nick Brady: I did this in one session lasting about 7 hours and had much fun with it.
Now you know what to do on your next intercontinental plane trip.

Ivan Koswara: I just threw the Classic Sudoku to some online solver.
You cheater, you.

James McGowan: Can I assume Tamziania is somewhere near where you live?
Tamziania is a Google Map snapshot of the hospital car park where I am currently studying (and losing most of my sleep) at. As a shout-out, I also plan to use you dearest readers as characters in future events. Keep an eye out for yourself!

Zbigniew Laskowski: I thought I would become a killer myself when I received the killer clue from Fortress and realized that I had spent so much time solving that killer without the clue.
You can hunt down Sinchai for that, I’d never do such a thing to my readers. :)

Extra thanks to all solvers who fill in the comments box, my favourite part of an event is selecting some of them to post at the end (like the few above). So that’s my side of things. Sinchai might have a few words when his boss isn’t requiring his attention.

Results of Sudoku Excavation

One month just flew by didn’t it? 28 solvers headed out to Tamziania, dug up fossil pieces, assembled the Sudoku Mammoth and eventually conquered the mighty beast. Here is the list of solvers in the order of submission: Swaroop Guggilam, Fred Stalder, Stefan Tomlins, Zoran Tanasic, Oliver Rubio, Antonis Lalatsas, Branko Ceranic, Valerie Alexandre, Nikola Zivanovic, Valerie Garcia, Matt Stephans, Nick Brady, Franck Wallez, Prasanna Seshadri, Neil Brown, Todd Geldon, Mark Goodliffe, Eva Myers, Joshua Zucker, Sumet Juariyamark, James McGowan, Ivan Koswara, Zbigniew Laskowski, Rakesh Rai, Stefano Forcolin, Grayson Holmes, Manea Constantin and Bastien Vial-Jaime.
*[ETA: Fixed typos]
finalpuzzlesudex At the conclusion of our exhausting project, I asked solvers to guess who wrote the puzzles that form the fur of the Sudoku Mammoth. Since me and Sinchai aren’t that prolific (yet), most of the responses were probably guesses anyway. Certain points were allotted for each correct guesses and the maximum total is 50 points.
Note that all the point values in the table below are doubled (since I got lazy with decimals) but this doesn’t affect the standings.
Here are the results with the top 5 being omitted: sudexressneak Please don’t be discouraged by the standings, as they are most likely to be guesses and someone has to win. So who’s missing? 
Let’s introduce our top 5:
First to submit was Swaroop Guggilam, he was either the first or second to send in an entry throughout last three events. What an early bird! Coincidentally, second to submit was Swiss sudoku legend Fred Stalder, one of my favourite sudoku authors. This is his first entry at SOTR. He writes for many offline and online venues and all the puzzles are collected in his blog; and you can find that address in my blogroll. Two more newcomers made it to the top 5; one is Valerie Garcia; thanks to Fred who posted about it in the French forum, she and several other French names found out about our expedition. The next lucky newcomer is Stefano Forcolin who I’ve met and exchanged a few words with at the 2013 WSC. Lastly is Eva Myers, she made it to the final 8 of rock-paper-scissors way back in the first Nikoli Hurdles, good to see her back!
Now the final results…! sudexres Congratulations to Valerie Garcia from France scoring a whopping 94/100!
Interesting that Fred actually had more correct guesses at 9/10 but Valerie’s total is one point (initially 0.5 before the double) higher. More interesting is that one more competitor also scored 8/10, which is Zbigniew Laskowski who ended up at 6th place because his two incorrect guesses were worth higher points.

Again, all points were random and pre-determined which shows how it came down to luck for this little prize draw. For winning, Valerie will receive the Mammoth Book of New Sudoku by Gareth Moore. We have now come to the end of Sudoku Excavation. I will post solutions and comments about the whole event throughout the next few weeks. I would to thank co-author Sinchai and all 28 of you who’ve made this event so enjoyable.

Construction of my next event is already underway and it is scheduled for April. All I can say is it will include a variety of puzzles combined into one nice little theme. Pop back here for more details or subscribe to get notifications in case you forget!

Bye for now!

Final week for Sudoku Excavation

We are now approaching the final week of Sudoku Excavation. If you are still out there digging in Tamziania, you have a few days left to go. All submissions that I have received thus far are replied with a confirmation e-mail.

Apologies for late replies, I’m usually much more active online than this, so these confirmation emails may take up to 3-4 days.

If you’ve entered and have not heard from me, please check that your email address is spelt correctly in the submission form and try submitting again.

Tracing back the Sudoku Mammoth

Starting 2015 with SOTR’s first sudoku event:
Rumour has it that 29,500 years ago, the Sudoku Mammoth (Mammuthus sudoticus) walked the earth. Using the latest technology, scientists have made a riveting discovery! The patterns on the fur of the Sudoku Mammoth looked suspiciously familiar. The puzzle experts of SOTR were consulted and together, they have reached a conclusion. Those patterns contained symbols that are strikingly similar to what we see in today’s sudoku puzzles. Maybe we are simply creating what our ancestors have already long discovered but had been lost in the test of time.


Recently, we have narrowed our field of search to the Great Plains of Tamziania. We believe the final pieces are hidden somewhere in the map above. Join forces with our team of archaeologists to uncover more secrets hidden within the remains of the Sudoku Mammoth!

Your gear:
Here is the Instructions Booklet containing all the possible types of sudoku you will encounter along your journey.
Here is your Project Map to complete as you shovel along the Great Plains of Tamziania.

To dig one area on the map you have to solve a sudoku puzzle (small puzzle for small area, large puzzle for large area). Several areas will contain fossil pieces which give information about the Final Puzzle: the Sudoku Mammoth’s Fur in your project map.
Puzzles can be found in SMALL AREA and LARGE AREA on the menu above. Enter your answers at SUBMIT SOLUTIONS and when you’re done with the final puzzle, head to END PROJECT.

You can find more details at the “About Sudoku Excavation” tab on the menu above.

Grab your shovel and start ploughing for clues!

Let’s go dig fossils

Announcing the first event for 2015, boy do I have a lot planned for this year. Hoping most of them actually escape to see the light of day. Sudoku fans can rejoice as this event is jam-packed with a lot of tasty sudokus.

This is the first time that the event is a collaborative effort. My teammate, Sinchai Rungsangrattanakul, crafted quite a number of nice sudokus more than he knows what to do with them. In a couple of weeks, I will be sending you off to dig for fossils in…


There will be a crazy twist!

Lucky solvers might need to solve only a few puzzles to finish… whereas the not-so-lucky ones might have to solve one sudoku after another…and another.

All that coming soon!

From PDF to book

First post in 2015!

Did you have a nice holiday?
I surely did not since this academic year overlapped New Year’s Day so my countdown was a rather miserable experience. One of many resolutions for me is to finally find time to plough through old puzzles from the internet. With the digital age in full swing, puzzles these days are often in PDF format. This doesn’t roll well with my habit of collecting puzzle books so, here, I will share with you how one might transform an E-book into another attractive book to add to your shelf.


My shelf welcomes a new member

I paid a visit to the press and printed out the latest Meraklisina Akil Oyunlari. The cover and back page were printed on hard paper and the book was slapped by two clear plastic sheets. No one can argue that the best spine for a puzzle book is spiral-bound, so a colourful helical spine (extra large size please!) was twisted into this voluminous issue.



Spiral bounding makes for a nice and flat opened book

Now that’s more like it!
Anyone have better ideas of turning PDFs into a book?
I’d love the know!

Happy New Year!

Season’s Greetings

Cho Phraya River, Bangkok, Thailand

Sorry, no Christmas tree puzzles from me.
I want to spend this post summing up 2014 and give a brief outline of plans for next year. I keep my personal life a good distance from this blog, so you can guarantee that no ramblings about life in general will be seen. On that note, academically this year had been one of the most depressing years for me. This blog is a nice sanctuary from the demanding workload required from me on a daily basis.

Here at SOTR, a season starts after August, which was when the very first event was held on this blog two years ago. The first season included; Code Road, Nikoli Hurdles 1 and Race up the Sky. This puzzling season started with Colour Restore which happened near the end of 2013. It was followed by Anchors Aweigh in March 2014; I love Battleships so it was good that I finally managed an event based solely on that. I experimented with a format-change in July Giants and, to me, it seemed successful. I hope to introduce you to more giants in 2015.

That means Nikoli Hurdles 2, held in October, kicked off the third season of SOTR. I have sent prizes to winners from 4 continents. I’m looking forward to future winners from South America and Africa. Though, let’s hope I’d never have to send an expensive package to Antarctica.

Continuing season 3, my next event will start early 2015. It is currently undergoing rigorous testing to ensure you get the best puzzles SOTR have to offer.
Take a look!

sudosinbannerWant to guess what is going on?

Thank you for being such an awesome audience throughout this year. I hope to see you again in 2015 and future years to come. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wish you all a safe holiday and here’s to 2015!

Light Read #4 – The Chinese Formula

In London 2009, at the World Memory Championship, Wang Feng surprised the field with a solid debut performance finishing at 5th place. This definitely got China conferring and in 2010, China auctioned off the rights to host 3 years of the World Memory Championships. Believing this would create a boom of Chinese mental athletes and hoping to produce a world champion of memory within three years, they set up the venue for the 2010 edition at Guangzhou.

By the time you finish fingering through all the cards, Wang Feng would've had it all memorized.

By the time you finish fingering through all the cards, Wang Feng would’ve had it all memorized.

In a little more than one year, the same Wang Feng claimed gold in his home turf at the 2010 World Memory Championship, setting the new world record of memorizing a deck of cards in just over 24 seconds. The record is later broken by Simon Reinhard in the 2011 German Open. In conclusion, China got their world champ in just one year of hosting. The three-year contract continued with Wang Feng also winning the 2011 title. The planned third year happened last week. The 2014 World Memory Championship will be held in outskirts Hainan and was dominated by Swedish Jonas von Essen.

WMC-banner-2014-600Last August in Tromso (Norway) 172 countries participated in the 41st Chess Olympiad. With an average rating of 2698 and as the 7th seed, China wasn’t sending their strongest possible line-up. Their (then) number ones and three Wang Hao and Bu Xiangzhi were absent. In the end, Wang Yue led China’s team and overcame all odds to clinch the gold medal by a reasonable margin.

Wang Yue was China's Board 1 at this year's Chess Olympiad.

Wang Yue was China’s Board 1 at this year’s Chess Olympiad.

I noticed another correlation with China and brain sports.
When Jin Ce was promptly scooped up by a mob of cameras after his win at the Beijing WSC 2013, I threw in the question, “With two young finalists in the top 10 out of nowhere, how did China pulled that out?” Tom Collyer, of Detuned fame responded, “I don’t know, but it must have involved a closed room with no windows”.

Whatever it was, it worked. China produced a World Sudoku Champion in a span of three years. The revelation could possibly be Chen Cen’s solid 7th place at the 2010 Philadelphia WSC. In 2011, George Wang consulted the World Puzzle Federation and organized the first Beijing International Sudoku Tournament (BIST). This huge event acted like a prodrome of China’s main goal; which was to host a world championship and ideally produce a Chinese world champion in the process.

Jin Ce defeated Kota Morinishi 3-2 at the WSC 2013 finals.

Jin Ce defeated Kota Morinishi 3-2 at the WSC 2013 finals.

Looking back, I attended the 2011 BIST in a very lax mood. College mercifully gave me half a week off and in an instant I was on my way to Beijing. I didn’t have my competitive nature with me at that time, and I absorbed every puzzle as a constructor. Instead of practicing I poured over the very well-made instruction booklet looking for beautiful patterns. I still do, but now I learn to separate casual-solving from competition. My puzzle booklet from 2011 BIST was so neat I couldn’t believe that they were written in a competitive environment. Here, take a look at this.

Neat writing and all notations erased. Clearly, I wasn't in the mood for speed solving.

Neat writing and all notations erased. Clearly, I wasn’t in the mood for speed solving.

To achieve this level of clean handwriting, one had to simply not care about rankings. I remember gingerly erasing numbers where I thought it could have been neater. Oh, the top circle of this 8 could use a little upsize (erases), eh? This nine has an uncomfortably long leg (erases). Of course, I don’t do that now but back then I just don’t have the competitive juices in me. Despite a dismal performance, I genuinely enjoyed the 2011 BIST. A year later the event was followed up with the 2012 BIST, then China felt they were ready to stage the 2013 WPC/WSC. There, Team China dominated the team standings and Jin Ce was crowned world champ.

It seems when China wants to achieve something, they quickly have full support from various reliable agencies and always ready to put itself on the map. However, I’m not entirely convinced. In the recently-concluded 2014 WSC, Jin Ce finished in a comparatively depressing 10th while a new name entered the sudoku elite in Dai Tantan who came in 6th. One explanation I’m trying to sell is that the puzzles from both BISTs and the 2013 WSC were alarmingly similar. I also notice the same variants popping up with high frequency in my collection of Chinese sudoku books. Practice and exposure to a certain style had to play a role.

Puzzles, due to their versatility, are different by a wide margin. Until there’s a Chinese world puzzle champion, I’m going to blindly stick to my hypothesis. Though, Qiu Yanzhe (19th in the 2014 WPC) might have something to say about that next year…

Fillomino and Ripple Effect are Reader’s Choices

Before the end of Nikoli Hurdles 2, a poll was opened for a couple of weeks to determine two puzzles for the next edition. Five puzzle types, all from filling-in-numbers genre, were listed and we have an outright winner.


People sure love their Fillominos!

With twice as many votes than the second most popular type, it would be a sin to exclude it from the next set of hurdles. At a distant second is Ripple Effect, a type where I have explored a while back. I will promise to include them as Reader’s Choice next time.

I’m not promising any dates for Nikoli Hurdles 3 as they are other events down the pipeline.

Do look forward to them and thank you for voting!

Solutions to Nikoli Hurdles 2 – Part 5/5

kanaorepuzPuzzle 8: Kanaore
Too many errors prevented me from being happy about this puzzle. One is that Wall-E had 1941 next to it for a few days before I noticed it. It was clearly copy and pasted from Dumbo’s year of production. The initial diagram had the “7” arrow pointing the wrong way which led to impossible solutions which halted many solvers. To make matters even worse, the wrong diagonal was shaded for the answer keys so no one could reach the finish line!

Repairable mistakes but nothing could prepare me for… that darn N!

Kanaores are solved on empty grids. They should not have any givens, but the mistake was so disgustingly severe I had no other options but to dismantle the entire puzzle which I was not keen on doing. I completely overlooked the N despite test solving it twice! Maybe I was too excited that the bottom half of the puzzle squeezed itself into uniqueness, I forgot that the N from ALADDIN could sneak its way back to grab the N from TARZAN.


Had none of the above happened, I would look back at this puzzle and be rightly proud of it. I looked at a few examples from Grant Fikes’ blog (he uses the name “Seek and Spell”) and started brainstorming ideas. I wrote this puzzle in a coffee shop during the time when no matter where you went, they would open “Let It Go” from Frozen. I must have subconsciously come up with the idea then.

Looking back at the puzzle I am still slightly irked by that N.
Hopefully by next year I would finally let it go.

Let it go… Let it go….