Teach Yourself Sudoku

Learn the secrets that let you easily solve Sudoku puzzles faster!

Lesson #1. Get a great mechanical pencil and eraser


OK, this may seem like an odd suggestion for solving Sudoku puzzles but I know so many experienced players (myself included) that have become very particular about and attached to their Sudoku pencil that this is the practical place to start.


Why? Because Sudoku puzzles are solved via the process of writing and erasing numbers inside small boxes printed on paper (there are electronic versions of Sudoku that eliminate the need for a pencil but from my experience, the majority of players play on paper.)


Mechanical pencils have the advantage of never needing to be sharpened although you’ll need to purchase a package of lead refills and have them handy. Even so, it’s a lot more convenient to carry around a small pack of lead refills (most brands are available in a resealable plastic container that will travel well) as opposed to a pencil sharpener that generates a mess of shavings.  Plus, regular wooden pencils quickly lose their point and are therefore “high maintenance.”


But if you still like sharpening wooden pencils or if you are playing an online or computerized version of Sudoku, you can skip the rest of this discussion and move on to tip #2 (see link below.).

Here are the things you should consider when selecting your Sudoku mechanical pencil.


Lead size


Common sizes are: Fine - .5mm, .Medium - 7mm, and, Thick - .9mm (there’s also Extra Fine  -.3mm but it is not as readily available and has the same problems as the .5mm discussed below.)  The measurements refer to the diameter (i.e. thickness of the lead.) The smaller the number the finer the line you’ll be able to write.  Given that Sudoku requires you to write lots of information in very small spaces, I initially thought that .5mm would be the best for playing Sudoku . Instead, I found that .5mm had a tendency to break easily and occasionally ripped the paper so I switched to .7mm and  found it to be the sweet spot of thin lines, sturdiness, and widespread availability (Office stores, drug stores, etc.)  Of course, what lead size you like will depend on your own personal preferences.  Just be aware that every time you want to try a new lead size, you’ll need to purchase a new pencil as each pencil only supports a single size of lead.


Advancing the Lead


Currently my favorite pencil is a Pentel Quicker Clicker Automatic that allows you to advance the lead just by clicking a little button on the side of the pencil.  Other brands also offer this feature.  Why do I prefer this?  Because when you need more lead, you can quickly and easily advance the lead with just your writing hand and without changing the pen’s position.  Very convenient.




Since the essence of solving a Sudoku puzzle is erasing stuff, be sure to get a pencil that allows you to replace the eraser as it is just as important as the lead you use. I recommend that you buy a package of replacement erasers when you purchase your pencil.  You may not need them right away but you’ll save a bunch of time down the road when you need to replace the eraser and would have to run off to the store and spend a lot of time trying  to match up your pencil to a specific eraser.  Trust me, this is much easier to do at the initial time of purchase when everything is in the original packaging and it’s easier to match brands and models.  Also, if you can’t find replacement erasers at the time you purchase your pencil, maybe you should pick another pencil.


Comfort Grip


Since you can end up playing Sudoku for long periods of time, your pencil had better be comfortable.  Luckily, there are lots of products that have a padded barrel and/or a thickened barrel that make holding the object much more comfortable than a standard #2 wooden pencil.  There’s no telling which pencil will feel good in your hand so be sure to try several to find the one that’s best for you.


What Not to Buy


One last thought, I did try a pen that purported to use erasable “liquid lead.”  This turned out to be ordinary ink that was the color of lead and not really lead at all.  It sounded good on paper until I actually tried it on paper. I found the thickness of the lines created by the ink pen unsuitable for playing Sudoku and that any attempt to erase the ink quickly shredded the paper (remember how abrasive ink erasers are versus pencil erasers and you’ll understand why.).  Unfortunately, I bought a pack of them (the only SKU available) and they’re still sitting unused in my desk drawer.


NEXT UP: Lesson #2. Understand the Row – Column – Block (RCB) Sudoku structure


Copyright 2006 Gary Ward All Rights Reserved