Crazy for Sudoku and Its Variants Make Me Crazy and I Love It
Feb 19, 2009
Review by quasar
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:includes many sudoku variants, includes cross sums, wide difficulty range (including most difficult puzzles around)
Cons:very poor name choice is extremely confusing, not for the rank beginner
The Bottom Line: It's by far the cheapest way to get a large selection of most of the major sudoku variants as well as a sampling of cross sums on a regular basis.
I prefer smaller format puzzle magazines to the full size titles so, unless there's a compelling reason, I typically skip the full size magazines. Thus, although Crazy for Sudoku has been around for a while, I never bothered to buy it.
Recommend this product?
A couple of months ago, however, the magazine changed its format. It's now a standard smaller format title. At the same time it changed into a variety sudoku magazine, consisting of a mix of regular sudoku puzzles, extreme sudoku puzzles, jigsaw sudoku puzzles, wordoku puzzles, and sumdoku puzzles with a handful of cross sums (also called kakuro) tossed in for fun.
I love this new format.
Split into easy, medium, and hard levels and presented in groups of four puzzles at a time (on a double spread page), the magazine truly is the most varied sudoku magazine around.
Perhaps I should back up a bit and explain sudoku and these variants to the uninitiated. Sudoku puzzles are very simple numerical logic puzzles. Played on a 9x9 grid further divided into nine 3x3 sections, your job is to fill in all squares with the digits 1-9 such that no number is repeated in any row, column, or 3x3 section. Although they use numbers, sudoku are strictly logic puzzles and require no math.
Extreme sudoku are sudoku puzzles that follow all of the normal sudoku rules but also require each numeral in the two main diagonals to be unique. Despite its name, extreme sudoku is generally slightly easier than a similar regular sudoku puzzle because it places additional constraints on number placement.
Jigsaw sudoku are sudoku puzzles that break the normal symmetry rules. Instead of using nine rows, nine columns, and nine 3x3 sections, jigsaw sudoku use nine rows, nine columns, and nine irregularly shaped 9 square sections that fit together into the larger 9x9 grid. Because they're asymmetric, it's much more difficult to visually spot patterns so these puzzles usually require a bit more thought and concentration than regular sudoku puzzles.
Wordoku puzzles are sudoku puzzles that use letters instead of numbers. Each puzzle indicates nine active letters and they must be placed uniquely into the normal row, column, and 3x3 sudoku grids. In addition, these wordoku puzzles include a shaded box in each row and column that makes a word when read in order across the puzzle. There is no stated requirement that the letters in these shaded grids never repeat, but they appear to impose that constraint anyway.
Sumdoku puzzles are sudoku puzzles with the additional constraint that the sum of the numbers in different sequences of boxes must add to supplied numbers (much like cross sums). These extra boxes can consist of any consecutive grid squares and may cross the normal sudoku 3x3 section barriers.
Cross sums are essentially crossword puzzles with numbers instead of words. Rather than getting clues - definitions - that lead to words - a set patttern of letters - you get clues - the sum of all digits - that lead to numbers - a set pattern of digits.
I enjoy solving nearly all of these puzzles. I'm not usually a big fan of wordoku - although the puzzles are identical to regular sudoku from all practical standpoints, I guess I just think better in numbers rather than letters - but for some reason I find the wordoku included in this magazine more enjoyable than most. I love jigsaw sudoku and, while the easy jigsaw puzzles are perhaps just a touch too easy for my taste, it's nice to have so many of my favorite variant in one place. Similarly, the easy sumdoku are by far the easiest sumdoku I've ever seen but that doesn't make them any less fun to solve.
In general, all of the easy puzzles in this magazine can be solved with no notes and little or no cross checking. They're definitely of the "look at the puzzle and start filling in numbers (or letters)" variety, but the constant change of puzzle type prevents the type of zoning out that I typically do with very easy sudoku puzzles. That makes these puzzles last longer, although it also removes some of the relaxation I experience when I do zone out on easy sudoku puzzles.
The medium puzzles are definitely more difficult than the easy puzzles and involve several levels of cross checking. I usually need to make some notes and look for sets of squares with the same pair or trio of possible values then cross them out in all of the other squares in the same rows, columns, diagonals, box, or other relevant grouping.
The hard puzzles are significantly harder than the other puzzles, requiring extensive notes and many, many rounds of cross checking. Many squares can only be narrowed down to 4 or 5 possible digits which have to be eliminated one by one in a painstakingly slow process. It's also sometimes necessary to guess the value of one square and play the puzzle out until it's either solved or there's a contradiction that eliminates the original guess. Some puzzles require doing this more than once. These are among the most difficult sudoku puzzles around and are not for the beginner.
The magazine includes a handful of other math and logic puzzles that generally don't do much for me. There's one Collectibles puzzle - a logic puzzle that requires placing items into a 6x6 curio case based on clues about the contents of each row and column - a math maze, and a couple of tri-gons as well as a few other puzzles. Other than the Collectibles most of these puzzles don't do much for me and I often just skip them. Fortunately they're a very small percentage of the content of the magazine.
The very end of each issue contains four super sudoku puzzles, essentially 16x16 extreme puzzles.Two of them use letters and two numbers, but their rules are identical either way. I find the scope of these puzzles a bit too large for me; my memory fails me on these puzzles rather than my solving skills. The result's the same though - I find the puzzles frustrating and usually skip them.
I mentioned at the top of this review that Crazy for Sudoku changed its format into the magazine I've been describing here. When I went to pick up a second issue of Crazy for Sudoku, I thought I was the one who was crazy. You see, although supposedly a bi-monthly title, a new issue seemed to appear only a month after the first one I bought. When I picked up that issue, it was a standard sudoku magazine without all of the sudoku variants. I eventually figured out what was going on. There are actually two completely different magazines with very similar names. One - Crazy for Sudoku - is a traditional sudoku magazine while the other - Crazy for Sudoku Plus Variety Sudoku - is the magazine I've been buying and describing here. Both are bi-monthly but publish on alternate months. The "Plus Variety Sudoku" is in fairly small text underneath the much larger "Crazy for Sudoku" title and doesn't really stick out. Since the covers of the two magazines are otherwise identical, it's very easy to assume the two titles are really the same thing. This is really inexcusable; there's no reason not to use completely unrelated names for the two magazines to avoid any possibility of confusion rather than encouraging the confusion as the current names do.
Because the variety keeps me from getting into a rut and because of the difficulty of the later puzzles, Crazy for Sudoku Plus Variety Sudoku lasts longer than pretty much all other sudoku magazines in this format. Like those other magazines, though, it sells for $2.99 an issue and includes 124 sudoku puzzles, 8 cross sums, and a spattering of other puzzles. The magazine is published six times a year. The annual subscription costs $14.97 and provides a very small discount if you plan to buy every issue of this magazine but, as is typical for puzzle magazines, individual issues are cheaper unless you buy a full year individually. However, this magazine is only carried in larger magazine outlets and can be difficult to find so your only option may be the subscription.
Regardless of how you buy it, I definitely recommend Crazy for Sudoku Plus Variety Sudoku if you're an experienced puzzler or if you're a household of puzzle enthusiasts of different abilities. If you're a rank beginner, I wouldn't purchase this magazine unless you're willing to struggle greatly or toss the magazine without solving large sections of the more difficult puzzles. Regardless of difficulty, it's by far the cheapest way to get a large selection of most of the major sudoku variants as well as a sampling of cross sums on a regular basis. Definitely give it a try and see for yourself.
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