Sudoku masters, what are your favorite challenging sudoku books?
April 30, 2009 1:00 PM   Subscribe

PuzzleFilter: What books would you recommend for a sudoku addict who's already worked through a "fiendish"/"super fiendish" sudoku collection and would like to try more challenging puzzles? There seem to be a zillion sudoku books that are available. Please help me narrow down the selection, based on a few other things I'm looking for...

I'd like to give someone a book of sudoku puzzles, but would appreciate help from sudoku experts since I'm not a sudoku fan myself. Some quick background:
  • She's mentioned that she enjoys really difficult puzzles, and I know she's finished "New York Post Fiendish Su Doku" by Wayne Gould -- the puzzles in there are labeled "fiendish" or "super fiendish."
  • She also has "Let's Play Sudoku: Over the Edge" by Will Shortz -- the puzzles in there range from "difficult" to "beware: very challenging" and she's said they're about the same level of difficulty as the other book.
  • She has tried the difficult-level puzzles from free online sudoku generators and websites, but apparently they are not as hard as the books she has.
I was thinking of getting a book that includes a few puzzles in the "super fiendish"/"beware: very challenging" difficulty range and a lot of harder puzzles that she could really dig into.

Some additional criteria for an ideal book, based on what I remember about her preferences:
  • Doesn't have tiny print and has room inside the puzzle grid boxes for pencil marks.
  • Has relatively decent paper quality that can withstand pencil marks and erasures with a plastic eraser without becoming messy. e.g. the Will Shortz "Over the Edge" paperback has fairly rough paper that isn't too suitable for this sort of thing, while the "New York Post Fiendish" book has paper that's thin but has a smoother surface.
  • Puzzles are logical and don't require guessing.
  • Only contains difficult puzzles (i.e. not a mix of easy, medium, hard).
  • Doesn't have to be super lightweight and portable, but ideally it shouldn't be something you have to lug around (not heavy, and not too big).
I noticed the "Mensa Absolutely Nasty Sudoku" series (ranging from levels 1 through 4) by Frank Longo, and "Second-Degree Black Belt Sudoku" also by Longo. Based on the reviews I've read, it sounds like the level 3 and 4 books are maybe the toughest books out there -- would you agree? Still, I'm not sure which of the four levels would be most appropriate. It would be really helpful to know where all of these Longo books (or any other books you can recommend) fall on the general difficulty scale when compared to Gould's "super fiendish" or Shortz' "beware: very challenging" puzzles.

(The "Mensa Absolutely Nasty Sudoku" books also sound pretty nice in quality, with more puzzles than a typical paperback, plus spiral binding and slightly larger pages, albeit with two puzzles per page instead of one. However, my local bookstore didn't have the Longo books so I couldn't tell if the puzzle boxes were smaller than the Gould book.)

I'd really like to avoid giving a book that might be too easy or too hard and have it turn out to be something that she won't enjoy. Also, it would be nice to know about the really tough books for future gifts. Thanks for your help!
posted by macguffin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Has she branched out to kakuro yet?
posted by December at 1:09 PM on April 30, 2009

I don't do Sudoku, but there is pretty clearly a limit to the difficulty of "fair" puzzles (i.e one's that can be solved without any guessing.) If she's already doing these then she's out of luck as far as more challenging puzzles.

This looks like a pretty in depth catalogue of the techniques used - maybe you could ask her what "tricks" she uses (without revealing options) and see if she has anything left to learn, then find a book requiring those techniques?
posted by ecurtz at 1:16 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well, I don't have any book suggestions, but just for research purposes, there's variants on sudoku. Check out Conceptis Puzzles. (Free to register.)
posted by Skot at 1:18 PM on April 30, 2009

Are all of the examples you've given only giving you a 9x9 grid? I really enjoy sudoku puzzles that use a 10x10 (or larger) grid, where you have to include a zero and maybe some letters.

Also, I have a book of Samurai Sudoku, It presents one puzzle that is actually made up of five puzzles that overlap each other. The middle puzzle shares nine corner squares with each of the other four puzzles.

She may hate these varieties, so no guarantees.
posted by soelo at 1:41 PM on April 30, 2009

Seconding Sudoku variants. There are puzzles up to 16 squares across (uses hex notation), puzzles where 9x9 grids overlap each other, puzzles where instead of 3x3 grids inside of the larger square, the sub-grids are made up of different sized shapes. Each variant uses the same basic rules as the regular Sudoku puzzles but expand on the rules in new and interesting ways.

You could probably go to any bookstore and thumb through the sudoku offerings and find something that looks good. I can't recommend a specific title because the book I have doesn't meet your criteria (goes from easy up to sudoku variants) and I'm *still* stuck on some of those hex puzzles. But some quick googling brings up the following:

Sudoku Variants
Will Shortz's Favorite Sudoku Variations
posted by warble at 1:54 PM on April 30, 2009

I can't recommend a book because I only play them online, but when I got bored with "evil" level Sudoku, KenKen became my obsession. Unless this person hates arithmetic/can't do mental math, I bet KenKen would be a real treat for her.
posted by telegraph at 2:15 PM on April 30, 2009

Has she ever tried to set puzzles? Create them, I mean? I gather this can be hard at first until you figure out whatever knack is involved in finessing the job.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:16 PM on April 30, 2009

Response by poster: These are all great follow-up questions.

Yes, as far as I know, she's only been doing the standard 9x9 sudoku. I'm pretty sure she's never mentioned Kakuro, KenKen, 10x10 or any of the sudoku variations, so I'm not sure if she's ever tried any at all, or did but didn't like it. I can definitely check and maybe find some and print out some different types as a sampler.

To be honest I don't think she is even aware of the common names for the tricks she employs, but a book that discusses techniques might be something she'd like. Then maybe she'd be able to tell me, "I really love unique rectangles!"

I don't think she has ever tried creating puzzles, but I'm almost positive that she'd rather be solving than creating them. I can certainly mention that as a suggestion, though, especially since it's something I hadn't considered.

Thanks for the tips and the links! I've never heard of some of these variants myself. If anyone has any further advice or suggestions, I'm all ears.
posted by macguffin at 5:12 PM on April 30, 2009

There is a series of books by a guy named Michael Mepham that I found very challenging. He does a bunch of variant style puzzles as well as traditional.

Nice big grids to write in and good, hard puzzles. I'd recommend them.
posted by mazienh at 6:04 PM on April 30, 2009

My wife solves a page of four 'fiendish' puzzles in minutes. She's moved to KenKen and hasn't looked back. I fear the day she grows bored of it.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:40 PM on April 30, 2009

Response by poster: After doing some more review-surfing, I ended up getting her "Even Higher Sudoku" by Tetsuya Nishio from my local bookstore. The book was composed of mostly 9x9 puzzles but also included a sampler of different sudoku variations. She thought the 9x9 puzzles in the very back were pretty challenging. AFAIK she hasn't tried all of the variations yet but she did say she enjoyed the "Equation Sudoku" puzzles, so that's a good lead for the next book (and also could indicate that she might like KenKen).

mazienh, thanks for your recommendation of the Michael Mepham books -- I hadn't heard of them before. I saw an example (one of the books with easier puzzles) at the bookstore and the book size, etc. looked great -- based on that, I was ready to buy "Jumbo Sudoku Challenge" but the store didn't have it in stock, so I ended up buying the Nishio book instead. In any case, I'll definitely keep "Jumbo Sudoku Challenge" on my list to order for the future.

Thanks, everyone! You've all been very helpful.
posted by macguffin at 12:57 AM on July 4, 2009

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