Am I Losing My Brain Power? (Assuming I Had Some…)

One of the things I enjoy doing if I have a few spare minutes are Sudoku puzzles.

I consider myself of average ability when it comes to solving such puzzles.

I can usually solve puzzles labeled as easy in less than 15 minutes, medium ones could take an hour, and even then I might not finish it, and hard ones I rarely attempt.

So I was caught off guard when I started trying to solve the puzzles shown above. These come from a book of Sudoku puzzles my wife gave me as a stocking stuffer for Christmas, and are offered in large print.

When I went to bed the other night, instead of reading, I thought I’d try an easy Sudoku. I figured it would take me no more than 15 minutes and the sense of accomplishment would put me in the right frame of mind for a good night’s sleep.

Well, 30 minutes into puzzle one, you can see how far I got. So I thought maybe they misclassified the puzzle as easy, so I moved to puzzle two. Again, after about 30 minutes of effort, you can see how far I got.

So much for trying to fall asleep on a timely basis.

When I have solved easy Sudoku puzzles before, they never required some trial and error, where you’ve narrowed a cell down to one of two choices. You try one of the numbers and see how far you can with that choice. Hopefully, it was the right choice and maybe you can keep going all of the way to the end. Or, you find out that first choice was wrong, hopefully fairly quickly, and you erase everything and go back and use the second choice, and go from there.

As far as I can tell, however, these two easy puzzles are not adhering to that guideline (which is an unofficial distinction I have made for easy puzzles). It appears that at this point in each puzzle, I need to do some trial and error.

I’m willing to do that, but I felt I was misled by the puzzle makers.

Or perhaps, it’s something worse.

Maybe it really is an easy puzzle that requires no trial and error, and I just can’t figure it out.

My concern is that I had counted on solving easy Sudoku puzzles as a significant part of my leisure time in retirement.

What am I supposed to do now?

Maybe there are Sudoku puzzles for six-year-olds (regular six-year-olds, not geniuses) that I can solve without too much effort.

But then there is the possibility that those puzzles for six-year-olds don’t come in large print.

It’s quite the dilemma.

Try and solve a challenging Sudoku that comes in large print, or try a really easy one that I have trouble seeing.

So much for a carefree retirement…

79 thoughts on “Am I Losing My Brain Power? (Assuming I Had Some…)”

1. Even now you’re starting to discover that retirement can be a lot of work. I did something similar with a jigsaw puzzle. It took me two months to complete the puzzle. But I felt very pleased with myself, because on the box it said, “4 to 6 years.”

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2. Ohh I was never good at sudoku. I tried a lot though. My aunt’s daughter-in-law is quite fond of these.

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3. I absolutely love Sudoku. I use an app and am on expert level (not bragging). The thing with the app is it may be easier, because you do get to make 3 mistakes. It times you automatically. And on a tablet the size is quite large. 😁 Just saying. I play one game everyday. And it’s amazing how your technique improves over time. Maybe your retirement present could be an iPad with the app loaded.

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1. thank you for that suggestion – what is the name of the app that you use?

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1. It’s simply called Sudoku and is free in the Apple App Store. The icon is a little brown tile with an S to the power of 2. Hope that makes sense.

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4. I had a very bad cycling accident when I was 24, DAn. I fractured my pelvic bone in three places. During my recovery I spent a lot of time doing crossword puzzles and I got quite good at them. I think it is practice that makes this sort of activity easier. If not, well, find something else to do. Life’s to short to struggle unnecessarily.

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1. I think you’re right. Like most things in life, practice helps. Hopefully I can always do word search puzzles…

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5. As one who took courses for non-science majors, i.e. those with no math skills, I stick to crossword puzzles. They can be challenging and they usually make me feel smarter when finished, even when a little cheating is involved. 😊

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1. I am starting to enjoy doing crossword puzzles also. I always like when I figure out the tricky clues. and like you, when I finish one, even if I had to look up a couple of words, is a great sense of accomplishment…

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1. I always tell my students if they can add and subtract, and occasionally multiply and divide, they can do accounting 🙂

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6. that is a dilemma – but you might need to use the smaller print ones and find a way to make it work – or shop for a new book
– because frustrating takes away the joy – not sang you were frustrated but they don’t seem easy ???

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1. I agree, the frustration does take away some of the enjoyment. but there is the flip that of solving something challenging and the sense of accomplishment that comes with that…

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7. petespringerauthor says:

I go through stretches where I do a lot of Sudoku and then put it aside for months. I find the easy, medium, advanced levels rather arbitrary depending on the source. I end up most often at the medium level because I find the easy ones are too easy. I want to work a little. The advanced or challenging versions are usually so hard that I rarely make a dent or invest too much time only to find I’ve made an error somewhere along the line. If I get that far, I’m certainly not going back and erasing.

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1. sounds like we have the same approach to doing these puzzles, although sometimes I like to try the easy ones to see how fast I can do it…

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8. I would agree that it is practice that makes anything easy. I did crossword puzzles for a long time before I got “good” at them. Maybe they are just not for bedtime.

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1. I think you are right, I shouldn’t try these things at bedtime… 🙂

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9. I love sudoku puzzles, and they can be quite challenging. at some point, you have to take a leap and be willing to make a choice, sometimes winning, sometimes losing. the more you practice though, you’ll start to see some ways to go further without having to guess. I know you can do it, Jim. I am not a math or numbers person but I’ve learned to see the patterns and strategies over time and many puzzles.

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1. I’ll give these puzzles another go; hopefully it’s only a couple foof choices I have to make along the way…

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1. you will get better at them with practice, just like crosswords

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10. I do a fair number of puzzles each day as I believe (hope) they are keeping my brain active. But I rarely do them in printed format – app and online versions are so much easier to cope with. I can recommend the Microsoft Sudoku app on iPad.

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1. I play several of their games and they’re all good. Hope you enjoy it 👍

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11. Sice I retured, I’ve tried a lot of different puzzles I once would have dismissed at too much work – and I’ve surprised myself! I have a system of notation for sudokus though, which helps me keep track of patterns I might otherwise forget I found. Imagine three rows of three dots and each dot represents one of the numbers 1-9. When stuck I can then put in my options for where the choice is one or other or two numbers, and sometimes patterns emerge which I otherwise might miss (my memory being what it is…) especially if I go away and come back to a puzzle.
In the newspaper I occasionally buy for its pull-out puzzle pages, I’ve found a couple of times that they’ve mixed up their one-star and five-star puzzles. Maybe they more often mix up the three- and four-star sudokus, but one to five is more obvious.
And some days you just have to go away and come back to them later. (I find this particularly with cryptic crosswords.)

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1. thank you for that suggestion! and I’ve looked at cryptic crosswords, and I have no idea what is going on 🙂

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1. Well I’ve figured out that either the beginning or the end of the clue is usually the real clue. Once I have that, I try to fit the rest of the clue around it, but often I just don’t get it.

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2. We can’t do those (not in the newspaper I keep the puzzles from anyway). The ones that call themselves General Knowledge crosswords have too many clues about ‘celebrities’ I’ve never heard of.

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3. I sometimes struggle with those celebrity questions as well. It seems like the New York Times puzzles don’t have too many of those types of clues…

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12. Try the same puzzle during the day and see if it’s any easier. Maybe you were just tired.

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13. Dr B says:

In his book “The Changing Mind”, Daniel Livitin asserts that doing crossword and sudoku puzzles has no impact on our changing mind during our senior years. You’ll have to read the book to figure out his neurological explanation of that, and also to discover his alternatives. Personally I enjoy crosswords especially in the UKs The Telegraph newspaper. Cryptic crosswords are deceptive into thinking you’ve improved your brain power, switch to a different newspapers crosswords and you won’t understand their clues. All of the creators have different ways of hiding the answer.

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1. I think I’ve heard that before that doing such puzzles doesn’t do much for our minds as we age. But maybe it’s better than doing nothing.

I enjoy crosswords, but when I look at cyyptic crosswords, I have no idea what’s going on…

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14. Maybe it was attempting the puzzle before bedtime, or maybe it was the company who printed the puzzles (different than the ones you’re used to?)

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1. that’s what I’d like to think. It couldn’t possibly be me! 🙂

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15. Numbers and mental math. No thank you. The visual person in me prefers jigsaw puzzles. The harder the better.

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1. I enjoy doing the outside edge of crossword puzzles, then it becomes more of a challenge. I don’t like when I have to keep trying multiple pieces that all look quite similar to see which one goes where..

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16. The thought of sitting in bed creating eraser dust stresses me out. I’m happy with my one wordle per day in the puzzle department. You’d think I’d like number games, but I really don’t. Much more of a word man.

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1. I also enjoy the one a day wordle. In fact, I liked it so much I found an app that lets me play unlimited times per day 🙂

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1. puzzle 100 only had one number filled in. I don’t think I’m ready for that yet…

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17. Brad really likes Suduko. Knowing my love of numbers you can probably guess what I think of it. LOL!
Maybe it was just one bad night, don’t give up all hope yet. Though maybe you better hurry up and retire before you lose more brain cells. 🙂

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1. the bad night was followed by having a bad day – no progress…

so if I can still do sudoku, I can keep working? maybe I should be happy I couldn’t do these sudoku puzzles! 🙂

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18. I might give these a try to see if I can get anywhere.

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19. I love sudoku but it sounds like according to the experts it won’t help my brain…Oh damn have to think again I can’t do cryptic crosswords…Maybe I’ll give wordle a try everyone else seems to be doing it!

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1. Yes, I tried yesterday and only got the word in 4 so will have to work on that-sigh- 🙂

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2. So I am better than I thought then…Yeah…go me but does it help ones brain as that is the leading question as it appears sudoku doesn’t ?

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3. I think if it gives us a few minutes pleasure each day, that’s a good thing…

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20. This is not my favorite puzzle, Jim. My brain hurts when doing it. I like Scrabble better. 🙂

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1. I like the change of pace from word puzzles to number puzzles, although Sudoku is more of a logic puzzle than a number one…

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21. I want to ease your mind – it’s not you; it’s them.
Sudoku is something I enjoy as well. These days, I have a book of them permanently placed in my luggage so I don’t forget it when I travel. I do them while waiting for a plane, during the flight, etc. Every now and again, I find a group of sudokus that I feel are in the wrong section. I do ‘easy’ ones and they seem hard. Then, I do the hard ones and they seem easy. WTF?!

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1. I’ll have to page through my book to see if there are any that appear easy, no matter how they are classified. but after my post, a couple of people suggested downloading a sudoku app, which I have done. It is so much better than using a paper and pencil…

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22. Brian says:

THIS!
I searched for this brand after getting my back porch handed to me. I consider myself VERY good at sudoku. Easy puzzles usually only take 2 minutes. I generally turn to the back and start w the wicked hard ones and can solve them as well. My wife handed me the book when she struggled and I thought she was over selling it. Nope! I had to utilize some advanced techniques to solve some numbers. These are logic puzzles and you should never need to guess. There should be some mechanism to determine the solution. These are faaaarrrr from easy. Glad you posted.

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1. thanks for your insights, Brian. it’s been a while since I’ve looked at those puzzles. amybe a fresh set of eyes will help…

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