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Searching for the smallest, hardest Sudoku


This Sudoku has 30 clues, but enthusiasts have found examples with only 17.

Sudoku are popular puzzles that can be seen in newspapers and puzzle books all around the world. The aim is to have a number in each one of the 81 boxes that make up the puzzle, while following certain rules. Some of the boxes start out with numbers in them already to act as clues. These clues make sure there is only one solution to the puzzle.

Most Sudoku have around 25 clues, but enthusiasts have long been interested in how few clues a Sudoku could have and still lead to only one answer. There are several Sudoku with only 17 clues, but no one had ever found a 16 clue Sudoku, so Gary McGuire from University College Dublin decided to look for one.

His strategy was simple – write down every possible answer, and then check to see if any of them could be posed as a 16 clue puzzle. Although the strategy was simple, it wasn’t going to be easy – there are 6 670 903 752 021 072 936 960 different possible answer grids to be checked. Continue reading Searching for the smallest, hardest Sudoku