Sudoku on my mind


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Sudoku on my mind

By Bobby Neal Winters

“You’re next!”

This is what the crazed individual in The Invasion of the Body-Snatchers said. We are enamored of our own individuality, our own self-control and hate to give it up. Yet new ideas come into our minds through our ears and through our eyes, and sometimes they have a tendency to take over like an alien invader.

Take sudoku for instance.

I was happily ignorant of sudoku until a few months ago because I’ve been involved with a service activity at school which hasn’t let any new things into my life and has driven out a few of the old ones as well. However, as my sentence has come to a close, I’ve begun to notice a few things in the world around me.

The first time I saw sudoku was when a colleague of mine gave a talk about it. She is a mild-mannered professional, not given to emotional outbursts. Yet when she spoke, it was with an evangelical fervor not often seen outside of a tent revival.

For those of you who are as innocent as I was, sudoku is a number puzzle. Either you’ve seen it or not. If you’ve seen it, there is no need to explain it to you. If you haven’t, I am going to let your ignorance provide a wall of safety about you. While God does teach us through knowledge, sometimes ignorance is a protection too.

From her presentation, I saw how much she enjoyed it, how much she wanted to share it, and how, if I were to allow myself to be sucked in, I would never draw a sane breath again. The last time I saw that much enthusiasm, I was about to be given a subscription to The Watchtower.

In any case, from her presentation I determined that this was something I did not want to touch. A person such as myself who can sit down to watch Law and Order and not extract himself from it for five hours should not take up new habits like sudoku.

There is a strange phenomenon, and I am sure you’ve noticed it, of seeing something for the first time, something you absolutely never even had a whiff of before, and then seeing it everywhere you look. It’s been there all along, but your mind simply has not been equipped to see it, but once the mind has been prepared, it can’t be missed. I can say the same about sudoku. I’d not even heard about it before my colleague gave her talk, and now I see it everywhere.

There—there is a book about it. Was that there before?

There—there is a feature in the paper devoted to it. When did that get there?

It’s now not only the addictiveness of the thing that bothers me, but it’s ubiquity. It is everywhere.

I was up on the fourth floor of Grubbs Hall the other day. Grubbs is a place where I only go when I have to because I’ve heard tell there are bats there. I needn’t be afraid, however, because the bats have more to fear from the starving English majors than the other way around. An English major never knows where his next meal is coming from.

In any case, I was there with a semi-retired physicist to meet with a poet and a critic. At the end of our meeting, I made a comment that the critic could take care of the rational side of things and the poet could take put some emotional spin on it.

While not taking umbrage, the poet said, “I have a rational side too. I do sudoku.”

The physicist was delighted.

“You do. So do I.”

Immediately it was as if I were among pod people. They both started speaking in tongues to each other, or they might as well have been. It is not a language I can reproduce, nor do I want to be responsible for teaching it to you and perhaps making your foot slip. They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but it is littered with sudoku forms.
Be warned.

“You’re next!”

(Bobby Winters is a Professor of Mathematics, writer, and speaker. Will speak for food. You may contact him at or visit his website