10 Sudoku Tips and Tricks That’ll Help You Solve Faster
Are you just getting started with Sudoku puzzles and not sure how to solve them? Or are you advancing to harder levels and find you’re now getting stuck?
In either case, you’ll benefit from these Sudoku solving tips.
Even if you already know most of these Sudoku tricks and tips, you might learn a few new ones or at least get a valuable refresher.
So let’s dive in!
Tips for solving Sudoku
1) Know where to start solving
If you’re new to playing Sudoku, you might find you don’t know where to start whenever you first look at a new puzzle.
Sometimes placing the first digit in the grid can be the hardest part.
To make it easier, there are certain things you’ll want to look for. There are also certain things you don’t want to do.
The first tip is to look for rows, columns or the 3×3 blocks where there are more given digits.
These areas with more given digits will constrain the other empty cells within the same row, column or block. Meaning that there’ll be fewer possibilities for what values these cells can contain than for other empty cells.
Related to this, another trick is to look at which numbers appear more among the given digits.
For example, if you have a new Sudoku puzzle with five 9s already given and no 2s, then placing one of the four remaining 9s into the grid will usually be easier than placing one of the nine 2s.
2) Look for single candidates
Single candidates, also known as naked singles, occur when a particular cell can only has one possible candidate.
This will be because all the other digits from 1 to 9 will have been ruled out by other numbers in the grid.
If you look at the Sudoku puzzle below, you’ll notice that cell row 7, column 5 only has a single candidate – 1.
This is because all the other numbers from 2 to 9 appear in either the same row, column or in the 3×3 block.
This also shows the importance of the previous tip of starting in areas with plenty of given digits.
3) Work on your scanning techniques
Don’t try to focus on the entire Sudoku grid at the one time.
Instead, it’s better to scan different rows, columns and 3×3 blocks one at a time. This way you’ll be able to identify which areas are easier so that you can tackle them first.
Taking this tip a step further, when you feel confident, you’ll also want to scan a couple of areas at the one time to see how they interact.
For example, if you scan along a row and a column and notice that together they contain a large number of digits, then you’ll immediately know that the cell where they intersect will be heavily constrained.
4) Don’t focus too long in the one place
Effective scanning also means that you don’t spend too long looking at one part of the grid.
If you’re doing this, then it likely means that the part of the grid you’re focusing on requires you to place digits elsewhere in the grid before you can resolve it.
That’s why it’s important to learn how to shift your focus around the grid to identify which area can be worked on first. Then you can come back to the more difficult areas later.
5) Keep the momentum going
Because some areas of the grid will require you place other digits elsewhere first before they can be resolved, it makes Sudoku a puzzle of momentum.
Once you start placing digits in the grid, it will become apparent that you can resolve other empty cells almost in a cascading manner.
This is why it’s important to scan along rows, columns and within the 3×3 blocks whenever you place a new digit as that might unlock new cells.
6) Make use of pencil marking
Pencil marking possible candidates into empty cells will help work your way through Sudoku puzzles through the process of elimination.
When done right, pencil marking will also help refine your scanning techniques and identify naked pairs as well as hidden pairs (both covered below).
To learn more, check out our guide on how to pencil mark Sudoku puzzles.
7) Look for naked pairs
A naked pair is when two empty cells can only contain the exact same two possible candidates.
An example of a naked pair has been highlighted in the Sudoku below.
Because these two empty cells in row 8 can only contain either a 2 or a 3, it immediately rules 2s and 3s out of the remaining empty cells in both the 3×3 block and the entire row.
This is because, regardless of which one is which, there is no possible way you can place a 2 or a 3 elsewhere in the box or row.
Identifying naked pairs like this can be very useful as it can restrict the cells around them to the point of revealing a new digit to place.
In this particular example, the cell in column 4, row 8 is now restricted enough that it can only contain a 7.
While we still don’t know which way the 2 and the 3 should be placed, by identifying the naked pair, we’ve successfully placed a new digit in the grid.
Building on this momentum, the first cell in the row must now be a 6 so that row 8 contains all the digits from 1 to 9.
8) Look for hidden pairs
Related to the concept of naked pairs is the idea of hidden pairs.
The difference between a pair being naked or hidden is whether the pair is the only two possible candidates or not.
If in the example above there was no 7 in the bottom right box, then there would be no naked pair, but we would still be able to place the 6 in the first cell of the grid.
9) Work your way through more advanced Sudoku strategies
As you work your way up from easiest levels to the hardest levels, you’ll have to new and deploy new and increasingly advanced Sudoku strategies.
While pencil marking and X-wings are fairly basic strategies, the harder the puzzles get, the more complicated the strategies you’ll have to learn.
This is part of the fun of cracking Sudokus where you get to expand your solving skill set.
If you find yourself stuck on a particularly challenging Sudoku, it might also be worth entering it into a Sudoku solver. While you may not want them to solve the Sudoku for you, many will tell you what strategies are required to solve your puzzle.
10) Don’t guess – use the process of elimination
Our last Sudoku tip is simple: Remember that Sudoku is a puzzle of logical deduction that uses the process of elimination to arrive at an unique solution.
That means you never have to guess when solving a Sudoku.
Instead, remain patient and think about the puzzle in front of you logically and carefully all while keeping the Sudoku hints and tips above in mind.
Putting your new tips for Sudoku into practice
Now that you’ve got plenty of tips for playing Sudoku, it’s time to put them into practice.
The only real way you’ll get better at solving Sudokus is by actually giving them a go and improving over time.
The more you practice, the more you’ll learn what works for you and develop your own way of solving.