THE WORLD'S MOST DIFFICULT SUDOKU PUZZLE

How do you create the world's most difficult sudoku puzzle? How do you create the two world's most difficult sudoku puzzles? You begin by rethinking what a sudoku puzzle is. Is it a number puzzle? Or are numbers just specific graphic symbols that have been traditionally associated with the sudoku. Is sudoku about numbers at all or is it about the rules?

I think the sudoku puzzle is about the rules. Any distinct group of graphic symbols can be used as long as they are recognizably different from each other. I call these *Visual Sudoku* (All rights reserved). Once you realize this, you can make a sudoku puzzle as big as you want by using as many distinct graphic symbols as you need.

That is what I created with the *Hercules Sudoku 1* and *Hercules Sudoku 2* puzzles. One of the characteristics that makes these two sudoku puzzles difficult is their size. Unlike the traditional sudoku puzzles which are contained within a 9×9 grid, the *Hercules Sudoku* puzzles are contained within a 16×16 grid. They are BIG.

But size is not all that matters in this case. The second characteristic that makes these sudoku so difficult is the use of abstract graphic symbols. Using abstract graphic symbols rather than numbers (I know that numbers ARE abstract graphic symbols but you know what I mean) challenges the player's visual memory and visual acuity. The use of these symbols also takes the expert sudoku players out of their comfort zone. Keeping track of the 16 distinct visual symbols requires concentration.

The sudoku purists may frown at this rethinking of this classic puzzle. But even the purists will not argue that these are the most difficult sudoku in the world. And even the greatest sudoku players will be challenged by *Hercules Sudoku 1* and *Hercules Sudoku 2*.

For those who are new to the sudoku puzzle, here are the rules (there are actually different variants of the sudoku and HS 1 and HS 2 are slightly different).

In Hercules Sudoku 2, there are 16 distinct symbols. Each of these symbols appears once and only once in each of the 16 columns and in each of the 16 rows.

In Hercules Sudoku 1, the 16×16 grid is subdivided into 16 areas, with each subregion being a 4×4 grid. In this sudoku, each of the 16 distinct symbols appears once and only once in each of the 16 columns, 16 rows, and 16 subregions.

There are 208 symbols missing in each *Hercules Sudoku* puzzle. You have to fill in the appropriate symbols in such a way that the results will conform to the rules just stated.

THE CONTEST

As for the contest, three people who correctly solve *Hercules Sudoku 1* and three people who correctly solve *Hercules Sudoku 2* will each get a book of their choice (signed by me) from the Konokopia catalog. If there are more than three people who solved each of these puzzles correctly, I will draw three names out of a box for each group of winners. The Konokopia catalog currently includes the following:

*LabyrinthosLittle LabyrinthosKickstarter Edition Little LabyrinthosBaby LabyrinthosPattern Squares Puzzle Book 1Pattern Squares Kids Puzzle BookVisual Sudoku Puzzle BookVisual Sudoku Kids Puzzle Book*

I know, it is not a large selection and I am still waiting for five of the books to be printed (they will be done by January 1). But I am, and Konokopia is, just starting out. And each book is not like anything you will find in the stores (you can't buy any of these in the stores, yet) and I have not printed that many. Thus, they are rare and they are cool.

To enter the contest, all you have to do is download the two free PDFs of the *Hercules Sudoku* puzzles from the Konokopia website, print them, solve them and send me a photograph (or scan) via email of the solved puzzles by January 7. The photograph has to be legible. I have to be able to recognize your distinct solution for each puzzle. If I can't be sure of your solution, you can't win.

The contest runs from today (December 8) through December 31. I am giving everyone an extra week to get the solutions to me. Don't forget to include at least your name so I can announce the winners on this blog, the Konokopia website and the Konokopia Facebook page. The winners will be announced on January 12, and the books will be shipped by January 16.

I think that's it. Good luck, and I hope you have fun figuring these two sudoku monsters. And keep in mind that these *Visual Sudoku* can also be colored when you're done solving them.