How does one review a book of Sudoku puzzles? There’s no plot, no metaphor, no elegant or awkward use of language. There are just the puzzles, which themselves are pure pattern.
But the puzzle-making process clearly involves skill and attention, because Sudoku books, like novels and collections of poetry, vary widely in quality. Sudoku For Lunch is a lively, fun, and well-designed example of the genre. (And it has the added benefit of being printed on high-quality paper that stands up well to erasure.)
Riensche presents 250 puzzles in groups based on how long he thinks it will take a reader to solve them. Group headings include “Coffee Break,” “Quick Lunch,” and the ultra-challenging “Afternoon Off.”
The labels generally fit my experience; most of the Coffee Break puzzles took me fewer than 10 minutes and those in the harder groups took longer. They topped out at 15 to 20 minutes, though; in the two hardest categories, I either solved the puzzle quickly (about a third of the time) or got stuck.
As any dedicated Sudoku puzzler knows, getting stuck merely strengthens the determination to solve the darn things. At the front of his book, Riensche gives a quick overview of some tricks of the Sudoku-solving trade. All but one were familiar to me. The one that wasn’t, I am hoping will help me figure out how to get un-stuck.
If you’re a beginner, this book gives you plenty of room to grow. If you’re a fair-to-middling puzzler like me, it offers a range of challenges to suit your mood and your willingness to be frustrated.
And if you’re a Sudoku whiz, please give me a call with some hints on how to solve those stubborn “Afternoon Off” puzzles.