But seriously. I devour sudoku. I mean, I devour all types of puzzles, but sudoku are my jam. Why? For one, I love their elegant simplicity. Like American crosswords, you can explain the rules for sudoku in one sentence and then you'll be armed with the knowledge to solve every puzzle henceforth. And like the crossword, they can be deceptively deep, challenging and rewarding solves without having to rewrite the instructions every time. Also, I'm a closeted math nerd who reads books about Évariste Galois and secretly wishes I had got a degree in math instead of wussing out and getting a liberal arts degree. Lastly, since sudoku are predominantly computer made, I can appreciate them without having to go, "Jeez, I can do better!"
So frequent vistiors to BEQ.com know my man crush on sudoku superstars Wei-Hwa Huang and Thomas Snyder. I lost my shit over their still-stunning collab "Mutant Sudoku," wherein the two of them lay to waste both of my preconceived notions about sudoku: all the puzzles were hand made (huh...!!?), and all the puzzles involved new constraints (on thermometers, whilst playing Tetris, whilst retiling your kitchen etc.). And every frigging one of them was a masterpiece. So how do they follow it up? With "Sudoku Masterpieces" of course. Now how does it compare?
For one, the humor (... ? Humor! I still can't believe these guys found a way to make sudoku funny) is still intact. Two examples will suffice: They gerrymandered the cages in one to resemble the shapes of nine different states and the givens are the postal abbreviations for each of those states! A second puzzle is presented in the form of a wordsearch, wherein the givens are just two words (in the grid) and the rest as a word list to-be-discovered. So it's just letters, then? No, it's predominantly numbers.
Well how about the psychedelic drugs-quotient? "Mutant" looked like they know where to get the good stuff. That, my friends, is still in there. Every page in this book has some WTF? pattern that makes you wonder how they thought of these shapes let alone made them into solvable puzzles: down ski slopes, on Chinese throwing stars, on boom boxes. They're completely insane. Now while "Mutant" went furthest down the rabbit hole, by the end of it they'd melded all the variants on top of each other (my favorite of that involved a sudoku full of thermometers that followed the rules, and a single one that didn't), "Masterpieces" plays it mostly "straight," and thoroughly cooks each genre exercise.
So while I love this book, I have two minor quibbles: I'm not sold on the grey/black/blue color scheme. For puzzles so vibrant, I wished there were color choices that didn't seem so drab. (It's probably important to mention that color plays a major role in some of these constraint-heavy puzzles.) And brown, blue and gold on the cover? Yeesh. Also, while I appreciated their new twist on the samurai format, the slightly askew overlapped sudoku in the black/blue formatting wasn't much fun to solve: in fact, it made me feel hungover. And since these were the first puzzles out of the gate, the book begins on somewhat of a downer.
That said, the work here is stellar. Highly recommended, if you're into this sort of thing. A word to the discerning shopper: these babies can be quite demanding. If the phrase "X-Wing" only conjures up images of "Star Wars," you might try some other puzzles first. But seriously, Thomas and Wei-Hwa, enough with these books already. When does the daily syndicate start?
Let me finish with a gentle reminder that if you appreciated the puzzles this month, please consider leaving a tip in the tip jar. The puzzles are always going to be on the house in this house (we're following the Radiohead business model, folks). So don't feel obligated to pay, just tip if you feel the puzzles have improved the quality of your life. As always, one random donor who gives this week will receive their choice of swag from the BEQ souvenir shop. Thanks for the support. And share the puzzle.