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Sudoku and variants puzzle difficulty level

10 comments (Add new comment)
Posted 4th Feb 2013 at 19:01
gareth Administrator Daily subscriber
I'm interested to hear what people think about the difficulty of the sudoku puzzles and all sudoku variants on PuzzleMix.

On average what do you think about the puzzle difficulty? Is it about the right level?

Gareth, puzzlemix

Posted 6th Feb 2013 at 05:08
I think there's a good mix. If anything I might say there are a lot of easy puzzles and a good number of hard ones and maybe we need a few more "medium" ones? To me "easy" means that it's just a matter of following obvious steps one after another with no real pauses to think, a medium would have one key spot along the solving path where you need to see something trickier, and a hard is one where there's several tough spots or something really hard to see.

Lately I've felt like there've been more easy puzzles, and I think the typical times back that up. Average times close to 5 minutes is easy for sure, maybe I see 20 minutes for the hard ones, and I seem to enjoy the (rarer) puzzles with an average time around 10-15 minutes the most.

I definitely enjoy the variants a lot more than the plain sudoku, and there seem to be more of those puzzles that let you find one clever step to make the whole thing fit together.

Posted 7th Feb 2013 at 13:59
I agree with joshua about how I rate the puzzles, easy, moderate or hard. I tend to base this more on past experience (memories of setting exam papers!) rather than how I found any particular puzzle now. Being one of your oldest subsribers I have a slightly different view and I have to confess to some apprehension when I see a puzzle rated moderate or worse!

The mix is probably right and I haven't found there were not enough middle range puzzles. I think what is easy for joshua is not necessarily so for lots of others:) so I would not like to see a reduction in easy ones replaced by moderate ones, but fewer hard ones instead. My personal problem lies with the other types of puzzles that are included e.g. Slitherlink and Nurikabe, but am happy with the sudoku and variants as they are.

Rating does not necessarily correlate with time, since there is much more 'slog' required in, say, 9x9 wraparound than a straightforward sudoku. On average, though, easy would take less than 15 mins. moderate 15-30 mins and hard 30mins plus

I hope others will give their opinion, it is usually just a few of us which is a pity. Being retired I have more time, but many use the discussion forum just to report some technical problem, or to say the puzzle is not unique!

Posted 7th Feb 2013 at 14:26
Penelope Daily subscriber
I too would like to see more medium level puzzles, though, as Elisabeth says, what's easy or medium for joshua may be a challenge for the rest of us. Personally, I dislike slitherlinks, nurikabes, hanjis, skyscrapers etc. I really enjoy the variant sudokus and find the difficulty levels of these just about right.
Posted 8th Feb 2013 at 05:26
On average, I find the difficulty to be at a good level.
The pure Sudokus, and the jigsaw variants, I find to be on the tough side.
The X's and killers I find to be just right.
The XV's, consecutives, and Kropkis are my favourites -- I wouldn't mind seeing them a bit tougher.
The Calcudokus could be tougher, too.
The newer variants (king, knight, donkey step, etc.) are fun and just about the right difficulty.

Among the non-Sudokus (yes, I realise you didn't ask), I'd like to see easier Slitherlinks, Hitoris, and Hanjies.
The Skyscrapers and Futoshikis (my two favourites) are just right.
I love the Nurikabes and would like to see some tougher ones.

I, too, hope you'll get more responses.

Posted 15th Feb 2013 at 19:29
Last edited by gareth 15th Feb 2013 at 19:29
gareth Administrator Daily subscriber
Thanks for the comments so far! To me an easy puzzle is one which has only simple logic that I can't fail to spot immediately. A medium difficulty puzzle is one which has some trickier logic but I see it as soon as I look for it and don't get stuck. And a hard puzzle is one where I have to stop and think. Of course that 'sweet spot' where the difficulty levels change over is very different for different people... :)
Posted 16th Feb 2013 at 12:20
This is my criteria, too, Gareth, but I don't think it is universal. There are many players who take a long time, have several aids to help and still rate puzzle 'easy', which doesn't fit in with your assessment:) My rating is dependent, barring careless mistakes, on how I manage the puzzle unaided. There probably isn't an answer to this.

I would like to see more jigsaws (non wraparound) and jigsaw killers. There level of difficulty when they appear is just about right. So are the XVs, Kropkis, Consecutives, Odd pairs etc., although the latter two can so easily go wrong! I enjoy the Calcudokus, but would only like more difficult ones very occasionally.....

I'm not so keen on the non-sudoku types, except Hitori and Futoshiki

Posted 13th Mar 2013 at 11:45
Obasama Daily subscriber
When I open my Puzzlemix for the day and see 'Avg Solving Times' of under 4 min., for me, it wasn't worth the effort. It means 'training puzzles' or puzzles for children....very worthwhile for those groups but not for me personally. AST between 10 & 20 mins. are my comfort zone; and over 20 mins. are a wonderful treat. I personally would like more in the 20 min. group and less in the 'under 4 min.' group.

I pay absolutely no attention to your difficulty classification, for me, it's meaningless. I also don't pay any attention to the time taken to do a puzzle...the point of the whole effort for me is to have fun conquering the puzzle, I couldn't care less the time frame involved in the effort...actually the quicker the NOT better because it means my fun is over, I will intentionally start and stop on a good puzzle just to make it last longer.

I consider myself to be mildly addicted to Japanese number puzzles. I don't care for the spacial logic puzzles ie Hanjie etc.

Posted 21st Mar 2013 at 16:00
puzzlemaiden1 Daily subscriber
Hi Gareth, never commented before on one of these forums, but I do feel that Hanjie puzzles are getting a knock.. I just feel that if a few harder ones were put on where you really have to wrok at them, then people might enjoy them better. I'm growing to enjoy the sudokus in all their forms. Maybe you could make the average time setting out of the 'no help at all' timings, which would be far more realistic. I'm enjoying the variety though!
Posted 28th Mar 2013 at 18:29
gareth Administrator Daily subscriber
puzzlemaiden1, the average time is an interesting one. If you change to 'no help at all' then the average time actually gets shorter on most puzzles - you can see this by looking on the puzzle info pages where it's shown. I think this is because this essentially selects the times of those people who are best at solving the puzzles!

It's interesting, and (to me, at least) entirely counter-intuitive. :)

Obasama, the puzzle difficulty is simply an average of user ratings - I no longer rate puzzles for difficulty, except for the Hanjie and very occasionally some extra-special puzzles. I think that rating a puzzle 'hard' actually encourages other people to rate it easy so they feel good about themselves - basic human psychology! :) In fact I suppose I should stop rating the Hanjie too.

Given both the above, perhaps the number of mistaken submissions, clicks on help tools etc would be a better way to rate the difficulty of a puzzle. However it's only ever to be a guideline anyway, so I'm not overly concerned about it.

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