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Merry Christmas!

I wish all my readers a wonderful and very merry Christmas today.

To celebrate this wonderful Christmas season, here’s Chudleigh the dog. Have you ever seen anything more pointless?

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.

The Sudoku craze rumbles on

The number puzzles Sudoku, first brought to Britain by The Times earlier this year, spawned something of a craze. A craze I covered in some detail. So it feels right to do some kind of six-months-on follow-up.




Well, I’m still doing Sudoku. My favourite puzzles by far are those published in The Guardian, as they actually have that bit more sense to them, being hand-made in pretty patterns rather than the computer-generated versions most of the other papers have. They’re just nicer.

As well as the old Sudoku, though, a whole new raft of puzzle variations have arrived. The Daily Mail’s innovations are Sudoku X, which also includes diagonals, and Super Sudoku X, which includes a whole other set of boxes. The Mail’s efforts sadly seem to make the puzzle somewhat easier, but more protracted in actually solving it. That is, the puzzle is no more challenging, it just takes longer. The Times has experimented with several formats, including Alphadoku (exactly the same as Sudoku but with letters), Samurai Sudoku (which has five interlocking grids), Dodeka Sudoku (which is the usual but on a 12×12 grid), Superior Sudoku (which I don’t really understand why is different), and – most recently and prolifically – Killer Sudoku. This involves a normal Sudoku grid, but with the addition of small korals of letters bordered by a dotted line, with the total given for that group of letters. In this way, no numbers (or very few) are given initially, and the player has to find them all. Personally, whilst I find Killer Sudokus quite enjoyable, the challenge is essentially the same for the most part, and you simply have to factor in a single additional variable. Still, they’re worth a try.

More enjoyable in my opinion, though, is the completely different puzzle of Kakuro, which first appeared when the Guardian relaunched. In this puzzle, the player is presented with a the total for a given run of numbers, and must slot them into a grid. It has some similarities to Sudoku, and is even more similar to Killer Sudoku, but moves away from the basic Sudoku logic, to give a completely different puzzle. It’s clearly, therefore, more satisfying to attempt the paper’s Sudoku and its Kakuro, because it doesn’t feel like you’re doing the same thing twice. Kakuro is also now published in the Daily Mail, but once again, to me, The Guardian’s seem superior, with a definite process, whereas the Mail’s just seem random.

Neither The Mail nor The Guardian have seen fit to publish Kakuro on their website, but there are plenty of Kakuro websites about, including this, this, and this.

With the introduction and marketing of other Sudoku products (witness the DVD, electronic and board games, not to mention the ever-increasing plethora of books – links to the best of which appear on the right), the Sudoku craze shows no sign of slowing down. Susie Dent has even made Sudoku the Word of the Year. Which might be taking things a bit far.

Either way, I just hope that everyone stays addicted to the country’s leading number puzzles. Because if they don’t, then the papers might stop printing them… and whatever will I do then? 😉

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.

John Spencer has died

John Spencer, 1946-2005 John Spencer, the man who brought The West Wing’s Leo McGarry to life, died of a heart attack yesterday, aged 58. He would have been 59 on Tuesday.

For me, Spencer was Leo, the loyal Chief of Staff and Democratic VP nomination. The Associated Press notes that, in a sad parallel to life, McGarry also suffered a heart attack that forced him to give up his White House job as chief of staff. Like McGarry, Spencer was also a recovering alcoholic and – as he himself admitted – workaholic.

To Richard Schiff, who played Toby Ziegler, he was “one of those rare combinations of divinely gifted and incredibly generous. There are very few personal treasures that you put in your knapsack to carry with you for the rest of your life, and he’s one of those.”

Aaron Sorkin, who created the series, and Tommy Schlammem, one of the original executive producers, commented in a joint statement: “John was an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model and a brilliant actor. We feel privileged to have known him and worked with him. He’ll be missed and remembered every day by his many, many friends.”

Actress Allison Janney, C.J. Cregg on the series, described Spencer as a consummate professional actor. “Everyone adored him,” she said.

“We have all lost a dear, dear brother,” said Bradley Whitford, who plays Josh Lyman.

MSNBC have a fairly lengthy tribute to their colleague, though it seems somewhat tasteless that they have already begun to speculate as to how this will affect The West Wing as a TV series. I’m certain that more full obituaries of Spencer’s life will be written by the British media as the news filters through tomorrow, as Spencer was such a well-loved, Emmy-award winning actor.

For such a talented actor and all-round good person to died at such a relatively young age is tragic, and my thoughts are with his friends, family, and colleagues. He will be very sadly missed.

Requiescat in pace

This post was filed under: News and Comment.




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