I discovered Sudoku puzzles about six years back, and have been addicted to them ever since. There are days (many more days than I would like to admit) when the newspapers are unread, and would be untouched, except for the marks made by my pen on the puzzle page. I always finished the puzzles marked “Easy”, almost always completed the ones marked “Medium”, and almost never finished the “Hard”. That is how it had been when I first started solving Sudoku puzzles, and that is how it remained half a decade later
There were days when I would tell myself that no matter what, I will finish the “Hard” puzzles. There would be all kinds of marks on the paper, sometimes, I would run myself into a corner, and start afresh with a new grid, but I almost never completed the “Hard” puzzles.
Then, about a month back, I bought a book called “Holiday Suduko”. There were puzzles marked “Easy”, “Medium” and “Hard”, and there were some marked “Fiendish”. When I struggled with the “Hard” ones, there was no way I could even attempt the “Fiendish”, but no points for guessing which ones I started with!
Those “Fiendish” Sudoku puzzles consumed my existence. Forget writing, even reading disappeared from my life. I poured over those puzzles every minute I could- on crowded trains, while preparing meals, while waiting for the school bus. I even tried doing them while playing football with the kids!
I was singularly unsuccessful in solving them on my own, but allowed myself to ‘peek at the solution’ when I was sure that there was no way I could go on without doing so. The first few puzzles were done that way, and by the fifth or sixth ones, I could get by with peeking a single number. Then, suddenly, it all fell into place, and I completed my first “Fiendish” puzzle. Then the second one, and then the third. They never became easy to solve, and all of them required that one magical moment of clarity which often came only after hours of effort, but they could be done.
And now, the “Hard” puzzles have become as easy as the “Easy” ones once used to be.
Isn’t it the same in almost everything? You delude yourself into believing you can’t do something, but after a few hours, or days, or weeks in a Stretch situation, you find that what you thought couldn’t be done actually becomes almost effortless. I’ve seen it in running, I’ve seen it with Sudoku. Have you seen it with anything else?