Solving Tools

Here is a useful reference tool, a chart defining the commonly encountered forms of unique rectangle, and appropriate solving idea.

For details, see “The Unique Rectangle” in the Guide.

Perhaps you’re curious about the Sudoku grids, x-panels, bv maps, and the curves, diamonds, and colors that you see in every post of this blog.  Perhaps you would like to solve your puzzles with these aides, and send your work to friends.  Maybe you’d even want to start your own Sudoku blog.  If so I recommend WordPress, with standard themes and the free support system.  It supports everything you see.

When it comes to the technology, there is no need to re-invent the wheel.  The PowerPoint and Word templates I use are my own and are available free via email from .  I reply to your requests with attached short files.

As to graphics, you can use any image processing program that captures the images and produces a standard image file.  My image processor is Paint.

On this page, I identify what the template files are, and explain in detail how to use each one to produce this blog.  The PowerPoint, Word and Paint programs are universal in MS Office systems.  You don’t have to ”know” PowerPoint or Word to use these templates for capturing and solving Sudoku puzzles.

Don’t expect this kind of human solving support from the “app” world. The details of tough Sudoku solving is not very convenient on the miniature screens and keyboards of today’s social networking devices.  As you can see from reading this blog, it needs more room.

The Puzzle Grid Template

Load the Grid Template file when you are ready to transcribe a new puzzle for solving.  Use the “Restored Down” Window with “Normal” View, with miniature slides window on the left and comments window below.

grid template

The grid is a grouped network of lines sized for the clue letters and candidate letters to snap into place.  Boxes are shaded for easier placements.  On the left is a Calibri Body style character for starting clues, with font size 24. On the right are Brush Script characters for inserted clues and candidates.  Other graphic icons on the left , from top to bottom, are:

  • a cell sized square for marking bv cells
  • a fish symbol for row fish, pointing toward removals
  • a fish symbol for column fish, pointing toward removals
  • a marker for toxic sets and for fish fins
  • a candidate removal diamond.

The letters are text boxes with “No Outline” selected.  To change value, drag across it to highlight the letter, then type the new value.  To insert the letter into a grid cell, click the boundary to get the “four arrow”, “moving it”  mouse icon,  press Cntrl and C keys to copy the text box to the Clipboard, then the Cntrl and V keys to paste a copy on the template, offset from the original.  Then drag the offset copy into the cell.

Transcribing a Puzzle

Load the puzzle template and save it, giving it the name and folder location you desire.  This preserves the template for the next puzzle. I use the Normal View with slide , comment and numbered icon panel. Home B to make the inserts Boldface, and magnify the slide to about 112% to make them stand out. Only the Control V copies paste correctly on the grid. Drag in the Calibri font givens.   Start with 1 , copy and fill in all the 1’s, then alter the given text box to 2 and copy/fill all 2’s, etc.  Checking the givens with the puzzle, I go box by box.

Now select the entire grill with a mouse drag, and Group it, under the Home/Arrange menu,  to fix the givens on the grid. Then use Home/New Slide and select “Duplicate Selected Slides” to make a copy to start solving on.

Sudoku Basic and Follow-up Actions

Now you are ready to add clues, pencil marks, graphic symbols, and curves to your puzzle grid. Save the file occasionally, or when ending a session, with Cntrl-S. When a significant change is to occur make a slide copy to continue.

The bypass and box marking actions paste or move copies of clue and pencil mark boxes and symbols on the grid. Traces can be maintained in the comment box below.

In box marking, single characters are expanded into digit strings. To do that, place the cursor turned vertical bar where you want to add digits and type. Added digits run down a column, but when all are aboard, stretch the text box by dragging the right border right. You can add, delete and backspace at the cursor.

Curves are easy, but will take some practice. A curve is started  by selecting Shapes on the Home menu then select the curve icon. Then as you add points, a curve is fitted to it and the previous points. You can step back to previous curves with the delete key, which removes the previous points in order. It gets predictable with practice.  

A double click completes the curve, which is then a selectable and groupable graphics object. On the Home or Format bar, you select the pen color, thickness, dash type, and arrow type. The Format bar comes up when a graphics object is selected.

The bv map

The bv map is a 9 x 9 table to get the bv cells off by themselves. In the sysudoku bv scan phase of Sysudoku Basic, bv are first used to crack Sue de Coq and APE cells.  Then we fill a bv map and copy the bv into another, wider XYZ table.  Next we zoom up the bv map and draw curves connecting the bv into an XY railroad, so named to reflect how the curves join to form a connected network. When all connections are made, the railroad includes every possible XY chain, including all XY ANL and XY nice loops.

In this example from the KrazyDad Supertough review, blue and red closed curves trace out two XY nice loops. Black and green are “spurs” allowing XY chains onto the nice loop tracks. Actually when the bv field allows such an elaborate RR, its past time for coloring.

The XY chain curves on the grid have a different look, as dashed and solid curve segments are joined with direction and curvature somewhat matched. Here is the blue nice loop on the grid. In the nice loop, both ends of every wink are ANL terminals. The blue loop removes two candidates.

The XYZ Scan

Next, we search the XYZ map for XYZ-wings. The process is well illustrated by a snapshot of the XYZ-wing analysis taken before the nice loop removals above.

When two candidates of a 3-value cell appear as bv on the map, we type the values into the map as a potential XYZ hinge, regardless of relative location.  A  456-cell was considered, for example, but was not entered because only one pair, 46, appeared on the bv map.

On the other hand, 178 was entered in r2c3, because bv cells included 17, 18. It failed because the 78 cell value could not “see” the hinge 7 or 8. 

One of the 467-hinges fails , but two succeed. The r89 one is a regular 467-wing removing a 6-candidate.  The upper one is a Sysudoku innovation,  an irregular XYZ-wing, or iXYZ-wing. The victim 6r4c8 sees one Z=6 at wing r6c5 with a grouped wink forcing chain.

It’s  not hard to spot these ER chains when the target is spelled out for you.

A very useful drawing tool to know is the format painter.  It is the paintbrush icon on the Home menu. The properties of a selected object are transferred onto a second object by clicking the format painter, then clicking the format painter icon on the second object.  Drawing the chains in the above grid is a good example. Once you have one solid segment and one dashed segment of a chain, all of the other segments can be painted with the color, line width, and dash style with two clicks.

Once constructed as separate files, visual aids such as the bv map and XYZ map can be easily updated while single removals and confirmations make it clear they may still be needed. These updates focus on the small change, and sometimes trigger a large one.

Blog pictures  and the bv pix form.  

The Sysudoku blog is text and embedded pictures of all sizes. Tables of data are constructed and read in ©Word and ©PowerPoint, but pictures for publication are more easily produced in the latter. Generally speaking. a graphic object, often a grouped set of graphic objects, is selected with an enveloping dragged out rectangle and grouped with Home/Arrange/Group. Then a right click on the margin brings a menu with Save as picture. You provide a file name and a directory location and save it. 

Later, under Insert/Picture/This device, you select the file by click within a directory window or by entering the name, and tap Insert. The picture comes with an upper right icon for Layout options. Generally, it’s Square, which allows you to drag the image across the text, adjusting the text to preserve it’s rectangular borders, and drag a corner to adjust its size. Pictures of tables with data are published just this way. It’s fine for the grid with curves on it, a grouped graphic object. But to picture a table with curves or any other graphic on it, I go with ©PowerPoint.  You select the table with a click on its corner tab, then drag over the graphic elements on the table, then without grouping, go to the edge of the selection, left click for the same menu and select Save as picture.

I draw the XY railroad on the bv map and the XYZ-wings on the XYZ map, and when you do, you’ll need a ©PowerPoint bv map for pictures, the bv pix form. You select and paste the data from Word on it, retype the banner, and then do the above.

The X-panel

The X-panel is a 9 by 9 table with a header line across the top. Usually it contains single digits of the same number, representing candidates of that number across the grid.

There are three forms of X-panel in my sysudokie tool box.  Most often used is a Word table of twelve X-panels, giving me one for each value, plus three spare panels on a bottom row. Here is the X-panel for KDST 515, without the spares.

Nothing appears on 7’s panel because all boxes contain clues. You see starfish and jellyfish because the remaining candidates of any value form a dead fish in both line directions. The Guide page on regular fish explains a technique using blank lines on the X-panel to mark fish and removal victims.

The Sysudoku tool kit includes two more X-panel forms on a ©PowerPoint presentation file. The Limited Pattern Overlay (LPO) file has a four-panel slide sized for pattern analysis using freeforms. A pattern is a set of candidates providing a member for every  unassigned  line and box. A freeform line crossing from one side to the opposite side of the X-panel and visiting every unassigned line and every unassigned box once marks a pattern. There is only one true pattern. Every cluster includes one true and one false pattern, so pattern analysis and coloring narrow the choice of patterns for trials.

Here are two panels comparing a prospective cluster with all patterns of west to east freeforms and all patterns of south to north freeforms.

Sometimes patterns are more restrictive, and we can look along the pattern edges and find candidates missed by the possible patterns, which can be removed.

I don’t n0rmally draw on X-panels for blog publication, but the freeforms and direction arrows above are the exceptions. The four table panel is a good size and the squares color(use the smaoo idagonal cursor arrow to select the interior and click the fill mode for color selection. Freeforms are on the shapes menu. You click on every turn a corner and delete to back up, just like curves. Drag a covering rectangle and click to select the tables, and right click the rectangle for the Save as picture menu.


Three kinds of move traces are published in the Sysudoku blog. All are typed or copied into text boxes, then stored as pictures, to be later inserted into text. Every puzzle report has a basic trace, showing the sequence of moves in Basic, and how a move depends on an earlier one listed above it. Bypass, box marking and line marking traces are displayed in order, and each has a different text format. All traces are pictures of ©PowerPoint text boxes inserted on blank sheets or beside grids.

Following this example from ultrahardcore 47, the bypass trace records any resolution of 3-fills or 4-fills first, then clues and subsets in top down, left right order. 

Column 4 has a 4-fill, four cells for values 3, 4, 7 and 9 and a placement of 3 in the South box, to leave a 3-fill for 4, 7  and 9 with a placement of 9 in the North box.  Then the clues and subsets are listed through the boxes, ending with two 3-fills, one resolved to a placement and a naked pair in r1. Then the 9 box slink lists, the line marking list of lines by increasing free cells, and the closing list for the remaining lines in the opposite direction.

The clue and fill report of the bypass trace above is the format of the follow up traces in the advanced solving reporting. Follow up traces are designed to be compact and leave out details seen on the current grid. They are meant to be read as you make the trace moves on the grid. If you need an overview, see Sudoku Traces on the menu bar.

If you start aiding and documenting your solving with ©PowerPoint or an equivalent, you could choose a different fill and shape color for text boxes to distinguish your report from Sysudoku’s. Maroon and grey are my high school colors.

Suset Tables

A final attempt to solve a very hard puzzle without trial is to find all ALS and draw ALS maps, which are three copies of the current grid showing the ALS in every row, or every column or  every box. You can follow a process with every ALS as it is added to its map that

  • extends AIC by using it as a node,
  • captures every ALS_XZ in which it partners with ALS already on the maps, and
  • adds it to a ALS chain embedded in the map, to build an ALS-wing.

Suset tables enable you to identify all ALS in the rows, or the columns, or the boxes, before you begin the process. A suset is a pair of digit strings, one to represent cell positions in the unit, the second to represent the values in those cells, separated by a slash. ALS are identified by combining susets into larger susets. The combination of two susets is the union of the cell positions/the union of the values. You generate all susets for every ALS in a unit by combining pairs of susets,  

The suset table gives you space to conduct and record the ALS building process. In the row table, each row gets an upper line and a lower line.

In the upper line, you place the values in each cell. In the spaces of the second line, you place combined susets, building to the ALS levels of n positions having n+1 values.

Susets can unravel many locked set situations in Sudoku. A scratchpad algorithm for finding difficult subsets in Basic is described in the post of October 25, 2011. See the archive list or The Guide/Sysudoku Basic/Susets for Subsets for that. You won’t need a table..

Well, that’s my account of how Sysudoku is published.  Ask at for template files by name and see the posts and The Guide for when to do what and why it works. Please comment here for further information on Sysudoku publication tools.

4 Responses to Solving Tools

  1. Asief Tejani says:

    I have been sending you emails but no response. On vacation?

  2. Annabel Odenwald says:

    After I originally commented I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I receive four emails with the same comment. Is there a way you are able to remove me from that service? Thanks!

  3. Sudent says:

    No, but maybe if you return to the option and unclick the box.

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