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Strategies for Number Puzzles of all kinds
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Intersection Removal

If any one number occurs twice or three times in just one unit (any row, column or box) then we can remove that number from the intersection of another unit. There are four types of intersection:
  1. A Pair or Triple in a box - if they are aligned on a row, n can be removed from the rest of the row.
  2. A Pair or Triple in a box - if they are aligned on a column, n can be removed from the rest of the column.
  3. A Pair or Triple on a row - if they are all in the same box, n can be removed from the rest of the box.
  4. A Pair or Triple on a column - if they are all in the same box, n can be removed from the rest of the box.

Pointing Pairs, Pointing Triples

Pointing Pairs
Pointing Pairs : Load Example or : From the Start
Looking at each box in turn there may be two or three occurrences of a particular number. If these numbers are aligned on a single row or column (as a pair or a triple) then we know that number MUST occur on that line. Therefore, if the number occurs anywhere else on the row or column outside the box WHICH THEY ARE ALIGNED ON then it can be removed. The pair or triple points along the line at any numbers which can be removed.

Here are two Pointing Pairs at the same time on this tough rated puzzle. The 3s in B7 and B9 are alone in box 3 and they are aligned on the row. So looking along the row we can remove all the 3s in Box 1. In a similar manner the 2s in G4 and G5 point along the row to G2.
Pointing Pairs Example 2
Pointing Pairs Example 2 : Load Example

Now this is a rather special puzzle and a little extreme, but if we look at the whole board you can see I have highlighted a whole cluster of Pointing Pairs. It is obviously not necessary to spot everyone to progress the board but there are so many good examples it is worth looking at. The eliminations are highlighted in yellow. You should be able to see which eliminations belong to which Pointing Pair. A couple are consequences of a previous elimination.
Pointing Triple
Pointing Triple : Load Example or : From the Start


Here is a Pointing Triple found in a tough grade puzzle containing many wholesome and nutritious Pointing Pairs. All the 3s are found in G6, H6 and J6 and nowhere else in box 8, so they point up the column to another 3 which can be removed.

Box Line Reduction

Box/Line Reduction
Box/Line Reduction : Load Example or : From the Start
This strategy involves careful comparison of rows and columns against the content of boxes (3 x 3 squares). If we find numbers in any row or column that are grouped together in just one box, we can exclude those numbers from the rest of the box. For example:

This Sudoku contains numerous Pointing Pairs and Box/Line Reductions and is worth stepping through from the start. Consider row A. The only 2s left are in A4 and A5 which means we should should check the rest of the box. 2 has to go somewhere on row A and it will be in one of those two cells. So we can eliminate 2 from B5, C4 and C5.
Box/Line Reduction
Box/Line Reduction : Load Example or : From the Start

In the very next step of the same puzzle we have two 4s alone in column 8. That fixes 4 to be in either cell A8 or B8. We can remove the other 4s in box 3 and get our next solved cell: 2 in C7.
Triple BLR
Triple BLR : Load Example or : From the Start

I've rolled two examples into one diagram here, I hope it wont be confusing. The one involving 6s follows on immediately from the first one found among the 3s (purely because it searches in order from 1 to 9). They are both 'triple' versions of Box/Line reduction.

In column 1 the 3s occupy G1, H1, J1 (shorthand = GHJ1) which are all in box 7. The solution is pinned to column 1 so the other 3s in the box must go.

The 6s are likewise pinned by column 2. You can see there are other 6s in column 3, in A3 and J3) which is why it's okay to remove the 6s in DEF3. You won't run out.


If you are a fan of Jigsaw Sudoku puzzles, you may want to read the articles on Double Pointing Pairs and Double Line/Box Reduction which extend the ideas here but are strategies possible only in the Jigsaw variant of the puzzle.

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Comments here pertain to corrections to the text, not the subject itself

Saturday 12-Jul-2014

... by: Jimbo213Mo

Andrew i absolutely LOVE your way of explaining different strategies.
In Pointing Pair example 2 you need to yellow a few more numbers to maker your statement "The eliminations are highlighted in yellow" true & so your pointing pairs show every item that can be eliminated:

a) pair DF6 yellow one 7 in B6
b) pair DF8 yellow three 8 in ABC8
c) pair G79 yellow one 7 in G5

A devoted fan ... JIm
Andrew Stuart writes:

Happy to do so, I've colored in the remaining. Might take a few F5s refreshes for it to show
Thanks for the feedback

Wednesday 11-Sep-2013

... by: Hassieb Wali

I can see pairs in the examples but no triples. Could you give an example of triples.
Andrew Stuart writes:

Good idea, done

Saturday 1-Dec-2012

... by: Brandon

In the second paragraph of "Box Line Reduction", "someone" should be changed to "somewhere". Very nice explanations nevertheless!
Andrew Stuart writes:

Fixed, ty!

Sunday 30-Aug-2009

... by: W Gerald

Why isn't your printed version the same as the site version with no changes in layout and only background and text colours reversed? The site version display is superb.
Andrew Stuart writes:

It should be identical. It removes the side menu - not required for printing - and it horizontally flexes since the printer driver decides on the actual width.

Article created on 3-April-2008. Views: 310190
This page was last modified on 12-September-2013.
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Copyright Andrew Stuart @ Syndicated Puzzles Inc, 2013