Mastering Sudoku: Tips to Increase Speed and Solve Puzzles Faster

Sudoku, the popular number puzzle game, has captured the hearts of many with its challenging yet addictive nature.

We will explore the rules of Sudoku, various strategies for solving the puzzles, tips on how to improve your speed, common mistakes to avoid, and much more.

Whether you’re a beginner looking to sharpen your skills or a seasoned player aiming to become a Sudoku pro, this article has something for everyone. For using hints in the popular puzzle game, check out this guide.

Get ready to dive into the world of Sudoku and take your puzzling abilities to the next level!

What Is Sudoku?

Sudoku is a number puzzle game that requires players to fill squares on a grid. The grid is divided into 9×9 smaller squares known as blocks. Each row and column of the large square must contain the numbers 1 to 9. No number can be repeated within each subgrid, row, or column until a solution to the puzzle is filled. The game was created in the late 19th century in different forms, but the first modern Sudoku appeared in 1979 and was popularized by Japanese company Nikoli in the 1980s.

What Are The Rules Of Sudoku?

The only rule of standard sudoku is that each of the numbers 1-9 must appear exactly once in each row, column, and 3×3 block. In a 9×9 grid, depending on the context of the puzzle, either None, one, or more than one cell of the grid may be pre-filled. The starting position is called the initial state of the puzzle; it may be an empty grid and the answerer constructs it, or the grid may be partially filled such as a jigsaw sudoku or chaos sudoku.

From the initial state of a sudoku puzzle, only one solution is intended; a well-constructed Sudoku puzzle has only a single solution that can be reached without any guesses using only the clues provided. If there are multiple solutions, it is a poorly constructed or invalid puzzle.

What Are The Strategies For Solving Sudoku?

Strategies for solving sudoku are the methods that allow a person to narrow down the solution quickly based on the patterns they see on the board. There are various strategies that have been defined by experts including row/column considerations, box-line reduction, locked candidates, and many others.

A row/column consideration is when a number that must be placed in a certain row/column has a restricted number of possible grid spaces within certain other boxes. This restricts the available spots in adjacent rows/columns based on certain legal constraints. A box-line reduction is when a candidate number can be reduced by taking into consideration the numbers in the adjacent rows/columns.


To be fast in Sudoku, you first need to be accurate with scanning, which refers to the ability to search the puzzle methodically and quickly until you find the correct solution, Update Your Intelligence states.

With easy and medium puzzles, scanning should not take more than 10-15 seconds per cell, so there is no point beating yourself up if you are not done analyzing a cell within the time limit.


Crosshatching is a method of locating a single number by quickly narrowing it down into one cell.

Heavily used by Tamariz in his competitive puzzle-solving, best seen towards the middle of his contest video. It is a process of looking at what numbers another cell can accommodate, and ruling those numbers out of the crosshatched cell. Repeat this process every time you find a new filled-in cell of any number until you find the correct number for that square. For all other squares, ignore the crosshatched cells.

Penciling In

To speed up playing sudoku, you need to employ the tactic of penciling in. Penciling in refers to menially identifying where each possible number can and cannot go in a box without committing to writing it. Avoid writing specific numbers themselves in the boxes until you absolutely must to avoid errors. There should be already narrowed number possibilities until you can fill a number safely, so take time to identify that it is the last possibility to complete the puzzle. This is the most basic speed improvement as it will allow for quickly re-considering decisions if you find they are wrong.

For instance, in a 3×3 sudoku grid, start with 9 at the top left and finish at 1 at the bottom right, and you will always end up with a correct puzzle if you never make a mistake. Penciling in will also help avoid errors. It is common to get faster by translating brain thoughts onto paper. When thinking speed takes over, there will be more likely errors in original thought. Do not put numbers in to fill in guesses on a number you realize. Use a grid of 9 possible numbers in each box under nieces under the diamond shape of the number you are contemplating to keep track of possible numbers to avoid thinking errors.


In more complex cases, the elimination technique is used to deduce what is correct based on what we know is incorrect. This technique is as important as the brainstorming technique (point six), and the two are often utilized together. The following are basic steps to apply the elimination technique, as listed in Solve Sudoko – A Cheat Sheet.

  1. Scan each box, row, and column for the absence of a specific number.
  2. Note all available numbers (called candidate numbers) in the box, row, or column in which a certain number is missing.
  3. See if any of the candidate numbers can only occur in one box in their respective row or column and attempt to place the selected number where it ought to be.
  4. Repeat the process for each candidate number until one fits.

After the completion of this technique, the overall problem is easier than it was before eliminating candidate numbers. These are some other things to look out for:

  • Make a careful review of the basic structure of the sudoku, and wherever multiple candidate numbers from the same box/row/column converge, adjust their positions to allow one to be slotted in, eliminating the possible options
  • If an error is identified during this process, go back and correct the error before attempting any other techniques.
  • Continue to create possible options for electronic tries if the elimination process does not help make the solution obvious.

The video by Cracking the Cryptic shows how the elimination technique is used in the context of a specific puzzle. The narrator talks through the process and shows the viewer which numbers in which box, row, or column have been eliminated through process of deduction, indicating why one number is chosen over the other as the correct option.


An X-Wing happens when a number (candidate) that must be placed in one of two squares in one two-row band is also a candidate in the same two squares of another two-row band.

Because of the candidate elimination pattern across the four cells, any other occurrence of that candidate in a peer with two-row bands is eliminated, which means it is a sufficient strategy to place the number in either of the two squares of the other two bands. This occurs in boxes 2, 8 and 4, 9.


Swordfish is an XY-Wing (Jellyfish) in a 3×3 grid. An actual Swordfish pattern is quite rare, even with very high values models, meaning this won’t be a frequent go-to technique for fast Sudoku solvers. This pattern arises when every 3rd row contains at least three identical candidates (We’ll use the red 5 candidate for this example), and there are only three candidates per box throughout these rows. Using this pattern allows the individual to eliminate the candidates in the gray boxes. The most complicated version of a Swordfish involves a connected group of two or more Almost Locked Sets.

Forcing Chains

A forcing chain is a specific strategy in sudoku to infer the possible values of a region of the board, limiting the values of specific cells to only one or two possibilities. These pseudocells are made from all possible moves in the region that are not yet eliminated by the previous constraints. Therefore, the rest of the pseudocells cannot include those eliminated by the previous constraints. Tian Sang describes them as mini-X-chains. The elimination of a value of a dictated cell from the X-chain constraints is known as a chain reaction.


Models Parametric Systems describes backtracking as a technique for finding a systematic, depth-first method for solving problems by exploring partial solutions. Speculatively trying out answers to today’s difficult Sudoku puzzle is typically unproductive. This is because although mistakes do not let one see how early inaccuracies are interacting with current local situations, they do inform one about previously made errors. This way of trying to find solutions to the grid without guidance is referred to as backtracking. Although efficient constructive methods are generally to be preferred, backtracking may be instructive on occasions, letting the situation show you how and why you were wrong the previous day. But backtracking in itself is not a particularly fast solving strategy. Normal constructive methods in a state of completion are best for speeding up solving times by quickly trying a few cells one after the other with high intuitive probabilities of success with direction from training and the guidance of givens. Backtracking, in these cases, is tempting, but a waste of time. Solved cells are useful and could save minutes. It is preferable to start the matter from the beginning. Regardless of speed, patience and uniform practice of constructive methods is essential to improvement in fast Sudoku.

How To Be Fast In Sudoku?

  1. Pick only one row or column, and handle it without moving your eyes. Execute at light speed, fingers never letting up the pace. If you slip, start over. After you achieve fluency on one element, upgrade to a block.
  2. Look for the smallest number of smallest potential boxes on your board. Identify minimal box groups and work in one of these groups.
  3. Push yourself to get by with only a brief glance at the cage of the number, and try to rely only on your memory to prevent looking back at the numbers themselves. This approach is one of the various types of mnemonic memory methods that are best used for exercises and practice.
  4. Use keyboard shortcuts to rapidly complete the numbers you know are correct.
  5. Practice the strategies and tips mentioned above in this article that improve your publicity figure in using technology. These approaches allow you to focus on the mechanics of the game once they are mastered and truncating time spent on more steadily solving the game.
  6. Time yourself to build better strategies later. As with a slow, deliberate practice, ignoring time is encouraged to encourage better thought patterns when developing solutions that don’t rely on brute force but after you’ve learned enough to know where you are and where you want to do better, monitoring your results can help you to compete against yourself as a motivational factor.
  7. Focus on releasing your score across the board, improving the time for completion & not frequently checking the duration after each interaction or round.

Practice Regularly

Practice on a regular basis and try to understand the techniques used to solve sudoku. A daily, weekly, or regularly scheduled sudoku workout improves your skills. There are multiple strategies that players can utilize in different scenarios. In a timed situation, you do not have to keep moving on the puzzle. Remember, the time spent identifying strategies to fill the empty squares faster can be seen as regular practice, and thus you did not waste time. Practice will allow your mind to quickly pick from noticed strategies to move faster.

Start With Easy Puzzles

Another way to solve for speed in sudoku is to start with easy puzzles from known publishers like Penny Dell Sudokus. Starting them as easy puzzles will allow you to finish them in almost no time at all, and you will quickly build an intuition for the patterns and strategies to solve strategically.

Furthermore, a vast majority of Sudoku puzzles are actually easy. Here are statistics culled from Ian Gent’s Sudoku Research Page (June 2021) using the UK Daily Telegraph Sudoku that highlight the relative ratio:

  • The probability of a grid being solvable equals 99.1894% the moment you enter the digits in the starting grid without any attempt to solve them.
  • 1.35% of puzzles are rank 50, which means they have a unique solution that can be arrived at without needing to guess.
  • 3.70% of puzzles are rank 48. This means there are two or more solutions or it has a unique solution that cannot be arrived at without guessing.
  • 97.29% of puzzles are rank 49. This means they have a unique solution that can be arrived at without needing to guess. You can get seeds for Dixon, the fastest solution of which to provide a single solution is 0012000032.

Jacob Klein, CEO of Consolation Marketing and TikTok star as @ConsultJake has been solving Ohio local newspaper (the Bexley News) Sudoku for over 20 years, and has seen the level of challenge change over time.

For first-year solvers, I always suggest the beginner’s advice. This is also true if you want to be fast. He suggests to Break Down Semantics and Find Blocks of 9 tiles. This advice suggests that even if you find the difficulty levels that don’t offer fastest solved times attractive, they remain helpful as a part of their Sudoku diet from time to time. For expert players looking to master Sudoku, these tips can help increase speed and solve puzzles faster.

Some also have a simple numerical structure where most forms of challenging quirks were eliminated from the system. Those who have less challenge except additive difficulty are good rest puzzles. Rest puzzles for those who want to practice for the Olympics, rest puzzles for those who want the ‘Muscle Memory of Sudoku’ for relaxed solving – Jacob Klein’s set of Sudoku practice includes all these levels.

Use Pencil Marks

Solving a field via pencil marks refers to making probability notes in empty cells.

When one only has a few candidates left for a number in a cell (let’s say a maximum of four), then they can make small notes in the corners of the cell indicating possible values. As the exact value of the cell is determined, scratch it out from other penciled note cells. By doing the above, you break down field constraints and requirements to simpler cases and can identify hidden patterns more easily. For example, you can learn conjugate pairs and use them to eliminate the values of cells. Hidden Pairs, for example, are pencil-mark only pseudo-candidates in two cells in a row, column, box. If values can be determined, then these can be linked to the known cells as pointing pairs, box line reduction, crosshatch scanning, bug checking, box and line reducing.

Focus On One Number At A Time

Pass over all the cells in order and identify those that can be identified in the initial pass, if there is a first number in the cell, mark it. If there is only one possibility in that cell, mark it. Pick the most common number, which is usually 1, and take 1 cell in the group and identify all the 1s; which should be fairly easy.

Then, pick another number such as 2 and repeat for all cells in the group (note: you should not be solving any cell more than once). After being done, you will have covered something in the 33-40% range (halfway) in all cells. Going on, you should prioritize different things such as certain numbers with few candidates left in certain cells. This will typically lead you to pick one of the remaining numbers.

Look For Patterns

Patterns are a way of identifying relationships between Sudoko cells, rows, and boxes, and thus Sudoku puzzles as a whole. Recognizing patterns makes it easier to identify what numbers are and are not placed in specific cells. Scanning techniques are useful, but there is a further need for in depth thinking when finding those numbers.

This expanded table lists various strategies that players use to identify, group, or analyze patterns:

  1. Identification

    – Singles or Certainties

  2. Grouping

    – Locked Candidates

  3. Pattern Recognition

    – Naked Pairs

  4. Analysis of relationships

    – Forcing Chains

  5. Pattern Recognition

    – X Wings

  6. Pattern Recognition

    – Squirmbags

  7. Analysis of relationships

    – Extremely Difficult Puzzles

There are many online resources that go into detail on these methods should it pique your interest to delve deeper. Techniques, strategies, and methodology are the how to of learning to play Sudoku. Constant practice and reviewing of past performances are the only other ways to get better at playing the numbers game.

Use Advanced Strategies

Advanced strategies in Sudoku are known to offer faster solutions than using the basic approach. Despite the fact that these techniques are used less frequently throughout the game, especially towards the beginning, some of the advanced methods involve intersection removal and subgroup exclusion which allows players to reduce possibilities in rows and columns, speeding the gameplay near completion.

Two of the other most well-known advanced Sudoku strategies are XY-Wing or Y-Wing which involve three vertices and the X-Wing where four vertices, each at the corner of a rectangle (square), are connected. In each scenario, three numbers are given along the vertices and a possibility assigned to them with one of the remaining squares where the corrections at the vertices will lead to yield an unnecessary double number in the yet-to-be-filled square. Thus the incorrect possibility is ruled out.

Chain Reaction is an advanced method that starts from little hints provided in conjugate pairs (two cells sharing the same number). As a non-permanent declaration of solved squares, players can use the side column of the assistant solver system to enter these temporary hints. By starting from one, a chain is constructed, with each new vertex connected to its predecessor. At the end of the chain, all temporarily hinted digits do not comply with the complete solution, and elimination occurs. This process thus speeds up the intermediate game, which may experience a slowdown.

Time Yourself

In a classic sudoku gameplay infolinks article titled Low Performance in Speed solvers by Ramamurthi S., at UC Berkely, the argument is made that those who choose to time themselves are conversely some of the fastest solvers.

Time speeding up as skills improve on average is worth noting, as someone who is slow at first might naturally speed up over time with increased skill and focus application. Determine if you are taking a long time to finish a puzzle by your solution to it being correct but long. Finish one of the Large puzzles, there are 6 here to try. If you do complete it all in one sitting, mark the time you began and ended to see how fast you are at a superior level Try the Ezine level 2 puzzles to see if you can solve them quickly.

This approach can track your speed over time and let you know when and how much you improve.

Stay Calm And Focused

Staying calm and maintaining focus is important in any situation, not just in sudoku. It will be hard to be fast in sudoku if one is not focused and calm. Focus and calm are closely linked. When sudoku players are focused on the numbers at play, they need to be calm and as stress-free as possible so that they can calculate the possible implications of each move. As sudoku is a thinking game with no time limits, there is no need to rush.

This is especially true if you are a beginner. Nonetheless, gaining speed could become useful, like a time limit for analogies in class. Meditation and relaxation techniques can help one to be more in tune with their body’s stress signs, helping one to work on them effectively. Drinking soothing, hot herbal teas and soaking in a warm salted bath are potential stress relief options as well.

Even during a stressful day, quick breathing exercises or short meditation exercises can be useful. One can even extend this second focus into their sudoku strategy. If one is so focused on calming their body for fast sudoku that they struggle to start the game, when beginning to feel a little antsy, restart the sudoku puzzle foundation with a simple elimination strategy. This will distract from whatever is causing the stress and sharpen one’s puzzle solving skills in the process.

What Are Some Common Mistakes In Sudoku?

Some common mistakes in sudoku occur when an unsolvable cell gets more than one number placed in it, cells are marked as possibilities when there is only one cell available, seeing difficult cells as impossible when some easy but inobvious logic makes them easy to solve, or most frequently, mistakes in tracking previous moves as the game continues.

Repeating Numbers In A Row, Column, Or Box

Looking for repeating numbers in a row, column, or box can give you the clue you need to be fast in Sudoku. If there is already a 2 in row 6, that means there can be no other 2’s in row 6. Conversely, failing to confirm this rule can lead to the necessity of erasing and backtracking if found to be in error.

If a 9 is already present in a given 3×3 ‘box’, there must be no 9’s in that box as the rules of the game stipulate. The numbers 1-9 should occupy all cells necessary for the leftmost 3×3 ‘top row box’ Be on the lookout for times when one number’s placement (or restriction) can inform your placement of other numbers. In the example below, a 1 is already in column 1 and many have noted that this seems to imply a 1 in column 4.

Not Using Pencil Marks

Opt not to use penciling if you are a fast sudoku solver. In a survey of productive speed-solving strategies, fast solver Bram de Laat argued that the entrance to the early quick phase of settlement was skipping pen and paper. The faster you can skip using notes, the better, says de Laat. Toussaint in the Americans use notes on tough puzzles, but I have solved hundreds of three-star puzzles in under thirty minutes without the use of notes.

When the numbers are put in too early, they can give too much information and slow down fast pedestrians. Keeping the playing board tidy, fast pedestrian Rich Brownley from England and a popular competitive player said. Notes can be useful in the very early stages of a riffling puzzle, but once I have filled out one of the grids I only know how to use numbers by digit scanning.

Skipping Steps

Skip to the next step if a step is not solvable: Find a step beyond a difficulty hard for you. If you have been working through some steps and are not able to get any further, then the step you are on is likely more advanced than one you need to solve next. If so, you should return to the beginning of the techniques and work up the layers of complexity. Skipping to a step beyond difficult will make it harder to solve the incomplete puzzle.

However, it may clarify whether you have been missing a key observation or assignment. Skipping steps will make you faster at solving a sudoku, but Verd Harvey is of the mindset that if you feel you are not skilled enough to skip, then don’t feel like you have to in order to improve your time.

Erasing Too Much

Erasing too much can be a time-waster similar to excessive scanning. In the effort to avoid silly mistakes players can waste precious seconds erasing nearly as much as they write. Each set of additional eraser strokes requires slightly more delicate application which is a time issue as well.

Puzzlers are often young or have young mentalities and tend to go overboard on the erasing front. The obvious way to solve this problem is by simply using an electronic solving platform which reduces erasing to the click of a button. It is possible to ease into using less erasing by sticking to paper and trying to complete a puzzle with an amount of writing and erasing done on par with what is typical for a grid of that difficult level.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some tips on how to be fast in Sudoku?

Practice, practice, practice! The more you play Sudoku, the faster you will become at solving puzzles. It’s all about building your problem-solving skills and familiarizing yourself with different strategies.

How important is it to have a good Sudoku solving technique?

Having a good solving technique is crucial in being fast at Sudoku. It helps you approach each puzzle with a clear and efficient method, rather than relying on trial and error.

Are there any specific strategies that can help me solve Sudoku faster?

Yes, there are many strategies that can help you solve Sudoku puzzles faster. Some of the most common ones include scanning, crosshatching, and using a pencil to mark potential numbers in each square.

Should I focus on one Sudoku puzzle at a time or try to solve multiple puzzles simultaneously?

It’s best to focus on one puzzle at a time in order to improve your speed. Trying to solve multiple puzzles simultaneously can be overwhelming and may hinder your progress.

Is it necessary to time myself when solving Sudoku puzzles?

Timing yourself can be a helpful way to track your improvement and set goals for faster solving. However, it’s not necessary and some people may find it adds unnecessary pressure. Do what works best for you.

How can I improve my concentration and focus while solving Sudoku puzzles?

Some tips for improving concentration and focus while solving Sudoku include finding a quiet and comfortable place to play, minimizing distractions, and taking breaks as needed. It can also be helpful to pace yourself and not rush through each puzzle.

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