The end of Sudoku?

I recently read in Owen O’Shea’s book The Call of the Primes that there are 5,472,730,538 unique solutions for a 9×9 Sudoku grid.

Yes, five billion is a very big number, but these days, billions aren’t what they used to be. I mean, think about how many newspapers, magazines, and puzzle books feature Sudoku puzzles. It’s a huge amount of material every year.

So, the thought occurs to me…how long before those 5,472,730,538 unique solutions run out?

To be fair, it’s not like reaching Peak Oil or a point of no return. I’ve solved a lot of Sudoku puzzles, and never once have I felt like I was re-solving a grid I’ve seen before, even if I was. This is purely a matter of mathematical curiosity. How long would it take for us to use up every last possible 9×9 grid?

Man, where do I begin?

Well, if I’m going to talk Sudoku puzzles, it makes sense to start with our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles.

Across seventeen Sudoku titles, they publish approximately 23,236 Sudoku puzzles a year, and probably an additional 350 per year across their Crossword/Variety and Variety titles for a total of 23,586 puzzles in a calendar year.

Now, Penny Dell Puzzles is the top puzzle publisher in North America — #humblebrag — and let’s assume there are another half-dozen publishers worldwide matching their output. That gives us a ballpark of 165,100 Sudoku puzzles published worldwide.

But what about newspapers?

According to the Newspaper Association of America, there were 1,331 daily newspapers in 2014, and there were 1,450 daily newspapers in 2005, making an 8.2% decrease from a decade before. If we apply that percentage to the number of daily newspapers worldwide as of 2005, 6,580 titles, we get 6,040 daily newspapers worldwide. And although they may not ALL have a daily Sudoku, this will help cover some of the major magazines that also carry Sudoku that I’ve excluded from my ballpark calculations.

That gives us 6,040 newspapers x 365 puzzles a year for a total of 2,204,600 puzzles a year.

Now, for other publishing efforts regarding Sudoku, lists 20,718 results for Sudoku, and if we apply an average of 217 puzzles per title — which seems a fair approximation, based on the stats published by our friends at Penny Dell Puzzles, the fact that some books will have more puzzles, and some results will be ABOUT Sudoku and probably contain few to none actual puzzles — that’s 4,495,806 puzzles available right now in the world’s biggest bookstore. (Yes, obviously not all of them were published this year, but hey, this is meatball mathematics.)

Unfortunately, statistics on Sudoku are sketchy at best for the mobile app market, online puzzling, and downloadable puzzles through Playstation Network, Wii, and other gaming platforms, so I can’t factor those puzzles into my calculations.

But just with the numbers I’ve got here, we’re talking about 6,865,506 Sudoku puzzles worldwide. So, if each of those Sudoku puzzles is unique — which is possible, if unlikely — that barely makes a dent in our total of possible Sudoku grid layouts, which you recall is 5,472,730,538.

So, if we’re producing 6,865,506 unique Sudoku puzzles a year, it’ll take nearly 800 years to use every possible 9×9 grid! (For the folks at Penny Dell Puzzles, it would take nearly 232,033 years! So they’re in the clear. *laughs*)

I guess we won’t be running out anytime soon.

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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Hashtag Hilarity edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’m posting the results of our #PennyDellPuzzleComedy hashtag game!

You may be familiar with the board game Schmovie, hashtag games on Twitter, or@midnight’s Hashtag Wars segment on Comedy Central.

For the last few months, we’ve been collaborating on puzzle-themed hashtag games with our pals at Penny Dell Puzzles, and this month’s hook was #PennyDellPuzzleComedy, mashing up Penny Dell puzzles and anything and everything having to do with stand-up comics, film and television comedians, funny movies, funny shows, funny plays… even one-liners or jokes!

Examples include: David Letterboxesman, The Three Anagr-amigos, or “Take a Letter, Please!”

So, without further ado, check out what the puzzlers at PuzzleNation and Penny Dell Puzzles came up with!

Puzzle Comedians!

Rodney Danger-Textfields

George Carlinkwords

“Weird Al”-phagrid Yankovic

Dr. Dementossing and Turning

Fill-In Diller / Phyll-Ins Diller

Kenken Jeong

David Cross Pairs

Lewis Blackout!

Andrew Dice Game

Cryptomedian Adam Scrambler

Rows-anne Garden

Alphabet Soupy Sales

Dan Ayk-wordplay

Gilda-Quote Radner

Rose-anagrams Rose-anagrams Dannagrams

Puzzle Comedy Films!

History of the World, Part One and Only

Happy Fill-in More!

Meet the Frameworks

You Don’t Maze with the Zohan

Austin Flower Powers

April Sillycrostics!

Four Square Weddings and a Funeral

Three from Nine to Five


Across and Down and Out in Beverly Hills

Alphabet Duck Soup

Animal Crackers House

Puzzle Comedy TV Shows!

A Bits and Pieces of Fry and Laurie

Two for One and a Half Men

Rowan and Martin’s Fill-In

Three of a Kind’s Company

“I Love Loosey Tiles!”

Saturday Night Line ‘Em Up

Sanford and Sunrays

All in the Family Ties

Happy Daisy

Leave It to Weaver Words

The Odds and Evens Couple

[Plus there were a few Seinfeld references in puzzly form:]

“By the way, they’re real, and they’re Sudoku Spectacular!”

“The Bubbles Boy”

Puzzle Jokes and Routines!

“Who’s on first and last?” / “Who’s Calling on first! What’s Left on second!”

Knock, Knock! Who’s Calling?

Why did the chicken cross the Middle of the Road? To get to the other Slide-o-gram!

“Nehh…What’s Left, Doc?”

How do you send a message to a skeleton? By Crypt-O-Gram!

What do you get when you insult a puzzle editor’s work? Cross words!

Have you heard about the most amazing Framework ever constructed? It was a Revelation!

Who’s there?
Guess Who?
Hey, that’s my favorite puzzle!

Who’s there?
Lotto who?
I bet there’s a lotto people entering this hashtag game!

Who’s there?
The Wizard
The Wizard who?
The Wizard is wise and humorous. Didn’t you read the blurb?

Who’s there?
Zip It
Zip It who?
Zip it, you! I’ve had enough of your knock-knock jokes

And the PuzzleNation audience got involved as well! @_screenhog tweeted the excellent entries Funny or Diagramless and Patchwords Adams!

Have you come up with any Penny Dell Puzzle Comedy entries of your own? Let us know! We’d love to see them!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!