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9 Killer Tips for Solving Kenken Puzzles

These intriguing math-based puzzles are easier to solve than you might think, and they’re also a fun tool for honing mental math skills. Here are some great tips for those new to Kenken puzzles, and you’ll be familiar with the logic of most of them if you already do Sudoku puzzles.

TIP 1: USE LOGIC, NOT GUESSING

Kenken puzzles are similar to Sudoku puzzles in this respect. If you make a mistake, it never shows up right away and when you find out, it’s almost always impossible to retrace your steps and start over. Therefore, use elimination and only enter a number if you are 100% sure it is correct. In simple puzzles, sometimes there is a cage with only one cell, so only one number can enter. Here you have started.

TIP 2: WRITE DOWN THE NUMBERS YOU CAN ONLY USE

So if, for example, you are solving a 4 x 4, write the numbers 1 through 4 somewhere near the grid. It is good to always keep in mind the different combinations of numbers and their relationships. It’s easier if you can see the numbers.

TIP 3: REGISTER CANDIDATES

Kenken puzzles are also similar to Sudoku puzzles in that it’s a good idea to write the candidates in the cells. Candidates are lists of numbers that could go in a particular cell and they can be written in pencil in the corner of it. You will find that later you can narrow them down to a single candidate as you begin to solve.

TIP 4: USE SCANNING TO ELIMINATE CANDIDATES

With Kenken puzzles, be aware that the number can only appear once in a row or column. So if you find a number, it is eliminated from both the row and the column that intersects that particular cell. Numbers can therefore be eliminated from candidate lists when cells are solved using this logic.

TIP 5: LOOK FOR ALMOST-FINISHED ROWS AND COLUMNS

If a row or column has only one unresolved cell, then since you can’t repeat a number, there’s only one number that can go into it. For example, if you had a row or column of five with the digits 2, 1, 5, and 3 already filled in, the last unfilled cell should contain a 4.

TIP 6: USE THE MATHEMATICS

Remember that Kenken puzzles use math, which can further eliminate contestants.

For example, if you are solving a 6 by 6 grid and you have a cage that sums to 11, there are only two numbers that can go in, 6 and 5, so we can put those as the only candidates. Always look for cages like this where only a few numbers can fit.

TIP 7: LOOK FOR PAIRS AND TRIPLES

Above is an example of pairs, and again this makes Kenken puzzles similar to Sudoku. So if you have two cells in a row or column where only two numbers can go, those cells can be eliminated from other candidate lists in that row or column.

TIP 8: BE FLEXIBLE IN YOUR THINKING

If you block switch techniques, i.e. go from looking for pairs and triples to scanning. When we get stuck in puzzles, it’s usually because we’ve missed something, and changing our approach can usually reveal something we’ve overlooked.

TIP 9: COME BACK TO IT LATER

Even the best solvers get stuck from time to time. If you get really stuck, save what you did and come back to it another time. With a fresh mind, you’ll spot something you’ve missed before.

Kenken puzzles are great fun, so enjoy solving them!

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