Whenever I’m on the subway, I always see someone with a folded up newspaper, pen in hand, veins popping out of their forehead, trying to scrawl numbers into a grid – they’re playing Sudoku. While I understood the basics of how to do it, I have to admit I never understood the point of the challenge, or how to even begin. Sudoku for Dummies is here, but will it make me a logic whiz?

To briefly summarize, the point of Sudoku is to fill in the numbers one through nine in each of the nine three-by-three squares (making a large grid of 81 spaces). Each number can be written only once per square, and only once per row or column across all squares. Simple, right? How wrong I was.

Being a complete novice, I didn’t realize how much nuance Sudoku actually has. Sudoku for Dummies was developed in conjunction with Wiley Publishing, creators of the line of black and yellow Dummies books we’ve all read for years. When you boot up the game, the same hand-drawn googly-eyed guy helps walk you through the techniques just like the books. The layout and aesthetic is taken directly from the famous tomes, helping you feel right at home.

You can jump right into the Sudoku puzzles contained in the game, or if you’re like me, you’ll want to hit up the tutorial levels first.

Sudoku for Dummies has two levels of tutorial, basic and advanced, with several concepts within each difficulty. You’ll learn all about different strategies (there are strategies?!) and patterns of numbers that give you good clues as to what number to put where. You’ll be introduced to a variety of terms that, unless you’re a hardcore Sudoku player, you may never have known about. Ever heard of a “naked pair?” Risque as it sounds, it’s a term when two cells (the box where you write the number) have identical possible answers (called “candidates”), but by process of elimination, you also know that those candidates can’t be in any other cell in that box, row or column.

After reading up on a particular strategy, the game quizzes you to make sure you understand what it’s told you. While I feel I’m no intellectual slouch, I found that sometimes I had to go back and re-read the tutorials a few times before I really understood them. It was a little bit frustrating at times, but I found I could come to grips with them with a little practice. Once you pass the quiz, Sudoku for Dummies offers you a practice puzzle, designed specifically to exploit the strategy you just learned about, and build on previous strategies.

What’s really nice about Sudoku for Dummies is it offers the strategies that advanced Sudoku players use as automatic tools. For example, you can click on the pencil icon and all the candidates will appear in all the cells, helping expose things like the aforementioned naked pairs. Click on the yellow highlighter, and when you click on a number, the game shows you specifically where that same number cannot go by filling in invalid rows or columns in yellow. If you’re really nervous about what you’re doing (again, like me) you can even ask it to show mistakes as you make them by turning the number you filled in as red.

But the real meat of Sudoku for Dummies lies in the puzzles, and boy are there a lot of them. Sudoku for Dummies offers 500 puzzles to complete, from very basic to highly advanced. The best feature, though, is the ability to print the puzzles so you can fill them in when you’re not plugged in.  

While Sudoku for Dummies may not convert you into one of those folded-newspaper, vein-popping types, it does illuminate the mysterious game and makes it a lot more accessible. If you’re a big Sudoku fan, the sheer volume of printable puzzles alone is worth the download. For the rest of us, it’s a great way to exercise our gray matter without having to throw out piles of crumpled papers.