There I was, a mathematician in the grocery checkout line. Inexplicably, I found my eye drawn to the scratch-off lottery ticket machine. Unlike the proverbial punk in a Dirty Harry movie, I did feel lucky, and I surreptitiously slipped a couple bucks out of my wallet, hoping the cashier wouldn’t notice and take me for a fool.
One of the current scratch-off games offered by the New York Lottery is a SuDoKu game.
Forgive me this sidebar, but…. I had wanted to put in a hyperlink to the NY Lottery website, and was hoping against hope to be able to also put up an image of their Su|do|ku lotto card. But after wading through their legal info, I find they prohibit even placing a hyperlink to their website, much less appropriating any of their graphics. I guess I understand the graphics bit (imagine the havoc a mean-spirited spoof site could engender), but not being able to direct you to a “www.” site with a name like “nylottery” within the “.org” hierarchy? Sigh. [Wink, wink. Under their “Privacy and Legal” tab, check out the fine print of the Legal Disclaimer.]
Where were we? Oh yes, my impulse to buy a SuDoKu themed scratch off ticket. The ticket itself consists of a SuDoKu puzzle, with four of the entries highlighted with preprinted circles. The idea is that the contestant completes the SuDoKu puzzle, then compares the four circled numbers with a list of four numbers underneath a scratch-off film. A matching number yields the corresponding cash prize. (To avoid trouble, the lotto has provided the correct solution to the puzzle under a different scratch-off area of the card; the actual winning comparison is between the correct solution and the winning digits.)
The game-play of doing a SuDoKu was significantly enhanced by the anticipation: for my ticket, I was hoping that one of the circled entries would be a 1, 3, 4, or 7. Doing the puzzle while keeping those goals in the back of my mind added a new dimension to my usual SuDoKu experience.
My initial hunch was that the puzzle would be absurdly easy. I’m not sure why I had thought that. Perhaps I was assuming the NY Lottery wouldn’t put in the effort to create challenging puzzles; perhaps I had assumed the NY Lottery would want to avoid frustrating their gambling addicts. I was pleasantly surprised — the puzzle itself was moderately difficult. It didn’t require any guessing at any stage, but it wasn’t completely straightforward, either.
Bottom line: not a complete waste at a cost of $2.