Melvyn Lawes

Below is a short interview of Melvyn to give you a little insight into the creator of Killer Samurai.

Tell me a little about yourself?

I am 42 years old, a workshop supervisor in a busy manufacturing company just west of Brighton. I work on a 4 days on and 4 days off shift pattern which gives me ample spare time to compile and solve puzzles. Other hobbies include photography, travelling, reading and music. I recently completed my MBA with the Open University. I do enjoy a challenge and have been known to do mad things, like doing a parachute jump for my 40th birthday. Being interested in numbers and numerology can be rewarding, my use of numbers, gambling strategies and memory allowed me to purchase a Lotus Elise out of one nights visit to a casino.

What first got you interested into Sudoku?

Well actually it was all down to a work colleague who first showed me the puzzles in a newspaper. At first they were very novel, but it was not until the samurais came out in the Times that I really became hooked. The infamous sudoku cube first published in the Times in July was a revelation for me. I found the `key` to the puzzle and completed it in only 3 hours. Many years ago I read about magic squares and became interested in how large a magic square could be. I think I got as far as 25 x 25 and that was before computers came along. When and Why did you decide to make Killer Samurai Sudoku Puzzles? When the killers came out, my colleague `humourously` joked that a killer samurai would be the ultimate puzzle, so here I am, the only person compiling them that I know of, and Daniels site is the only location where they can be found.

How do you go about making a Killer Samurai Puzzle?

I compile the killer samurai puzzles by hand on my PC using Excel to double check the totals of the respective columns, rows and boxes. I start by compiling a completed samurai grid, checking that the numbers do in fact work out. This is the interesting stage, making it all fit. Then when that is done, I colour in the blocks, paying particular attention to where the numbers are and trying to avoid situations where numbers can be reversed. I have to admit that the first KS puzzles did have more than one solution. Finally after the blocks are coloured in, I add up the totals in each block.

How long does it take you to make one?

From start to finish takes about 2 hours, but then I punish myself by trying to solve the puzzle, just to see if there are any errors or possible combinations that do not work together.

How do you determine the difficulty of the Puzzle?

There are several factors which determine how difficult a `killer samurai` puzzle will be. Firstly, the size of the blocks. It is much more difficult to solve a puzzle where the blocks total a higher number than a smaller number. Secondly, the positioning of blocks is another consideration. By now it should be clear that blocks of 2 squares which total 3, 4, 16 and 17 are easier to solve as their number of permutations is limited. Blocks of 2 squares which total 9, 10, 11 and 12 are much more difficult. In addition a block of 3 which totals 7 or 24 can only be made up of 1, 2 and 4, and 7, 8 and 9 respectively.

Whats your advice to people trying to solve your puzzles?

1. Buy a large supply of pencils and a good quality rubber .
2. Look for the lowest and highest total blocks and those which have limited solutions, such as:

2 blocks

3 can only be 1 & 2
4 can only be 1 & 3
5 can be either 1 & 4 or 2 & 3
15 can be either 6 & 9 or 7 & 8
16 can only be 9 & 7
17 can only be 9 & 8

3 blocks

7 can only be 1, 2 and 4
8 can be either 1, 2 and 5 or 1, 3 and 4
23 can only be 6, 8 & 9
24 can only be 7, 8 & 9

4 blocks

10 can only be 1, 2, 3 and 4
30 can only be 6, 7, 8 and 9

Look for intersections of blocks. For example if a block totaling 3, lines up at 90 degrees with a block totaling 4, then it should be easy to ascertain which way round the 1, 2 and 3 are. At first I did have duplicates in blocks as long as they did not contradict the traditional rules of Sudoku. But now I make every effort to avoid having duplicate numbers in the same block.

How long takes it take you to solve one of your Killer Samurai Sudoku Puzzle?

I suppose about 2 - 3 hours is a typical time to solve one of my puzzles, but I would be interested in knowing how long it takes other people.

What is the next step for sudoku puzzles?

The Times has already swamped the market-place with diaries, calenders, mugs, books and other paraphenalia and indeed a prime time television program will soon have millions reaching for their pencils. I suppose the next step would be for larger more complex puzzles, perhaps a `killer cube` might be possible. I would have liked so see more sudoku cubes as the only one published to date supposedly had around 20,000 correct answers sent in, such is the interest and intelligence of the general public.

Melvyn Lawes

Do you have any more questions for Melvyn? Ask them below or add your own comments.



1) How long to solve a Killer Samurai? I've completed one in about two hours but the others took all bloody day (or even longer!)
Interesting that you design them in Excel, I complete them in Excel by making a jpg out of your document (enlarged because my eyesight's going) and use the jpg as an Excel backdrop (Format/Sheet/Background) and then adjust the column width/row height to fit the puzzle. Much easier than all that rubbing out.
The Killer Samurai are brilliant but I've a complaint. My daughter & I both complete your puzzles and her times are invariably much faster than mine. In the past, after playing cards or dominoes with her, it's now become standard practice at the end of a game to search her for hidden cards/tiles. Can you please withhold the puzzle solution until the following week to produce a level playing field.

Comment by: Tom. Made on the 04th Dec 2005.

2) i have a sudoku web page at spain i will post a link to

Thanks for the puzzles
Comment by: sudokume. Made on the 27th Dec 2005.

3) Thanks for all your work on this. I love the killer samurai and am amazed nobody is printing them in the press. I have done a couple in 1 hour 45 minutes and cannot do regular samurai anymore as it seems dull. I may have a go at making a killer samurai myself, except I do not use excel, do you have any blank templates in word format. Anyway just wanted to thank you I for one really appreciate your site and hope others do too.

Yours, Gerard Brogan

Comment by: Gerard Brogan. Made on the 06th Jan 2006.

4) Hello Gerard,
If you want a smaurai template grid to make your own then visit the sister site at: for a grid you can print out to work on. If you create a Killer Samurai Puzzle I would be interested in taking a look.
Thanks for your comments.
Comment by: Daniel (Site Owner). Made on the 06th Jan 2006.

5) I was excited to find your web site with the killer samurais on and got stuck in-fantastic but have to grumble. I started on no 14 and after alot of rubbing out and 5 hours later realised that the only way to complete the bottom left sudoku box was to have 18 (in yellow)= 3,8,4 &3 but this is NOT the rules as no number must be repeated-I have to say I was not amused and it is not fair going against the principles of a killer/kakuro despite obeying those of sudoku. A day and a half later I completed it but only doing so after finding the same problem-in the top left hand box 14=8,3&3 (in pink) and then in the middle box 11=2,4,3&2 (in green). I just thought I should let you know that is against the rules and now means I am down a good rubber!!!
Comment by: Sara Stratford. Made on the 24th Jan 2006.

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