Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sudoku and signification, and more Chaucer

Like so many others these days, I have to admit, I really enjoy playing Sudoku puzzles. (The site I've linked is the BEST I've found for playing on line. Whoever programmed this did a great job letting the player (?) fill in possibilities, take out possibilities, and so forth. It's SO much better than my messy erasure filled puzzles on paper. If you have other great sites, please please share!) I limit myself to three games a day (which is convenient at that site).

In general, I like logic puzzles. I'm the type who'd do GRE analytical sections for fun.

One of the things I most like about Sudoku is the way the numbers work as signifiers. The game's not about the numbers, if you know what I mean. You don't add them up or anything. The sign "9" doesn't signify the number 9 (as in xxxxxxxxx things) in any sense at all.

You could, indeed, use any nine signs for the puzzle. The only requirement is that the signs be easily remembered and recognized by players. You could use (*&^%$#@! and all would be well.

So, in fact, the numbers as signs signify primarily (only?) through difference. The player has to recognize only that 5 is not 4 and and that one 5 is incompatible in a row, column, or box with another 5. So, on some level every 5 is the same, but also different because of its placement. So placement also works as a signifier in the game, right?

Hmmm, I wonder if playing Sudoku would help my theory students get at the arbitrariness of signs at a different level, or in a different way?

In other news, I put together the Chaucer calendar (the parts about when to read what and all), in large part, of course, using the one from the last time for numbers of lines to read on a given day. I came up with a tight fit, so to speak, until I realized that I hadn't put in time for peer editing of their research paper. In the past couple years, I've become a HUGE fan of using peer editing at the upper levels; if it's useful in first year writing, it's WAY more useful for juniors and seniors. That shouldn't have been news to me, but it was.

And I want to fit in two hours for my linguistic colleagues to teach my students about Middle English and the Great Vowel Shift. So now I have to drop something. I thought for a moment about tossing The Parliament of Foules, but I really don't want to. I'm thinking "The Reeve's Tale" will have to go, and I'll have them read the link between "The Miller's Tale" and "The Reeve's Tale" along with "The Miller's Tale." (I don't by any means teach all or even nearly all of The Canterbury Tales (they aren't all in the text I ordered, so even if I wanted to, I couldn't).

I've got "The Franklin's Tale" down for three hours. Can I realistically cut it to two?

I've got what I think is a good list of words for an OED assignment: kind, ask, melancholy, romance, clerk, lady, wise, keep, default, game, lust, fowl, crafty, hound, sweven, rage, courage, sad, truly, beside, tercel, nice, rede.

That should be enough, too! YAY! (Have I mentioned lately what great colleagues I have?)


  1. Another great site for online sudoku is Fiendish Sudoku. It has new puzzles every day at five difficulty levels, and it can give hints and step-by-step solutions. It also has a choice of three grid sizes, a nice tabbed interface, a large archive and several options for printing.


  2. Gosh, I'm ashamed to admit that although my undergraduate degree is in English I have never read the Canterbury Tales.

    Which translation do you recommend I attempt to tackle? (I ain't readin' it in Middle English no how!)

  3. Re your comment that the numbers could be replaced by symbols - check out the downloadable online game called SNOODOKO, a variation of snood for sudoko lovers.

    BTW, thanks for your comments o nmy site. (The Blog That Ate Manhattan)

  4. I love suduko, too!!