As far as I can tell, I’m the third last person in America to have tried a Sudoku puzzle. Now that I have, I think I’m starting to see why they’re so popular: They’re not very hard to do. Not to say that they’re easy, or dumb, or anything like that. I mean to say that Sudoku puzzles almost always deliver the reward that they promise, almost always follow through on their offer of satisfaction on a job well done, a puzzle successfully solved.

A crossword puzzle is a constant burden. It exists to punish you for your ignorance, those last few blanks solidifying and refusing to be filled, clues floating around in your head for weeks, taunting you. You either know the answer to a crossword clue or you don’t, and if you don’t, tough luck. A simpler puzzle, like a word find, is too easy. You don’t feel smarter for solving one, but you do feel dumber if you can’t. Puzzles that can be solved by brute force don’t offer much by way of satisfaction.

A Sudoku puzzle, on the other hand, doesn’t confront you with impenetrable clues or mind-numbing tedium. It offers instead the comfort of deductive logic, the sense that if you can break the puzzle down to its constituent parts, you’ll be able to crack its code. If you follow the different combinations of numbers, you’ll eventually run into either a contradiction or a clean path to a neatly filled grid, and when everything fits together neatly, you’ll feel awfully smart.

Of course, as I type this, I’m in the middle of a puzzle that I’m completely stumped on, and boy, do I feel stupid.