FAIRFAX, VA. (Heewack News Network) -- A daily Sudoku exercise that began on a promising note for Jim Lazarone ended in a quagmire of mangled numbers and bitterness on an outward-bound Metro train.
Lazarone, 44, a federal employee and 15-year veteran at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, left his cubicle at 4:45 p.m. and caught an Orange Line train at L'Enfant Plaza toward his townhouse in Fairfax, Virginia. On board, Lazarone pulled out the Sudoku puzzle that appears daily in The Washington Post, which has been part of his routine since 2005.
"It's an addicting game," Lazarone told HNN. "I consider myself to be an expert. I do the puzzle in pen; pencils are for amateurs."
The puzzle that day was labeled "Medium," a level that Lazarone prefers. "It's not so easy that I'm done with it in 10 minutes and have to spend the rest of my trip home twiddling my thumbs," he said. "And it's not so difficult that I have to guess at some of the spaces."
Lazarone quickly negotiated the puzzle's early stages, finding correct spaces for each three and most of the fives within the first two minutes ("always a confidence-booster," he said). But while making tiny notations of possible locations of a seven, Lazarone marked a square in the bottom right nonodrant incorrectly--a fatal error that he would not discover for nearly 20 minutes.
Lazarone unwittingly compounded the error by placing sevens in several other nonodrants, resulting in a massive congestive failure as Lazarone's train approached the Clarendon station. As Lazarone marked the last space in the upper-mid nonodrant, he suddenly realized that he had a pair of eights on the same line.
"My first reaction was, 'oh %#&@,'" Lazarone said. "That was my second reaction, too."
Lazarone attempted to backtrack and at one point thought he had found the problem. But after crossing out and remarking 15 spaces, Lazarone discovered that he still had several fours and sixes misaligned, leaving him at a loss as his train approached the Dunn Loring Station. By then, parts of the puzzle were barely legible.
Lazarone's despair continued as he drove his car the final three miles to his home, where he impatiently honked his horn at a pedestrian who clearly had the right of way. Once home, he continued to work the puzzle unsuccessfully for another half-hour, upsetting his wife, Sheila, 42, who wanted the comic section so she could read her favorite comic strip, "Mutts."
Lazarone will attempt to salvage his week by tackling the "hard" level Sudoku puzzle that appears every Friday.