Forget Sudoku, Bring On the Nonograms!

Earlier this week we posted a roundup of 25 Seriously Addictive Sudoku Apps. However, many of us jumped on the Sudoku bandwagon ages ago and are becoming bored with the concept. So what’s the next big puzzle craze that will have us all entranced?

One strong contender in this category is Nonograms, a challenging, brain twisting puzzle game perfect for anyone who enjoys Sudoku, crosswords or any other pen and paper puzzles. Unfortunately, Nonograms can be a bit tricky to pick up and may have a slightly higher learning curve than other games of its kind. Today we’ll help get you started in your new addiction by walking you through solving your first puzzle and pointing out some great apps to download and give the game a shot.

Gettings Started: Meet The Board

Below is a very basic and easy to solve nonogram. As you can see, the board is split up into a grid with numbers running along the top and side.


The nonogram board

Unlike Sudoku where you write numbers into the grid, nonograms only require you to shade in squares. In most apps, simply tapping on a square will fill it in.


A shaded square

You’ll also want to keep track of all the squares that you know shouldn’t be filled in, this is accomplished by placing an “X” on the square as seen below.


X any squares that shouldn't be filled

You now know the three possible states for every square in the grid: shaded, deactivated (never shade), and undecided (not yet shaded). Now let’s see how to go about deciding how to solve the puzzle.

How It All Works

To solve nonograms, you must possess a strong sense of logic. Don’t worry, if you’re good at Sudoku, you should be familiar with this type of problem solving and will pick up nonograms in no time.

How it works is the numbers on the outer edge indicate the number of shaded squares in that row and/or column. For instance, if there is a “3” over a column, you know that there is no more and no less than three squares that should be filled in that column.


The numbers tell you how many squares to fill

If there are two (or more) numbers by a column or row, for instance a “1” and a “2”, this tells you that a total of three (1 + 2) squares should be filled in, but they are divided into one group of “1” and one group of “2”. The two groups can’t touch each other so you know for a fact that there will be at least one empty (X’ed out) square between them.

I’d Like To Solve the Puzzle

Enough instruction! The best way to learn is probably just to see one solved. The beginning of the puzzle is often the hardest as you really have to put your logic to use.

To start, I usually look for the largest numbers I can find. In this puzzle we see a couple of threes and a couple of fours. I really want to make you think so let’s start with the threes since they’re a bit harder. Now, since the puzzle is five squares by five squares, any row or column with a three must have the middle square filled.


The middle square should be filled

If that made your head spin, look at the puzzle above carefully. Imagine all the different ways you could fill in three squares in either the row or column with a three. No matter how you do it, one thing stays constant: the middle square is filled. You simply can’t fill in three connecting squares without using the middle one!

Now, utilizing that same logic, the rows and columns with a “4” are easy. This time, no matter how you dice it up, the middle three squares must be filled. We’re not sure yet which end square is filled, but we know that any row of five squares with four filled in must be filled in at the center three.


The middle three squares should be filled

At this point, one row and one column have turned green. This indicates that they are finished. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re on the right track, just that the allotted number of squares have been filled. Since we know they’re done, we can X out the other squares in the green rows and columns.


Green rows and columns are completed

At this point, you should have enough of the puzzle done that it’s only a few small leaps of logic from being completed! The image below shows the puzzle in its solved form.


The finished puzzle

If that seemed a little too simple for your sophisticated brain, fear not, it gets much better. The puzzle we just solved is about as easy as it gets, from here the puzzles grow to ridiculous size and complexity and are sure to keep you occupied for hours on end.


Nonograms come in big scary sizes too!

The Apps

Now that you’ve learned how to solve a nonogram, it’s time to download some apps and start completing puzzles! Here are a few to get you started.


This is the app that I used for all of the screenshots above. It’s an excellent place to start, has tons of puzzles at every difficulty and some handy tools that quickly X out lots of squares and erase mistakes. Be sure to check out the free version first.

Unfortunately, this one is for iPad users only and the paid version comes in at $4.99. If either of these puts you off, check out one of the other apps below.



Nonogram Madness

Simpler and less attractive than the previous app, but it works on both iPhone and iPad and will only set you back $0.99. Nonogram Madness provides over one hundred puzzles to solve.


Nonogram Madness

Crosslogic Unlimited

The trickiest part about finding nonogram apps is that they’re not always called nonograms! Try searching for crosslogic, pixelcross, picross and/or picgrid apps to find the same game under different titles.

As an example, the app below calls the game Crosslogic and is a great free app to start with to see if you like solving nonograms. It contains over 1,500 puzzles and has a hint system in case you get stuck.


Nonogram Madness

Are You Addicted Yet?

Go download a few nonogram apps and let us know what you think. Is it as good or better than Sudoku or just a lame attempt to usurp the king of puzzles? Can you solve one of the giant 25×25 puzzles?

Also, feel free to ask any questions you might have about gameplay. It can be pretty confusing to start but once you get going it really is quite easy to start solving your first puzzles in minutes flat.