How KenKen Puzzles Work

KenKen Strategy
KenKen puzzles are 3-by-3 to 9-by-9. The smaller the puzzle, the easier to solve.
KenKen puzzles are 3-by-3 to 9-by-9. The smaller the puzzle, the easier to solve.

Even though only basic math is involved, KenKen is a game of logic and strategy. While guesswork can be used to help solve the puzzles -- and may be necessary in games featuring large grids -- it's best to study the tactics developed by the experts and hone your logic skills. Online tutorials and video clips are available, and depending on your learning style, they may be more helpful than reading a set of tips. Nevertheless, here are some of the top strategies espoused by the experts:

  • Fill in any one-box cages first. No thinking required on this one, as the number in the box is the one you write in [source: McCarthy].
  • Next, look for any cages where there's only one solution. A "3+" cage can only mean numbers one and two. Although you don't know which number goes where, your choices are limited [source: McCarthy].
  • Find cages with unique answers (which are easier to solve) by looking for target numbers that are quite high or low, given the number of cubes in the cage. For example, if you have a 6-by-6 puzzle with a two-cube cage that requires the large sum of 11, all you can use is a five and six. Similarly, if your 6-by-6 puzzle has a three-cube cage that needs a product of 10, the only possibility is one, two and five [source: Stephey].
  • Remember, every number in your puzzle must be placed in every row and column. If you're stumped arithmetically, use Sudoku logic (which is explained here) [source: Shortz].
  • Try a 3-by-3 puzzle first; those are the easier ones [source: Shankland].
  • Successful players tend to focus on cages with prime numbers, which have a limited number of possible solutions [source: Lewis].

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • KenKen. (Aug. 15, 2011)
  • Leo, Lewis. "Tetsuya Miyamoto creates KenKen. Train your brain." The Sunday Times. March 22, 2008. (Aug. 15, 2011)
  • Lombard, Bill. "KenKen -- Introduction and Strategy Tips to Solve a 4×4 Puzzle." Mr. L's Math. July 23, 2010. (Aug. 17, 2011)
  • McCarthy, Clare. "Can You KenKen?" Scholastic Math Magazine. Jan. 6, 2011. (Aug. 15, 2011)
  • New York Times. "Talk to the Times: Crossword Editor Will Shortz." July 19, 2009. (Aug. 23, 2011)
  • Shankland, Stephen. "My latest puzzle love: KenKen." CNET News. Jan. 12, 2009. (Aug. 17, 2011)
  • Shortz, Will. "A New Puzzle Challenges Math Skills." The New York Times. Feb. 8, 2009. (Aug. 15, 2011)
  • Stephey, M.J. "Is KenKen the Next Sudoku?" Time. March 12, 2009. (Aug. 15, 2011),9171,1884862,00.html

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