Can the numbers from $1$ to $81$ be written on a $9 \times 9$ board, so that the sum of the numbers in each $3\times 3$ square is the same?

I believe I have not made much progress and am missing the key insight here. Any advice?

  • $\begingroup$ One insight is that each 3x3 block's numbers have to add up to the sum of all the numbers divided by 9: $\sum_{k=1}^{81} k /9 $. That's not enough to solve the problem but it reduces the number of cases that need to be considered. $\endgroup$
    – NickD
    Jan 14, 2020 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ Do you mean all the $3\times 3$ squares in the $9\times 9$ grid (of which there are $49$, I think)? $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2020 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ @StinkingBishop Yes, all the $3\times 3$ squares. $\endgroup$
    – kora
    Jan 14, 2020 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ I may have misunderstood the question, but I was considering a partition into nine disjoint 3x3 blocks, no overlap allowed. $\endgroup$
    – NickD
    Jan 14, 2020 at 17:46
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @StinkingBishop There are $49$, but they overlap, so you'd be double counting. You can divide the big square into $9$ disjoint $3\times3$ squares, though. The sum in each square is $369$, if I divided correctly. $\endgroup$
    – saulspatz
    Jan 14, 2020 at 17:46

1 Answer 1


I believe if you take the following matrix:


it already satisfies the conditions, and so does the transpose $A^T$:


and so does an affine combination $B=A+9A^T+1$, where "$1$" is the matrix filled with "all ones". One should verify that the resulting matrix $B$ has all the different values from $1$ to $81$. It begins something like this:


  • $\begingroup$ There are, I believe, some minor typos in the matrix. A 9 in the row seven column eight. An 8 in the row 8 column 4. It's a simple typo, but I can't make an edit because it's less than 6 characters. $\endgroup$
    – AnilCh
    Jan 14, 2020 at 19:12
  • $\begingroup$ @ACheca Thanks, fixed $\endgroup$ Jan 14, 2020 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ I check this, and it seems to be a correct solution. Can you explain your thought process on coming up with this, and how you can tell that the final matrix has all of the numbers from 1 to 81 present in it? $\endgroup$
    – Geoffrey
    Jan 15, 2020 at 4:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Geoffrey If you decrement all the numbers by $1$ (to get to range $0-80$, and then represent every number in base $9$, you get an array of $2$-digit (at most) numbers. You want them to be all different, but then I went off to try to separately "fit" the first digit and the second digit (knowing that each has to appear $9$ times). Matrix $A$ was pretty much the first fit I tried, and then matrix $A^T$ just did the rest of the job. A bit lucky, I guess. To check, I just wrote all those base-$9$ numbers by superimposing matrices $A$ and $A^T$ and checked that they were all different $00-88$. $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2020 at 6:15

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