CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Engineering and Computing


Sumitra Mukherjee

Committee Member

Michael Laszlo

Committee Member

Frank Mitropoulos


constraint satisfaction problems, metaheuristics, simulated annealing, Sudoku


Metaheuristics are used to find feasible solutions to hard Combinatorial Optimization Problems (COPs). Constraint Satisfaction Problems (CSPs) may be formulated as COPs, where the objective is to reduce the number of violated constraints to zero. The popular puzzle Sudoku is an NP-complete problem that has been used to study the effectiveness of metaheuristics in solving CSPs. Applying the Simulated Annealing (SA) metaheuristic to Sudoku has been shown to be a successful method to solve CSPs. However, the ‘easy-hard-easy’ phase-transition behavior frequently attributed to a certain class of CSPs makes finding a solution extremely difficult in the hard phase because of the vast search space, the small number of solutions and a fitness landscape marked by many plateaus and local minima. Two key mechanisms that metaheuristics employ for searching are diversification and intensification. Diversification is the method of identifying diverse promising regions of the search space and is achieved through the process of heating/reheating. Intensification is the method of finding a solution in one of these promising regions and is achieved through the process of cooling. The hard phase area of the search terrain makes traversal without becoming trapped very challenging. Running the best available method - a Constraint Propagation/Depth-First Search algorithm - against 30,000 benchmark problem-instances, 20,240 remain unsolved after ten runs at one minute per run which we classify as very hard. This dissertation studies the delicate balance between diversification and intensification in the search process and offers a hybrid SA algorithm to solve very hard instances. The algorithm presents (a) a heating/reheating strategy that incorporates the lowest solution cost for diversification; (b) a more complex two-stage cooling schedule for faster intensification; (c) Constraint Programming (CP) hybridization to reduce the search space and to escape a local minimum; (d) a three-way swap, secondary neighborhood operator for a low expense method of diversification. These techniques are tested individually and in hybrid combinations for a total of 11 strategies, and the effectiveness of each is evaluated by percentage solved and average best run-time to solution. In the final analysis, all strategies are an improvement on current methods, but the most remarkable results come from the application of the “Quick Reset” technique between cooling stages.