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You replace the element with 'X' while iterating, and again whn you are checking the previous element with [j-1] , if it is 'X' it will check if your element is greater than 'X'., so you should check if your [j-1] or [i-1] is 'X' or not. Just add this to your if statement.
Python can evaluate strings including numbers and letters
As you iterate through the grid the cavities are marked with the 'X' where all the adjacent cells are less than. For example
returns with no cavities as 9 and 9 are equal.
If we replace with an X it is because the surrounding cells evaluate as less than.
So if 9 > 8 so too is X > 8 so the relationship between the cells is maintained and there is no need to check for X
9 > 8
X > 8