It may sound surreal but in an era where bubblegum pop music has successfully reinvented itself as punk rock through the likes of Avril Lavigne and Simple Plan, a mystery and a number puzzle in that is able to establish itself as a worldwide phenomenon. Sudoku, which is sometimes spelled as Su Doku, is pronounced as soo-doe-koo. It’s an abbreviation of the Japanese phrase suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru which means the digits must remain single. Most people are under the wrong impression that sudoku is of Japanese origin when the one thing Japanese about sudoku is the word sudoku.
Nikoli Publishing House Nikoli is the writer of the leading Japanese mystery publication Monthly Nikolist. The think tanks of Nikoli noticed an interesting number puzzle known as the Number Place published by their American counterparts, Dell Puzzle Magazines. It was originally christened Suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru by Kaji Maki, Nikoli’s incumbent president at that time. Its success is due in large part to the fact that the Japanese people are inherently puzzle-crazy.
It wasn’t till two significant developments occurred the puzzle began to really catch fire. First, the name suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru was shortened to sudoku that was easier to remember and to promote. Second, Nikoli modified the game by introducing two new rules in 1986: the digits of are to be arranged symmetrically; and the provided numbers should not exceed 30 digits. As of now, there are five publishing companies that print monthly publications solely devoted to the game in Japan. Sudoku is, for all intents and purposes, a brand name; it is not the generic name of this game. It’s a lawfully registered mark of the Nikoli Business in Japan. This means that the other publishers of this game in Japan are legally obligated to provide their own brand names for their versions of the popular number puzzle.
Made in Manhattan According to urban legends, sudoku was created by a group of mystery creators from New York. Another version of the story credits a certain Howard Gerns, a retired architect and puzzle enthusiast, as the real father of the contemporary sudoku. Although the legends conflict and provide credit to different historians, they coincide on two important details:
Sudoku was first published in 1979 by Dell Puzzle Magazines under the name The Number Position; and Gerns along with the team of mystery creators were both motivated by the Latin Square of Leonhard Euler. Euler demonstrated a magic square can be produced through the use of 9, 16, 25 or 36 cells. He imposed conditions on the value of his number variables to bring about the creation of his magic square. His magic square evolved into the Latin square in his later papers.
The variations of Gerns and the group of puzzlers differ from Euler in 2 ways: First, Euler’s Latin square does not have a regional limitation; and Second, Euler neither generated nor did he intend to create a puzzle. On the other hand, Gerns and the team saw the potential of a hit mystery in Euler’s functions and proceeded to create the grandfather of modern day sudoki with this particular frame of mind. No Fool’s Gould Wayne Gould, a retired judge based in Hong Kong, chanced upon a sudoku puzzle in a Tokyo bookstore in 1997; Gould couldn’t help but gravitate towards the blank squares of the mystery.
In 2004, he found himself pitching an unknown puzzle called Su Doku to The Times of Britain. The results were overwhelming; within a few days, other newspapers began printing their own versions of this game. The popularity of the game snowballed and spilled over to Australia and New Zealand. The New York Post published its own version of sudoku in April of 2005; this marked the homecoming and belated public approval of a New York native who went undetected in its own backyard because its birth for at least 20 years.
Within a few days sudoku made its presence felt throughout the country when major dailies such as USA Today and The Daily News began replacing their usual crosswords with the number game. The appeal of contemporary sudoku is apparently infinite and without bounds. As a number puzzle, it doesn’t make use of letters from any particular language; hence easily dispensing with the language barrier factor. Publications numbering in hundreds of thousands, from magazines to newspapers and digests, solely dedicated to the game are testaments to the puzzle’s popularity and profitability. The numerous websites offering digital versions of this game, for free or for fee, guarantees the game’s continuous development and improvement; it also provides a platform most accessible to the younger population.
Sudoku has gone mobile as companies race to make sudoku games especially for cell phone users. Sudoku is a game of logic which challenges the old and young alike. In fact, studies on the psychological advantages of regularly playing sudoku have been conducted; and the results have been positive so far. In the fastest growing puzzle in the world, sudoku has evolved to the most infectious puzzle virus the world has seen in years. Go and play with sudoku.