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It's a Numbers Game!
September 8, 2008 - Sunny Day
“Su” means number and “Doku” is the spot on the puzzle board that each “Su” fits into.
Yes, we’re going to be talking about this fascinating number puzzle – Sudoku! It also describes someone who is single and one way to define the game of Sudoku is solitaire with numbers.
The name is Japanese, but the game’s beginnings are European and American representing excellence in cross-cultural productive endeavors. Because of its development, Sudoku is truly a hybrid creation.
Swiss mathematician, Leonhard Euler apparently developed the concept of “Latin Squares” in the 18th century. Latin Squares were numbers in a grid that appeared only once across and up and down. Dell Magazine began publishing what we now call Sudoku puzzles in the late 70’s using Euler’s concept with a 9 x 9 grid. Dell called it Number Place and it was developed by Howard Garnes, an independent puzzle maker.
The Japanese influence happened in the mid-80’s when the president of the Japanese puzzle giant Nikoli, Inc. urged the company to publish a version that became a huge success in Japan. Nikoli gave the game its current name and helped refine it by restricting the number of revealed numbers to 30 and having them appear symmetrically. The game became more and more popular in Japan and became a fixture in the daily newspapers and magazines.
Almost 20 years later, The Times newspaper in London began to feature it as a daily puzzle. This came about because Wayne Gould, a retired Hong Kong judge originally from New Zealand, discovered a Sudoku puzzle in a Japanese bookshop in 1997 and later spent many years developing a computer program to generate them. In 2004, The Times in London began publishing a daily Sudoku puzzle developed using Gould’s software. The first game was published November 12, 2004 and within a few months other British newspapers began publishing their own Sudoku puzzles.
By the summer of 2005, major newspapers in the US were offering Sudoku puzzles just as they did daily crossword puzzles. Software is critical to being able to supply the demand for these puzzles but it can take hours of processing time to generate one unique puzzle.
It is interesting to note, however, that it was the print media in the form of newspapers that have done so much to spread Sudoku around the world.
The future development of this numbers game is anyone’s guess. The 9x9 grid is the most common form but there are many variants. 4x4 Sudoku with 2x2 subsections are simpler and fun for younger players as well as being easy to deliver to mobile devices such as cell phones. There are also 5x5, 6x6 and 7x7 games. For the absolutely serious Sudoku enthusiast there are 16x16 grids and a 25x25 grid offered by Nikoli the developer of today’s style of puzzle.
Sudoku puzzles that use letters and symbols, some even spelling words in their final solutions are also becoming available.
As we said – Sudoku’s future is anyone’s guess. What is clear is that Sudoku is a fun and challenging way for people of any age or culture to hone their logical and deductive abilities. Check out our daily Sudoku and Crossword puzzles in our paper and tease your brain.
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