Sudoku: Puzzling Numbers, Logic, and an odd name

Where did the international phenomenon, Sudoku—pronounced soo-DOH-koo, really come from, and how did it become such a popular hit? (Don’t make the mistake of calling it sodoku, which is a disease carried by rats!)

Puzzling can help stimulate brain cells according to
(photo credit: Sharp Brains)

Each number is a single digit, and when completed, they make up a Latin square, where no two numbers are repeated twice.

The 18th century Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler developed the concept of “Latin Squares,” where numbers in a grid appear only once, across and up and down. In the late 1970’s, US based Dell Magazines, with the help of independent puzzle maker, Howard Garnes, adapted Euler’s concept with a 9 X 9 square grid. They called it “Number Place.”

Sudoku is actually a logic puzzle, since the squares can be filled in with letters, numbers or shapes.

In the mid-1980s, Maki Kaji, the president of the Japanese puzzle giant, Nikoli, Inc., urged the company to publish a version of the puzzle that became a huge hit in that country. According to the London Observer, Nikoli gave the puzzle its current name.

Sudoku translates to “the digits (su) must be single (doku).”

Nikoli helped refine the puzzle by restricting the number of revealed or given numbers to 30 and having them appear symmetrically. The game became increasingly popular in Japan and started becoming a fixture in daily newspapers and magazines. Almost two decades passed before the game was taken up by “The Times” newspaper in London as a daily puzzle.

The game has spawned books, wooden sets, electronic puzzles, computer games, at least one television show, (a British game show), a card game using 81 card decks, a tribute song that received so many hits and downloads the hosting site had to be taken down, computer apps, competitions, and if you Google Sudoku, you’ll get more than 97 million hits.

Sudoku Trivia: there are about five billion possible Sudoku puzzles. The permutations for correct answers are over six sextillion.

For more information, here are just a few sites:

Wikipedia: Sudoku

Sharp Brains

A Coffee Break Escape 7 Minute Adventure

Beverly Nault avoids anything to do with numbers whenever possible in Southern California, but puzzles over Facebook and Twitter, defying logic in every status update.

Coffee Break is always looking for new “adventuristas” to contribute short, interesting, and fun pieces, so click through to find out how (its free!) to become a team member. Did I mention it’s free?



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