Sudoku Makes a Comeback

The modern development of Sudoku is most likely traced to a man named Howard Garns, who apparently created this number puzzle for Dell Magazines, who published it as ‘Number Place’  in 1979. Garns was a retired architect, a freelance puzzle maker from Indiana and 74 years old at the time of the creation of this puzzle. It is not known if he had any knowledge of the Paris versions of the same puzzle which vanished from the newspapers about 70 years previously, when Garns was only about 5 years old.

In 1984 these puzzles appeared in a Japanese publication called Monthly Nikolist. The longish Japanese name for the puzzle translated into English as “the digits must be single.” The word for ‘single’ being dokushin, more specifically, an unmarried person. The lengthy title in Japanese was shortened soon after, resulting in the name we use today, Sudoku.

A bit later, in 1986, the same Japanese publisher, Nikoli, added some refinements to the puzzle’s design. Firstly, the number of already revealed numbers can be no more than 32, and the revealed numbers must form a symmetrical pattern, meaning that the given numbers are placed in rotationally symmetric cells.
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There are many variants on this basic design, but whether you enjoy a small, relaxing challenge, or a demanding brain workout, Sudoku puzzles can be a great source of pleasure.

The Puzzling Past of Sudoku

Do you enjoy doing puzzles? How about number puzzles? A recently invented number puzzle, based on logical deduction, has taken the world by storm, and that is Sudoku. In case you are one of the last hold-outs on earth not in the know about what a Sudoku puzzle is, just imagine a square composed of nine boxes, and within each of those nine boxes were nine smaller boxes, or cells. So what you have is a nine-cell by nine-cell square, in which you must place the digits 1 through 9, never repeating a digit with a line across, a column down, or one of the nine larger squares. They range in difficulty from strikingly simple to devastatingly difficult, requiring deductive reasoning to solve, rather than any kind of math skills. No adding or subtracting required.

The earliest number puzzles made their appearance in newspapers towards the end of the 19th century. One such puzzle was constructed from taking magic squares and removing some of the numbers from them. Solvers were required to discover the correct numbers which had been removed. This is different than Sudoku because it required adding to find the solution and frequently double digit numbers were involved. On November 19, 1892 a Paris newspaper published a partly finished 9×9 magic square containing 3×3 sub-squares.  Although it was not a true Sudoku, it still had the same key characteristic that each row and column added up to the same number.

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Three years later a competing newspaper in Paris refined this puzzle’s design until it became indistinguishable from today’s modern Sudoku. Only the number 1-9 were used, and each sub-square had the same constraints of containing each digit only once. This puzzle continued to appear in this newspaper for about ten years, until its disappearance around the beginning of the outbreak of World War One.