The history of Sudoku puzzles likely has its roots in the mathematical concept of Latin Squares. Leonhard Euler, a Swiss mathematician, in the 1780s, developed the idea of arranging numbers in such a way that any number or symbol would occur only once in each row or column. Latin Squares are used in statistical analysis. At the time, this was more of a project rather than a puzzle, and the recreation potential of Sudoku wouldn’t be realized until some time later.
Sudoku rules add the restraint that each region may only have the numbers (or symbols) occurring but once. Howard Garns, an architect from Indianapolis, is credited with creating this rule when he developed the puzzle we know as Sudoku.
Dell Magazines published the puzzle under the name of Number Place (for over 25 years) since it involved placing individual numbers into empty spots on a 9 x 9 grid. It is a staple of Dell Magazines to this day. You can find Number Place in Dell Collector’s Series. Dell Magazines publishes several Sudoku puzzle books with such titles as Dell Original Sudoku, Dell Extreme Sudoku, and Dell Maximum Sudoku, to name a few.
Sudoku is definitely an American invention, but the name isn’t. Introduced into Japan by Nikoli IN 1984 under the name of ‘Suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru’ roughly translating to mean the numbers must be unmarried or single. Thankfully the name has been shortened to Sudoku. “Su” in Japanese means number, and “Doku” refers to a single place on the puzzle board that each number can fit into. Sudoku continues to be highly popular in Japan, where people buy over 600,000 Sudoku magazines per month.
The history of Sudoku continues to expand. Wayne Gould, a retired Hong Kong judge and author of Su Doku The Official Utterly Addictive Number-Placing Puzzle, first encountered the puzzle in a Tokyo bookstore. He began to create his own puzzles and was soon addicted like the rest of us. He introduced his puzzles to The Times, a British newspaper, as Su Doku. His puzzles first appeared there on November 12, 2004.
Within the past ten years, Sudoku has become a global phenomenon. The first World Sudoku Championship was hosted in Italy in 2006, and the 2013 World Sudoku Championship was held in Beijing, China.
As they say, the rest is history. The puzzle has crossed the pond back to the United States from England. It now appears in many major newspapers across the USA. Its popularity is gaining daily.
Is Sudoku a fad? Time will tell. I suspect that it is here to stay. As long as newspapers publish a Sudoku puzzle, there will be people who will want to solve it.