November 26, 2022

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How did Sudoku become more popular than crossword puzzles?

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In a sudoku grid, it’s all about numbers and logic. Unlike crossword puzzles, crosswords and other words that give pride of place to letters and words. (© jahstiennon-adobe.stock.com)

At 69, Maki Kaji, the man who popularized Sudoku in Japan, died on August 10, 2021 of bile duct cancer. He had discovered the modern version of this puzzle game in an american magazine, before importing it into his native country.

And it is (in part) thanks to him that he became also popular, sometimes even going beyond the traditional crosswords or crosswords. Here’s why.

A puzzle invented by an architect

Sudoku is none other than the ancestor of the Latin square, invented in the 18th centurye in Europe by Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler. In 1979, the American architect Howard Garns then imagines a puzzle, published in the magazine Dell and the Word Games Magazines under the name of Number place.

This is Sudoku as we know it today: a grid of 36 boxes to fill in, with numbers from 1 to 9, without repeating the same twice.

Maki Kaji finds out in the early 1980s, and then imports it to Japan by giving it the name of “Sudoku”, a contraction of the phrase ” Suji wa dokushin ni kagiru “(” The digits must be alone “).

Sudoku has become very popular in Japan.
The word “sudoku” is the contraction of the phrase “Suji wa dokushin ni kagiru” (in French “the figures must be alone”). (© Giphy)

Huge success in Japan

The game was published in Monthly Nikolis magazine in 1984, before becoming very popular with the Japanese, who began to buy these game grids in thousands of copies.

But how to explain the success of Sudoku in Country of the rising sun ? It seems that he does not have never been in competition with other games like crossword or crossword.

The little story indeed reports that the Japanese alphabet had too many signs to produce crosswords on a large scale. Very quickly, these grids of figures to be completed become the perfect hobby in transport, very popular with the Japanese at the time.

When Sudoku takes on a global scale

In 1997, New Zealander Wayne Gould, a retired judge from Hong Kong, discovered Sudoku and began to develop a computer program. to generate new puzzles. The phenomenon quickly takes a global scale.

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In Japan, the Japanese alphabet is said to have too many signs to be printed on a large scale. Hence the Japanese preference for game grids with numbers rather than letters. (© jahstiennon-stock.adobe.com)

In 2004, The Times in London publishes Sudoku puzzles, followed by Conway Daily Sun in New Hampshire. Sudoku arrived in France in 2005, in Brain Sport, publisher specializing in puzzle games.

Le Figaro then publishes the first daily schedules in July of the same year, followed in the summer of 2005 by Release, Provence, nice morning, 20 minutes, Metro and The world… According to sudoku.com, the site of Wayne Gould.

Although very popular in France towards the end of the 2000s, Sudoku continues to gain followers even today.

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