History of the Sudoku Puzzles

The Sudoku puzzle had a very intriguing history that spans continents and decades before it came to the version we know of today. It was developed in the West but became very popular in the East before going back home where it is spreading its popularity.

In the 1780’s, a Swiss Mathematician named Leonhard Euler devised a concept that uses a grid where sets of Latin symbols are placed into the squares. Each symbol can only appear once in every row and column. The use of Latin symbols gave this grid the name Latin Square and became primarily used in mathematics and statistics.

The use of the Latin Squares for entertainment came about in the late 19th century when French puzzle setters started experimenting with eliminating numbers from what is called a “magic square”. In 1892, Le Siecle, which was a popular Paris-based daily newspaper, published a partly completed 9×9 magic square with a 3×3 sub-squares. It shares some key characteristics with that of the modern Sudoku where each of the row, column and sub-square results to the same number when summed. The daily’s rival, La France, came up with a more polished and simplified version of the puzzle where each of the row, column and broken diagonals had the numbers 1 to 9. The only difference is it does not mark the sub-squares; however it was a version closer to the modern Sudoku.

Almost two hundred years after the creation of the Latin Squares and the use of it for puzzles in the magic squares came the final basis for today’s modern Sudoku. Howard Garns, a 74-year-old retired architect and freelance puzzle constructor from Indiana designed the puzzle called Number Place. It was first published in the year 1979 when he submitted them to Dell Magazines, a Connecticut-based crossword giant. It has been in publication for over 25 years.

In the early 1980’s, Maki Kaji came upon the Number Games in an American publication. He is the president of the Japanese puzzle giant, Nikoli. He then urged the company he leads to publish the puzzle. In April of 1984 the Japanese readers were introduced to the puzzle when it was published in the Monthly Nikolist under the name Suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru. When translated this literally means that the “digit must be unmarried” or the “number is limited to only a single occurrence”. The publisher felt the title was too long and decided to shorten it to “Su” that means number and “Doku” that means single or unmarried.

It did not became an overnight success, but it did however became a huge hit in Japan only after Nikoli added another rule to solving the puzzle in the year 1986. This new rule required the clues to be arranged in a symmetrical pattern. This created the final version of the Sudoku we know of today. This puzzle would only become popular in the Western world two decades later.

In 1997, Wayne Gould, a retired Hong Kong judge from New Zealand came upon the Sudoku puzzle from a Japanese bookstore. He then became addicted to it which led him to start developing and spend the next 6 years to have a computer program quickly produce puzzles. He heavily promoted and convinced The Times in Britain to publish it. In November of 2004, it was first published in the Times and Gould had it called the “Su Doku”. And the rest is history.

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