For once the world is thinking on a single issue and that is the Sudoku puzzle. Scaling dizzying heights of popularity in the puzzle charts, Sudoku puzzles have been likened to the phenomenon that the Rubik Cube was in the 1980s.
Sudoku is actually a logical placement puzzle that tests your reasoning powers along with your patience to see through the end of the game. This riveting puzzle game usually consists a 9x9 grid, further divided into 3x3 subgrids. Some of the cells are supplied with numbers and your aim is to fill up the rest of the cells so that each column, row, and region holds the numbers 1 - 9 exactly once. That is, “single numbers", as indicated by the name of the puzzle.
But contrary to popular perception, Sudoku puzzles are not mathematical games. The numerals can be substituted by any set of distinctive symbols, say alphabets, shapes or colors. And ESPN’s version of Sudoku has the positions of the baseball field in place of numbers.
The name Sudoku is an abbreviation of the Japanese phrase, "Suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru", which means, “the digits must remain single". This name has been patented by the Nikoli Co. Ltd. in Japan, a renowned publisher of puzzles. Sudoku is also known as Number Place, which is the original U.S. title, or "Nampure" for short.
Sudoku has an interesting lineage. It is believed that an early version of the puzzle, which came out in a French newspaper in 1895, was actually inspired by the Latin Squares, an immensely popular puzzle devised by the great mathematician Euler. From its inception in print till the First World War, Sudoku has been a popular weekly feature in the newspapers.
The modern form of Sudoku owes its origins to Howard Garns, an architect who also dabbled in puzzle making. Retaining the basic form of Euler’s Latin Squares, Garns added a third dimension (the regional restriction) and presented the puzzle as a partially completed grid. It came out under the title Number Place in the puzzle magazine Dell Pencil Puzzles and Word Games.
The recent surge in the popularity of the Sudoku puzzles has a Japanese connection. Always on the lookout for some food for thought, the people of Japan went all out for Sudoku around 1986, two years after Nikoli introduced the puzzle in Japan in the paper Monthly Nikolist. The world followed suit and by 2005, Sudoku became one of the most popular puzzles ever played.
These days, the Internet is replete with websites containing free Sudoku puzzles. These online puzzles also come in printable versions for you to download and solve it while waiting for the bus. Quite a few newspapers also carry Sudoku puzzles as weekly or even daily features.
And once you have exhausted these vast resources, you have Sudoku software to create a puzzle for you in a jiffy, thus ensuring that your gray cells are never idle.
The Sudoku puzzle has definitely taken over the world by storm.