A Brief History Of Sudoku

Sudoku is an international sensation. Pronounced Sue-Dough-Koo, the logic-based game has developed over 300 years. Learn more about the history of Sudoku as you enjoy the game. 

Swiss Origins of Sudoku

Leonhard Euler, an 18th-century physicist and mathematician, created an original version of Sudoku. He combined “Latin Squares” with “Magic Squares.” In Latin Squares, users filled a matrix or square with the Latin alphabet. In Magic Squares, users followed a mathematical formula as they placed numbers in a matrix with the same sum in each column and row. Euler’s combination functioned as a mathematical system used during statistical analysis. 

The Birth of Modern Sudoku

Over time, Euler’s pragmatic concept expanded into entertainment. Eventually, a French newspaper published some of the first puzzles in 1895. 

However, an early version of the game we play today is typically attributed to Howard Garns, an architect and freelance puzzle inventor from Indiana. He supposedly submitted a puzzle called “Number Place” to the Dell Pencil Puzzles and Word Games magazine. Published in 1979, this version incorporated the nine-by-nine grid and introduced the rules of placing the numbers one through nine in columns and rows without repeating any digits. 

Japanese Adaptation of Sudoku 

The game underwent further revisions in 1984. That’s when the monthly Japanese magazine Nikolist published “Suuji wa dokushin ni kaguru,” which means the numbers must remain single. This game included similar principles to the “Number Place” plus tweaks that affected its difficulty and visual appeal. 

In no time, the puzzle grew in popularity. It even gained a new name that combined the characters for the word number (Su) with the characters for the word single (Doku). The puzzle’s success occurred in part because the Japanese people could solve the numbers-based puzzles during long commutes. And numbers were easier to work into a grid, unlike crossword puzzles that were less compatible with the Japanese language.  

The World Expansion of Sudoku

Sudoku spread from Japan to the world thanks to Wayne Gould. While browsing a Tokyo bookstore in 1997, the retired judge from New Zealand discovered the game. He became a super fan and wrote a computer program that generated puzzles and rated their difficulty. 

Gould convinced The Times of London to publish a puzzle in 2004. Shortly after that, other newspapers, magazines and book publishers followed suit, including the Conway Daily Sun in New Hampshire. 

By 2006, the World Sudoku Championship began. The competition challenged individuals and national teams to complete the most difficult puzzles in the shortest time. 

Today, the game continues to evolve. For example, we can now play Sudoku online or through an app. And puzzle variations include colors, symbols, letters or words, designs like the jigsaw and the samurai, and numerous grid sizes.  

Why People Play Sudoku

From its origins as a mathematical formula, Sudoku has grown into a world phenomenon. It’s accessible to people of all ages, skill levels and nationalities. And the game appeals to our innate sense of order. It might even reduce stress and anxiety. Sudoku also stimulates our minds, which can boost our brain health, concentration and problem-solving skills. 

No matter where, when or why you play Sudoku, the game has come a long way. And its versions will continue to be around for years to come.

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