The History of Sudoku

The history of Sudoku dates back to an 18th Century Swiss mathematician’s game called “Latin Squares” (according to this article from the Economist) and some of the first number puzzles to appear in newspapers were published in France in 1895. But the modern game of Sudoku as we recognize it today was invented by Howard Garns, a freelance puzzle inventor from Connersville, Indiana, USA in 1979 when it was published in Dell Pencil Puzzles and Word Games magazine. The puzzle was known as “Number Place,” since it involved placing individual numbers into empty spots on a 9 x 9 grid.

The game first appeared in Japan in 1984 where it was given the name “Sudoku,” which is short for a longer expression in Japanese – “Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru” – which means, “the digits are limited to one occurrence.” Sudoku continues to be highly popular in Japan, where people buy over 600,000 Sudoku magazines per month.

One reason that Sudoku puzzles are so beloved in Japan is that the Japanese language doesn’t work very well for crossword puzzles – so a number puzzle was much more successful in Japanese culture. Also, Japan tends to love puzzles, since it is a country where millions of people make lengthy commutes by train or bus, and they need to kill time while waiting for the next stop.

Why does Sudoku speak to us in today’s fast-paced world? One possible reason is that it appeals to people’s innate sense of order; there is something very satisfying about filling out those empty squares on the Sudoku grid. Another reason is that the rules are simple and easy to learn – people of all ages can play Sudoku and can often learn quickly how to approach the puzzle. As Sudoku’s global popularity attests, the game is easy to share with friends all over the world, because it is numbers-based and so it does not require any translation.

As long as people love to test their brains with the fun and challenge of logic puzzles, Sudoku will be a popular and beloved part of millions of people’s everyday lives around the world.