Sudoku History

This page is a brief introduction to the history of sudoku, not essential to play our free sudoku puzzles but nonetheless interenting. Other pages that you might find useful include a page explaining sudoku rules and a page offering some basic sudoku tips and techniques.

The Earliest Version:  Magic Squares

Sudoku as we know it was not created until 1976.  Other numbers games have existed since as early as 2800 BC, however.  The earliest puzzles, known as “magic squares,” featured a set of integers whose rows, columns, and diagonals all add to the same sum, usually a number with a value of significance to a particular culture.  For example, the rows, columns, and diagonal in an ancient Chinese magic square always totaled fifteen, the number of days in each of the twenty-four cycles of the Chinese solar year.  A magic square carved on the Sagrada Famila church in Barcelona adds to thirty-three, the age of Jesus at the time of his crucifixion.

One Step Closer:  Latin Squares

In medieval times, a new rule transformed Magic Squares to Latin Squares.  While Magic Squares could repeat a number in any given row or column, Latin Squares prohibit such repetition.  In a Latin Square, a certain set of numbers or symbols appear once in each column and once in each row.

The Creation of Sudoku

While the name Sudoku is Japanese, the modern version of the logic-driven number game actually originated in the United States.  Howard Garnes, a seventy-four-year-old retired architect and freelance puzzle constructor, added the nine 3x3 subgroups to a standard 9x9 Latin Square.  He submitted the first known Sudoku puzzle to Dell Magazines, a specialist puzzle publisher, in New York for publication.  Not yet labeled as Sudoku, however, the game debuted in Dell Pencil Puzzles and Word Games as “Number Place.”

Going Global

Five years after its creation, the puzzle drifted across the Pacific Ocean to Japan, where Nikoli, Japan’s leading puzzle company, picked it up and published it as Suuji Wa Dokushin Ni Kagiru, which means “the numbers must be single,” or “the numbers must occur only once.”  

The Japanese puzzle fans loved the game.  The president of Nikoli realized that the game’s success was hindered only by its long, unwieldy name, and shortened the title to Sudoku, or “single digit.”  Nikoli also reduced the amount of given clues, and made those given appear symmetrically in the grid.  Sudoku’s popularity grew, and today, Japan alone publishes over 600,000 copies of Sudoku magazines every month.

Sudoku Arrives in Europe

At the end of 2004, the London Times published its first Sudoku puzzle at the behest of Wayne Gould, a retired Hong Kong judge, computer programmer, and puzzle fan.  Gould had created a computer program to generate Sudoku puzzles, and provided it to the Times at no charge.  A Sudoku craze ensued.  Another paper, The Daily Mail, began featuring Sudoku just three days later.  Within six months, newspapers across the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia all carried Sudoku.  In July of 2005, a British TV network even went so far as to carve the world’s largest Sudoku puzzle into a hillside near Bristol.

Sudoku Comes Home

Sudoku made its homecoming in April of 2005 when the New York Post published the puzzle as a regular feature.  In mid-July, the Sudoku mania spread from sea to shining sea when USA Today and The Daily News both launched their Sudoku columns on the same day.  Since then, Sudoku has steadily replaced traditional bridge columns and weary crossword puzzles in papers across the nation and around the globe

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