The “father of Sudoku” who popularized the numerical brainteaser loved by millions has died of cancer. His Japanese publisher has announced this. In a notice posted on Monday, Nicoli said that Maki Kazi died at home on August 10 after battling cancer and a memorial service would be held later.
“Maki Kaji was known as the father of Sudoku and was loved by puzzle fans around the world,” the publisher said in a statement on its website. Sudoku, a type of numerical crossword, was invented by the Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler in the 18th century.
The modern version is sometimes said to have been created in the United States, but Kazi is credited with popularizing the puzzle. He is also said to have invented the name Sudoku, a contraction of a Japanese phrase meaning “every number must be single”.
Sudoku requires a player to put numbers from one to nine in a box made up of 81 squares, so that no number is repeated in any of the nine vertical or horizontal lines. To complicate matters further, the grid is also subdivided into nine blocks containing nine single squares, and each block must also contain numbers from one to nine.
Despite its Japanese name, the original concept of the Latin square – a grid in which each number or symbol occurs once in each row – was dreamed up by Euler in the 18th century. Nicoli saw an edition in an American magazine in the 1980s and brought it to Japan, where Sudoku was born.
It broke out in Europe and the United States several decades later, with Britain’s BBC in 2005 writing of the riddle that “began its benign assault on the nation last year and can now be found in four national newspapers”.
Kazi told the BBC in 2007 that creating a new puzzle was like “finding a treasure”. “It’s not about whether it will make money. It’s purely about the excitement of trying to solve it.”
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