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A typical Sudoku puzzle, with nine rows and nine columns that intersect at square spaces. Some of the cells are filled with a number; others are blank cells to be solved.
A typical Sudoku puzzle
The previous puzzle, showing its solution.
The solution to the puzzle above

Sudoku (/sˈdk, -ˈdɒk-, sə-/; Japanese: 数独, romanizedsūdoku, lit.'digit-single'; originally called Number Place)[1] is a logic-based,[2][3] combinatorial[4] number-placement puzzle. In classic Sudoku, the objective is to fill a 9 × 9 grid with digits so that each column, each row, and each of the nine 3 × 3 subgrids that compose the grid (also called "boxes", "blocks", or "regions") contains all of the digits from 1 to 9. The puzzle setter provides a partially completed grid, which for a well-posed puzzle has a single solution.

French newspapers featured variations of the Sudoku puzzles in the 19th century, and the puzzle has appeared since 1979 in puzzle books under the name Number Place.[5] However, the modern Sudoku only began to gain widespread popularity in 1986 when it was published by the Japanese puzzle company Nikoli under the name Sudoku, meaning "single number".[6] It first appeared in a U.S. newspaper, and then The Times (London), in 2004, thanks to the efforts of Wayne Gould, who devised a computer program to rapidly produce unique puzzles.


From La France newspaper, July 6, 1895: The puzzle instructions read, "Use the numbers 1 to 9 nine times each to complete the grid in such a way that the horizontal, vertical, and two main diagonal lines all add up to the same total."


Number puzzles appeared in newspapers in the late 19th century, when French puzzle setters began experimenting with removing numbers from magic squares. Le Siècle, a Paris daily, published a partially completed 9×9 magic square with 3×3 subsquares on November 19, 1892.[7] It was not a Sudoku because it contained double-digit numbers and required arithmetic rather than logic to solve, but it shared key characteristics: each row, column, and subsquare added up to the same number.

On July 6, 1895, Le Siècle's rival, La France, refined the puzzle so that it was almost a modern Sudoku and named it carré magique diabolique ('diabolical magic square'). It simplified the 9×9 magic square puzzle so that each row, column, and broken diagonals contained only the numbers 1–9, but did not mark the subsquares. Although they were unmarked, each 3×3 subsquare did indeed comprise the numbers 1–9, and the additional constraint on the broken diagonals led to only one solution.[8]

These weekly puzzles were a feature of French newspapers such as L'Écho de Paris for about a decade, but disappeared about the time of World War I.[9]

Modern Sudoku[edit]

The modern Sudoku was most likely designed anonymously by Howard Garns, a 74-year-old retired architect and freelance puzzle constructor from Connersville, Indiana, and first published in 1979 by Dell Magazines as Number Place (the earliest known examples of modern Sudoku).[1] Garns' name was always present on the list of contributors in issues of Dell Pencil Puzzles and Word Games that included Number Place and was always absent from issues that did not.[10] He died in 1989 before getting a chance to see his creation as a worldwide phenomenon.[10] Whether or not Garns was familiar with any of the French newspapers listed above is unclear.

The puzzle was introduced in Japan by Maki Kaji (鍜治 真起, Kaji Maki), president of the Nikoli puzzle company, in the paper Monthly Nikolist in April 1984[10] as Sūji wa dokushin ni kagiru (数字は独身に限る), which can be translated as "the digits must be single", or as "the digits are limited to one occurrence" (In Japanese, dokushin means an "unmarried person"). The name was later abbreviated to Sudoku (数独), taking only the first kanji of compound words to form a shorter version.[10] "Sudoku" is a registered trademark in Japan[11] and the puzzle is generally referred to as Number Place (ナンバープレース, Nanbāpurēsu) or, more informally, a shortening of the two words, Num(ber) Pla(ce) (ナンプレ, Nanpure). In 1986, Nikoli introduced two innovations: the number of givens was restricted to no more than 32, and puzzles became "symmetrical" (meaning the givens were distributed in rotationally symmetric cells). It is now published in mainstream Japanese periodicals, such as the Asahi Shimbun.

Spread outside Japan[edit]

In 1997, Hong Kong judge Wayne Gould saw a partly completed puzzle in a Japanese bookshop. Over six years, he developed a computer program to produce unique puzzles rapidly.[5] Knowing that British newspapers have a long history of publishing crosswords and other puzzles, he promoted Sudoku to The Times in Britain, which launched it on November 12, 2004 (calling it Su Doku). The first letter to The Times regarding Su Doku was published the following day on November 13 from Ian Payn of Brentford, complaining that the puzzle had caused him to miss his stop on the tube.[12] Sudoku puzzles rapidly spread to other newspapers as a regular feature.[5][13]

The rapid rise of Sudoku in Britain from relative obscurity to a front-page feature in national newspapers attracted commentary in the media and parody (such as when The Guardian's G2 section advertised itself as the first newspaper supplement with a Sudoku grid on every page).[14] Recognizing the different psychological appeals of easy and difficult puzzles, The Times introduced both, side by side, on June 20, 2005. From July 2005, Channel 4 included a daily Sudoku game in their teletext service. On August 2, the BBC's program guide Radio Times featured a weekly Super Sudoku with a 16×16 grid.

In the United States, the first newspaper to publish a Sudoku puzzle by Wayne Gould was The Conway Daily Sun (New Hampshire), in 2004.[15]

The world's first live TV Sudoku show, held on July 1, 2005, Sky One

The world's first live TV Sudoku show, Sudoku Live, was a puzzle contest first broadcast on July 1, 2005, on Sky One. It was presented by Carol Vorderman. Nine teams of nine players (with one celebrity in each team) representing geographical regions competed to solve a puzzle. Each player had a hand-held device for entering numbers corresponding to answers for four cells. Phil Kollin of Winchelsea, England, was the series grand prize winner, taking home over £23,000 over a series of games. The audience at home was in a separate interactive competition, which was won by Hannah Withey of Cheshire.

Later in 2005, the BBC launched SUDO-Q, a game show that combined Sudoku with general knowledge. However, it used only 4×4 and 6×6 puzzles. Four seasons were produced before the show ended in 2007.

In 2006, a Sudoku website published songwriter Peter Levy's Sudoku tribute song,[16] but quickly had to take down the MP3 file due to heavy traffic. The Japanese Embassy also nominated the song for an award, with Levy doing talks with Sony in Japan to release the song as a single.[17]

Sudoku software is very popular on PCs, websites, and mobile phones. It comes with many distributions of Linux. The software has also been released on video game consoles, such as the Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, the Game Boy Advance, Xbox Live Arcade, the Nook e-book reader, Kindle Fire tablet, several iPod models, and the iPhone. Many Nokia phones also had Sudoku. In fact, just two weeks after Apple Inc. debuted the online App Store within its iTunes Store on July 11, 2008, nearly 30 different Sudoku games were already in it, created by various software developers, specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch. One of the most popular video games featuring Sudoku is Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!. Critically and commercially well-received, it generated particular praise for its Sudoku implementation[18][19][20] and sold more than 8 million copies worldwide.[21] Due to its popularity, Nintendo made a second Brain Age game titled Brain Age2, which has over 100 new Sudoku puzzles and other activities.

In June 2008, an Australian drugs-related jury trial costing over A$ 1 million was aborted when it was discovered that four or five of the twelve jurors had been playing Sudoku instead of listening to the evidence.[22]


A Sudoku puzzle grid with many colors, with nine rows and nine columns that intersect at square spaces. Some of the spaces are filled with a digit; others are blank spaces to be solved.
A nonomino or jigsaw Sudoku, as seen in The Sunday Telegraph...
The previous puzzle, solved with digits in the blank spaces.
...and its solution (red numbers)

Variations of grid sizes or region shapes[edit]

Although the 9×9 grid with 3×3 regions is by far the most common, many other variations exist. Sample puzzles can be 4×4 grids with 2×2 regions; 5×5 grids with pentomino regions have been published under the name Logi-5; the World Puzzle Championship has featured a 6×6 grid with 2×3 regions and a 7×7 grid with six heptomino regions and a disjoint region. Larger grids are also possible, or different irregular shapes (under various names such as Suguru, Tectonic, Jigsaw Sudoku etc.). The Times offers a 12×12-grid "Dodeka Sudoku" with 12 regions of 4×3 squares. Dell Magazines regularly publishes 16×16 "Number Place Challenger" puzzles (using the numbers 1–16 or the letters A-P). Nikoli offers 25×25 "Sudoku the Giant" behemoths. A 100×100-grid puzzle dubbed Sudoku-zilla was published in 2010.[23]

Mini Sudoku[edit]

Under the name "Mini Sudoku", a 6×6 variant with 3×2 regions appears in the American newspaper USA Today and elsewhere. The object is the same as that of standard Sudoku, but the puzzle only uses the numbers 1 through 6. A similar form, for younger solvers of puzzles, called "The Junior Sudoku", has appeared in some newspapers, such as some editions of The Daily Mail.

Imposing additional constraints[edit]

Another common variant is to add limits on the placement of numbers beyond the usual row, column, and box requirements. Often, the limit takes the form of an extra "dimension"; the most common is to require the numbers in the main diagonals of the grid to also be unique. The aforementioned "Number Place Challenger" puzzles are all of this variant, as are the Sudoku X puzzles in The Daily Mail, which use 6×6 grids.

Killer sudoku[edit]

A Killer Sudoku puzzle
And its solution

The killer sudoku variant combines elements of sudoku and kakuro. A killer sudoku puzzle is made up of 'cages', typically depicted by boxes outlined with dashes or colours. The sum of the numbers in a cage is written in the top left corner of the cage, and numbers cannot be repeated in a cage.

Other variants[edit]

Puzzles constructed from more than two grids are also common. Five 9×9 grids that overlap at the corner regions in the shape of a quincunx is known in Japan as Gattai 5 (five merged) Sudoku. In The Times, The Age, and The Sydney Morning Herald, this form of puzzle is known as Samurai Sudoku. The Baltimore Sun and the Toronto Star publish a puzzle of this variant (titled High Five) in their Sunday edition. Often, no givens are placed in the overlapping regions. Sequential grids, as opposed to overlapping, are also published, with values in specific locations in grids needing to be transferred to others.

An example of Greater Than Sudoku

A tabletop version of Sudoku can be played with a standard 81-card Set deck (see Set game). A three-dimensional Sudoku puzzle was published in The Daily Telegraph in May 2005. The Times also publishes a three-dimensional version under the name Tredoku. Also, a Sudoku version of the Rubik's Cube is named Sudoku Cube.

Many other variants have been developed.[24][25][26] Some are different shapes in the arrangement of overlapping 9×9 grids, such as butterfly, windmill, or flower.[27] Others vary the logic for solving the grid. One of these is "Greater Than Sudoku". In this, a 3×3 grid of the Sudoku is given with 12 symbols of Greater Than (>) or Less Than (<) on the common line of the two adjacent numbers.[10] Another variant on the logic of the solution is "Clueless Sudoku", in which nine 9×9 Sudoku grids are each placed in a 3×3 array. The center cell in each 3×3 grid of all nine puzzles is left blank and forms a tenth Sudoku puzzle without any cell completed; hence, "clueless".[27] Examples and other variants can be found in the Glossary of Sudoku.

Mathematics of Sudoku[edit]

A Sudoku with 18 clues and two-way diagonal symmetry

This section refers to classic Sudoku, disregarding jigsaw, hyper, and other variants. A completed Sudoku grid is a special type of Latin square with the additional property of no repeated values in any of the nine blocks (or boxes of 3×3 cells).[28]

The general problem of solving Sudoku puzzles on n2×n2 grids of n×n blocks is known to be NP-complete.[29] Many Sudoku solving algorithms, such as brute force-backtracking and dancing links can solve most 9×9 puzzles efficiently, but combinatorial explosion occurs as n increases, creating practical limits to the properties of Sudokus that can be constructed, analyzed, and solved as n increases. A Sudoku puzzle can be expressed as a graph coloring problem.[30] The aim is to construct a 9-coloring of a particular graph, given a partial 9-coloring.

The fewest clues possible for a proper Sudoku is 17.[31] Tens of thousands of distinct Sudoku puzzles have only 17 clues.[32]

The number of classic 9×9 Sudoku solution grids is 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960, or around 6.67×1021.[33] The number of essentially different solutions, when symmetries such as rotation, reflection, permutation, and relabelling are taken into account, is much smaller, 5,472,730,538.[34]

Unlike the number of complete Sudoku grids, the number of minimal 9×9 Sudoku puzzles is not precisely known. (A minimal puzzle is one in which no clue can be deleted without losing the uniqueness of the solution.) However, statistical techniques combined with a puzzle generator show that about (with 0.065% relative error) 3.10 × 1037 minimal puzzles and 2.55 × 1025 nonessentially equivalent minimal puzzles exist.[35]


Sudoku competition at SM City Baliuag
  • The first World Sudoku Championship was held in Lucca, Italy, from March 10 to 11, 2006. The winner was Jana Tylová of the Czech Republic.[36] The competition included numerous variants.[37]
  • The second World Sudoku Championship was held in Prague, Czech Republic, from March 28 to April 1, 2007.[38] The individual champion was Thomas Snyder of the US. The team champion was Japan.[39]
  • The third World Sudoku Championship was held in Goa, India, from April 14 to 16, 2008. Thomas Snyder repeated as the individual overall champion and also won the first-ever Classic Trophy (a subset of the competition counting only classic Sudoku). The Czech Republic won the team competition.[40]
  • The fourth World Sudoku Championship was held in Žilina, Slovakia, from April 24 to 27, 2009. After past champion Thomas Snyder of the US won the general qualification, Jan Mrozowski of Poland emerged from a 36-competitor playoff to become the new World Sudoku Champion. Host nation Slovakia emerged as the top team in a separate competition of three-membered squads.[41]
  • The fifth World Sudoku Championship was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from April 29 to May 2, 2010. Jan Mrozowski of Poland successfully defended his world title in the individual competition, while Germany won a separate team event. The puzzles were written by Thomas Snyder and Wei-Hwa Huang, both past U.S. Sudoku champions.[42]
  • The 12th World Sudoku Championship (WSC) was held in Bangalore, India, from October 15 to 22, 2017. Kota Morinishi of Japan won the Individual WSC and China won the team event.[43]
  • The 13th World Sudoku Championship took place in the Czech Republic.[44]
  • In the United States, The Philadelphia Inquirer Sudoku National Championship has been held three times, each time offering a $10,000 prize to the advanced division winner and a spot on the U.S. National Sudoku Team traveling to the world championships. The winners of the event were Thomas Snyder (2007),[45] Wei-Hwa Huang (2008), and Tammy McLeod (2009).[46] In the 2009 event, the third-place finalist in the advanced division, Eugene Varshavsky, performed quite poorly onstage after setting a very fast qualifying time on paper, which caught the attention of organizers and competitors including past champion Thomas Snyder, who requested organizers reconsider his results due to a suspicion of cheating.[47] Following an investigation and a retest of Varshavsky, the organizers disqualified him and awarded the third-place to Chris Narrikkattu.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Grossman, Lev (March 11, 2013). "The Answer Men". Time. New York. Archived from the original on March 1, 2013. Retrieved March 4, 2013.(registration required)
  2. ^ Arnoldy, Ben. "Sudoku Strategies". The Christian Science Monitor.
  3. ^ Schaschek, Sarah (March 22, 2006). "Sudoku champ's surprise victory". The Prague Post. Archived from the original on August 13, 2006. Retrieved February 18, 2009.
  4. ^ Gradwohl, Ronen; Naor, Moni; Pinkas, Benny; Rothblum, Guy N. (2007). "Cryptographic and Physical Zero-Knowledge Proof Systems for Solutions of Sudoku Puzzles". In Crescenzi, Pierluigi; Prencipe, Giuseppe; Pucci, Geppino (eds.). Fun with Algorithms, 4th International Conference, FUN 2007, Castiglioncello, Italy, June 3-5, 2007, Proceedings. Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Vol. 4475. Springer. pp. 166–182. doi:10.1007/978-3-540-72914-3_16.
  5. ^ a b c Smith, David (May 15, 2005). "So you thought Sudoku came from the Land of the Rising Sun ..." The Observer. Retrieved June 13, 2008. The puzzle gripping the nation actually began at a small New York magazine
  6. ^ Hayes, Brian (2006). "Unwed Numbers". American Scientist. 94 (1): 12–15. doi:10.1511/2006.57.3475.
  7. ^ Boyer, Christian (May 2006). "Supplément de l'article "Les ancêtres français du sudoku"" (PDF). Pour la Science (in French): 1–6. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 10, 2006. Retrieved August 3, 2009.
  8. ^ Boyer, Christian (2007). "Sudoku's French ancestors" (in French). (personal webpage). Archived from the original on October 10, 2007. Retrieved August 3, 2009.
  9. ^ Malvern, Jack (June 3, 2006). "Les fiendish French beat us to Su Doku". Times Online. London. Retrieved September 16, 2006.
  10. ^ a b c d e Pegg, Ed Jr. (September 15, 2005). "Ed Pegg Jr.'s Math Games: Sudoku Variations". MAA Online. The Mathematical Association of America. Retrieved October 3, 2006.
  11. ^ "Reg. No. 5056856". Japanese Trademark 5056856. Japan Platform for Trademark Information. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  12. ^ Payn, Ian (November 13, 2004). "Deep in thought". The Times.
  13. ^ Devlin, Keith (January 28–29, 2012). "The Numbers Game (book review of Taking Sudoku Seriously by Jason Rosenhouse et al.)". The Wall Street Journal. Weekend Edition. p. C5.
  14. ^ "G2, home of the discerning Sudoku addict". The Guardian. London. May 13, 2005. Retrieved September 16, 2006.
  15. ^ "Correction attached to "Inside Japan's Puzzle Palace"". The New York Times. March 21, 2007.
  16. ^ "Sudoku the song, by Peter Levy". Sudoku.org.uk. August 17, 2006. Retrieved October 5, 2008.
  17. ^ "Hit Song Has the Numbers". The Herald Sun. August 17, 2006. Retrieved October 5, 2008.
  18. ^ "Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!". Gamerankings.com.
  19. ^ "Brain Age: ... Review". Gamespot.com.
  20. ^ Harris, Craig (April 18, 2006). "Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day". IGN. Retrieved February 8, 2023.
  21. ^ Thorsen, Tor (October 26, 2006). "Nintendo posts $456.6 million profit". GameSpot. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
  22. ^ Knox, Malcolm (June 11, 2008). "The game's up: jurors playing Sudoku abort trial". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved June 11, 2008.
  23. ^ Eisenhauer, William (2010). Sudoku-zilla. CreateSpace. p. 220. ISBN 978-1-4515-1049-2.
  24. ^ Snyder, Thomas; Huang, Wei-Hwa (2009). Mutant Sudoku. Puzzlewright Press. ISBN 978-1-402765025.
  25. ^ Conceptis, Puzzles (2013). Amazing Sudoku Variants. Puzzlewright. ISBN 978-1454906520. OCLC 700343731.
  26. ^ Murali, A V (2014). A Collection of Fascinating Games and Puzzles. CreateSpace Independent Publishing. ISBN 978-1500216429. OCLC 1152132274.
  27. ^ a b "Zahlenraetsel". janko.at.
  28. ^ Keedwell, A. D. (November 2006). "Two remarks about Sudoku squares". The Mathematical Gazette. 90 (519): 425–430. doi:10.1017/s0025557200180234. JSTOR 40378190.
  29. ^ Yato, Takayuki; Seta, Takahiro (2003). "Complexity and completeness of finding another solution and its application to puzzles" (PDF). IEICE TRANSACTIONS on Fundamentals of Electronics, Communications and Computer Sciences. E86-A (5): 1052–1060. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 3, 2020.
  30. ^ Lewis, R. (2015). A Guide to Graph Colouring: Algorithms and Applications. Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-25730-3. ISBN 978-3-319-25728-0. OCLC 990730995. S2CID 26468973.
  31. ^ McGuire, G.; Tugemann, B.; Civario, G. (2014). "There is no 16-Clue Sudoku: Solving the Sudoku Minimum Number of Clues Problem". Experimental Mathematics. 23 (2): 190–217. arXiv:1201.0749. doi:10.1080/10586458.2013.870056.
  32. ^ Royle, Gordon. "Minimum Sudoku". Archived from the original on November 26, 2006. Retrieved February 28, 2012.
  33. ^ Sloane, N. J. A. (ed.). "Sequence A107739 (Number of (completed) sudokus (or Sudokus) of size n^2 X n^2)". The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. OEIS Foundation.
  34. ^ Sloane, N. J. A. (ed.). "Sequence A109741 (Number of inequivalent (completed) n^2 X n^2 sudokus (or Sudokus))". The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. OEIS Foundation.
  35. ^ Berthier, Denis (December 4, 2009). "Unbiased Statistics of a CSP – A Controlled-Bias Generator". In Elleithy, Khaled (ed.). Innovations in Computing Sciences and Software Engineering. Springer. pp. 165–70. Bibcode:2010iics.book.....S. doi:10.1007/978-90-481-9112-3. ISBN 978-90-481-9111-6. Retrieved December 4, 2009.
  36. ^ "Sudoku title for Czech accountant". BBC News. March 11, 2006. Retrieved September 11, 2006.
  37. ^ "World Sudoku Championship 2006 Instructions Booklet" (PDF). BBC News. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 10, 2006. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
  38. ^ "Report on the 8th General Assembly of the World Puzzle Federation". World Puzzle Federation. October 30, 2006. Archived from the original on September 26, 2007. Retrieved November 15, 2006.
  39. ^ "Thomas Snyder wins World Sudoku Championship". US Puzzle Team. March 31, 2007. Retrieved April 18, 2008.
  40. ^ Harvey, Michael (April 17, 2008). "It's a puzzle but sun, sea, and beer can't compete with Sudoku for British team". TimesOnline. London. Retrieved April 18, 2008.
  41. ^ Malvern, Jack (April 27, 2009). "Su Doku battle goes a little off the wall". TimesOnline. London. Retrieved April 27, 2009.
  42. ^ "Pole, 23, repeats as Sudoku world champ". PhillyInquirer. May 2, 2009. Archived from the original on May 5, 2010. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
  43. ^ "WSPC 2017 - Logic Masters India". wspc2017.logicmastersindia.com.
  44. ^ "World Sudoku Championships | WPF". orldpuzzle.org.
  45. ^ "Thomas Snyder, World Sudoku champion". The Philadelphia Inquirer. October 21, 2007. Retrieved October 21, 2007.
  46. ^ Shapiro, Howard (October 25, 2009). "Going for 2d, she wins 1st". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on November 2, 2009. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
  47. ^ Timpane, John (October 27, 2009). "Possible cheating probed at Sudoku National Championship". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on November 1, 2009. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
  48. ^ "3rd-place winner disqualified in Sudoku scandal". The Philadelphia Inquirer. November 24, 2009. Archived from the original on November 27, 2009. Retrieved August 3, 2013.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]