Sudoku has a remarkably long history given that the craze has now burst onto the world stage in a matter of months. The tale begins in the United States, where the puzzle was invented by Howard Garnes, a freelance puzzle constructor. It was first called “Number Place” and published in May of 1979 by Dell Pencil Puzzles and Word Games magazine.
The next stop on the puzzle's journey was Japan, where the company Nikoli noticed “Number Place” in the American magazine. They published the puzzle using the name sudoku, which is an abbreviation of the Japanese phrase “suji wa dokushin ni kagiru” meaning “only single numbers allowed.” Sudoku has been popular in puzzle-obsessed Japan since the mid-1980s.
During a trip to Tokyo in 1997, sudoku was discovered by Wayne Gould, a retired Hong Kong judge originally from New Zealand. Gould was so taken by the puzzle that he started creating his own sudoku puzzles. In the fall of 2004 Gould convinced The Times of London to print these puzzles. It was an immediate success, and nearly every other newspaper in London started running sudoku puzzles.
In 2005 the sudoku frenzy quickly spread to nearly all parts of the globe. By that summer, sudoku was a feature in many major U.S. papers. The puzzle was back where it started, and more popular than ever!