Kakuro was born in America and later acquired a Japanese name. It first appeared in 1966 in an American puzzle magazine published by Dell Magazines. They gave it the name “Cross Sums,” which is still used today. In fact, these puzzles have always been popular with hard-core puzzlers. Recently cross sums (or kakuro) puzzles have gained more of a mainstream following.
In 1980 a Japanese man named Maki Kaji was in the United States on business. He was a puzzle connoisseur, so naturally he sampled some of the local fare. The ubiquitous crossword puzzles were not to his liking, as his English was not that good. However, he was able to devour cross-sum puzzles right away as they contained only numbers. Maki was so taken with these puzzles that he started creating and publishing them back in Japan. He renamed the puzzle “kasan kurosu,” a combination of the Japanese word for “addition” and the Japanese pronunciation of the English word “cross.” Soon it was abbreviated to kakuro, or sometimes kakro. Within a few years it became a craze in puzzle-obsessed Japan. Maki and his company, Nikoli, went on to sell about 1 million kakuro books.
Interestingly, kakuro has followed a course similar to its popular cousin, sudoku. Sudoku is also a puzzle that was invented in the United States and then made popular under a different name in Japan. The next step in both puzzles’ conquest was England, another country filled with puzzle lovers. First sudoku and then kakuro were printed in British newspapers and popular books. As for the rest of the world, sudoku has led the way to an increased interest in puzzles across the globe. Following right along, kakuro is gaining fans all over the world, including back in the United States where it began.