Have you discovered sudoku?

Maggie Nepomuceno

I picked up my copy of the Villanovan as I do every Friday morning. I sat down, opened it up, and before I knew it, I found myself talking to my newspaper. No, I’m not crazy. I was doing the sudoku.

What is sudoku? It is a very simple logic game found in many of the world’s newspapers. You are given a nine-by-nine grid, and the rules are easy enough to understand:

Enter the digits 1 to 9 into the blank spaces. Every row must contain one of each digit; so must every column and three-by-three square. Simple enough.

With the sudoku in front of me, my mind begins to churn. I stare at each of those blank squares pondering over what number could possibly belong in each space. Is it a two? Is it a four? The worst part is that I cannot get anything else done until I complete this puzzle.

Even when I convince myself to put it aside and do some homework, the sudoku lurks in my mind. I surrender to it, realizing that I need to uncover what number belongs in each one of those blank boxes. I find myself thinking, “I must solve the sudoku.”

Indeed it does sound neurotic, but sudoku is the latest craze sweeping countries all over the world. What makes sudoku different from other puzzles is that it is strictly based on logic. No knowledge of trivia is required.

Do not let those numbers fool you either. It is not a game of mathematics. You do not need to worry about any of the numbers adding up. In fact the game would work just as well if we used letters or symbols.

So how can something so plain and simple intrigue a person so much? Erica Roberts, a sophomore marketing and economics major at Villanova, confesses that she is addicted to the game.

“The first time I played it, it was in the Villanovan,” Roberts said. “It’s not like a crossword puzzle where you can get stuck if you don’t know the answer. With sudoku, there’s always a way to finish.”

Perhaps this is what is so fascinating about the game. It is very solvable, and it can give a person a feeling of great pride and accomplishment knowing that he/she has completed it.

Sudoku’s premise is addicting, but where did all of this madness come from? No one can be certain where the idea for the game originated, but the phenomenon is most commonly credited to Wayne Gould, a retired judge from Hong Kong.

Gould saw the sudoku in a Japanese puzzle magazine and created a computer program that could create sudoku puzzles at different levels of difficulty. The puzzles were usually made by hand, but with Gould’s new program, they could be generated in mass production. After its first publication in 1979, the sudoku puzzle became a sensation in Japan throughout the mid-1980s and is now the most popular logic game in the country.

Gould brought the sudoku to London and persuaded the Times to print the puzzle. In November 2004, the sudoku made its debut in London and has since become a phenomenon in England.

It arrived in April 2005 to Manhattan as a regular feature in the New York Post and can now be found in most papers across the United States.

It is also syndicated daily in other countries such as Australia, Germany, Scandinavia, Italy, Spain and Canada.

Let us not forget thatwhere there are pros, there are often cons that come along. Although the sudoku brings great fun and accomplishment to its player, it is also a seductive time waster and a tantalizing distraction.

One can get so mystified by the puzzle that it becomes easy to lose focus on what’s going on around you.

Take Erica Roberts for example. She is often a victim of the sudoku as it absorbs much of her time.

“Sometimes when I get sick of doing my homework, I’ll start playing it,” she said. “Then I’ll get stuck playing that all night because I need to finish it.”

The game’s addicting nature is even affecting the skies. British Airways has gone so far as to ban its airline crews from doing sudoku puzzles during takeoff and landing so as not to endanger the safety of its passengers.

Sudoku proves to be downright fun and is a stimulating exercise for the brain. Turn to your Villanovan, and try it for yourself, but beware of addiction. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.