A puzzle freak finds a new kind of game

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JOANNE KOSEY

It's been said it is good to keep your mind busy, and puzzles are a good way to keep the mind active. I like puzzles, but I am a puzzle cheat. I will admit it?"I sometimes look to the back of the book to get some help with the answers. Do I feel some guilt? Of course I do! I'm Italian and Catholic; it comes with the territory.

Crossword puzzles, word searches, scrambled words are fun, but the latest craze is SuDoku, which is being referred to as the Rubik's cube of the 21st century. Found daily in the Chicago Tribune, the game is a 3-by-3 grid with rows and columns which, when completed, will contain digits 1 to 9 with no duplications in a row or column.

Sounds easy? How about challenging. And, yes, I have looked in the paper the following day to check if I have completed the puzzle correctly. That's not cheating. That's called getting a little help.

The game may be new to some of us, but it has its origins in the 18th century by a Swiss mathematician by the name of Leonhard Euler. The Dell puzzle magazines began to include a game of this type in their popular puzzle books around 1970. The puzzles were probably the ones I skipped when working a puzzle book, preferring to do the crosswords and word searches.

In 1984, a Japanese puzzle publishing company took the game and gave it a long name Suuji wa dokushin ni Kagiru, which didn't catch on. I can understand. By the time you say the name there is no time left to play the game.

Realizing a name change was needed the name was shortened to SuDoku which means "number single." A few slight adjustments and the game became a hit in Japan.

It took awhile for the game to find its way to the United States, and it did by way of a New Zealand born judge named Wayne Gould. Seems the judge was traveling in Japan and, while shopping in Tokyo, he came upon the game and became a fan of the puzzle. Eventually while in London, he convinced the Times to publish the game in their paper, which they did around 2004. And so it made its way to the good old USA to delight and frustrate us all.

So now I'm hooked. I bought a SuDoku book for kids, cause that's what I am at heart and it's easier. Plus, there are rule explanations and simpler puzzles?"and, yes, there are answers in the back of the book. But I don't intend to peek at this level.

The brain teaser?"based on logic?"has taken hold and has caught the attention of all ages and people from all walks of life, including celebrities and politicians. Wait, politicians and logic in the same paragraph?"does that make sense?

I usually fill in the column or row with the most numbers first, then I peek to see if my numbers are in the correct order and go on to the next one. I can do that! The more numbers you fill in, the easier it becomes.

Whether you choose to work the puzzle by columns, rows or boxes it's your choice, it's good to challenge your mind to keep it going. Just remember if you get too frustrated you can always sneak a peek at the answers.

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