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Popularity in the media

In 1997, retired Hong Kong judge Wayne Gould, 59, a New Zealander, saw a partly completed puzzle in a Japanese bookshop. Over 6 years he developed a computer program to produce puzzles quickly. 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 12 November 2004 (calling it Su Doku). The puzzles by Pappocom, Gould's software house, have been printed daily in the Times ever since.

Three days later The Daily Mail began to publish the puzzle under the name "Codenumber". The Daily Telegraph introduced its first Sudoku by its puzzle compiler Michael Mepham on 19 January 2005 and other Telegraph Group newspapers took it up very quickly. Nationwide News Pty Ltd began publishing the puzzle in The Daily Telegraph of Sydney on 20 May 2005; five puzzles with solutions were printed that day. The immense surge in popularity of Sudoku in British newspapers and internationally has led to it being dubbed in the world media in 2005 the "fastest growing puzzle in the world".

There is no doubt that it was not until the British Daily Telegraph introduced the puzzle on a daily basis on 23 February 2005 with the full front-page treatment advertising the fact, that the other UK national newspapers began to take real interest. The Telegraph continued to splash the puzzle on its front page, realizing that it was gaining sales simply by its presence. Until then the Times had kept very quiet about the huge daily interest that its daily Sudoku competition had aroused. That newspaper already had plans for taking advantage of their market lead, and a first Sudoku book was already on the stocks before any other national UK papers had realised just how popular Sudoku might be.

By April and May 2005 the puzzle had become popular in these publications and it was rapidly introduced to several other national British newspapers including The Independent, The Guardian, The Sun (where it was labelled Sun Doku), and The Daily Mirror. As the name Sudoku became well-known in Britain, the Daily Mail adopted it in place of its earlier name "Codenumber". Newspapers competed to promote their Sudoku puzzles, with The Times and the Daily Mail each claiming to have been the first to feature Sudoku.

The rapid rise of Sudoku from relative obscurity in Britain to a front-page feature in national newspapers attracted commentary in the media (see References below) and parody (such as when The Guardian's G2 section advertised itself as the first newspaper supplement with a Sudoku grid on every page). Sudoku became particularly prominent in newspapers soon after the 2005 general election leading some commentators to suggest that it was filling the gaps previously occupied by election coverage. A simpler explanation is that the puzzle attracts and retains readers-Sudoku players report an increasing sense of satisfaction as a puzzle approaches completion. Recognizing the different psychological appeals of easy and difficult puzzles The Times introduced both side by side on 20 June 2005. From July 2005 Channel 4 included a daily Sudoku game in their Teletext service (at page 391). On 2 August 2005 the BBC's programme guide Radio Times started to feature a weekly Super Sudoku.

The world's first live TV Sudoku show, 1 July 2005, Sky One.As a one-off, the world's first live TV Sudoku show, Sudoku Live, was broadcast on 1 July 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. Conferring was permitted although the lack of acquaintance of the players with each other inhibited an analytical discussion. The audience at home was in a separate interactive competition. A Sky One publicity stunt to promote the programme with the world's largest Sudoku puzzle went awry when the 275 foot (84 m) square puzzle was found to have 1,905 correct solutions. The puzzle was carved into a hillside in Chipping Sodbury, near Bristol, England, in view of the M4 motorway. The stunt was cleverly timed to coincide with a major road expansion, where an imposed 40 mph speed restriction allowed drivers to safely view the puzzle whilst driving.

United States broadcaster CBS has run several stories concerning Sudoku, including on the Early Show in Summer 2005, and on the CBS Evening News that autumn, on October 26.

 

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