Early ‘Sudoku’ Syndicator Discusses His Popular Puzzle’s New Competition

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By: Dave Astor

Universal Press Syndicate announced Monday that it will offer six versions of the “Sudoku” puzzle, but it won’t be the first Western Hemisphere distributor of the popular numbers game that began sweeping Japan two decades ago.

The first may have been Wayne Gould, who starting doing “Sudoku” for The Times of London last November. He also self-distributes the puzzle to The New York Post and more than 30 other newspapers in about a dozen countries.

What does Gould think about Universal also syndicating “Sudoku”? “The puzzle is in the public domain, so they’re not infringing on my rights,” he replied. “One can’t stop competition. But they can’t undercut me in price!”

That’s because Gould offers newspapers the puzzle for free. He makes money by selling people a “Sudoku” computer program (www.sudoku.com) he developed after retiring as a criminal-court judge in Hong Kong in 1997. Gould had discovered “Sudoku” in a Tokyo bookstore that same year.

The New Zealand native — who lives part of the year in New Hampshire, where his wife is a professor — has been contacted by American syndicates about distributing his “Sudoku” puzzles. Gould told E&P he’s thinking about whether or not to do that, noting it would certainly ease his workload. “I’m supposed to be retired,” he said wryly.

“Sudoku” is a crossword-like puzzle that uses numbers instead of words. It features 81 squares, divided into boxes of nine squares apiece. Some squares contain numbers, and the goal is to fill the empty squares so that every row, every column, and every box contains the digits 1 through 9.

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