The creator of the popular numbers puzzle Sudoku, Maki Kaji, died on Tuesday according to Nikoli, the puzzle magazine company he founded. He was 69 and had bile duct cancer.

Known as the “Godfather of Sudoku,” Kaji created a puzzle that could be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels. Players place the numbers 1 through 9 in rows, columns and blocks without repeating them. Hence its name, Sudoku, which is a shortened version of a Japanese phrase means “the number must remain single.”

It all started in 1984 when Kaji came across a puzzle in an American magazine called “Number Place.” He enjoyed solving it and later unveiled his own version of the puzzle to appear in an upcoming Nikoli magazine.

By the late-1990s, the puzzle started appearing in Western newspapers. By the mid-2000s, many magazines in the UK, US and other parts of the world were publishing their own Sudoku puzzles.

Sudoku was also never trademarked except within Japan. But that was all right with Kaji. ​​“Many people take it for granted that you would pay to enjoy yourself in this modern society,” he said in a 2012 interview with J-Collabo, an organization that helps Japanese people connect in New York.

Sudoku book is so hard, even the cover gets it wrong

“However, back in the day there were many things you can enjoy with no cost such as playing with stones or chalks and going to mountains. I think you can find real joy from these things.”

In his speech at the 2008 championship, he said, “I did not become a millionaire, but I’m glad Sudoku is now loved by billions of people.”

Kaji was chief executive at his puzzle company, Nikoli Co., until July and died Aug. 10 at his home in Mitaka, a city in the Tokyo metro area.

Maki traveled to more than 30 countries spreading his enjoyment of puzzles. Sudoku championships have drawn some 200 million people in 100 countries over the years, according to Tokyo-based Nikoli.

“Kaji-san came up with the name Sudoku and was loved by puzzle fans from all over the world. We are grateful from the bottom of our hearts for the patronage you have shown throughout his life,” the company said in a statement.

Born in the main northern island of Hokkaido, Maki started Japan’s first puzzle magazine after dropping out of Keio University in Tokyo and founded Nikoli in 1983.

Yoshinao Anpuku, who succeeded Kaji as Nikoli’s chief executive, said Kaji made friends easily and had a “unique and playful approach toward life.”

“Our mission is to pursue Maki’s vision and possibilities,” Anpuku said.

Kaji is survived by his wife Naomi and two daughters.

From : pk.mashable.com

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