Origins of Popular Puzzle Games

By: Riz Davis


Puzzle games are widely enjoyed by many for two main reasons. They are engaging, making for ideal pastimes. At the same time, they call for logical thinking and stimulate the mind. Kids and adults alike can appreciate puzzle games - it's no wonder that several have become classics throughout the years. The following is a look at these popular puzzle games and where they came from.

Jigsaw puzzles. The inventor of the jigsaw puzzle was Englishman John Spilsbury, an engraver and mapmaker. He created the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767, when he attached a map of the world to a piece of wood and cut out each country. Teachers used Spilsbury's puzzles to teach geography - students would learn by putting the world maps back together. The name "jigsaw puzzle" was not given until 1880, although puzzles were cut by a fretsaw and not a jigsaw.

Rubik's Cube. This mechanical puzzle was invented in 1974 by Hungarian sculptor and professor of architecture Erno Rubik. Originally called the Magic Cube, the first test batches of the product were produced in late 1977 and released to Budapest toy shops. In early 1980, the puzzle made its international debut at toy fairs. The Ideal Toy Company renamed it "Rubik's Cube" in 1980. The Rubik's Cube is said to be the world's best-selling toy.

Crossword puzzles. The first crossword puzzle was a "word-cross" puzzle published in the New York World on December 21, 1913, by Liverpool journalist Arthur Wynne. The name of the puzzle was later changed to "crossword", and it became a regular weekly feature in the New York World. The first book of crossword puzzles appeared in 1924, which became an instant hit. Crossword puzzles were the craze of 1924.

Sudoku. In the 18th century, Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler developed the concept of Latin squares, where numbers in a grid appear exactly once in each row and exactly once in each column. In the late 1970s, Dell Magazines in the US began publishing Sudoku puzzles using Euler's concept with a 9 by 9 square grid. The puzzle was called Number Place then, and it was developed by Howard Garnes. In the mid-1980s, Japanese puzzle company Nikoli, Inc. published a version of the puzzle, which became very popular in Japan. It was also Nikoli that gave Sudoku its current name. British and US newspapers began publishing their own Sudoku puzzles in 2005.

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