I was quite saddened to learn that Maki Kaji, founder of the puzzle company Nikoli, passed away last week from cancer. A lot of the news about the “Godfather of Sudoku” will focus on one puzzle, as Nikoli’s renaming of Number Place / Nanpure into “Sudoku” became the inspiration for the global craze. My own note of thanks and remembrance will be broader, about the many many different kinds of puzzles that came out of the community of Nikoli authors and publications that Maki helped to create, starting with the first Puzzle Communication Nikoli in the early 1980s.
I would not have gotten as passionate about logic puzzles if I hadn’t run into Nikoli’s hand-crafted puzzles in the mid 2000s. As I wrote to Maki Kaji back in 2011 about my history with Nikoli, after sharing dinner with him and other puzzle friends in San Francisco:
“I got a Nikoli Communication magazine, #112 I think, when I was at the World Puzzle Championship in 2005 in Eger, Hungary. This was my first international trip to solve puzzles, and my first experience seeing many foreign puzzle sources, but I knew very quickly that Nikoli was special.” I ordered hundreds of books and probably solved tens of thousands of Nikoli puzzles in the decade after first finding a Nikoli magazine. If I could have submitted puzzles to Nikoli, I would have. Nikoli’s set of publications and community building efforts, including a focus on simple, elegant, and visually interesting designs, continues to inspire us at GMPuzzles. We hope to someday influence the puzzle community as much as Maki Kaji did and his company still does.
Here is a Wordoku puzzle I wrote today to remember Maki Kaji:
or solve online (using our beta test of Penpa-Edit tools)
Theme: Rest in Peace, Maki Kaji (1951-2021)
Author/Opus: This is the 389th puzzle from Thomas Snyder, aka Dr. Sudoku.
Rules: Place a letter from A, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, or the symbol ? into each cell so that no character repeats in any row, column, or bold region.