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The hottest game in America - Sudoku

It may be the most popular puzzle game in the world right now. But it's just arrived here in America.

The game is Sudoku and you can find it in nearly 100 newspapers across the country including the Star Tribune and USAToday.

Why is it so addictive? And what's the secret to solving the puzzle?

KARE 11's Mark Daly sought the answers from some novice puzzlers and some pros.

First piece of advice, "You gotta be smarter than the box."

At Munkabeans Cafe in Hopkins the new flavor of the month isn't hazelnut, it's Sudoku.

"I have no idea how to do this. I'm just plugging in numbers."

That's a fairly typical utterance for novice Sudoku players.

Now in 80 newspapers, 27 countries and 19 languages, Sudoku is a number puzzle played by millions of people everyday.

The rules are simple. Just complete the grid so that each row, column and each 3x3 box contains every number between one and nine, once and only once.

Chuck Romportl is a first-time Sudoku player who finds the puzzle challenging, "It is difficult. It's complicated. It's doable."

After just one puzzle, some co-workers from St. Joseph's Church in Hopkins understand why so many others have become Sudoku junkies.

In Japanese, Sudoku means single number.

In Great Britain, where Sudoku is wildly-popular, one columnist has had enough of the numbers. He wrote:
Big sudoku. Little sudoku. Advanced sudoku. Intermediate sudoku. Easy peasy japaneasey sudoku. Sudoku on the go. Sudoku while you go. Sudoku on the toilet. Sudoku and chips. Sudoku on toast. I'd like my sudoku medium-rare, please, with an extra portion of sudoku on the side. Would you like to sudoku? No, I think I'll sit this one out...

So, what's all the fuss about? And how popular will Sudoku ultimately become?
Well, it's already being compared to Rubik's Cube, only the most popular puzzle ever.

Some say Sudoku is the the Rubik's Cube of the new millennium.

"It's sort of a numerical version of a crossword puzzle," says University of Minnesota Math Professor Doug Arnold. He isn't at all surprised by Sudoku's stunning popularity.

"The master Sudoku puzzle generators suck you into it by giving you a couple of easy ones and when you've invested some time in it and then it starts to get harder."

Professor Arnold says 18th-century Swiss Mathemetician Leonhard Euler invented Latin squares, a forerunner to the modern Sudoku game.

As for the best strategies to solve Sudoku puzzles, Arnold says it's pure and simple logic, the process of elimination.

"Here I see a three and here I see a three. They're in two rows out of the bottom three rows. That eliminates these two rows. Now, if we look over here, there has to be a three somewhere and we've eliminated these two rows. So, we're surely going to put in a three here," he says pointing to the middle puzzle square in the bottom, left 3x3 square.

Truth be told, Sudoku is not new.

Called "numbers place", the exact same game has been available in Dell puzzle magazines for more than 25 years.

What is new is Sudoku-mania.

Sarah Carroll works at Barnes and Noble and says Sudoku books are hard to keep in stock, "We've had quite a few requests, several times a week we have people coming in, wanting to know if we have Sudoku books."

And Sudoku is more than just fun and games.

Doctors running clinical trials use the same process of elimination logic to discover the best drug treatments for their patients.

Back at the Munkabeans, however...

It's laughter with a side of Sudoku on the menu, as novices try to figure out the puzzle.

"The sense of thinking logically and getting it at the end is one of those great feelings," says a Munkabeans patron.

And that's a recipe even puzzle idiots can appreciate.