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I know why nonverbal sudoku rules the earth ________________________________________________________________
What precisely is the allure? Shortz argues that Sudoku has a secret psychological hook. While solving them, you tend to get bogged down midway—then suddenly break through, fill in the last bunch of empty boxes in a row, bang bang bang. “It gives you a satisfying feeling to be rushing at those squares,” Shortz says. “And immediately you want to do another one. That’s the key to why they are so addictive.”

Yet it is also, in a way, a total negation of crossword culture. Sudoku requires no knowledge of trivia or history, no literary bent. Sudoku doesn’t care what you know, smarty-pants; it just wants you to act like a logic cruncher, a Pentium chip. “It’s not what you know—it’s how you think. That’s what Sudoku tests,” says Gould. Its nonlinguistic nature is precisely why it has spanned the globe so quickly: A puzzle created in the U.S. can be sold to China or Germany with no translation necessary, and American immigrants who don’t speak good English can happily solve Sudokus.

Less charitably, one could regard Sudoku as the lowest common denominator— a puzzle for a nation whose citizens no longer presume to have any culture in common. “I don’t want to call it a dumbing down of society,” Abby Taylor, Dell’s editor-in-chief, says delicately, but she has noticed that nonlanguage puzzles like Sudoku—or nondemanding ones like word searches—have been steadily increasing in sales, while sales of difficult crosswords remain flat.


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