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You know how when you learn a new word you've never heard before you start seeing and hearing that word all over the place? It's like everyone else learned the new word the same time you did, and so everyone starts using it. That's how I feel about a word I came across a few weeks ago and now I can't get away from it.
If you had told me a month ago that by the year 2006 a new numbers game with a Japanese-sounding name would be all the rage and sweeping the country like a wildfire, and people from every demographic group - some who can barely add two numbers together — would be flocking to bookstores to scoop up scores of how-to books on this spellbinding game, I would have assumed you had chug-a-lugged a little too much sake over the holidays.
It's not that I have anything against numbers, except maybe those that make up my checking account balance. I just don't think I should let numbers take over my life the way this new game has apparently taken over the lives of tens-of-millions of my fellow Americans.
Picture a square divided into nine equal squares and each of those nine squares is then divided into nine smaller squares - 81 squares in all. Why are you picturing such a grid you ask? Never mind why, just let me finish.
The idea is to fill in the grid so that every row, every column and every 3x3 box contains the digits 1 through 9.
Sound like a busywork assignment thought up by a fraying-at-the-ends substitute teacher? Well, it's not - it's Sudoku, the puzzle game that's taking over the world; or at least that part of the world where puzzles rule.
Say what?
Let me explain.
The word “sudoku” is a Japanese abbreviation for that well known saying: “suji wa dokushin ni kagire,” which, as everyone knows, means something like: “Those Subaru people sure make a wicked good car.”
Just kidding.
In fact, sudoku means “the digits must remain single,” which, when you think about it does sound like something a stressed-out substitute teacher would say to a room full of clueless seventh graders.
Why have I taken a sudden interest in sudoku? Well, in fact, I haven't, not really. I do know more about sudoku now than a few days ago, but there's a lot about it I still don't know and probably never will.
The reason I bring up the subject is because on a list of best selling books in a recent edition of the Maine Sunday Telegram my latest book, “down the road a piece, A Storyteller's Guide to Maine,” was beat out by no fewer than FIVE books with the word sudoku in the title!
But I don't intend to take all this lying down, I intend to fight back by sitting down. As soon as I finish this column I intend to boot up my computer and start writing: “Sudoku for Storytellers, Vol. 1.”
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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