By Nick Statt

After roughly four years on the newspaper circuit and a large spotlight in the New York Times, Sudoku has been ousted in favor of the similar, yet more math-oriented, KenKen.

What could be the possible reason for this? Well, the logical answer would be that Sudoku has been getting somewhat old and is already a national hit, having spawned its own gigantic market with homes ranging from the iPhone to airport bookshelves. The inconvenient truth is that Will Shortz is an elitist ass who finally manipulated his puzzle corner back to its previous highly intellectual base.

Prior to Sudoku, the Times’ puzzle section had a somewhat mythical allure that did not allow any reader of average intelligence to have any fun whatsoever. There was the ever-present and dominating crossword edited by Shortz himself that was, and still remains, difficult beyond belief. I mean sure, if you and a couple of your friends wasted two hours hunched over a Monday or Tuesday edition, you could have seen some results. But past Wednesday, no way. Game over. Shortz wants those puzzles to be so demanding that only the elite intellectuals know what the hell he means by clues like, “Be visibly disconsolate” or “facetiously noxious vapors.” Well, there’s the always-loved bridge section and sometimes a word jumble. Let’s face it: word jumbles are for tools. As for bridge, you’d need a feeding tube accompanied by a slight morphine drip to understand the infinite amount of rules that game has. In other words, Shortz was getting his way for a very long time, which meant that only the elite were benefiting from the puzzle section. That is, until Sudoku hit the market.

At first, Sudoku was viewed as some crazy-difficult number game with many facets. However, the real truth came out quickly when people discovered that if you could count, had eyes, and enough patience, any average joe could solve a Sudoku. This was, in Shortz’s eyes, a fatal addition to his puzzle section. Average people were not supposed to be able to crack open the arts section and go to town on one of Shortz’s own beloved puzzles. So he fought it using the ever-present ideal of the Times’ elitist market to reclaim his previous stature. After a good amount of time of completely omitting Sudoku from the arts section, which everyone knows was not because it had its own section on the website, but rather Will’s secret doing, KenKen showed up on Feb. 8, 2009.

KenKen is, for all intents and purposes, Sudoku for arithmetically smart people. It takes the process of elimination technique of its previously famed predecessor and builds upon it with standard math for more difficulty. This makes KenKen rather frustrating when you venture out of the easy level. For those who feel they are up to the challenge of this new puzzle, it’s a fine way to start the morning with their fresh copy of elitist news. However, for those who cherished the days when they themselves had their own little puzzle safe-haven, look to Will Shortz to dump the blame.

Of course, no one will ever admit to Shortz’s blackmailing editors, cutting secret deals with Japanese puzzle developers, or threats to pull out his crossword empire for good. It’s just too underground for any lawyer to take to court – you know, not enough evidence. However, just for the record, readers have to know that any time the Times drops down to us average Joes, there will be someone fighting to lift it right back up, whether it’s Shortz or a long list of disillusioned staff members of the world’s most renowned paper.


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