Jan 162009


NOTE: Stephen Shankland joined CNET News in 1998 and contributes articles to cnet.com on a wide variety of technology topics. The following are excerpts from his article about KenKen:

Happily, just as I was getting disillusioned with Kakuro, KenKen stepped into my life. It arrived in the form of a book–a review copy of Will Shortz Presents KenKen Easiest Volume 1 from St. Martin’s Press. It is written by Shortz and Tetsuya Miyamoto, the Japanese math teacher who invented KenKen. “Ken” means wisdom in Japanese, thus KenKen means wisdom squared–or perhaps cleverness squared, depending on your translation.

It took me about 30 seconds to grasp the rules of KenKen and another 30 seconds to get sucked into the book. Shortz, The New York Times’ crossword puzzle editor since 1993 and probably the most famous puzzle guru around, praises KenKen as a puzzle that’s easy to learn yet spans a range from simple to very difficult, and he’s right.

The toughest KenKen
The hardest puzzles add a major new wrinkle. They don’t tell you which mathematical operator you need to use, so there’s an extra layer of deduction required.

KenKen’s U.S. launch came in October after Nextoy President Robert Fuhrer signed up for licensing and marketing rights outside Japan. The New York Times started publishing KenKen puzzles online in November, and The Boston Globe, The Houston Chronicle and other papers have signed up as well.

Miyamoto created KenKen to be a multifaceted challenge, and indeed I find them a great mix of logic and manageable math. They’re entertaining yet provide a slightly smug feeling that they’re good for your mind, too.

I know math puzzles aren’t for everyone, but I highly recommend KenKen. I’m giddy with the anticipation of the ones I’ll tackle in the future–or at least until my attention is grabbed by something else.

Here’s the link to read the full article by Stephen Shankland. It contains some KenKen puzzles and clickable links to solutions.

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