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It's just logical: Sudoku books fuel the craze

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The sudoku craze is pushing a half-dozen puzzle-packed books up USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list.

The Japanese logic games began appearing widely in U.S. newspapers this summer, including USA TODAY, and have become the morning brain breakfast for millions of commuters.

Three weeks ago, no sudoku (sue-DOE-koo) books were in USA TODAY's top 150 ( In today's list, there are six.

"We haven't seen anything like this in a long time," says Melisa Duffy, marketing director for Su Doku for Dummies, which rocketed to the top spot in the Dummies catalog of 900 active titles in just two weeks. It's No. 96 on USA TODAY'S list.

Trailing a slew of sudoku books in England, American publishers are popping out compilations as fast as they can:

*The Book of Sudoku launched the publishing frenzy in the USA last month when the first printing of 30,000 sold out in two weeks. It leads the list at No. 40.

* At Nos. 53 and 60 are Sudoku Easy to Hard, Volume 2 and Sudoku Easy, Volume 1 with introductions by New York Times crossword guru Will Shortz.

*New York Post Su Doku 1 by Wayne Gould, credited with bringing the sudoku trend to England, premieres at No. 66. He says selling a million of his Post puzzle series "doesn't seem like a fantasy" in America.

*The Essential Book of Su Doku, 200-plus puzzles with five levels of difficulty, closes out the list at No. 104.

"Once the puzzles got out there, they kind of ran wild," says Overlook Press' John Mark Boling, publicist for The Book of Sudoku. "It seems like all the major houses and then some have a book coming out."

Publishers say the craze has been magnified this summer as Americans snapped up books to take along on vacation, and teachers and doctors began recommending the games as mind sharpeners for all ages.

Sudoku ("single number") involves no math. The objective: to fill a grid of 81 boxes, divided into nine three-by-three squares, so that every row, column and square contains the digits 1 through 9.

"My first thought was that this must be a flash in the pan," Boling says. "But it's been snowballing since then."

There's more to come: This week, Newmarket released The Big Book of Su Doku #1 with an initial printing of 70,000 copies and heavy advance orders.

Newmarket also introduces the puzzle to kids in September with Junior Su Doku, which shrinks the puzzle size and sometimes uses words or symbols in place of numbers.

The sales outlook for sudoku as a category is "phenomenal," Gould says. The USA is "a bigger market, and the craze in the newspapers is just as strong as it was in England six months ago."

*Today's puzzle, 7D

*Best-Selling Books list, 4D

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© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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