Maki Kaji, the creator of the popular numbers puzzle Sudoku whose life’s work was spreading the joy of puzzles, has died, his Japanese company says.

He was 69 and had bile duct cancer.

Known as the “Godfather of Sudoku,” Kaji created the puzzle to be easy for children and others who didn’t want to think too hard.

Its name is made up of the Japanese characters for “number” and “single,” and players place the numbers 1 through 9 in rows, columns and blocks without repeating them.

Ironically, it wasn’t until 2004 when Sudoku became a global hit, after a fan from New Zealand pitched it and got it published in the British newspaper The Times.

Two years later, Japan rediscovered its own puzzle as a “gyakuyunyu,” or “reimport”.

Kaji was chief executive at his puzzle company, Nikoli Co., until July and died on August 10 at his home in Mitaka, a city in the Tokyo metro area.

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Maki travelled to more than 30 countries spreading his enjoyment of puzzles. Sudoku championships have drawn some 200 million people in 100 countries over the years, according to Tokyo-based Nikoli.

Major Japanese newspaper Mainichi in its obituary credited Kaji for starting the puzzle sections at bookstores, as well as introducing the word “Sudoku” into the Oxford English dictionary.

Kaji is survived by his wife Naomi and two daughters.

Funeral services have been held among close family. A separate memorial service is being arranged by Nikoli, but details were still undecided.

AAP.

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