A Conversation with Will Shortz
How did you discover KenKen?
A colleague showed me a book of KenKen puzzles a little over a year ago. I tried one puzzle and thought, “Oh, that’s interesting. Let me try another.” After a few puzzles, I asked this person to leave the book with me, and soon I was hopelessly addicted. Within a week I’d done the entire book.
KenKen has been called “the next Sudoku.” Is KenKen comparable to Sudoku? If so, how?
Both Sudoku and KenKen are grid puzzles of pure logic that were invented or first popularized in Japan. Both are extremely easy to learn, but very difficult to master. KenKen is different from Sudoku in that it involves arithmetic -- addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Is there room for KenKen in a Sudoku-saturated marketplace?
There’s always room for a terrific new puzzle.
What is it about KenKen that you find most appealing?
I love the simplicity of the instructions -- KenKen takes less than 30 seconds to learn. Yet after playing it for a long time, I still don’t feel I’ve mastered all the puzzle’s secrets.
KenKen is definitely addictive. Every time I finish one puzzle, I immediately want to start another.
Who’s going to play KenKen?
Everybody can play KenKen, both kids and adults alike. For kids, I imagine it’s a great puzzle for developing arithmetic skills. For adults, I think it appeals to many of the same solvers who love Sudoku.
What can people learn by playing KenKen?
Studies have shown that solving puzzles like crosswords and Sudoku helps stave off the effects of Alzheimer’s disease and keeps the brain limber. I think KenKen will have the same effect, and build math skills besides.