Maki Kaji, a university dropout who turned a numbers game into one of the world’s most popular logic puzzles and became known as the “Godfather of Sudoku,” died on Aug. 10 at his home in Tokyo. He was 69.

His death was announced on Tuesday by Nikoli, the puzzle company he co-founded. The company said in a statement that the cause was bile duct cancer.

In a speech in 2008, Mr. Kaji said he first “fell in love” with a game called Number Place in 1984. He renamed it Sudoku.

“I wanted to create a Japanese name,” he said. “I created the name in about 25 seconds.” The reason: He had been in a rush to get to a horse race. He said he had not expected the name to stick. (“Sudoku” roughly translates to “single numbers.”)

an American is believed to have invented an earlier version of Sudoku. But the game’s true origins are murky. Some trace it to Leonhard Euler, an 18th-century Swiss mathematician. Others say the idea came from China, through India, to the Arab world in the eighth or ninth century.

However the puzzle was created, Mr. Kaji’s company made Sudoku and other similar puzzles globally popular. Nikoli’s

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