Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Puzzles of Another Kind
By MICHELLE YORK
FEW PEOPLE appreciate how difficult, even lonely, it is to be the anti-sudoku guy. For six years, David Kalvitis has created and published his own brand of puzzle books, an unusual collection of dot-to-dot games.
His compilations are sold at bookstores and syndicated weekly in eight newspapers.
Almost every year, he wins an award from a parenting group or toy association, including a 2006 best book award from the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, a consumer guide to children's books and games.
His business has been slowly but steadily growing, enough to support his wife and two sons. But it is the flipside of the phenomenon of sudoku.
In sudoku, the puzzler must fill in the blank squares of a grid so that each nine-cell row, each nine-cell column and each nine-cell mini-grid contains all the numbers from 1 to 9.
Experts believe it made its debut in America in 1979, though some say its origins can be traced to around 2800BC in a Chinese game called magic squares.
In the last two years, the popularity of the game has skyrocketed. Addicts can find five shelves of sudoku books, from Sudoku for Dummies to Mensa Sudoku.
Kalvitis has been watching the sudoku success with mixed emotions: he is happy that people are doing puzzles, but very aware that the game competes for bookshelf and newspaper space.
For seven years, while he worked as a graphic artist, he tried creating dot-to-dot puzzles.
These dot-to-dots cannot be completed with one continuous line, end-to-end.
He began calling stores and setting up exhibits at toy fairs in 2000. When a local bookstore kept placing his books only in the children's section, he grabbed an armful and put them in the puzzles section. Today, he has eight books in print, all self-published with printing runs of 12000 copies. - Š (2006) The New York Times
Reprinted with permission from The New York Times