2020, Year Of Puzzles

The math teacher at the center of “Miyamoto and the Machine” believes that a well-crafted puzzle can tell a story in numbers.

A poetic closure to a year of challenges, this film looks at one man’s quest to conquer the world with elegant presentation of numbers-as-stories:

The Puzzle Inventor Who Makes Math Beautiful


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An elementary-school math teacher silently paces his classroom in a pin-striped stockbroker shirt, his mouth full of braces. All around him, tiny students with pencils in hand struggle over puzzles at their desks. We see the teacher refuse to meet the gaze of one young pupil when he hands back his puzzle, the grid all filled in. “Nervous air is necessary,” the teacher says. “I enjoy nervous air.” The teacher, Tetsuya Miyamoto, is the inventor of KenKen, the puzzle that his students are laboring over. He is also the subject of “Miyamoto and the Machine,” a new documentary about the way the rise of KenKen, an international phenomenon, has been at odds with the meaning its creator hoped to embed in its numerical patterns.

The film’s director, Daniel Sullivan, a high-school instructor, first learned of Miyamoto after his wife started competing in KenKen championships. As in sudoku, the player fills a grid with numbers, and none of the digits in a row or column can repeat, but, within the grid, there are also sets of boxes that must amount to a particular total, whether by addition, subtraction, division, or multiplication. The puzzle’s distributors refer to it as “sudoku on steroids”; in Japanese, “ken” means “wisdom” or “cleverness,” so Miyamoto prefers to translate KenKen, with algebraic panache, as “cleverness squared.”…

Read the description and watch the clip here.

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