SEBRING, Ohio (AP) - A rusted-out warehouse in middle-of-nowhere northeast Ohio has become the final resting site for hundreds of large metal molds once used to make some long forgotten toys.
From time to time, toy industry veteran Jay Horowitz uses the molds he has accumulated to resurrect a toy and reintroduces it to the collectibles market, cashing in on its nostalgic value.
But last year, in what he calls a moment of inspiration, Horowitz merged a classic '80s toy with a recent puzzle fad.
He thinks he's got a major seller on his hands with the Sudoku Cube.
Horowitz is peddling his hybrid of Rubik's Cube and the popular puzzle Sudoku to a worldwide audience at the American International Toy Fair, which ends Wednesday in New York City.
The Sudoku Cube sells for $9.87 and is more complicated than Rubik's Cube, which is solved by getting the colors to match on all six sides. Horowitz's cube challenges the player to align numbers one through nine on one or more sides or in rows.
The colorful cube is made in China by his newly formed company, American Classic Toy Inc. Retailers carrying the cube include Barnes & Noble, FAO Schwarz and backtobasicstoys.com.
Horowitz has already sold thousands, but he has some competition. There are several other Sudoku cubes on the market. A search on Amazon.com shows two other versions, named Sudokube.
Sudoku fans who feel like they've mastered the paper version the puzzle found in most daily newspapers have shown interest in the cubed versions, said Adrienne Citrin, spokeswoman for the Toy Industry Association.
'We're seeing that Sudoku and the next phase of brain teasers are becoming increasingly popular,' Citrin said. 'These cubes are the next level.'
Even in an age of video games, Citrin said puzzle games are experiencing a surge of popularity.
'People feel a sense of accomplishment when they've competed the puzzle or the game. We see this as an increasing trend,' Citrin said.
The 60-year-old Horowitz has spent years reproducing classic toys like Gaylord the Pup, Howdy Doody and Evel Knievel stunt cycles.
Others still have play value, like American Classic Derby, an arcade-style game where up to four players shoot metal balls to advance a horse to the finish line.
'It's noisy. It's fun for boys,' Horowitz said. 'You've got to choose the ones appropriate for today's market. There's got to be a reason why it would sell.'
Horowitz, who had just returned from a month in China signing deals to sell the cube overseas, also has introduced the Sudoku Slide -- a head-to-head game in which players race to slide plastic numbers into place to solve the puzzle -- and has plans for Sudoku Solitaire.
Horowitz first encountered Sudoku just last year -- fairly late in its run of popularity -- when a woman sitting next to him on a plane explained the puzzle to him. Sudoku's number grids, which require the numbers one through nine to be filled into squares arranged rows of nine without repeating a number in any line, got him thinking about a toy mold resting in his warehouse, 50 miles southeast of Cleveland.
While Horowitz owns the Ideal Toy Co. molds, he doesn't own the Rubik's name, and never had a use for them.
He worked feverishly to find a way to combine the two, creating detailed diagrams of the cube that look like notes Albert Einstein might have produced proving some grand theory.
'When I got it, I didn't sleep for three days,' he said.
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