The Philadelphia Inquirer, host of the Sudoku National Championship, hopes to bring the world tournament to the city, and Mayor Nutter this morning heartily endorsed the effort.

"We want this championship here in 2010," the mayor said at a news conference inside the Inquirer Building this morning.

The formal bid will be made this fall, said Brian Tierney, CEO of Philadelphia Media Holdings, which owns the Inquirer and Daily News.

"Our local ownership loves to have the world's attention on this wonderful region," Tierney said.

He also announced that more prize money - $20,000 in all - will be awarded at this year's tournament, to be held Oct. 25 at the Convention Center.

Last October's inaugural challenge lured nearly 900 participants from 35 states and hundreds of additional spectators, making it, Tierney said, the best attended puzzle tournament ever.

New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz, who will return as master of ceremonies, also spoke - after giving a puzzle to a row of T-shirted solvers.

Just 1 minutes and 46 seconds later, the hand of a red-headed lad shot up.

Jonathan Kustina, 14, who'll be a freshman at Lower Moreland High School in the fall, had finished his puzzle.

Spectators rolled their eyes, shook their heads, and laughed in amazement.

(To try it yourself, print this page: http://media.philly.com/documents/sudokucolor3.pdf.)

This year, Shortz explained, prizes will be given to the top three finishers in all three categories, Easy, Intermediate and Advanced, he said.

He also explained the tournament will have a special guest from Japan - Maki-Kaji, the man who gave Sudoku its name.

Last year, Thomas Snyder of Palo Alto, Calif., won $10,000 and an expenses-paid spot on the U.S. team that went to India.

There, Snyder defended his crown as the world champion, too.

Nutter followed Shortz, welcoming his visit from New York, saying the puzzle master "added prestige to our efforts."

Nutter would like many more New Yorkers to head this way as well, he joked, alluding to Philadelphia's declining population.

He was recently told, he quipped, by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that "he has more than enough New Yorkers, and would be more than happy to send a few hundred thousand or so."

For more details on the tournament, including how to sign up, go to http://www.philly.com/philly/comics_games/sudoku.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.