Author interviews Vol.36 the ax and sword

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to the ax and sword

Our guest this time is "the ax and sword". He is 29 years old and his work is with machines. He became an author for nikoli.com recently.

NyanBazPlease tell me the story of your childhood.

the ax and swordI was an honor student in elementary and junior high school. However, that's not really important. I remember that there were Nikoli puzzles in the newspaper which my parents subscribed to. Kakuro and Slitherlink. I tried them but I could not solve till the end. In Slitherlink, I could write in places like with a 3 immediately next to a 0. After that, I didn't know what to do and gave up. (laughs) I was without any contact with puzzles until I graduated from high school.

NyanBazWhat were you addicted to when you were little?

the ax and swordI did nothing but play video games. And, when I was in elementary school, I was on the baseball team.

NyanBazWere you a real all baseball boy?

the ax and swordI was not that enthusiastic about it. I was not a regular player, and I didn't really contribute to the team. Now I remember, the baseball team had a video game prohibition.

NyanBazWhat did you just say? You said you were doing just video games.

the ax and swordYes. Video games were prohibited but I did not pay any attention to that. In my heart, I wanted to quit baseball. I was not able to participate in many games. However, nobody around me told me to stop baseball. If I had a time machine, I want to go back and say to myself, don't start playing baseball. You should do puzzles rather than baseball. (laughs)

NyanBazWhen did you become aware of Nikoli publications?

the ax and swordThat was in university. I joined the English Speaking Society, but left it immediately. I wanted to find some hobby. Then, I watched someone who solved puzzles on the train by chance. So I made up my mind to try puzzles, and I went to a bookstore. There I saw Puzzle Communication Nikoli. What I bought was a Paint by Numbers magazine of a different company. It's a puzzle to black out many cells, and it was hard to solve by pencil. I hate troublesome stuff like that, and when I went to the bookstore next, I examined it all more closely. Because there were a lot of puzzles which you solve by drawing a line like Slitherlink and Masyu, I bought Puzzle Communication Nikoli. It was Vol. 110.

NyanBazWas it too bothersome to paint in things that made you chose Nikoli?

the ax and swordI'd say so. Even today, I have quite some resistance to solving cell painting puzzles by hand. I can color neatly on a PC. Occasionally I input big Nurikabe puzzles from a magazine by myself and solve it on the PC.

NyanBazWas the Nikoli that you bought the first time interesting?

the ax and swordSure. I enjoyed that I gradually became able to solve on my own. I came to be able to solve Slitherlink, something I couldn't do before.

NyanBazWas it in Vol. 113 that your work was published the first time?

the ax and swordYes. It was a Reflect-link (A loop puzzle with reflects off targets and crosses itself.) that I appeared first.

NyanBazWhat was it that made you begin making puzzles?

the ax and swordI lived at home in those days, and there was nowhere they sold Nikoli nearby. To get to a shop where I could get it took an hour by car. It was troublesome to go and buy Nikoli. Then I noticed that if a contribution is accepted, the magazine where it appears will been sent to the author. It was fortunate that at that time I had much free time. I tried. And it was published.

NyanBazWere you pleased?

the ax and swordI couldn't believe that my work would be published. I was still skeptical even when the magazine arrived. I doubted that the magazine I got was the one that was on sale. So, I went to the bookstore and confirmed the contents. My problem really had been published. I was confident now.

NyanBazIt is impossible that we would make two versions of the magazines. Then, why did you choose to make Reflect-link?

the ax and swordI liked puzzles which form a loop and where the line intersects. I didn't make only Reflect-link. I made Slitherlink, Masyu, and various other puzzles too.

NyanBazWell, I see. You said that you lived in your parents' house then, but do you live alone now?

the ax and swordYes. Now, I live in more of a city than where my parents are. It has a big bookstore. I was hired by a company of this city as my first real job, a year after I became a contributor. I quit the job after three months. It was work carrying heavy things, it was too hard for me. I continued the next job for three years. But because it was long-distance commuting there, there are few contributions from me in that period. Then I was jobless for nine months till I found work and I entered the present company. I made many many puzzles in that time. When I was jobless, I made the most puzzles ever. I am happy with the workplace now.

NyanBazAh, that's wonderful really. Well, the original purpose of your puzzle making was the trouble to buy Nikoli. Now you can get it easily. Why do you still make puzzles?

the ax and swordI don't really know why. I think it is that I find different goals while I am making puzzles. For example, that I wish to publish this kind of puzzle, or that I wish to publish three problems of this kind of puzzle. And I get absorbed. I'm stuck on making puzzles recently. But it seems hard for me to continue with one thing for a long time. I have doubts about whether I am doing the right thing.

NyanBazReally. You are not confident about yourself maybe. Let us talk about puzzles. What's your favorite puzzle?

the ax and swordI love Shikaku. There I can put in favorite numbers. I like that there are many different numbers on the board. Slitherlink and Shakashaka have few different numbers. Any kind of number can be set with Shikaku. Nurikabe and Heyawake can also have big numbers, but they are difficult to use. I'm fond of two-digit numbers. Two-digit numbers are rare in puzzles. When I find one where they work, I get excited. I want to make puzzles with a number that other people have never used.

NyanBazIs it the uniqueness you value?

the ax and swordYes, yes. Like 12 and 24, other authors also commonly used them. I want to use numbers that aren't used by anyone else. With Shikaku that's possible. Masyu and Slitherlink are easy to make because I like them. But there is not enough of personality in my work there. Good authors give puzzles personality, but I can't seem to do that.

NyanBazMaybe it is personality that is reflected in your work. What puzzles are you weak at?

the ax and swordHitori, I don't know why. I can't seem to follow it, from when I started to buy Nikoli.

NyanBazHitori is unique. People who like it like it a lot. We have an author who makes only Hitori. What point do you dislike about it?

the ax and swordI can't find the next one move. Because there is a check function, I can solve nikoli.com Hitori. But I can't solve hard problems. I have hardly ever solved it on paper.

NyanBazWhen you make a problem, what do you think about? Do you want to do some new thing?

the ax and swordI don't think of doing anything new. I am more like just pushing on and on.

NyanBazAre you OK, if it is just you who find it enjoyable?

the ax and swordYes, I don't really think that I will please a person solving my puzzle very much. I push on with the idea I have, but I don't think about anything else really. Particularly, I'm not conscious about the visual qualities at all.

NyanBazIs there anything you dream of doing?

the ax and swordI want to look on when a person who I don't know solves my problem. I saw a person who solved a puzzle on the train, but I have never seen anybody do my problem yet. That's why I want to publish more of my puzzles.

NyanBazWill you continue making puzzles from now on?

the ax and swordI can't say that I have made up my mind about that. I am fickle in everyday life. That may possibly apply to puzzles, I could get tired of puzzles soon and stop it. Just now, I have the feeling that I want to go full speed and do my best.

NyanBazAn honest answer, just like you. Now the last question, anything that you want to tell people solving your puzzles?

the ax and swordI make puzzles as my feelings take me. So I'm happy if you solve my puzzles without thinking too deeply. On nikoli.com there are comments about the solving. Unlike in a magazine, I can see that somebody has solved a puzzle. Like I talked about for my dream a little earlier. I am thankful to all the people who solve my problems.

NyanBazThank you for an enjoyable talk today.


Interviewed May 2012 Published on Oct 22, 2012