Author interviews Vol.40 alkaline

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to alkaline

Our guest this time is alkaline. He is the father of one child and now in his late thirties. He is living in Sapporo, and uses the pseudonym 'alkaline factory head' in Nikoli books. His job is as a company employee related to IT.

NyanBazWhat kind of kid were you when you were little?

alkalineI watched TV a lot. I watched any kind of program, but I liked quiz shows in particular. I planned a quiz at the farewell party with a teacher trainer we had.

NyanBazSounds really special! When did you meet with puzzles?

alkalineThat was when I was a junior high school student. The math teacher started a club related to puzzles named the 'Mathematics and puzzle club'. Because I was good at mathematics, I joined the club. There I did classic puzzles and played games using graph paper. But we gradually ran out of things we could do, and then one day the teacher bought a crossword puzzle magazine. We solved it together for the prizes, and that was all we did in the club. The following year, the club changed its name to the crossword club. We solved crossword puzzles just for the prizes and I soon lost interest.

NyanBazThat's really too bad.

alkalineHowever, it might have been for the good. Among the prize application forms, there were many postcards and I began sending postcards with things that were unrelated to the puzzles. I worked out things that were funny and sent them to the readers' corner of a comic magazine. My present pen name comes from the pen name I used then. I got a game console as a prize for the things I sent to the magazine. What I sent them was used by other magazines and even in a TV program. I enjoyed to do things that I thought would make people laugh.

NyanBazYou were what we in Japan call a postcard artisan. So you forgot all about puzzles, but when did you get back to puzzles?

alkalineWhen I got into high school I got absorbed in Nonograms. I made problems during classes and gave them to friends to solve.

NyanBazYou not only solved problems but you made problems. How did you get the idea to make problems?

alkalineWithout money I couldn't really buy books, and there were people around me who helped by solving my puzzles.

NyanBazWhen did you get to know about Nikoli?

alkalineThat was about the time when I graduated from university and the Internet was beginning to be everywhere. On the internet, there was a community of people who posted postcards to the comic magazine. There was one of them who was playing with Droodles, and I learned the name of Nikoli there. Because I thought that seemed interesting, I went and bought an issue. That was Puzzle Communication Nikoli Vol. 92.

NyanBazDroodles is a contest to tell what a picture that is published looks like. It used to appear in Puzzle Communication Nikoli a lot. So you got to know Nikoli through a contest not via a puzzle.

alkalineI started solving the puzzles immediately. I liked Suiricross (Japanese page. a logical crossword) at first. I didn't have a good impression of crossword puzzles from past experience. However, I was impressed that there were crossword puzzles that could be solved logically. I read about other puzzles, all the pages with things to read. I thought that not only the puzzles but also what there was to read was interesting.

NyanBazDid you begin contributing immediately?

alkalineNo, I didn't get so far as to contribute. Because there were so many contributors, I thought that I didn't need to contribute puzzles. But in one issue, it was announced that pages of one of the puzzles would be cut because there were only few contributions. So the pages with my favorite puzzles might be cut! I thought that it was terrible. Then I made Suiricross and Jigsawcross puzzles (Japanese page) which I liked and sent them in.

NyanBazWell, how about the result?

alkalineThe problems were published. It was in Puzzle Communication Nikoli Vol. 99 and I was surprised when the magazine arrived. Then my payment for that arrived a few days later. I hadn't had such an experience ever in my life. I was so happy. Then I contributed puzzles regularly, and my work was published in every Puzzle Communication Nikoli.

NyanBazPerfectly marvelous! Now you make different kinds of puzzles.

alkalineSure. I began with the not so old puzzles, those without much history, and then extended my reach. After Suiricross and Jigsawcross, I had Masyu published. Masyu was just invented in those days. I was able to check how they were in the back numbers which I had. Then I hit on a new idea and sent in puzzles with that problem. I was the first to make such a problem, there you first make a wall with black circles, and run lines around that to places without circles.

NyanBazWow! I see it a lot now, but you began it.

alkalineIt took time till I began to make Slitherlink. Slitherlink has a lot of famous authors, and there are so many different problems. Even if I thought up a new method, it may have been used already in the past. That'd make me really unhappy, if my work is not used because it is similar to past problems that I don't know. So I didn't begin readily.

NyanBazWell, you played around with new ideas like we could expect from a posting artisan from way back. That reminds me, you have contributed so many puzzles to Omopa. You created many great puzzles like Suraromu, Tasukuea, Hebi, and Herugolf.

alkalineSuraromu was the first Omopa I made. I wanted to do a variation of Numberlink at first. Then I watched a ski slalom program on TV and hit on the idea there. It had a start and a goal in the early days. The rules first required the shortest distance. In the first way I planned it, it wasn't interesting. But I redid it completely after thinking about it till it became like the current form and sent it in.

NyanBazYou actually made a thorough study of it before sending it in! Which of the Omopa you created do you like best?

alkalineOne that didn't get in. So nobody except me knows it. (laughs) I guess that sort of thing happens too.

NyanBazOops, we are sorry about that. Now, what is a puzzle you like other than those in Omopa?

alkalineI don't have any particularly favorite puzzle. I solve and make puzzles of all kinds. I solve puzzles which I feel look like interesting. Otherwise I don't bother. When I decide to make a puzzle, I don't set out to make a specific type of puzzle. At first there is the idea and I think about a way to make use of this starting idea. For example, when I wanted to make a problem with drawing a line which twists a lot. I think that Masyu may to be able to realize it. So I make it with Masyu.

NyanBazYou wait till an idea pops in and then you go. Do you have likes and dislikes about the difficulty?

alkalineI like easy problems that can be solved effortlessly. I often make problems you can solve in one go. Another author of nikoli.com who may be on the same wavelength is Casty. His puzzles become solved just like I think they should, I want mine to become that way.

NyanBazWhat is the motive behind you making puzzles?

alkalineIt's a feeling to want to please people. But maybe it's more like I want to make people laugh out loud, even if it gets to be ridiculous.

NyanBazYou are a comedian. What are your hobbies other than puzzles?

alkalineI am totally absorbed in soccer now. It's not playing but watching games. I was assigned to work in Sapporo and became a supporter of the Sapporo J League team. I didn't know soccer well till now. Soccer is awfully interesting.

NyanBazWell, will you still be making puzzles in the future?

alkalineI want to continue publishing puzzles until Vol. 200 of Puzzle Communication Nikoli. And I want to have a puzzle which I created appearing in nikoli.com.

NyanBazI'll look forward to that. Now, what is a puzzle for you?

alkalineIt's a pastime. And a pastime must be fun. Just that the author is satisfied is not sufficient. Puzzles are things that must be enjoyable in the solving. Puzzles are something like a dish for food. There are the artistic costly fancy dishes, but the dish just holds the food. Please use it like that.

NyanBazNow for the last question, anything you want to tell the people solving your puzzles?

alkalineLooking at puzzles as an author, if the puzzles pleases you, you go on with it. Seen from the solvers, it should be enjoyable. Please look for that and find something enjoyable in the puzzles.


Interviewed Jan 2014 Published on Aug 8, 2014