Author round-table 007

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Nikoli puzzle tales of times now past

The guests this time are OLAKE and Yuichi Saito. Both came across Nikoli when they were in primary school. They have continued contributing puzzles, soon for 20 years. We will have them talk about Nikoli puzzles in the old days and the new times now. From Nikoli we have NyanBaz and Nob.

NyanBazToday, let's talk about puzzles, how it has been from the old days to nowadays.

OLAKEWith such a theme, do you think it is OK to have us with Heisei debuts (the current era, starting in 1989) (laughs) Is it only akasyo, who has continued from Showa (the former era) with the authors here?

NobPerhaps, you have a point. But Showa ended more than 20 years ago.

Yuichi SaitoIs it really this long a time?

OLAKEIt was in Puzzle Communication Nikoli Vol. 39 (autumn 1992) that my work was published for the first time. Then, Yuichi debuted at the same time as me. I was an eighth grader, Yuichi was a seventh grader.

Yuichi SaitoIt was in primary school that I began to make puzzles. Actually, the other day one of the Nikoli staff asked if I had really already become this sort of age I am now? For people knowing me from the old days my image is still that of a high school student.

NyanBazBut now you are around your 30s. Did the puzzles you make change from the old days?

OLAKEI was trying to get away with things then. Now I'm running dry. (laughs)

Yuichi SaitoSame here.

OLAKEI felt that your old puzzles were honest and simple rather than naughty, and I think your puzzles in your recent work is more adventurous than in the old days.

NobSure, most of the recent work from Yuichi is adventurous.

OLAKEYuichi's work, really has cutting-edge problems these days.

Yuichi SaitoI don't have any idea that my old puzzles were simple really. I didn't think about the solvers before. I made problems that I liked. So it may have looked like naive and simple.

OLAKEThere are no difficult problems in your old work. There you are different from me. You came to make hard problems since you grew up. I made hard problems from the old days.

NobMost of OLAKE's Slitherlink puzzles from junior high school were too difficult to publish.

Yuichi SaitoBut I think that there are many problems that were thought as hard among my old problems. Now my puzzles try to present themselves well to the solvers. They are so you will be able to see what methods you need. For example, solved in order from the upper left with Nurikabe. Now I'm conscious of that, but I didn't pay any attention to that before. I recommended a problem for "Slitherlink masterpieces 100". (ISBN978-4-16-369760-4 The book where authors recommended problems themselves and Nikoli edited. ) The problem there was my first Slitherlink. I didn't understand Slitherlink well at that time. There were 0s and 3s in it a lot with no great thought behind them. I don't do such placement now. But because I thought that I was interested in it, I recommended such a problem. But the problem wasn't published after all.

OLAKEThere were many such problems, generally in the old days. They had point symmetry placement at least, but weren't really beautiful.

NyanBazBecause there were a lot of easy methods included, they may be called friendly problems.

OLAKEThere are people who think that I make only hard problems, but I make easy problems too.


Yuichi SaitoHowever, you do have the image that you make hard problems only.

NobBecause there were friends around OLAKE since you began to make puzzles, OLAKE came to make a lot of hard problems. Beginners demand ever harder problems. Then the degree of difficulty escalates when you compete in your group. Were there puzzle friends around Yuichi?

Yuichi SaitoI have solved puzzles with friends. But basically I did puzzles alone. I hadn't thought that I wanted somebody to solve my puzzles in any particular way. For example, in recent Slitherlink, there are problems where a line spreads steadily from one place and gets connected at last.

NyanBazIt's the type of Slitherlink where you keep extending the line, not jumping around, to avoid closing a small loop. There are many cases where they can be solved at a good tempo.

NobSAKAMOTO, Nobuyuki is good at making those.

Yuichi SaitoThe Slitherlink which I make aren't like that at all. Now, when I solve my old problems, they all seem heavy. They are not presenting things well. Now I'm making problems thinking about what I present. It means more restrictions on making them. I sometimes worry if my way of doing things is right.

OLAKENow I probably don't make problems like I made them in the old days. I try to apply a brake in them somewhere. If I don't continue reminding myself when I try to make a problem like those in the past, I just can't make such problems.

Yuichi SaitoIf I relax along the way I always slip back and make problems like I used to. I remember something now. I solved Kakuro 27 in the Pencil Puzzle Book series recently. I was very interested the last problem. I felt that it was really old fashioned. Kakuro now, uses one unique pattern well, and they can be solved comfortably. That's become the mainstream.

OLAKEI'm also like that, now for more than 10 years, going with the flow.

Yuichi SaitoThe method was hard to get at in that Pencil Puzzle Book problem. Because I set limits on myself now when I try to make such problems, I can never get it to be successful. But I think that a problem with this honest simplicity is interesting now.

NobKakuro has evolved in the direction you refined it.

OLAKENot only Kakuro but also all the other puzzles have become sophisticated in various aspects. I suppose one reason is that a lot of information is provided on the Internet. I feel uneasy about it when all puzzles develop in the same direction.

Yuichi SaitoI quite agree.

OLAKEMaybe, I think that it is an imaginary fear when I watch the puzzles on All the authors there are doing what they want to do, individually. I thought Kakuro would be finished long ago. But problems of new types still appear.

Yuichi SaitoIt's amazing how novel problems appear nearly unendingly on

OLAKEThe vitality of authors today is incredible. I make my problems with only one technique to rely on.

NobNo, even you are also venturing into new areas. The Shikaku which you sent the other day was very challenging. (laughs) OLAKE is OLAKE even now. You will be inspired by problems of other authors on

OLAKEIt may be so.

NyanBazWe talked about all the information on the Internet earlier. In the recent decade, the Internet has spread so far and wide.

OLAKEI think there is too much information about, now. The puzzle activity on the Internet is ever expanding, too. Today university students interact via sites and blogs of puzzle clubs.

NobNyanBaz was on the internet with puzzle activity on his own approximately 10 years ago.

NyanBazYes I did that. I had a bulletin board to talk about puzzles.

OLAKEI was active on that bulletin board too. The exchanges then and now are different. It's impossible to get a good idea of who the other person is today on the present Internet.

NobYou may have a point there.

OLAKEToday authors make high quality problems from the beginning. Perhaps because they heard opinions and impressions about puzzles. When we were young, I couldn't get that kind of information, nothing to do but try it out and do it. I didn't know the impression other people had. I didn't understand what it was Nikoli wanted and which Nikoli thought well about at first. I didn't have any method other than for ourselves to make it fun.

Yuichi SaitoYes yes yes.

OLAKEI participated in a meeting for readers and visited the Nikoli office afterwards. I talked with other people, and I understood the ideas of Nikoli little by little.

NobAnd that sort of thing will be feedback for the work you do.

OLAKEYes. By and by I got to be conscious of various things. However nowadays it starts from where there is information like that.

Yuichi SaitoIf I were a primary schoolchild now, I wouldn't make my initial work. Now, there is, and there is puzzle critiques on the Internet. You can understand much before you start making your own, it's both good or bad.

NobBut the critique (opinions) you find on the Internet is personal impressions. It may disagree with what we think at Nikoli. Nikoli is a publishing company, and we play by looking for contents for the books which we publish. Readers are free to announce their opinions and impressions. We have to put up with any kind of criticism and opinion. It's the fate of the company that originates things here.

Yuichi SaitoMe today, I understand that there are different opinions. Would a primary school child understand it? You don't understand how a puzzle is enjoyable at first, you know Nikoli and enjoy that, and then look it up on the Internet. You swallow all of the criticism that you found accidently. Whole. I feel uneasy about that.

OLAKEOn the Internet, Nikoli's stance is recognized, isn't it?

Yuichi SaitoYes. The mysterious standard of "Nikoli is this way".

OLAKEI feel like I learned and understood it by secondhand information via the Internet. A selfish narrow minded image may be put out by someone. That would make the potential of puzzles narrower.

NyanBazIt does feel slightly terrible.

Yuichi SaitoWill the present primary and secondary students make the simple old-fashioned problems? I really want them to make that kind of puzzles.

NyanBazHow do you think about your becoming associated with Nikoli?

OLAKEMy life was changed by Nikoli, whether it is for good or bad, no two opinions about that.

NobHow would you have become if you hadn't run into Nikoli?

OLAKEI may have studied properly at school. (laughs) I found this company and learned a way to use my brain that was more pleasant than study. Originally I liked using my head. If there had been no Nikoli, study may have been the most pleasant for me. In that case, I may have become a high income earner by now. (laughs)

Yuichi SaitoI may not have come to Tokyo. I lived in Aomori when I was in junior high school. For a junior high student of Aomori then, Tokyo was up there above the clouds. OLAKE and the Nikoli staff were high up in the clouds. I wanted to know those people and to enter a university in Tokyo. I feel it is strange that I am here talking with you now.

NobPerhaps you would still have come to Tokyo someday if you hadn't known about Nikoli. But this reason that you wanted to see us is nice.

Yuichi SaitoI got to know Nikoli and not only puzzles but so many things other than puzzles, the world opened up and became wider. It's still that way. The other day, in an English conversation class I was in the same class as some well known person. The lesson topic was Sudoku, and I told that I made Sudoku problems. That person knew about me. I was greatly admired by everybody. (laughs)

OLAKESomething similar happened to me recently. The person who was mistress of ceremonies at my wedding reception happened to know Sudoku. It seems she always solves the Sudoku she gets it in the newspaper. But she had a problem that she couldn't solve well, and I explained how to do it. She thanked me no end, and now she solves Sudoku that she wasn't able to do before. Then, if I hadn't come across Nikoli in high school, I hadn't meet Nob and MINE either.

NobEven if you had come some other way, finally you would be absorbed in Nikoli.

OLAKEThat may be so. Even if I came across Nikoli at some other time, I may have become involved anyway. If so, I'm happy that I got on with Nikoli from early in life. (laughs)

NyanBazThank you for today OLAKE and Yuichi.

Discussion on Mar 2010 Published on Apr 26, 2013

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