Author round-table 015

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Puzzles and all that we get from them. --- OLAKE & -4 ---

Our guests this time are OLAKE and -4. They were born just one day apart. We don't really have a theme this time. Just talking about puzzles, this and that. Then let's see what kinds of things we get to learn. From Nikoli we have NyanBaz and Nob.

NyanBazTo start let's talk about what a puzzle is?

OLAKEThat's a splendid theme for a beginning. (laughs)

NobLet's compare puzzles to something. For instance, how about saying that puzzles are like o-den.

-4What? O-den?

NobPuzzle problems taste like what you get with o-den. And the taste depends on the person making it.

NyanBazAhaa . . . !

OLAKEPuzzles are just like a snack if I have to compare it to food.

-4It isn't really necessary for us to live, for survival. But if we didn't have puzzles it would be sad.

NobYou just keep nibbling away, difficult to stop.

OLAKESure. There are professional authors making puzzles as an occupation. We are not professionals like that. So really, for us they are snacks.

-4We have our work we make our living from.

NobThere are so many kinds of snacks. Crackers, candy, chocolate, and on and on. Can you compare some specific puzzle to a snack?

OLAKEHmm. Sudoku and crosswords are like potato chips.

NyanBazSomething you can always get, and you can eat it everywhere.

OLAKEGeki-kara (Super Hard) Sudoku will be a very spicy and hot snack, literally what it says. (laughs)

NyanBazEvery issue of Puzzle Communication Nikoli has new Omopa. Just like with snacks, always some new products.

OLAKELike every winter, there are new chocolate snacks that sell well and soon become regulars in the stores.

NobBut there so many new products that disappear immediately. Longtime sellers are rare, that resembles Omopa.

OLAKEI want to talk about what makes a puzzle. So many people define puzzles in so many ways on the internet.

-4Puzzles are this or puzzles are that, there are people who want to include all sorts of things to make it fit as if it's a puzzle.

OLAKEI can see the difference between puzzles and quizzes.

NyanBazThere are real differences there.

OLAKEI've always thought solving quizzes need all sorts of knowledge, puzzles call for cleverness and insight. I like both ways.

-4Which did you get attracted to, earlier?

OLAKEHmm, which? Probably from about the same time. I watched a lot of quiz shows on television since early grade school. There were so many quiz shows then.

-4Sure there was that. Now it is like more people do quizzes and there are so many more quiz-related clubs and circles than those doing puzzles.

OLAKEThat may be so.

-4I think it takes a lot of people to enjoy quizzes. Puzzles can be done without anybody else. I prefer puzzles. But doing quizzes with all sorts of other people is also attractive.

OLAKEThere are different ways to go about quizzes. There are the people whose passion is to get to know all sorts of things. I like doing buzz-ins. There you can push the button even in the middle of a problem.

NyanBazIt isn't only just knowledge that decides the winner there.

OLAKETrue enough, it isn't just knowing the most that picks the winner, that's what I like about it.

NyanBazHow about crosswords? They need knowledge, but they aren't quizzes really.

OLAKEIt isn't a quiz. But it is fun how it tests your knowledge.

NobAgreed. But the most important part in doing crosswords is wisdom and insight. For example, from an unexpected hint, you get a super obvious word. And it is only then that you catch on to the deeper meanings in the hints.

OLAKEI like it when something seems to be a puzzle and it turns into a quiz. It becomes the next hint if you get one specific word. Enjoying it that way is wisdom and insight not knowledge.

NobAt Nikoli, crosswords are puzzles, not quizzes. We try to make the problems so they can be solved without having to rely on knowledge.

-4Now comes a different subject. How many puzzles by other authors do you solve?

OLAKEI have solved about 60% of all nikoli.com problems. I solve much fewer on paper recently.

-4It's the same with me. But I solve Omopa of Puzzle Communication Nikoli on paper. I give precedence to solve puzzles that get good reviews.

NobYou can see the comments of people who already finished solving a puzzle in nikoli.com. Does it happen that you read comments and then it attracts your interest and you set about solving it?

-4I solve all problems on nikoli.com, so that doesn't happen for me. But, I may solve a puzzle again when I read the comments after I have solved it, and there is something that I didn't notice. There will be people who are attracted by comments, and then solve it like you say. I think that is a very good way to go about it.

OLAKEI'm not influenced by comments. I decide to solve or not to solve by the kind of puzzle. I solve all the puzzles of certain kinds. And there are some kinds I rarely solve.

NobThen, what you don't get around to solve would be Sudoku and Kakuro.

OLAKESure. I rarely solve a Kakuro, and I solve only hard Sudoku. With both of those you need to write in numbers. It is not so great on a PC. My hands cannot keep up with the functioning of my brain. (laughs) But because there is little movement with hard Sudoku, that doesn't turn to stress.

-4Here comes a story of puzzles on paper. A while back, there was an opportunity to speak to some people who were into puzzles, university students. They showed me their Puzzle Communication Nikoli. They had solved almost everything just one month after it went on sale. I was amazed.

OLAKEI did that when I was in high school too.

NobYour Puzzle Communication Nikoli was all black just a month after it came out.

-4My Puzzle Communication Nikoli was all black in the old days, too.

NyanBazIf you were a high school student today, would you solve puzzles on paper?

OLAKEYes sure.

NyanBazEven if you had the environment to solve it on the cell-phone, would you still solve it on paper?

-4I would solve it both on cell-phone and paper.

OLAKECell-phone and PC wouldn't work during class in school. (laughs)

NyanBazThere will be situations that are better suited for each. Nikoli puzzles can be done with game consoles too, not just books, magazines, and cell-phones. How do you do it now?

OLAKEI'm doing it. I did about 470 problems of the 500 problems of the 1st collection of PSP which was released a few days ago.

-4I did that too. I finished all of the Heyawake and Nurikabe.

NyanBazGreat! Do they work well on game consoles?

OLAKEJust like a dream. It's most suitable when I'm on a train. It doesn't spread out all over like with paper.

-4When I wait for the train, just standing around, I can work away. The cell-phone is good too. I have two cell-phones. I got the second one just for Sudoku.

OLAKEBoth with game consoles and cell-phones it's real easy to do puzzles on the trains. Only, then I can't make puzzles on the train! My puzzle production time on the trains is precious for me. I can concentrate on it there.

-4My very problem too. It is getting difficult to decide what to do when I'm on a train. Do I play with a PSP or a cell-phone, or do I make problems? I want to read books, too.

OLAKEIt's easier to solve puzzles than to make them. Therefore I often end up solving puzzles. You need something to push you to be able to make puzzles.

NobSo solving puzzles gets in the way of making puzzles on the trains. Other than that, are there other obstructions to making puzzles?

OLAKENowadays there are so many gadgets you can carry around. Just to do puzzles there are PSP and cell-phones. They are obstructions when it comes to making puzzles.

NobWhen I get on a train, I read paperbacks. Because I don't read much at home, I want to read when I'm on the train.

-4When I'm on a train for more than 30 minutes, I read a book. Nikoli fans can be bookworms too.

NobSure. Plenty of people like that.

OLAKEFor me, the obstruction to make puzzles when I'm on a train for a long time is drowsiness. When I get on one train for an hour, I usually fall asleep. It's comfortable to sleep on the trains. I exclude that from limitations with trains. Many authors have hobbies other than puzzles, those hobbies upset their making puzzles. Only this, puzzles isn't a hobby.

-4Oh, right. When authors gather, we talk about puzzles, but everybody has another hobby too.

OLAKEI go to game arcades as a hobby. Every author thinks about finding time to spare for making puzzles and other hobbies.

NobFor me, puzzles are not a hobby, they're a job. I envy you, you can think about puzzles as a hobby.

OLAKEBecause we think we are having fun, we make puzzles, because we enjoy it, we solve puzzles. So puzzles are our hobby.

-4Nikoli doesn't have professional puzzle authors. We contribute puzzles because it is our hobby.

OLAKEWhen I'm not motivated, the number of contributions decrease. It's all free and easy if we think about it that way.

-4If I were a contract author, perhaps I would not feel it as an adventure really. I would end up making a lot of 80% puzzles. Now we make 120% problems to get through and some just 40%, useless problems. I just send them off to Nikoli. And Nikoli picks and chooses.

NobNikoli authors are being told, that not all their work will be accepted. There are rejects for everybody. And you two also accept that some of your work will be rejected.

-4For an author, that is not efficient at all. I guess Nikoli puzzles are made as a luxury, some sort of a privileged environment.

OLAKEA little while back, we talked about university students. How do you think? Are today's young puzzle authors more serious than before?

-4Yes that's how I think. I see a lot of them in lively discussions on the net.

NyanBazThey think a lot about so many things.

NobThey are serious enough all right.

-4It could be because there are more places where you can discuss things nowadays. When I was a student, there were only few places where we could discuss puzzles. There are so many places now, even Twitter.

NyanBazBut recently, I think that it's rarer to talk directly.

NobI've been meeting young authors directly from old times and we talk. I talked a lot with OLAKE.

OLAKEI often dropped by the Nikoli editorial department. Nob says things straight out. For example, OLAKE you are poor at Kakuro. (laughs) But thanks to that I'm good at Kakuro now.

NobI really think that direct communication is important for both editors and authors.

-4OLAKE, if you were to begin to make puzzles now, would you go to talk with Nob?

OLAKEYes. absolutely. Arguments on the internet are useful, but there are things that I can understand only if I meet someone directly.

NobThere are still young authors who come to talk directly. There are some young authors telling us that they want to make problems for nikoli.com. Naturally it needs suitable puzzles to become an author with nikoli.com.

OLAKEI'm really happy to hear that. I hope that such motivated young authors will keep coming.

-4Count me in there.

NyanBazThat is our hopes for young authors today. And we will stop here now. Thank you so much for today.


Discussion on Feb 2011 Published on Feb 5, 2014

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