Author interviews Vol.14 OLAKE

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to OLAKE

When this interview took place, OLAKE was single, but he has since married. His wife is a puzzle author too. His constellation is Cancer, blood type AB, and in his early thirties. He is young but has a long history as a puzzle author. He says that his occupation is to grapple with figures - numbers.

NobWhat kind of child were you when you were small?

OLAKEI was called a child prodigy (laughs). From before I started in kindergarten I liked to calculate. I had already mastered all of arithmetics. I was the sort of kid who asks his parents to give him arithmetic problems to work on. I remember pleading for the arithmetics packages with the software on our family computer for my birthday. But then, more than 20 years ago I became a plain ordinary person. (laughs) I am still good at mental arithmetics.

NobWhen you were a child prodigy, did you do puzzles?

OLAKEIn kindergarten I was crazy about jigsaw puzzles with 1000 pieces. It's just an endurance thing I learned, no need to use your head. I often looked at the crossword puzzles in the Sunday papers too.

NobReally, I think that it is perfectly marvelous for a kindergardener to do 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles. But, what did you major in at the university?

OLAKEEducation. I wanted to become a teacher. I worked as a high school teacher for only one year. Then, thinking about the future, I started in my current occupation. Still, even now I am often thinking that I want to change job.

NobWhen did you get to know Nikoli?

OLAKEThat was in fifth grade of elementary school. There was a Pencil Puzzle Book in the cram school I went to, I copied that and solved the puzzles. That was the first time I encountered Nikoli.

NobThen when did you begin to make puzzles?

OLAKEThat was in the first grade of junior high school. MINE (another puzzle author - Nob) was one of my classmates. I told him about Nikoli, and we solved puzzles together. We just started to make puzzles and solve each other's. Then I enjoyed really difficult puzzles and we were making the most awfully difficult problems and solving them together. If they could be solved we solved them. So it was natural that we started to send them to Nikoli. We got in sometimes but got rejected a lot too. Along the way we did the puzzles of others, and we realized that it was not just difficulty that counted.

NobFor you, are there puzzles you are good at and puzzles you weak at?

OLAKEYou bet (laughs). I am best at Kakuro, Heyawake, and Hitori. I am not good at making Akari and Masyu. And I am hopeless at making new puzzles.

NobWell, is that really OLAKE speaking? Do you enjoy making puzzles you are good at?

OLAKENothing to it. A piece of cake. (laughs) It feels good to go ahead really quickly, when I advance one move and everything falls into place it is great. When I rush ahead making a puzzle I never think of every detail . (laughs) I am confident that whatever puzzle I make will become interesting. Different people enjoy different puzzles, there are no puzzles that everybody likes.

NobYou are sure of yourself (laughs). Are there times when you go back and change one you have finished?

OLAKEWhen I am making a clean copy and I can solve a puzzle it is done. Of course I make changes if there are problems.

NobYou have made a lot of puzzles for a long time, you would have developed a real knack for it. For people making their first puzzles that would not be way to start making great puzzles. When you go back and solve your puzzles do you find a lot of things to correct?

OLAKEThere are quite a few times when I start thinking about why something became the way it ended up (laughs). Maybe 80% of Giant Heyawake have failed for me (laughs again). I may have problems with my attention span (laughs).

NobOh, ha, ha (laughs). So don't you solve puzzles you are not good at?

OLAKEI like to solve puzzles. When I am solving one I am thinking about how I could make an interesting puzzle like this myself. Then when it is my turn to make one I sometimes use techniques I found interesting when solving other puzzles.

NobWhere are you when you make puzzles?

OLAKE Recently I have started making puzzles at home. I used to do it on the trains or in class. But as a working adult I don't have classes, and it is just 5 minutes by bicycle to work so I don't go by train much. I enjoy myself making puzzles, so anywhere is fine really.

NobDo you like making puzzles that are out of the ordinary?

OLAKELet me think. I do like making things that no one else gets around to. I guess I prefer to make problems that make people sigh and furrow their brows, rather than shout out in admiration. It would be great if the final impression is that it was interesting, even if you got a bit tired along the way.

NobWell. What sort of goal do you have when you make puzzles?

OLAKETo show that it was made by OLAKE. If it is a puzzle you are good at making, your individuality will be expressed in it. When it is one you are not so good at it is difficult to put yourself into it. I find it difficult to get that expressed in Slitherlink, but when I am told that it has OLAKE peculiarities I appreciate that.

NobHmmm. Do you like to be told that your problems are special?

OLAKEYes, there are parts of me that are not totally puzzle focused (laughs).

NobDon't you ever feel a bit tired of puzzles?

OLAKENever, solving puzzles is always interesting. Making puzzles it is a bit up and down, but doing them interest never flags. What keeps me motivated is listening to the opinions of other active puzzle authors. I get fired up when someone praises OLAKE problems and find them interesting. Isn't it great that the OLAKE flavor is still in demand? So long as that lasts it gets me going and makes me go on with authoring. I will do everything I can to meet expectations.

NobWonderful to hear that! So, from now on you will keep making puzzles?

OLAKEYou said it, of course I will. I will make efforts to see that new puzzle authors will try to remember my name. I am not so much interested in how puzzles look, I go for the impression a puzzle leaves after it is solved. To be told that among all the puzzles you have made the most recent one was the most difficult is a great feeling.

NobFinally, Is there a message for your solvers?

OLAKEPlease, don't give up, even on difficult problems. It may tire you out trying to get to the very end though. But next you will have a feeling of accomplishment and be refreshed. When you solve a problem you couldn't manage before, you get to know a you who became a size bigger.

Interviewed May 2008 Published on Mar 17, 2010