Author interviews Vol.5 OX

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to OX

OX has over ten years of experience as a puzzle author, and he is still just a young 25 year old. Now he is also studying in law school to pass the National Bar Examination, he is single and lives alone. His favorite cooking is sauteed dishes he told us.

NobHow do you want people to read your pen-name?

OXI have no set way. You may use "circle and cross" or "ox," as you like. It doesn't matter to me. (laughs)

NobReally? How unusual! How did you decide on a pen-name like this?

OXNikoli has a rule not to use symbols in pen-names, so I wanted something that looks like symbols without using symbols. Then O and X looks like "OX," and I picked that. It looks cool, just that. I used to be "Boy K with the glasses," but I switched to contact lenses and turned 20. No glasses and not a boy any more so I changed the pen-name.

NobNow I know. You have been a puzzle author for a long time. When did you run into Nikoli?

OXThe first Nikoli I bought was No. 31 (published September, 1990). Before that, as a kindergartener there were crossword puzzles in grandma's home. I enjoyed doing them when I was visiting her, I was too little to do them well but I enjoyed asking adults to help. Then in second grade in school I went with dad to buy a puzzle book. Among all the puzzle books and magazines it came to pick Nikoli or Crossby (Crossword magazine published by Nikoli) and I was lost about which to pick. Why I picked those two I don't remember, I guess it was the size I liked. Finally it was Nikoli I carried off home.

NobJust a second grader, did you solve the puzzles?

OXI remember buying it, but which I solved I am not sure about, I've forgotten that completely. But I kept buying Nikoli so I must have enjoyed it.

NobDo you still have that issue today?

OXYes I keep them all at my parent's. Those from when I was in grade school still have the difficult puzzles unsolved, but everything has been tried.

NobThen when did you start to make puzzles?

OXMaybe in fifth grade, I remember making Kanaore and Maze puzzles on the back of flyers, but I am not sure if I completed them. I soon lost the puzzles I made on the back of flyers and to avoid that I started a special note book for puzzles. I didn't think of sending them in when I started making puzzles, but when I looked at my finished problems I thought that maybe I should send them in. The first I sent in were Numberlink and Hitori and both got published. That was in sixth grade and I was really pleased when the issue with my puzzles arrived; and there was money on top, I had it made! (laughs) I've been making puzzles ever since. I only took a break from puzzle making from October of my third year in high school till I was finished with university entrance exams.

NobWhen do you make your puzzles?

OXSince junior high school and right through college, the best time for me for making puzzles was during classes. In graduate school the classes were difficult and I couldn't make so many there.

NobWhy did you keep making puzzles?

OXI enjoyed it. Of course I am also happy when they get into Nikoli, and there is the money it brings, but finally it comes down to me liking to make puzzles.

NobWhat do you pay attention to in your puzzle?

OXThere has to be some sort of concept behind a puzzle. You could say it needs an idea. Something new if at all possible; I want to make something that nobody has ever seen before. But thinking too much about that makes it impossible to do anything. When I am out of ideas I make Sudoku puzzles. Sudoku doesn't need any concept really. What counts with me is how the final puzzle looks. If a puzzle looks good, it'll make solvers try doing it I'm sure.

NobNow my good OX, what makes a puzzle a good puzzle for you?

OXI think that if the solvers feel good about it when it is done, then it is a good puzzle. I tend to get carried away and forget the solver, I tend to just think that if I feel good when I have finished making a puzzle then it has to be good.

NobDo you care how people think about your puzzles?

OXNo, I don't worry about that. It isn't really important that everybody likes a puzzle, I want to make sharp memorable puzzles which some like and maybe some dislike. If there are 50 out of a hundred who are not impressed there will be 50 who enjoyed the puzzle, and I consider that a success. But finally I guess it is my own satisfaction that counts.

NobI can agree with that. And it really isn't always easy when you don't compromise and keep trying to make what you are happy with yourself. But, are you going to keep making puzzles even when you pass the National Bar Examination?

OXSure, I'll keep it up. I'll make puzzles when I am bored in court. (laughs) If I don't pass I'll try to become a professional puzzle author. It won't keep my stomach full though I fear. (laughs)

NobIs there a message for your solvers?

OXI'd just say "Thank you." I make the puzzles to please myself, so I'm really delighted when solvers try them to pass the time.

NobFor the last question, what is the puzzle to you?

OXIt's the stuff of life. Without puzzles, I wouldn't be alive.

Interviewed Aug 2007 Published on Jun 23, 2008