Author interviews Vol.12 Ogawa Minori

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to Ogawa Minori

Ogawa Minori is a 30-something bachelor. His day job is as a salaried employee. Where he works, he is in charge of accounting.

NobTell me how you thought up your pen name?

Ogawa MinoriIt's just the names of two nearby towns, "Ogawa" and "Minori," in Ibaraki prefecture that I put together.

NobWhen did you first get involved with puzzles?

Ogawa MinoriThat was when I was a university student, I had to spend two hours each way to and from school. Then I went to the bookstore looking for books I could waste time on in the train, and I bought the pencil puzzle book with Nansuke (fitting numbers into a grid). That was my first puzzle.

NobWhy Nansuke?

Ogawa MinoriThere were also other puzzle books there, like Sudoku, Kakuro, and more. But I was only able to understand the rules to Nansuke (laughs).

NobWhen did you start with Puzzle Communication Nikoli?

Ogawa MinoriThat was Vol.40 issued in December 1992. I got lost in Nurikabe.

NobWhen did you start to make puzzles?

Ogawa MinoriI was making Nansuke before I started buying Nikoli. I made puzzles for no special reason, just playing at making them. I started contributing immediately after buying Nikoli Vol.40, and I was published in Vol.42, with 2 Nansuke and 2 Sukoro (a numbers puzzle in Nikoli then) .

NobYou were making so many puzzles then. And you continue doing that now, what is driving it?

Ogawa MinoriIt's to get published. I have continued to contribute to Nikoli since Vol.42. My puzzles have been in every issue since Vol.42, and I keep getting the magazines with my puzzles. I am really happy to get published in Nikoli, that's what makes me continue. I know that no contribution means no publishing. So I keep contributing, something like that.

NobWhere do you make your puzzles?

Ogawa MinoriI often do it in coffee shops or on the train. I make a clean copy after I get home or in the coffee shop. I often go straight from the coffee shop to the post office.

NobOh, really. Do you do the checking outside, along the way?

Ogawa MinoriYes. When I make a puzzle, I try to solve it when I do the transcribing. There I correct the parts that don't seem right. Then I will try to solve it once more. If it's OK then, I make a clean copy. In the old days, I corrected 10 times or even 20 times for giant size Nansuke. Recently, I have the feeling that I have reduced the number of corrections. Still, if I get bogged down it takes a very considerable time for Sudoku or Heyawake.

NobRight. So the fine points of an Ogawa Minori puzzle are polished in the rewriting. Now I understand your secret. Which of your puzzles is it you fine-tune like that?

Ogawa MinoriReally, I don't adjust and fiddle so much when making a new kind of puzzle. I don't know enough about it then, I seem unable find anywhere what needs to be corrected.

NobIs that how it works. So, you set your goals and the direction you want to go before starting?

Ogawa MinoriI make them up as I go. I start making my puzzles without thinking too much. Then when the direction I am going gets clearer the problem corrects the path. I try not to think too much about it.

NobWow. So you do the adjusting last, and don't give it too much attention at first. Then, what do you pay attention to when you make a puzzle?

Ogawa MinoriI don't want to make it too easy. I don't think that a problem you can work through without thinking is really good. I want to make a story or an issue that excites. Of course, it has to be possible to solve the problem logically. I make easy problems for beginners. But I want beginners to feel the drama. When I make a large problem, I want to make it very enjoyable to the expert.

NobDo you always complete your puzzles smoothly?

Ogawa MinoriNo no no. Making a puzzle may be a little bit like fishing. When you fish you sometimes catch everything you eat, and sometimes you end up eating what others have caught. Making puzzles is just like that too. Sometimes they keep coming one after another. Sometimes they take a lot of fiddling, and maybe don't even get finished.

NobI am relieved to hear that. Then, would that make it natural that Nansuke is what you are good at making?

Ogawa MinoriOh yes. The only puzzle where I am in full control when making them is hard Nansuke. The Nansuke I make all seem to become hard. I can't make Nansuke for beginners. Next, I am also really good at Nurikabe. My problem here seems to be numbers, they often line up diagonally. If I don't focus on that when I make Nurikabe, that is how it seems to turn out. Why me, eh? (laughs). I make Kakuro or Akari too. But I am not confident I can make really good problems because I can't quite seem to see where they are going.

NobHave you solved a lot of puzzles by other authors?

Ogawa MinoriWhen it comes to solving, I do just a few kinds of puzzles. I hardly ever solve Nansuke, but I like to solve Nurikabe and Heyawake.

NobThen, you aren't influenced by other authors?

Ogawa MinoriI am not. But if I am, I would not have noticed it. If my work is not accepted, that makes me anxious, but I do not really get into why. I make puzzles just according to my own feelings (laughs). I would do that even if none of the work I contributed is adopted, I'd just change gears and move on in a second.

NobWhat is a puzzle for Minori Ogawa?

Ogawa MinoriPerhaps it is a part of my body, myself. Sometimes I desperately want to create a puzzle. Yet, I sense that it is not fully me. As a result, I think that I become aware of my existence through the puzzles.

NobWill you keep making puzzles in the future?

Ogawa MinoriI have no intention of stopping to make puzzles. I will continue as long as I can continue at my own pace.

NobFinally, a word to the people who are solving your puzzles, please.

Ogawa MinoriSolve puzzles when it seems a good idea. It is wonderful that you solve puzzles. But if you don't, that seems all right too (laughs).

Interviewed Mar 2008 Published on Jan 25, 2010