Author interviews Vol.4 aspirin

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to aspirin

aspirin is an active young author, 25, male. This spring he graduated with a Master's degree from W-university and started work with an automobile manufacturer. He is a sportsman with a special love for the trampoline.

NobDid you already finish your training as a new-starter?

aspirinNo, I'm still in training. I am working on the assembly line and it's fun to be working at a plant. I will get posted to my real job this autumn, it will probably be in engine design and development. That will be developing the next generation of engines, and I'm really looking forward to that

NobOh, great. That sounds like quite something. Now let's talk about puzzles, were you interested in puzzles since you were a kid?

aspirinI loved Rubik's cube. I think we had one lying around at home before I was born. When I started school I was always playing with it and I could line up all six colors in three minutes flat. I did a lot of matchstick and jigsaw puzzles too. I remember doing a world map jigsaw puzzle, I got the land parts right but had a whole lot of trouble with the Pacific. I guess I liked hard puzzles then. I also did crossword and maze puzzles in magazines.

NobWhen did you get to know about Nikoli?

aspirinWhen I entered lower secondary school (7th grade). There I saw a leaflet for the Puzzle Club at the school festival, that was my fateful encounter with Nikoli. The president of that Puzzle Club was Mr. OLAKE with 2nd grader Mr. Momotereu. The leaflet was full of puzzles I'd never seen before, it had the rules for solving the puzzles but I was struggling to understand them. It was fun, and great when I had solved all the puzzles. Then someone in my class had a Nikoli book. That's how I learned that we have Nikoli, and it was the first time to see Puzzle Communication Nikoli.

NobWhy did you start to make puzzles?

aspirinIn the Nikoli book I saw a puzzle made by "OLAKE." So, if my senior had puzzles in Nikoli I could send off some of my own too I thought. Middle school kids don't have a lot of pocket money and I couldn't buy every issue of Nikoli. If I made puzzles, sent them off and they got into the magazine I would get the magazine, and a bit of money on top. For a school boy like me that really counted.

NobSo, did you join the Puzzle Club?

aspirinSorry, no. I was in the volleyball club. We were a really strong team and got in among the best 16 in the Tokyo tournament. But I had so many other interests too, like Games, puzzles was just one of my hobbies. After a while puzzles got boring and I lost interest and I lost touch with it for a while.

Nob: Really, I never heard there was a time like that. When did you start to do puzzles again then?

aspirinThat was the first year of university. I went to my high school festival and the puzzle club was still active and I got the leaflet to take home, again! (laughs) The puzzles were great. That was the autumn of 2001. I bought Puzzle Communication Nikoli and Puzzle Box right away and made a whole stack of puzzles, sent them off and there were five of my puzzles in the next issue. I thought some would get in but it was still fantastic. Then, there wasn't all that much to do in the first year of college and I made lots of puzzles. I felt great, I could make any kind of puzzle I tried to make, it was fun. I spent two hours on the trains to and from school every day and when I was not solving puzzles I was making them during all that time. I started it to kill time on the train, but soon when I got to my station and I was not done with a puzzle I sat down on a bench on the platform to finish it. (laughs) I missed my stop any number of times. I am not too sure I knew what I was doing really, I was lost in it. (laughs)

NobThen you have kept making puzzles, isn't it boring for you now?

aspirinNo, never. Getting asked to make puzzles by Nikoli keeps me motivated.

NobWe're happy to hear that. And you make so many hard puzzles, don't you?

aspirinMaybe you won't believe me but I try to hold down the level of difficulty. After all, you won't take them if they are too difficult! Also, I take care making the puzzles and I want people to solve them. I have learned that if I make puzzles like I want them, they become way too difficult. I try to go to the limit of what Nikoli accepts, and then a little bit, but I overdo it. When I have puzzles like that they go in my own Botsu-bako.

NobDo you also like solving hard puzzles?

aspirinNo, not really, I don't like doing difficult puzzles myself. (laughs) Difficult puzzles exhaust me. So I understand why puzzles that are too difficult don't get accepted.

NobGood to know. But what do you pay attention to in your puzzles?

aspirinI wanna be first to do what nobody ever tried before. I enjoy thinking up new techniques. I couldn't keep doing it the same way, I'd get bored with that real quick. I want to move on to something new. I always keep the solvers in mind, so I take care to point them to new techniques. It is important to give understandable hints so solvers will catch on to a new trick.

NobSo, aspirin, what is it to make puzzles for you?

aspirinIt is communicating with the people solving them. Puzzles are like a conversation between the maker and the solver. It should be possible to solve puzzles, that is the important thing to keep in mind. So, first there is getting them accepted for publication, then the enjoyment in doing them.

NobFor the last question, what are your hopes for the future?

aspirinI'll keep making puzzles. I want to look after the people who enjoy doing aspirin's puzzles. I hope we will be together for a long time.

Interviewed Jul 2007 Published on Feb 12, 2008