Author interviews Vol.13 akasyo

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to akasyo

akasyo's Japanese pen name is "Akasyoubin". That is the name for the Ruddy Kingfisher (ruddy is the color here). That is a beautiful wild bird living in Japan, and he really likes birds. He is in his late 30s. He is married. And he is an engineer working with a manufacturer.

NobDid you like puzzles since you were a child?

akasyoYes, I've liked puzzles since I was in elementary school. I saw puzzle books at home and came to like puzzles. Nikoli was not yet around in those days.

NobThat is a long time ago. What kind of books was it?

akasyoI went through the usual classics puzzle books of Japan. Among them, I was most influenced by Nob Yoshigahara. I learned the thinking methods of puzzles from his books, not only to look straight but also to move the viewpoint even to the back or to the side.

NobOh, really, you didn't come from pencil puzzles then, you arrived at puzzles taking the high road. At that time did you also make puzzles yourself?

akasyoI have been making puzzles since I was in elementary school. Then it was "fill in missing numbers" arithmetic for New Year cards etc. Like Showa (Japanese era name) 55 is AD 1980, and 1980 is divisible by 55. When I discovered this, I was thrilled. I was the sort of kid who was excited by that kind of thing (laughs).

NobI can understand what made you glad there (laughs). Then, afterwards, you found Nikoli.

akasyoYes. A friend showed me Puzzle Communication Nikoli Vol.13 in the first year of high-school. That was the first encounter. I bought Vol.14 myself. I thought that such a magazine fit me perfectly. In the reader's column of Vol.15 I appear, saying that why didn't I know about such an interesting magazine up to now, why, what a waste.

NobWell, amazing. Did you start to contribute problems right away?

akasyoSure. My debut as a puzzle author was in Vol.15. I looked at Vol.14 and realized it's okay to send in puzzles I made. I sent some off immediately. A Goishi Hiroi and a "fill in missing numbers" arithmetic were published.

NobWere you happy when you saw you were in?

akasyoWas I happy? You bet. Till then, even if I made a puzzle, there was nobody around who would solve it. I was so glad to have found a place to show off my work and I have learned about the pleasure it is to have many people solve my puzzles.

NobYou have been making puzzles for a long time since then. When you were preparing for examinations, did you continue?

akasyoIn third grade of high-school, I put off doing puzzles but I still failed the university entrance examination. The next year, I repented and continued with puzzles, and I got into the university of my choice. Don't hold me responsible for saying this, but it is safe for students to do puzzles (laughs).

NobYou really are irresponsible (laughs). What other than "fill in missing numbers" and arithmetic puzzles did make when you started?

akasyoThat was Sudoku. When I first saw a Sudoku, I thought it's an elegant puzzle. I made Sudoku taking care about the arrangement because there were few Sudoku puzzles that looked beautiful then. No one worked on how they had to be solved either then. The next was Kakuro, when I had become better I tried my hand at that.

NobAre there differences between how you made puzzles then and now?

akasyoWhen I was younger I tried hard to make very difficult problems. However, I changed direction soon, and from that it has not changed. The ideal puzzle to me is the intermediate or higher level, but where there is room for beginners to do it too. I want to make puzzles that can be enjoyed by experts but where beginners can also manage to solve them. Of course, that is the ideal for me. There are not a lot of problems that I can say reach that goal.

NobYou are shooting for a very high ideal. Then, when you make your puzzles are you thinking of both experts and beginners?

akasyoYes. Like, a beginner would think like this here, and people who are more familiar with puzzles will advance like that in this place. I'm thinking about something like that when making puzzles. I often make a copy halfway through to the solution to try several subsequent deployments. When I check a puzzle I try whether it can get solved from places I didn't intend. So, I take quite a lot of time to make my puzzles. I wouldn't ever make it as a professional puzzle author, I'm lucky I'm just an amateur (laughs).

NobAre you really putting that much time into it? Then when you are making the puzzle do you ever forget your original plans?

akasyoOften (laughs). If I put it away just a single week I forget my ideas, and occasionally it becomes a work that is very different from the first plans. Naturally, sometimes I also lose interest in my plans, but finally I turn out a well thought through puzzle. I am not a professional mass-producer of work at a regular level. But I still yearn to be like the craftsmen who work diligently, to make myself acceptable.

NobWhy do you make puzzles?

akasyoBecause, I like to make people sit up, I like to bother people. If the person who solves one of my puzzles feels like: aha, so that was it! I'll be really happy, the unpredictable quality has won through.

NobHow is that going to be in the future?

akasyoI want to continue making puzzles, the pace probably will not rise. I would like to make puzzles a lifelong hobby. I want to do as I please, making the problems I want to make. I probably can't make puzzles that satisfy me perfectly, but when it sometimes works out I really get happy. I want to make puzzles that betray expectations in a positive manner. And if my work can influence other authors, it would be perfectly wonderful.

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

akasyoWhen there are people who will solve my puzzles, and there is a place where they can get published, I will be there to make them. Thank you always!

Interviewed Apr 2008 Published on Feb 16, 2010