Author interviews Vol.24 ikako

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to ikako

Ikako is a late 20s woman. She has just married this year. She is a regular writer and has contributed to Nikoli since she was a junior high school student. She became an employee of Nikoli in 2003, and makes problems for newspapers and magazines as part of her duties. In addition, on her own she contributes puzzles to as an author. I asked for a conversation with her as a puzzle author.

NyanBazDid you play with puzzles when you were little?

ikakoYes, I read riddle books and brain teaser books until I came across Nikoli, and I solved the crossword puzzles which appeared in newspapers. However, I was not particularly absorbed in it.

NyanBazWhen did you get to know about Nikoli?

ikakoThat was in the sixth grade of elementary school. I found a "How about trying a puzzle?" (a Nikoli publication. It's out of print now.) at the library and I borrowed it because I liked the title. I copied the writing parts on my own paper and solved them. First of all, I liked Numberlink. It was easy to understand the rules. I also liked word puzzles and Sudoku because it was easy to understand how to do them. At that time, I couldn't understand the rules of Kakuro.

NyanBazWhen did you get to Puzzle Communication Nikoli?

ikakoIt was March 1 in sixth grade of elementary school. I discovered it at Kinshicho (an area of Tokyo) and bought it, Nikoli books weren't sold in the bookstores near my house. I bought Vol. 36 there. When I returned home and read it, that was the date when the next issue went on sale. The prize and contest deadline had passed. I was miserable.

NyanBazI sympathize with you there. When did you start contributing to Nikoli?

ikakoI sent the postcard for the prize puzzle of Vol. 37. It did not win. After that I applied in contests and reader participation pages. I won a Nikoli original sweat shirt and started to apply for everything there was. Then, I read "the guide for contributions" and saw that I would get money if problems that I made appeared. Then I tried to make puzzles and I could do that. I contributed 6 of Slitherlink for Vol. 45, easily made. One of the problems was printed, and I started to contribute problems of many kinds of puzzles.

NyanBazWas it a big thing to get the money for publication?

ikakoYes. I didn't get pocket money every month. I received it yearly, and I was glad of the income during the year. And I was also simply happy to contribute.

NyanBazWell. Then, did you keep contributing?

ikakoYes. I continued contributing all the time till I became a university student. It peaked when Puzzle Communication Nikoli was a monthly. My work appeared a lot.

NyanBazYou graduated from university, and Nikoli hired you.

ikakoI saw they were hiring in November of my fifth year in university. I had never thought I could work at Nikoli before, but Nikoli was recruiting so I thought I would apply, and I was hired. The recruitment information said that the work was not to make or solve puzzles. And now my job is to solve and make puzzles. (laughs)

NyanBazI guess they looked at your ability and thought you could do it. Let me ask you about puzzles. You have contributed a lot of Shikaku for the mobile site. You seem to really like Shikaku?

ikakoYes. I always liked Shikaku from way back. It's good that the rules are easy. It's also good for making problems. However, there was a brief period when Shikaku didn't get published in Puzzle Communication Nikoli.

NyanBazTrue, there was a time like that. But Shikaku's popularity revived recently, and now it is in each number. That may be because of and the mobile site.

ikakoIf there had been no and mobile site, I probably wouldn't have made Shikaku. Shikaku is really good to solve with a screen. Because it's easy to mark the squares.

NyanBazWhat kind of Shikaku do you like?

ikakoI like problems where the small areas are solved little by little. I'm not against large areas. I just try to work with small areas, if I can. I like problems where the temporary, halfway possibilities appear little by little.

NyanBazYour problems are often hard.

ikakoI know. I usually make easy problems for beginners on the job. Then I want to make hard ones when I am free to do that.

NyanBazYou seem to like using a method where you need just one number to get to a cell.

ikakoRight. I like it that way. When I solve Shikaku, I also use that approach a lot. Even when it was not the intention of the author to solve it that way. This method is difficult to get a feel for because many people don't do it well.

NyanBazI'm one of those. (laughs) About your puzzles, did your ways change when starting to work for Nikoli?

ikakoI have changed some. I became able to make easy Sudoku really well. I didn't make a lot of Sudoku before entering the company. Now that I work for Nikoli I have to, and I have improved my skill at solving them too. That's because I have to solve Sudoku every day. I made a lot of crossword puzzles after I started with Nikoli. Now I'm used to making them, and I understand the hard luck stories I heard from other crossword puzzle authors long ago. That was when I had used the same words as in past problems and had to remake it.

NyanBazI can understand you there.

ikakoCould we change the topic and talk about Ripple Effect?

NyanBazSorry, I forgot. You love Ripple Effect something serious.

ikakoThat's right I love it. It's my favorite because there is no mistaking when it is solved. I think it is not nearly so obvious with Heyawake and Hitori. With Ripple Effect there is a sense of accomplishment, because it's solution is obviously the solution. Ripple Effect is solved when you carry on, carefully and watch your step. That's also a good point. It's not solved by you noticing a method like in a hard Slitherlink. With Ripple Effect you don't have to think about that. Steadily plugging away will be rewarded eventually. It is truly great! I like mazes and giant size Sudoku for the same reason. But I have never made it to the end with a giant size Sudoku. (laughs)

NyanBazWhat puzzles are you weak at?

ikakoI'm weak at puzzles with calculations using letters and that sort of thing. I am not too good at Yajilin either. It needs drawing of lines and painting in cells, too much for me. I guess it's a matter of taste.

NyanBazWhen you make puzzles, what do you keep in mind?

ikakoI don't think about how I would like people to solve my puzzles in or the mobile site. I don't care how my problems are solved.

NyanBazReally? Not quite professional, eh.

ikakoExactly. When it is not on the job, I'm an amateur contributer.

NyanBazLets talk about something other than puzzles. What do you do on a holiday?

ikakoI often do housework. Until I got married I hadn't lived alone. I enjoy doing housework and doing it right. I want to control things by myself rather than being helped. Recently, I started to prepare the lunch box for myself. My husband does not eat a big lunch so he manages on less. Making my lunch myself is a hobby rather than housework.

NyanBazWe have to stop soon. What is a puzzle to you?

ikakoIt's most of what I do in life. So far I had been thinking that hobbies are not work. Now, my job is my hobby, It's not bad. I make and solve puzzles in private too. I think that I love puzzles.

NyanBazAnything that you want to tell people solving your puzzles?

ikakoI hope you enjoy my problems. That would be enough for me. Then when you solve my problems I would be happy if it makes you think that you could make something like this too. It's enjoyable to solve puzzles, but it's a pleasure to make puzzles too. Try and make puzzles yourself.

Interviewed Apr 2009 Published on Apr 20, 2011