Author interviews Vol.19 Hammy

InterviewsAuthor round-table

Talking to Hammy

Hammy is a man in his 30s. He is married. He has work related to computers.

NyanBazFirst of all, please tell me about how you encountered puzzles.

HammyI don't remember well but I think the book "Brain gymnastics" I had bought in elementary school was the first. I came to like mazes afterwards. I was not satisfied by only solving them and made mazes myself.

NyanBazYou have been making puzzles since very little then?

HammyI was always making nasty problems. For example, so it reaches a dead end in an advanced place immediately before the goal. I set that for my younger sister. I enjoyed it when she was upset and frustrated by the trap. (laughs)

NyanBazIndeed, it does sound like you are nasty. (laughs) When did you get to know Nikoli?

HammyThat was when I was a junior high school student. Huge mazes had become popular in those days.

NyanBazYes, they did get popular then. There were mazes made of trees then where people actually walked in the mazes. I did that too.

HammyWell. At that time, there was a maze that was said to be the world's largest in Chiba, Japan. I went there a lot. Perhaps, about 25 times.

NyanBaz25 times! You were hooked.

HammyYes I was well and truly hooked. But the boom is over before long, and that maze was being closed down. There was the stand there which sold puzzle goods. I bought something whenever I went, and at the time when it closed down, the regular customers got whatever remained. I got a Kakuro of the Pencil Puzzle Book series.

NyanBazHuh. It was through the help of a huge maze that you got to know Nikoli. Was Kakuro interesting?

HammySure. I enjoyed to discover how to do it all by myself. I remember that I was very glad when I found a crossing of three cells with 8 and three cells with 22 must be 5. Because I was so happy, I made a small problem with this method, and had someone nearby solve it. (laughs)

NyanBazDid you contribute to Nikoli from back then?

HammyNo. I was happy when just the people around me could solve it in those days. I didn't know "Puzzle Communication Nikoli." I learned about Nikoli when I became a high school student. In high school I had three classmates reading Nikoli. I was introduced to the magazine and was totally lost in puzzles again. A class mate had already contributed to Nikoli, and I also contributed to imitate him. Goishihiroi (a classical Japanese puzzle) was my debut.

NyanBazWhat kind of problem did you make?

HammyI liked making hard problems. I was weak in trying out and checking, so I made puzzles that had no need for trial and error. The friend who introduced Nikoli to me liked puzzles that worked with trial and error. The reason may be because he liked Japanese chess. In Japanese chess you don't become strong if you can't look far far ahead. Because I have only a small brain capacity, I can't make puzzles where you need a deep look-ahead. (laughs)

NyanBazAre you sure? I don't get that impression. You played an active part and helped out a lot afterwards, but there was a blank?

HammyI was busy with the badminton circle at college for three years and drifted away from puzzle making. When I'm into something and not limited to badminton, the 24 hours of the day just aren't enough. I just don't have time for anything else then.

NyanBazWhy did you return to Nikoli?

HammyBecause I got married. We showed slides to introduce each other's upbringing and the hobbies we had had at our wedding ceremony. My wife told me she was so impressed that I made puzzle when we were preparing for that. And I began puzzles again. I bought Nikoli after a long blank and was surprised how the puzzles had evolved.

NyanBazHuge mazes, high school classmates, badminton circle, and wedding ceremony, thank you for so many tales from the past. OK, let's hear about today. Where do you make your puzzles?

HammyI often make puzzles at the office in the lunch break. I especially get fired up at the end of the month when the deadline for submission approaches. I do my best to meet the deadlines.

NyanBazPlease tell us about the kind of the puzzles you make. Do you make puzzles of all kinds? Or do you make only the kind puzzles you like?

HammyI want to make as many kinds of puzzles as possible. Today I like more kinds of puzzles than I used to. For example, I didn't really like Sudoku and sort of kept my distance. But then when I made it, I found it interesting. It was a pain to solve Sudoku in the old days. I think that my way to solve it in those days didn't fit me. I used so many notes for the numbers that fit. But I am more happy when I solve it without those notes. I think there are ways to solve puzzles that fit me. One of the reasons why I came to like Sudoku was that there was a Sudoku fan close by. He is my father-in-law. He didn't know Sudoku, but when I recommended Sudoku to him, he liked it. He started to make problems by himself. He even made Sudoku in the big 16x16 size. His puzzles also appear in several publications of Nikoli.

NyanBazWow! 16x16 Sudoku! Just doing that kind of problem is something. Marvellous.

HammyYou said it. He seems to have broken down dozens of times in the middle of making them though. (laughs) He solves many other kinds of puzzles, and he sometimes tries the problems that I made. When I see him solving mine, he doesn't solve them from where I intended it. He looks ahead in unexpected ways. It teaches me things. He likes Japanese chess, too. Different people are good at or not so good at looking ahead.

NyanBazWhen you make puzzles, what do you keep in mind? Do you still go after making hard problems?

HammyYes. I want to continue making hard problems. But I know that it is not enough just to make problems hard. Problems have to be understandable and doable even when very difficult. I use hard methods to attract attention. So, when solving there will naturally be places where it is clear that something is afoot and that gets noticed by solvers. In Hitori, I assemble them using a method where the numbers stand out and are visually prominent.

NyanBazDo you solve the problems of other authors?

HammyOf course. I solve practically all of the problems. I solve the mobile phone problems too when commuting. As a result, I didn't have time to study English. (laughs) I solve the problems of other authors, and I find many directions puzzles can go. That way I increase the points which I myself think interesting.

NyanBazThis may be a bit deep, but what is a puzzle for you?

HammyHmm. (contemplating) A life without puzzles is out of the question for me. When I have a puzzle in front of me, I just get going. I get totally absorbed. I cannot really express it in words. Is that good for an answer? (laughs)

NyanBazThank you for a pleasant talk today. A last question. What is your message to the solvers who have enjoyed your puzzles?

HammyI like to include all sorts of ideas when I make puzzles. It's impossible for solvers to catch them all. But if a solver notices something like I wanted it, just a little, that'll make me happy. Then, I get really happy if a solver thinks it is interesting.

Interviewed Nov 2008 Published on Sep 15, 2010